Saturday, June 02, 2007

The Name of this Blog is Aaronovitch Watch

(With apologies to David Byrne and Talking Heads.)

For the record, I think Aaro is rather good today.

Shorter Aaro: the Zionist lobby does not stifle debate. Roughly, I agree: but there is a Zionist lobby, and it's very good at getting funds from the US Congress, which matters a lot more than what some windy journo (not you, Dave; I mean the lot of you in the abstract) thinks.

I recommend that you read Charles Moore in the Torygraph on the obverse argument: the anti-Zionist/pro-Palestinian lobby hogs the media. I'm not keen on Moore, he practices a species of bloodless patrician Toryism which winds me up even when I agree with him, as I do for some of his article.


Alan Johnston, under terrorist orders, spoke of the "absolute despair" of the Palestinians and attributed it to 40 years of Israeli occupation, "supported by the West". That is how it is presented, night after night, by the BBC.

The other side is almost unexamined. There is little to explain the internecine strife in the Arab world, particularly in Gaza, or the cynical motivations of Arab leaders for whom Palestinian miseries are politically convenient.

You get precious little investigation of the networks and mentalities of Islamist extremism - the methods and money of Hamas or Hizbollah and comparable groups - which produce acts of pure evil like that in which Mr Johnston is involuntarily complicit.

The spotlight is not shone on how the "militants" (the BBC does not even permit the word "terrorist" in the Middle East context) and the warlords maintain their corruption and rule of fear, persecuting, among others, the Palestinians.

...

It is not mad, of course, to criticise Israeli policy. In some respects, indeed, it would be mad not to. It is not mad - though I think it is mistaken - to see the presence of Israel as the main reason for the lack of peace in the region.

But it is mad or, perhaps one should rather say, bad to try to raid Western culture's reserves of moral indignation and expend them on a country that is part of that culture in favour of surrounding countries that aren't. How can we have got ourselves into a situation in which we half-excuse turbaned torturers for kidnapping our fellow-citizens while trying to exclude Jewish biochemists from lecturing to our students?


I think I can speak for all the Aaro Watchers when I say that we wish for Alan Johnson's immediate and unconditional release. I don't believe we do "half-excuse turbaned torturers".

Aaro's and Moore's pieces together present a very good reason for staying out of Middle Eastern debates: both sides believe the other lot controls the media, and there's not a lot good in arguing with them.

Our Dave debated Norman Finkelstein and observed


Dr Finkelstein, who blames his lack of academic preferment on the activities of the Israeli lobby in the US, was probably the most intense man I have ever encountered. His website bears testimony to the volume of abuse that he suffers from various people — often Jewish — who loathe him for his writings about what he sees as the Zionist exploitation of the Holocaust. I noted his genuine suffering while wondering what he expected when he decided so uncompromisingly to tell people what they least wanted to hear.


That would be his letters page.


Hey shit:

If you so care about your "poor palestinian" islamist brethren, why don't you go to Lebanon and join them in their refugee camps and fight alongside with them. It's about time you show your solidarity and do something about it. Help them fight the Lebanese army if you're so brave. I only hope that one of those bullets will find your ugly face and blow it up into pieces. Not much of a loss for the humankind that would be. But look at the bright side of it - maybe, after you croak DePaul will feel sorry for you and finally grant you with your tenure... post mortem, of course.


Honestly, no one deserves that.

35 Comments:

Anonymous James O said...

I'm not sure what you find so persausive in Moore's argument; its merely standard Zionist propaganda, which even on its own terms, doesn't stand up to scrutiny: the democratic legtimiacy and popular appeal of Hamas and Hizbollah are never refered to by the BBC, and the 'intercene strife' in Gaza has been shown as behavious characteristic of Arabs, rather than exposing the Israeli / US role in backing Fatah against Hamas. Put simply, Moore's comments are 'flak' designed to keep media interpretations firmly biased towards the Zionist interpretation.

6/02/2007 05:20:00 PM  
Blogger StuartA said...

