Dear Non-Jewish Activists:

I’ve been trying to figure out the best way to say this for a few days now, but I’ve finally decided to just point you toward Amp’s How Not to Be Insane When Accused of Racism. Replace “racism” with “anti-Semitism” and “white person” with “non-Jew” as you read it. Cheers! (I’m refraining from linking to individual conversations because I don’t want to make this about individual people.)

Now, sadly, in most instances I’ve seen, the only people calling out problematic statements are the anti-Palestine hawks who drop into leftist discussions just to make trouble. Nevertheless, amidst their snarling, I’m seeing legitimate points. It’s fair to ask why, if anti-Semitism on the left is a real problem, more Jewish liberals and radicals aren’t speaking up. Explanation #1 is that anti-Semitism is not a real problem, and that every accusation is a cynical ploy to squelch debate. Explanation #2, which I think is more likely, is that many Jewish liberals are reading problematic statements, getting that knot in their stomachs, and then – fearing the usual chorus of “every time anyone tries to criticize Israel they’re accused of anti-Semitism OH WHY can’t we have a debate without being accused of anti-Semitism?!” – either shutting up or rationalizing it away.

Because yes, there are people out there equating any criticism of Israel’s policies with a desire to see Jews killed. As other writers have pointed out, it’s the same cowardly tactic as the Bush administration’s assertions that liberals hate America. But the “ah HA!” response above has become thoroughly knee-jerk. Please, just listen for one second. To paraphrase Jay Smooth, it’s what you said, not what you are.

**

Meanwhile, I’ve also been trying to figure out what to say about the ground invasion.

I was talking to my husband’s family a few days ago, and his father said that he didn’t think he’d see peace between Israel and Palestine within his lifetime. He’s about thirty years older than I am, but I realized then that I don’t think I’ll see peace within my lifetime, either.

Because this invasion isn’t about the rocket attacks, just like the settlement expansion isn’t about… well, whatever people think that’s about. This invasion isn’t about Hamas; it isn’t about defense; it isn’t about the welfare of Israel’s citizens. (Where, for example, is Gilad Shalit? Dead, I’m guessing. Heckuva job, Ehud.) In 1846, the murder of a US soldier served as justification for the Mexican-American war, which led to the annexation of what’s now the southwestern United States. In 1941, the attack on Pearl Harbor served as justification for an escalation of antagonistic acts against Japan that the US had already been engaging in for some time. In 2001, the attack on the World Trade Center served as (an especially shaky) justification for invading Iraq. And now, in 2008, the rocket attacks will have served as justification to install a compliant government in Gaza and possibly reoccupy it. (Matthew Yglesias compares Israel’s ideal version of Gaza to an Indian reservation – semi-autonomous, but economically handicapped and politically powerless.) Should the Japanese have killed US civilians? No. Should Mexican guerrillas have killed Colonel Cross? No (if that’s what really happened). Should Al-Qaeda have attacked the twin towers? Do I even need to answer that? And should Hamas be killing civilians? Of course not. But anyone who claims this invasion is nothing but an act of defense must think the Israeli government is profoundly stupid.

(Cross-posted at Modern Mitzvot.)

This entry posted in Anti-Semitism, Colonialism, International issues, Palestine & Israel. Bookmark the permalink. 

55 Responses to Dear Non-Jewish Activists:

  1. Pingback: Dumb Bombs are Sometimes Smart « the pecking order: big ideas for ambitious minds

  2. 2
    Dianne says:

    The problem is that there’s truth to all sides of this argument and there’s BS on all sides too.

    1. There is, unquestionably, anti-semitism in the US on the right, left, and center. Criticism of Israel is sometimes driven by anti-semitism.

    2. People defending Israel’s actions, including US-Americans, Jewish and non-Jewish, left, right, and center, have been known to use accusations of anti-semitism to shut down conversations about Israeli policy.

    3. Many people in the Palestinian territories hate Israel and wish it would disappear Some act on that wish.

    4. Many people in Israel wish the Palestinians would disappear. Some act on that wish. Others find ways to get the government to act for them.

    5. Hamas attacked civilians for no good reason. This is terrorism and clearly evil.

    6. Israel’s response was disproportionate in the extreme and has killed far more people than the original attack. How can killing civilians be the right response to killing civilians?

    I don’t know what to make of it all or what to do about it. I’m often reluctant to criticize Israel simply because such criticism would attract agreement from places I find…disagreeable. On the other hand, some actions of Israel are in clear need of criticism and I don’t think that one is doing a country–any country–any favors by pretending that it is perfect and all its actions are above criticism. I sometimes tell people who accuse me of hating the US that they’ll know I really hate it when I stop criticizing it–that will mean I’ve given up on the idea that it can be a good, just, reasonable country. Criticizing another country is different from criticizing one’s own, of course, but still, I don’t see how Israel’s current actions are making it safer or a better place to live. Is it then a sort of anti-semitism to not criticize them?

  3. 3
    Ampersand says:

    Dianne, a minor nit-pick; I don’t think Israel can be said to be killing civilians as a “response” to killing civilians, since Hamas had not killed any Israeli civilians between the start of the cease-fire and when Israel’s bombing of Gaza began.

  4. 4
    Dianne says:

    Amp: Maybe I have the chronology wrong: I thought that Hamas had sent rockets into Israel (presumably to show how cool and studly they were and keep control of the Gaza strip) and killed a couple of people, at which point Israel started bombing wildly (though not, if I understand correctly, entirely indiscriminantly), killing hundreds. Is this incorrect? (I tend to not pay too close attention to the Israel-Palestine conflict because it makes me feel confused, helpless, and hopeless…so I could easily have gotten something wrong.)

  5. 5
    roger says:

    ” In 1941, the attack on Pearl Harbor served as justification for an escalation of antagonistic acts against Japan that the US had already been engaging in for some time. ”

    Within the world of real politic and absent the theories thrown around on a niche feminist blog, what would have been the appropriate response to the ostentatious 1941 attack on a US naval base?

    ” But anyone who claims this invasion is nothing but an act of defense must think the Israeli government is profoundly stupid. ”

    Well go ahead. Finish the thought. Given the tremendous amount of misinformation, propaganda, damn lies and statistics, how should the general public view the Israeli military action? Given the intuitively obvious conclusion that the Israeli government is not stupid, the military action must have a need or a reason or have genesis in some provocation. Is the response justified? Have there been sufficient number of suicide bombings to justify this stature of military response?