Shorter Aaro: the Zionist lobby does not stifle debate. Roughly, I agree: but there is a Zionist lobby, and it's very good at getting funds from the US Congress, which matters a lot more than what some windy journo... thinks.

And you agree with this... why? You mention Finkelstein, whose career illustrates exactly what happens to those in America who take a strongly critical line on Israel. The adverse reaction was not confined to the letters on his website, as you presumably know.

Obviously Aaronovitch seeks to portray the matter as self-pitying whining. But it remains true that exposing the fraudulent mythologising of Joan Peters caused Finkelstein relentless trouble, going back to the awarding of his PhD. That atmosphere does seriously inhibit, if not "stifle", debate. Who, knowing his case, is going to follow his path?

As for endorsing Moore's comments... dear God. I honestly don't know if you're joking. Israel don't kidnap people? How about the hundreds they have imprisoned without trial? The ones they've tortured?

"The other side is almost unexamined."

Are you bidding to join the Decentists?

"Aaro's and Moore's pieces together present a very good reason for staying out of Middle Eastern debates"

Er... perhaps, for you, yes. Seriously, please tell me this is all a joke. Tell me Aaronovitch has broken into your Blogger account.

6/02/2007 05:30:00 PM  
Blogger StuartA said...

I should have been clearer in distinguishing which of Moore's comments you actually quoted. I don't know what of his article you agree with, but there's nothing there different from, say, the Stephen Pollard line on Israel.

What is the "shorter Moore" that you think worth endorsing? That the BBC aren't harsh enough on the Palestinians? That they're biased against Israel? That their coverage, or somebody's coverage, is "half-excus[ing] turbaned torturers" (note the cack-handed ethnic garb alliteration). This is Mel P land!

Or are you saying that because there are such disagreements on the coverage we shouldn't discuss it at all? If so, why not? And why, even if that's so, would we then stay out of "Middle Eastern debates" in general?

Perhaps I misinterpret you, but it seems you are suggesting we should not talk again of Iraq or Lebanon, on the basis of an entirely predictable (and absurd) "existential threat" splurge from the ex-editor of the Daily Telegraph.

6/02/2007 06:31:00 PM  
Anonymous ichomobothogogus said...

"Aaro's and Moore's pieces together present a very good reason for staying out of Middle Eastern debates"

writing tendentious bollocks about the middle east never did Moore and Aaro any harm. funny how the organized campaigns to destroy careers and bully people into silence never got either of them. just lucky i suppose.

6/02/2007 07:08:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

the BBC does not even permit the word "terrorist" in the Middle East context

I wonder whether Mr Moore would care to offer me a bet on the validity of that claim?

I'll offer generous odds.

6/02/2007 08:13:00 PM  
Anonymous Not in Amsterdam now said...

James Miller etc. to say the bloody obvious.

But I completely agree with Aaro. If the "zionist lobby" can't even organize that table on the lawn for Aaro and Indyk and their really interesting books, what good is that lobby anyway?

Maybe "ze lobby" was happy enough to have one of it's leading members, Indyk (worked for AIPAC, WINEP, Saban etc), present, but what does that mean in the grand scheme of things if you can't get that table on the lawn? There's nothing more important to an Englishman than the lawn. Nothing.

(Well maybe getting drunk in Amsterdam is, but as long as they keep themselves to the Red Light district, I can't be bothered.)

6/03/2007 03:13:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

I sometimes wonder whether Moore thinks he's channelling Hilare Belloc, by the way, what with both being pious Catholc reactionaries with a very strong belief that Islam is the world-historic enemy.

Belloc was at least memorable though. My morcilla exploded in the pan this morning and when I tried to eat the remains I found myself chewing on the piece of string which had initially held it together. Naturally I immediately thought of Belloc. I'm unlikely ever to think of Moore in the same way (or want to).

6/03/2007 08:38:00 AM  
Blogger StuartA said...

But I completely agree with Aaro. If the "zionist lobby" can't even organize that table on the lawn for Aaro and Indyk and their really interesting books, what good is that lobby anyway?

I don't know, or care, what the exact terms of the were. The point remains that, as mentioned in the debate, in America there is a suppression of serious discussion of Israel. The Finkelstein and Carter cases show what happens when a critical line is taken.