    Careful we do not assume that there are right and wrong positions. There is no right or wrong in world politics. There is only power.

  6. 6
    roger says:

    From BBC news January 29, 2007:

    “ Yahya Ayyash, a leading Hamas bomb maker who was killed by Israel in 1996, was quoted as saying that the use of “human bombs” was a way to “make the [Israeli] occupation that much more expensive in human lives, that much more unbearable”.

    Many Palestinians see suicide attacks as the only form of armed resistance to occupation available to them, given the vast superiority of the Israeli army.
    Palestinians often attempt to explain the attacks as desperate acts or revenge born of their suffering under occupation. They point to the large number of Palestinian civilian deaths as a result of actions by the Israeli army. “

    Which narrative do we choose?

    A) The suicide bombings are the only way that an oppressed population can seek revenge against the oppressor.

    B) Israel has to be afforded the right and ability to defend itself against suicide bombings in an effort to make Israeli existence more “bearable and inexpensive”.

    And what objective tools do we have at our disposal to make this choice?

  7. 7
    Rev. Bob says:

    Two words I always keep in mind: “alliance busting.” Some folks do it in purpose, some do it by having internalized the meme from others or from a culture that institutionalizes alliance busting.

    Keeping our intersectionality intact and our bridges mended is the way to resist power, and maybe get a little of our own back.

    I am so old New Left.

  8. 8
    Emily says:

    I see no reason to be careful not to assume there are right and wrong positions, roger. Just because you believe there’s no right and wrong in politics doesn’t mean you are engaging in a debate here, on this blog, with people who agree with you. There is absolutely no reason why we have to accept that premise here, no matter how forcefully you state it.

  9. 9
    Radfem says:

    I just know when I read about the bombing of children who make up a large portion of those injured and killed that it’s difficult for the principle used by this country of the “if the nits become lice” to justify the killing of indigenous children to not come to mind here.

    It’s really hard. And I’m sorry but I hate the fact that my tax dollars are helping to pay for this.

  10. 10
    Sailorman says:

    Dianne Writes:
    January 6th, 2009 at 3:06 am
    6. Israel’s response was disproportionate in the extreme and has killed far more people than the original attack. How can killing civilians be the right response to killing civilians?

    and

    Ampersand Writes:
    January 6th, 2009 at 4:28 am
    Dianne, a minor nit-pick; I don’t think Israel can be said to be killing civilians as a “response” to killing civilians, since Hamas had not killed any Israeli civilians between the start of the cease-fire and when Israel’s bombing of Gaza began.

    …of course, discussing only “killing” civilians rather than “targeting” civilians obscures one of the primary differences between the methods of hamas and Israel, and makes any resulting conclusion suspect. Any conversation must by rights include analysis and comparison of both motivations/goals and also outcomes.

    So discussing the fact that hamas openly tries to kill civilians and Israel does not must by rights also include the fact that hamas doesn’t manage to do so very well, while Israel kills civilians ‘accidentally’ in comparatively large numbers. And vice versa.

    Much of what I see as antisemitism is on the country level, where Israel is often asked or expected to accept a certain role which the requesting country would never in a thousand years accept on their own. Take Europe: It’s not as if France, or England, or Greece, or Spain, would tolerate an insurgent group who acted like Hamas. France is almost a paramilitary state when it comes to some police actions, and they have acted fiercely to protect their own interests. Europe is full of situations where countries act to quell uprisings. So is Asia.

    Moreover, many of the fights in Europe and Asia, and the actions w/r/t resistance or separatist movements are ones where the stated goal of the resistance movements is relatively peaceful autonomy. There is and always has been a distinct difference between “let us alone to rule ourselves as we see fit” and “let us attack you and/or your government and change your ruling structure.” The first option almost always has superior moral validity than the second option.

    Can anyone identify a country, based on historical precedent, which has ignored such attacks coming from and combined with an openly hostile government on its borders?

  11. 11
    roger says:

    ” There is absolutely no reason why we have to accept that premise here, no matter how forcefully you state it. ”

    To state the premise clearly: Decisions of world politics regarding the use of military force, which include consequences in which civilians are killed, are not made based upon the traditional or conventional or moral (classical liberalism or otherwise) standards of what is deemed right and wrong. The only standard is whether the aggressive party has sufficient force to complete the mission.

    Thus allegations of barbarity by the Israeli military against Palestinian civilians will not result in Israel withdrawing troops or the cessation of the bombing.

  12. Sailorman:

    While I agree that some of the analysis that is critical of Israel is too simplistic in the sense that you point out, there is also the problem of where you draw the historical line in terms of what circumstances you are willing to take into account when talking about motives, etc. And I am not suggesting you are unaware of this, because I don’t know; I guess I am just pointing out why I find so many of these discussions so frustratingly pointless. The fact is that the Jews who originally settled Palestine, and not a few of them were good socialists who went with a very explicit agenda of cooperating with the local Arab populations, started a process that ultimately divested those Arabs of their land; that the Arabs/Arab nations were not innocent in any individual incident that took place at that time–including the expulsion of Jews from Iraq in response to the formation of the State of Israel–does not change the fact that, at some point, the goal of the Jewish settlers became the divestment of the Palestinians, and that the Jewish settlers pursued that goal in ways that we today, were they happening now, would protest in no uncertain terms. On these grounds, the Palestinians have a right to be angry at Israel, and they have a right–just as the Jews had a right through all the centuries of an Israel-less diaspora–to nationalist aspirations and the desire to have back what was taken from them.

    And so it is not simply that Israel has on its border a hostile government, if only because the Jewish settlers themselves were once the hostile force seeking to occupy the land. And we could go around and around and around on this, since I agree with you that there is a difference between targeting civilians and killing civilians unintentionally, after trying to warn them, but whether that difference makes a real difference in the end is not as clear to me. The fact is that Israel has been an occupying power for 40 some odd years and military occupation is both morally corrupt and corrupting, and Israel’s behavior–if not always its rationales–has shown clear evidence of that corruption. More to the point, the war Israel has chosen to wage is at least a consequence, if not an embodiment of that corruption, and while I do not have an easy answer, even though I do not support this war, to the question of how else Israel should respond to the fact that Hamas has not disavowed its stated intent to eliminate Israel, we still have to recognize, I think, that the war is corrupt because it springs from a corrupt source and so has about it the same “taste”–which is an inaccurate word for what I want, but I can’t think of anything else right now–as Hamas’ targeting of civilians, despite the fact that Israel has at least gone through the motions of trying to warn civilians to get out of the way.

  13. 13
    Radfem says:

    I just find it fascinating how they claim they’re not targeting children then bomb a school where people sought refuge from the bombing.

    I’m on the fence on a lot of these issues between the two, knowing people on both sides of it but this is just disgusting, absolutely revolting. And like someone said, it will produce much more violence than it will ever stop. But then if you kill the children, they can’t grow up to be adults can they?

  14. 14
    agorabum says:

    Israel’s original sin came after ’67. They had crushed their antagonistic neighbors, secured buffers, and demonstrated their political viability. But they also suddenly were in control of many disposesed palestinians. They never figured out what to do with them, and were content to leave them as second-class residents. Instead of trying to create a new palestinian state, or two mini states (a gaza and a west bank), they opted for settlements. When the intifada began, this turned into checkpoints and further repression.

    To really get out of it, they need to dismantle most settlements and give some soverignty rights. Then, if Hamas lobs some missles at them, it’s ok to bomb some. They can bomb more than Hamas did, since Hamas attacked. But they need some level of proportionality to keep the peace.

    Also, WTF? “In 1941, the attack on Pearl Harbor served as justification for an escalation of antagonistic acts against Japan that the US had already been engaging in for some time”
    We embargoed Japan because they were engaged in a war of rapine and conquest in Asia. In response, they launched a massive military attack against our Pacific Fleet Command, the Philipenes, Hong Kong, Singapore, and a slew of other American and European military posts. And they offically declared war against the US. That analogy should have never been included.

  15. 15
    Shahar from Israel says:

    Dear Julie and all, please read me !
    I quote your last words:
    ” …
    And should Hamas be killing civilians? Of course not. But anyone who claims this invasion is nothing but an act of defense must think the Israeli government is profoundly stupid. …”

    I assume your have some common sense, so I assume that you don’t know how many people in Israel were killed and injured by the rockets the Hamas fire on Israel on the last 8 years.
    Moreover, Israel left Gaza 3.5 years ago. Still, the Hamas continue to fire rockets to Israel.
    Moreover, the Hamas always said that its target is to destroy Israel.

    So, maybe you are not anti-semic, but you must read other opinions.
    There are 1 billion Muslims in the world and just 12 million Jewish.

    The Muslims control the price of the oil, and this is how they control the world (and not the Jewish people as many anti-semics say).

  16. 16
    Ampersand says:

    Shahar, with all due respect, it’s no more acceptable for you to talk about “The Muslims’ as if they were a single malevolent entity, than I’d find it for someone else to talk about “The Jews” in the same manner.

    Please don’t repeat that in any of your future comments here.

    (Just so you know, I’m speaking as a moderator.)

  17. 17
    Shahar from Israel says:

    Another comment for you number 13 and all:
    Israel admitted we fired on school with children. What do you think is the reason?
    Do you think we enjoying killing the enemy children?

    Let me tell you the truth:
    The Hamas hide insdie schools and hospitals. The Hamas troops get into their own people houses, force the families to be human shield against our army.

    If Israel wanted to finish the war quickly and dirty, we could destroy Gaza from the air.

    But no, we can’t do that, because we are much more human than the Russians (can I remind you last summer), the Americans (which throws bombs in Iraq without distinguish between civilians and soldiers) and there are many examples.

    Instead we send our soldiers to clear the houses from the terrorists inside Gaza.

    Let me finish with this: Today, one of my friend left the job to visit his parents in South of Israel.
    Their house got a rocket and destroyed. Luckily, his parents weren’t in the house.
    I assume you didn’t read about it.

  18. 18
    Shahar from Israel says:

    Ampersand from 16. Please accept my apology.

  19. Oy, can i just apologize for the twisted syntax of the end of my comment #12. I was writing quickly to get back to the work I had to do and that was the result. Sorry.

  20. 20
    Donald Johnson says:

    I think Israel sometimes does target civilians.

    If you read enough Amnesty International, HRW, and B’Tselem reports, along with following along with the news and reading some of the past history, you may become a teensy bit skeptical about Israel’s purity of arms. We were long told that the 1948 refugees left voluntarily, for instance. It’s hardly a shock that they were expelled–two ethnic groups fighting over the same land, so what do you expect? Nonetheless we were supposed to believe that the Israelis were all as saintly as that mayor (in Haifa, I think) who begged the Palestinians to stay. And in the most recent Lebanon War, anyone who can read the level of bombing and the use of cluster bombs and still think there wasn’t some malice against civilians in Israel’s actions is, well, trying really hard not to judge Israel by common sense standards.

  21. 21
    dutchmarbel says:

    The description I read that helped me most, was that people start from different paradigms:

    Paradigm 1: Israël is a small country, een safe haven for jews, survivors of the holocaust & prosecuted everywhere in the world, a small country that has to survive in a hostile Arab world.

    Paradigm 2: Jewish Israelis and Palestinians both fight for the same piece of land and neither are willing to compromise.

    Paradigm 3: Israel is an occupying force that has chased the Palestinians from their own country, disowned them and still continues to do so.

    All 3 are true, but they fight with each other. When someone from paradigm 1 discusses the situation with someone from paradigm 3, or even 2, their perception of the validity of arguments is very different.

    Over the years I have shifted from paradigm 1 via paradigm 2 to paradigm 3, which doesn’t mean that I think paradigm 1 isn’t true but my emphasis is on paradigm 3. But I tend to use Jewish sources in discussions to avoid being called anti-semitic.

  22. Frightening. Sadly predictable, but nonetheless frightening: Fears mount of Gaza conflict spill over in Europe. The slightly more inflammatory title than I am comfortable with is Yahoo’s.

  23. 23
    Dianne says:

    een safe haven

    Not to ignore the serious content of your post, but I can’t help but be amused at the random language change in this phrase.

    Now, a couple of thoughts about the content…

    Paradigm 2, although most appealing, in my opinion, is actually probably not correct. Some Israelis and some Palestinians are unwilling to compromise. But not all and maybe not even the majority. If one or both were truly unwilling to compromise then the situation would be hopeless. But I don’t believe that to be true. The question (for non-Israelis and non-Palestinians, at least) is how to help those who would like to compromise, reduce the violence, and improve life for both populations?

    I have no interest in seeing either side “win” this conflict. IMHO the only solution that does not involve grave crimes against humanity is a two state solution or other compromise. Yes, Israel could simply kill everyone in Gaza and the West Bank or drive them away, but then they’d be left with a country that had committed terrible crimes in the name of peace. Ok, so that would make them no different from any other country on Earth, but if all the other countries jumped off a cliff…

  24. 24
    dutchmarbel says:

    [the language might be awkward 'cause I throw some Dunglish in ;) ]

    Paradigm 2, although most appealing, in my opinion, is actually probably not correct.

    They both want Jerusalem (which is why Israel works very hard at expelling the Arabs and building rings of Jewish buildings around the Arab neighborhoods ) and the Palestinians want the right to return to their lands. I think you assume I just ment the occupied territories.

    I think you have to go for a two state solution too, but it is in Israels intrests too not seriously negotiate for that. They build a wall/fence/seperationwhatever on Palestinian grounds, the amount of illegal settlers & colonies on the Westbank has been increasing enormously, they confiscate non-registred Palestinian land and sell it only to Jewish people — and they have never stated *which* borders they have or aim for. They also make sure that the Palestinians don’t have the infrasctructure to become a viable state. In their current operation for instance, they target everything connected to government – since Hamas is the elected government everything tied to government is Hamas you see.

    I thought the piece of Mark Lynch, who listened to the Israeli ambassodor in the US, was quite shocking.

    I still think it is a shame the Geneva Initiative was never taken serious by Israel. That, or Taba, or similar negotiations, is where the solutions have to be created. What irks me though is that people often assume that the Israelis are keeping their end of the bargain but that the Palestinians ruin it with rockets, attacks or other stupid actions. That is not true. Huffington Post just put up some interesting graphs today.

  25. 25
    iamefromiami says:

    re: how not to be insane when accused of racism… I don’t think one can replace the word “racism” with “anti-semitism”. I usually say “Jew hatred” because I have been informed that Arabs are the “true” semites. Also that the “real” anti-semites are the pro-Israel people. I ‘ve also been told that European Ashkenazi i.e white Jews are not “real” Jews, only Middle Eastern darker skinned Jews are “authentic” . Then there’s the whole “zionism is racism” idea. Which is false since anyone of any race can be a Jew and anyone of any race can also be a “righteous gentile”. So “racism” isn’t really the right word. Plus there’s religious and secular zionism . But whatever, to authoritatively declare it “racism” is ONE way of looking at it .
    Also there is something else besides hatred. In order to hate someone you have to acknowledge their existence. I don’t know if there is a word for the kind of “hatred” that just disappears someone. But as woman I’m certainly familiar with it. And like said in another post, I think the whole colonialist paradigm disappears the Jewish paradigm. The very act of calling people who have returned to their historical spiritual homeland after unspeakable abuse, “colonialist” -IS Jew hatred, to me. But as I said in another post , there is also some truth to it, I don’t totally reject that paradigm .
    But why can’t there be peace WITHIN Israel? Why is it that concern for the suffering and oppression of the Palestinians becomes synonymous with taking away land from Israel. Most importantly: East Jerusalem. Why do people talk of E. Jerusalem being the capitol of Palestine? The fact that E. Jerusalem is were THE MOST HOLY of Jewish places is, is not something that is irrelevant. It’s IMPORTANT, it MATTERS even if you aren’t religious. How could you think that taking the most Holy of Jewish sites away from the Jewish people is “just” and “peaceful” ? OR nothing important, a triviality.
    I think it’s important to recognize that just as some Jews can be racist oppressors so too some Muslims can be Jew-hating oppressors. (is it racist for me to say that? )
    It’s like there are these two paradigms and its as if you have to choose. Is Israel a racist colonialist enterprise OR is it the long yearned for return of the Jewish people to their Holy land? I don’t want to disappear the Muslims however I also don’t want them to disappear the Jews. But for me first and foremost it’s the Jewish paradigm. Because colonialist theory itself IS an act of erasure and demonization that I refuse to accept. Whereas I think Muslims CAN live peaceably in a Jewish Israel in much the same way Jews have lived peaceably in Muslim lands for centuries. A JEwish Israel does not have to be unjust to Muslims. I think injustices against Palestinians CAN be addressed without taking away from Israel to form a Palestine.
    And like I say there definitely was colonialist elements to the zionists. IF they had gone to Timbukto or some other places like they wanted and settled there I would totally call it colonialism. But there’s more to it . There were other Jews besides those zionists and there still are and we will not go gently into the racist colonialist oppressor box.
    I say this because I feel like there’s no human hope. The situation is so sad. And I think to truly manifest peace in the world we need to not minimize ANY deaths. Therefore I will not minimize the people dying in Gaza. Likewise I will not minimize the fact that some Jews died because of the missiles falling on Sderot. Is one dead person okay? How about two? How about a hundred? How about a million? How many dead people “count” or “matter”?
    DO you protest some hate but justify other hatred as being “what they have coming to them”. Abolish ALL hatreds.
    The problem with “legitimate” criticism of Israel is that there is always this underlying idea- that Israel itself is WRONG, its” a nakba, it’s an occupation a colonialist imperialist state etc. So any “peace” efforts and so called legitimate criticism ALWAYS have this basic idea underlying them.
    People talk about a two state solution and others talk about a one state solution of “democratic” Palestine. Why don’t they ever talk about a one state solution of a peaceful democratic Israel? Seriously! Why is this solution NEVER on the table? Simple, because the underlying assumption is that Israel itself is WRONG, it’s colonialist it’s a nakba etc etc etc etc. And for reasons I ‘ve explicated I consider this Jew Hatred. SO I think for me the only thing I can do is TRULY desire peace for everyone. But there can be no peace without truth.

  26. 26
    Sailorman says:

    Dutchmarbel, re Marc Lynch’s piece: Lynch makes an excellent point, but is probably acting on incomplete information. Primarily, lynch may be incorrectly assuming that “ambassador does not speak of plan” = “no plan exists.”

    In theory, it is possible that Israel is in a war for which it has no political goals. But it seems more likely that Israel is in a war for which it has no political goals that it wants to release to the public while it is in the middle of the war. Israel, like all countries, recognizes the power of propaganda and uses it as best as it can.

    I mean, let’s hypothetically say that Israel’s political goals were “damage Hamas to such an extent that Fatah would take over and we could make peace.” Or say their goals were “provide an opening for Egypt to take in more Palestinian refugees” Both of those would be a reasonable political goals, but the simple act of openly expressing them would mean they could not be achieved.

    if Lynch’s world is one where there is no requirement for countries to save face and in which every goal of a nation can/should be openly discussed while they’re in the middle of a war, then his analysis sucks and should be ignored.

  27. 27
    Dianne says:

    I think you have to go for a two state solution too, but it is in Israels intrests too not seriously negotiate for that.

    It may not be in their immediate interest, but it is in their long term interest. If they ever want to end this mess–and I assume that the average Israeli does want an end at least to the suicide bombings and other random attacks even if they care nothing about the Palestinian people–they really have only two choices: One, help create a stable, prosperous Palestinian state. Only such a state will ever be at peace with Israel. If there is no such place or if it is a poor, miserable country/territory, then the Palestinian people will have reason to resent Israel and some will feel justified in attacking Israel. If I may use the analogy consider the difference between the settlement of WWI and of WWII: WWI ended with harse sanctions against Germany. Whether such were just or not (I don’t know enough to even begin to get into that question), they created a failing state. Result: WWII. At the end of WWII, each occupying country, possibly uniquely in history, competed to show how well they could rebuild Germany. Result: a peaceful Europe (well, apart from the occasional football fan.) Prosperous, democratic countries don’t go to war with each other, however bad their historical differences, however much they detest each other’s religion, race, or habits. So it is in the long term interest of Israel to build a prosperous Palestine. Even if that means giving up some territory, maybe even some or all of Jerusalem. Their other choice: genocide. The US doesn’t have many fights with the Apaches, Sioux, and Commanches any more, does it?

    And I like the Dunglish. It expands my vocabulary.

  28. 28
    Sailorman says:

    It will be tricky to create a functioning and happy state, as the palestinians seem to be saddled with not one, but two comparatively corrupt and dysfunctional potential governments. It will be a tough fight to get out from under that dead horse.

    Israel surely is quite implicit w/r/t the state of the palestinians in gaza. Without in any way disclaiming Israel’s role, it is also true that the palestinian governments have not done such a great job with the money that they have received. Problem is, in order to create a “stable and prosperous” state you need a lot of infrastructure, training, etc… which costs money. So then you need a way to get money and to do a good job spending it. Which, if you’re not stable in the first place, is very difficult to achieve, sort of a catch-22.

    Israel isn’t going to give lots of money to Hamas right now, yes? even the most pro-hamas folks here would probably concede that Hamas would spend a lot of that dough on weapons, to be used to fight israel. Similarly, israel isn’t going to open the borders right now, for similar reasons.

    So in order for israel to have a part in creating a ‘stable and prosperous” state it needs to have a government in place that it can trust at least enough to work with. Israel needs to have at least a reasonable belief that the money will go to hospitals and not guns, and so on.

    but of course it will never be able to have that belief so long as hamas is in power.

  29. 29
    Sailorman says:

    More info on this, from http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/7814054.stm:

    “Hamas has said that Israeli attacks on Gaza must stop and the crossings into the territory, which Israel controls, must be fully opened, before it agrees to a ceasefire. “

    That is pretty much the equivalent of “Hamas has rejected the ceasefire.” There’s no freakin’ way that Israel will (or should) open the crossings when the ceasefire isn’t in place and Hamas has expressed a desire to kill more Israelis. And Hamas is also asking Israel to stop attacks, but isn’t going to stop firing rockets…?

    Hmm, that’s realistic.

  30. 30
    hf says:

    “Let’s not argue about who killed whom. What matters is how many deaths that killing has made necessary.”

    I agree that Israel has no good options at this point. That’s why I think we should stop giving them money and let them fight the whole Muslim world alone, as their government seems to desire.

  31. 31
    hf says:

    Dianne: I wrote the chronology as I understand it here.

  32. 32
    Sailorman says:

    hf, your chronology is off. And so is your description.

    the truce started in june of 2008. It involved Gaza only.

    After the truce had been in place, israel went into the west bank (not a violation of the truce) and picked off two islamic Jihad folks. This wasn’t actually a violation of the truce terms, and the people may well have been terrorist leaders, but arguably it was nonetheless a pretty stupid thing to do.

    Then a day or so later, Hamas openly broke the truce, by sending rockets into sderot. At the point hamas fired the rockets (pointed as usual at generally civilian areas) the trice had been in place for a whopping five days.

    Things quieted down, but they didn’t stop. During the ceasefire, Hamas continued to fire rockets at Israel. far fewer rockets, yes. “Only” 9 total rockets and mortars were fired in July; 11 were fired in August.

    At this point, depending on how pro-Hamas one is, you can either conclude “hey, the cease fire is working, Israel should back off!” or you can conclude “a country which is firing an attack once every few days on average is not honoring a cease fire.”

    Then things quieted down more in September and October. Not zero, but way less.

    Then israel attacked the tunnel in november. It would be interesting to know whether you think that Israel’s incursion in November was justified–do you think that Hamas was planning to use that tunnel to smuggle rice, or do you think that Hamas was planning to use that tunnel to do the same thing they’d been doing every single month since the ceasefire, which was “attack Israel?”

    You say “The two sides apparently disagree about what happened next. Maybe Hamas did plan to capture Israeli soldiers, maybe they built a tunnel to make sure Israel couldn’t starve them, maybe there was no tunnel and the info came from Ahmed Chalabi.”

    I have seen plenty of platitudes about how they might be smuggling food, but I haven’t seen a single supported claim that they were actually doing so. Nor have i seen a statement from Hamas to that effect. The only data we have on Hamas’ use of tunnels is for bombings, weapons smuggling, and attacks. I think that the “oh, it was a peaceful tunnel!” claim is pretty much bullshit.

  33. 33
    Ampersand says:

    At this point, depending on how pro-Hamas one is, you can either conclude “hey, the cease fire is working, Israel should back off!” or you can conclude “a country which is firing an attack once every few days on average is not honoring a cease fire.”

    Wow, is this ever unfair framing.

    I think the cease-fire was working, because it vastly reduced the number of attacks. “Working” doesn’t have to mean “perfect.”

    That doesn’t make me pro-Hamas.

    Then israel attacked the tunnel in november. It would be interesting to know whether you think that Israel’s incursion in November was justified–do you think that Hamas was planning to use that tunnel to smuggle rice, or do you think that Hamas was planning to use that tunnel to do the same thing they’d been doing every single month since the ceasefire, which was “attack Israel?”

    The way you frame this makes it sound like if I don’t think the attack on the tunnel was justified, I must therefore think that Hamas intended the tunnel to be used only for peaceful purposes. That doesn’t follow, however. I think Hamas probably intended the tunnel to be used to attack Israel, and that Israel’s bombing of the tunnel was not justified.

    It should also be noted that Israel, like Hamas, failed to live up to the terms of the cease-fire even before the attack on the tunnel. The cease-fire agreement included the agreement that Israel would cease the embargo on goods entering Gaza (other than weapons); Israel did not uphold that end of the deal.

  34. 34
    Sailorman says:

    I think Hamas probably intended the tunnel to be used to attack Israel, and that Israel’s bombing of the tunnel was not justified.

    I don’t get it. Wouldn’t that be similar to saying that Israel could not preemptively prevent a significant attack?

  35. 35
    Ampersand says:

    Then a day or so later, Hamas openly broke the truce, by sending rockets into sderot. At the point hamas fired the rockets (pointed as usual at generally civilian areas) the trice had been in place for a whopping five days.

    SM, I doubt this is true.

    According to the ITIC, which is about as pro-Israel a source as you can find, “the lull was sporadically violated by rocket and mortar shell fire, carried out by rogue terrorist organizations, in some instance in defiance of Hamas (especially by Fatah and Al-Qaeda supporters). Hamas was careful to maintain the ceasefire.” (Source.)

    I don’t think Hamas is a bunch of peace-loving hippies. However, your view seems to make a literally impossible demand of Hamas: they do not have the resources or the political ability to make 100% of attacks on Israel from within Gaza cease.

    As far as I can tell, the evidence indicates that, before November, the governing faction of Hamas did in good faith cease attacking Israel, and most or all of the attacks from within Gaza did not come from Hamas. But if there’s credible evidence to the contrary that I don’t know about — rather than unproven speculation that of course the groups firing rockets were secretly controlled by the governing faction of Hamas — I’d like to see it.

  36. 36
    Ampersand says:

    Wouldn’t that be similar to saying that Israel could not preemptively prevent a significant attack?

    According to Israeli authorities, they believed the tunnel was going to be used for a kidnapping. Israel certainly could have prevented the use of the tunnel by collapsing it on the Israel side of the border, or by posting guards. Instead, they attacked on the Gaza side of the border.

    At that time, the cease-fire had improved conditions on both sides, vastly reducing attacks on Israel and also improving the flow of goods into Gaza (although the embargo wasn’ t lifted, it was lightened). Whatever the benefits of dealing with the tunnel by bombing Gaza, they should have been foregone in favor of maintaining the ceasefire.

  37. 37
    Ampersand says:

    I have seen plenty of platitudes about how they might be smuggling food, but I haven’t seen a single supported claim that they were actually doing so.

    It seems unlikely that an alleged tunnel into Israel would be used to smuggle food or other non-weapon supplies. However, in a recent report (pdf link, see page 7), the International Crisis Group reported that one reason for the extreme shortages of commodities in Gaza is that Israel has been been bombing the tunnels to Egypt. If that’s correct, then at least some tunnels are used for smuggling food, diapers, etc..

  38. 38
    Sailorman says:

    Ampersand Writes:
    January 8th, 2009 at 4:01 pm
    According to Israeli authorities, they believed the tunnel was going to be used for a kidnapping. Israel certainly could have prevented the use of the tunnel by collapsing it on the Israel side of the border, or by posting guards. Instead, they attacked on the Gaza side of the border.

    At that time, the cease-fire had improved conditions on both sides, vastly reducing attacks on Israel and also improving the flow of goods into Gaza (although the embargo wasn’ t lifted, it was lightened). Whatever the benefits of dealing with the tunnel by bombing Gaza, they should have been foregone in favor of maintaining the ceasefire.

    I dunno. I think that building the tunnel, manning it with armed troops, and having as a goal the kidnapping or killing of israelis was a large enough threat that attacking the end of it was perfectly OK. (AFAIK, that was the only end that was known. It’s hard to guard an area against an unknown-location tunnel with an unknown threat inside of it. i don’t think the “well, just make sure nobody attacks you!” thing works so well all the time.

  39. 39
    Ampersand says:

    SM, what’s your source for your claim about the tunnel (that Israelis only knew about one side of it and were incapable of locating the other end)?

  40. 40
    hf says:

    For that matter, how do we know for sure this particular tunnel existed?

  41. 41
    hf says:

    Again, I may be improperly applying what I know about my own government, but I won’t trust an unproven claim from the people who broke the truce.

  42. 42
    Shahar from Israel says:

    With all the respect ladies and gentelmans, the information you get from your newspaers and TV shows which treat Israel as the big bad guy who bomb innocent palestians without mercy is just not true.

    You can ask me:
    1. Does Israel deny it fire on a schood of the United Nation? No, we do not deny.

    2. Did Israel kill innocent people? No, we do not deny.

    3. Did Israel kill innocent people on purpose? No, we don’t. The Hamas soldiers fire their rockets (also known as “Kasam” and “Grads’) to Israel cities from a populated areas in Gaza. 3.5 years Israel avoid attacking the Hamas forces which hide inside its own people. We couldn’t go like that anymore. We have to strike back.
    The Israel army does his best to avoid the kill of innocent people. But this is a war.
    By the way, one of the German politicians came to Israel this week and protest about the Hamas which use thier own people for its propoganda against Israel over the world.
    There are short clips where you can see Hamas soldiers drag a kid to the fire areas.
    Israel use its civilians in order to raise the number of the victims on our side.

    4. You can ask: Israel killed 800 Palestinians and more than 3000 were injured. The number on your side is much lower.
    Answer: Well, that’s true. Unfortunately (or not), our weapon is much better than the Palestians use.
    More than a 900,000 people in Israel are living in the range of the Hamas rockets.
    Children do not go to school, parents do not go to work. The rockets of the Hamas are not so effective, but still, few people were killed, many people were injured.

    5. You can ask me: Why Israel doesn’t accept the UN ceasfire decission. Because we know the Hamas will not accept it.
    Israel will accept such a ceasefire only if the Egyptians and international forces will guarantee its safety and avoid the Hamas from rockets smuggling through the border with Egypt.

  43. 43
    Sailorman says:

    Ampersand Writes:
    January 8th, 2009 at 4:36 pm

    SM, what’s your source for your claim about the tunnel (that Israelis only knew about one side of it and were incapable of locating the other end)?

    Amp:

    You live in New York, right? Think of it this way:

    A typical NYC block is 1/5 mile (east west) times 1/20 mile (north south.) It covers 1/100 of a square mile.

    A tunnel can be 1/2 mile long. There’s not fixed limit; it could be longer. If you run the math, and use a hemispherical radius of 1/2 mile for an exit point, you get ~39 square blocks’ worth of potential territory. Go ahead and round down for the hell of it (benefiting the equation for the palestinians, though there’s no reason to do so in this case) and pretend it’s “only” 20 square blocks.

    In a built up area or war zone, how hard do you think it would be to find a deliberately-concealed tunnel entrance, if it could be anywhere in a 20 block radius? How much would you be bothered if you knew that if you failed to find it, someone would probably die, be kidnapped and tortured, or both?

  44. 44
    Ampersand says:

    You live in New York, right?

    I live in the Oregon part of New York. :-) But I grew up around NYC, so I’m familiar with tunnels.

    I take it from your answer that you’re not aware that there is technology that can effectively locate tunnels from above ground? (It uses tech similar to sonar, iirc. In the US, the FBI has used it to investigate claims of cults creating hidden tunnels under schools, etc; the FBI has sometimes searched a larger area than 30 blocks.) It would not be hard for an organization with the personnel and resources of the IDF to locate a tunnel from the Israeli side. It would certainly require less effort than, say, invading Gaza.

    Regardless, I don’t buy the idea that preventing one purely hypothetical murder of an Israeli is worth breaking a working (although not perfect) ceasefire and killing hundreds of civilians and combatants. You’re trading one or two hypothetical Israeli lives, that probably could have been prevented without breaking the cease-fire, for hundreds and possibly thousands of lives (both Israeli and Palestinian) that will be lost because the cease-fire was broken.

    To be sure, this one incident isn’t the entire reason the cease-fire ended; Hamas is responsible too. But it’s a major factor. And the choice to bomb inside Gaza wouldn’t have been made by an Israeli government who prioritized giving the ceasefire every chance to continue working.

  45. 45
    Sailorman says:

    I take it from your answer that you’re not aware that there is technology that can effectively locate tunnels from above ground? …It would not be hard for an organization with the personnel and resources of the IDF to locate a tunnel from the Israeli side.

    I think that you think it is easier than it really is, to find a tunnel. It may be possible (and yes, i’m aware of the technology) but it’s still probably hard to do well, and there is always a cost of failure. That tech has been around for a while, yet israel has suffered a tunnel abduction as recently as 2006.

    It would certainly require less effort than, say, invading Gaza.

    I don’t know about that. but in any event, they went into gaza and attacked a single house. no “bombing” and no “invasion” as those terms are gerenally used.

    Regardless, I don’t buy the idea that preventing one purely hypothetical murder of an Israeli is worth breaking a working (although not perfect) ceasefire and killing hundreds of civilians and combatants.

    You DO know that this is not what happened, right? So this is a straw man.

    First of all, it is pretty ridiculous to blame the breaking of the ceasefire on israel, when hamas was building a tunnel to attack them. If we have a ceasefire and you see me bring a cannot to the border, carefully mount it, carefully aim it, start carrying shot… what are you supposed to do, assume i’m using it to hunt geese? Maybe if the ceasefire was perfect than it’d be a different story, but not here.

    Second, as for “killing hundreds of civilians and combatants” this sure as shit is not what happened. here’s a random link; you can find more.
    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/middle_east/article5089940.ece

    third, “preventing one purely hypothetical murder of an Israeli” is also not what happened. Hamas has shown their willingness to kill, bomb, and act with complete disregard for cost. I don’t know where on earth you are getting the idea that they would 1) fail to use the tunnel if they could, and 2) limit themseolves only to a single killing of a single soldier, if they could.

    You’re trading one or two hypothetical Israeli lives, that probably could have been prevented without breaking the cease-fire, for hundreds and possibly thousands of lives (both Israeli and Palestinian) that will be lost because the cease-fire was broken.

    Well, i’d argue that hamas was trading them. i think your analysis is insanely biased here.

    To be sure, this one incident isn’t the entire reason the cease-fire ended; Hamas is responsible too. But it’s a major factor.And the choice to bomb inside Gaza wouldn’t have been made by an Israeli government who prioritized giving the ceasefire every chance to continue working.

    It’d be an easier conversation if your summary matched reality. I understand this probably isn’t intentional, but you should read up on this more.

  46. 46
    hf says:

    Or perhaps he meant the later bombing. And what part of ‘the Israeli military has not proven their claims about a tunnel’ (claims, plural) do you find hard to grasp?

  47. 47
    Sailorman says:

    # hf Writes:
    January 11th, 2009 at 11:20 am

    Or perhaps he meant the later bombing.

    Oh please. That’s not what he said. Don’t claim a level of inaccuracy that you won’t grant your opponents.

    And what part of ‘the Israeli military has not proven their claims about a tunnel’ (claims, plural) do you find hard to grasp?

    1) israel says there’s a tunnel. They attack gaza to stop it.
    2) Hamas shoots a bunch of rockets in retaliation, but does not deny there’s a tunnel. If there was no tunnel, Hamas would have made a fuss, saying “There was no tunnel!” They didn’t.

    If you would like to suggest that Israel was lying about the existence of a tunnel, and attacked Gaza on false premises, AND that Hamas would completely ignore the political opportunity to prove israel wrong in the face of their incorrect public statement, AND that both parties would take those actions in the middle of a putative ceasefire, go right ahead. You will not have much support. In fact, nobody seems to be claiming that there wasn’t a tunnel, as far as i can see. Otherwise, you seem to be grasping at straws.

    Amp: just a random data point to help explain that your “oh, tunnels are no problem!” thoughts are overly simplistic: http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1P1-102952838.html

  48. 48
    Ampersand says:

    SM, when you’ve seemingly gotten facts wrong, I’ve disagreed with you without condescendingly instructing you to do your reading first (see comment 35, for example). I’d appreciate it if you could treat me with similar courtesy.

    When I wrote:

    Regardless, I don’t buy the idea that preventing one purely hypothetical murder of an Israeli is worth breaking a working (although not perfect) ceasefire and killing hundreds of civilians and combatants.

    HF is correct: I was referring to the results of breaking a working ceasefire – which I think was perfectly clear in what I wrote. This has indeed led to the deaths of hundreds of people.

    (Later on, I did use the word “bomb” when I should have used the word “attack”; good, if inconsequential, catch.)

    Regarding the tunnels: I think that on this issue, we’re both subscribers to Jackass Monthly[*]; neither of us really knows how difficult or easy it is to locate one end of a tunnel if the location of the other end is known. For all you know, it’s easy to do, and the Israelis chose not to; for all I know, it’s in fact incredibly difficult, and they only attacked inside Gaza because a hundred attempts to find the tunnel on the Israel side had failed. We just don’t know.

    But I don’t think it matters. Even if it were a matter of 30 Hamas soldiers gathering at the same spot above ground, and even if the IDF has reliable intelligence that the Hamas soldiers were plotting to climb over the wall with ladders and attack, I think Israel’s response should have been to send soldiers to the area to be prepared to respond instantly if Hamas crossed the border. But not until then.

    A ceasefire is extremely consequential. Breaking the ceasefire is an act — on both sides — which has led to hundreds of violent deaths so far, including the deaths of many children, and could eventually lead to the deaths of thousands. Preventing a hypothetical small-scale attack — and until it happens, it’s hypothetical (not every planned attack happens) — is not a good enough reason for the large-scale damage caused by not maintaining the ceasefire.

    [*] “I read it in Jackass Monthly” is an expression I heard on an episode of This American Life, referring to someone claiming significant knowledge about something when they really don’t have a clue.

  49. 49
    Charles S says:

    Sailorman:

    third, “preventing one purely hypothetical murder of an Israeli” is also not what happened. Hamas has shown their willingness to kill, bomb, and act with complete disregard for cost. I don’t know where on earth you are getting the idea that they would 1) fail to use the tunnel if they could, and 2) limit themseolves only to a single killing of a single soldier, if they could.

    Are you claiming that the tunnel that Israel destroyed could have been successfully used to kill multiple Israelis? Realistically, I can see how it might have allowed to Hamas to kill a few Israelis (if they got very lucky), although , by itself, the knowledge that there was an active tunnel would have been sufficient to place the Israeli soldiers on high alert, until the elite tunnel busting squad (that you have kindly documented that Israel does indeed have) was able to find the tunnel, so a single murder does seem like the maximum that had any chance of happening. The fact that Hamas would kill more than 1 soldier if they could is completely irrelevant to the benefit derived from destroying the tunnel by attacking its starting point in Gaza. That tunnel, once it was known to exist, would not have helped Hamas kill lots of Israeli soldiers, so attacking the base of the tunnel did not prevent the killing of lots of Israeli soldiers (unless the attack is assumed to have had a deterrent effect against further tunnel building activities, which seems unlikely. The attack on the tunnel would have led Hamas to try to figure out how to build more tunnels without getting caught, not convinced them that that was a completely hopeless effort).

    On the other hand, I agree with you that building a tunnel into Israel was a breach of the ceasefire.

  50. 50
    hf says:

    It took me a while to find out what Hamas supposedly said about the tunnel, and even that comes secondhand. Based on this and the location of the tunnel, it seems fairly likely that Israel’s military got the facts right in this case (including the part about the tunnel belonging to Hamas and not, say, Islamic Jihad.)

    On the other hand, Amp’ s points about options besides war may still hold. The alternate tactic of challenging Hamas to close the tunnel and prove it probably has a fatal flaw somewhere, but I don’t see it yet. On the surface, the worst possible outcome looks a lot like the current situation. I might have combined this ultimatum with an offer to honor the agreement and open border crossings as soon as a couple months passed with zero rocket attacks.

  51. 51
    hf says:

    In a related matter:

    So far, Hamas has done what it can to keep the Salafis under control. They know the ultra-radicals are just waiting to take over Hamas’ position of leadership. “They are traitors,” Abu Mustafa says of Hamas. “Compared to us, they are Islamism lite.”

    Nevertheless, he’s willing to be merciful. “We will give them the chance to turn away from the false path,” he says. And what happens if they don’t take up the offer? “Then there will be confrontation,” Abu Mustafa promises, bringing his fists together. Still, he doesn’t think it likely that the Salafis will have to take up arms against Hamas. “It won’t be necessary. They will destroy themselves.”

    via ObiWi

  52. 52
    FurryCatHerder says:

    There are precious few options, other than what is being done at present, for either Hamas or Israel. And that’s the real tragedy.

    If Hamas lightens up, as was pointed out above, there are more radical forces more than willing to step into the political vacuum their departure would create. And if Israel doesn’t periodically bomb Gaza back into the stone age, whoever is shooting rockets from Gaza will step up the violence to the point that Israel will react.

    The only solution is for the majority of people in Gaza to get fed up with the corner they are being forced into by the Islamists and choose to live in peace with Israel. Just as no one ever complains about too much love, no one ever complains about too much peace. The problem is always with those who choose violence over peace.

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