In Britain, as Andrew Cockburn noted, things are less bad. However, Aaronovitch's fatuous example of the bookselling table proves precisely nothing. (Not that it's particularly relevant, but I'd like to know what books Aaronovitch and Indyk would be flogging in any case.)

If you watch the video, you'll see the following point being made: Britain's policy towards Israel is largely subordinate to and dictated by American policy towards Israel. The American policy debate is, to a large extent, stifled by raving accusations of anti-Semitism, etc. whenever a seriously critical (or evem mildly critical, in the case of Carter) line is taken.

6/03/2007 09:55:00 AM  
Blogger StuartA said...

*motion

6/03/2007 09:57:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Aaro's article is poor - and I am disappointed by your agreement with it. A commentator on other US policies who suggested that Americans simply believed that they should have expensive pharmaceutical drugs or simply believed that they should have agricultural tariffs would be seen as a fool: intense concentrated political and media organisation underlies those policies, as they do with US's policies in support of Israel's policies of colonising the Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

And if you say "both sides believe the other lot controls the media" well, one side might well be right, no? Would you throw up your hands this way on other subjects? BTW, the Aaro article did not seem to distinguish between the US and the UK media markets, where the balance of criticism of Israel etc differs very much.

"A problem was that the proposers could point to one or two specific instances where organisations in the US had indeed made representations leading to the withdrawal of speaking invitations or the cancellation of events."
Yes, these sort of events do make the argument that no one is stifling debate in the US rather difficult.

The end para is awful. If the argument is that - within a basically free society - that media gatekeepers reduce the access of views critical of Israel in the mainstream media, it's certainly no refutation that small press publishers can produce a tableload of books for signatures at universities.

6/03/2007 10:24:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Aaro's and Moore's pieces together present a very good reason for staying out of Middle Eastern debates: both sides believe the other lot controls the media, and there's not a lot good in arguing with them.

Firstly, both Aaro and Moore are on the SAME side, and both have have regular columns in which to expound their views. Please name me a prominent pro-Palestinian columnist, or even one who's anti-Zionist.

Scondly, getting most of us to keep out of the debate is exactly the aim of the pro-Zionist lobby. If you don't support them, then you better keep schtum or risk being labelled an anti-Semite.

This is the worst post I've read on AW by the way.

6/04/2007 07:12:00 AM  
Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

Oh goody, a flamewar about Israel.

Personally, as I've noted before, I take the Flannery O'Connor view on whether debate about Israel is being stifled - not nearly enough. I also think that if you've been silenced, the least you can do is shut up. (Tom Lehrer).

"Stifling debate" is a red herring; the problem is that the Israel-nutter lobby (I really dislike "Zionist", btw, it's an imprecise and slightly ethnically loaded term, and we have the alternative of "Israel", which is the name of the State of Israel) have rendered it practically impossible to have anything resembling a sensible Middle East policy. The problem isn't that there's no debate; it's that you can debate until you're blue in the face (and my God we do) but it won't change anything.

I must say the Finkelstein thing is a bit of a scandal though; the man does not exactly do himself a lot of favours, but Alan Dershowitz in particular has behaved scandalously IMO.

6/04/2007 08:52:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

Finkelstein has a thin skin: but then again, if you flay them enough so would anybody...

6/04/2007 10:03:00 AM  
Blogger StuartA said...

If you’re going to assess Aaronovitch’s assessment of the debate, then please at least give some sign that you watched the debate. Right now, you are ignoring what was said by Finkelstein and Cockburn in that debate.

"Stifling debate" might be a red herring, depending on how you define it. Of course Finkelstein is allowed to say what he wants, and he can trade words with Dershowitz and Aaronovitch; he’s even allowed to flog his books. But as was said by those proposing the motion, what typically results in the mainstream is a distraction from the debate that should be taking place if any settlement is to be achieved. Instead of considering what is happening in the West Bank, the "debate" instead focuses on whether Finkelstein is a "self-hating Jew", or a Holocaust denier, or whatever people like Dershowitz can think of. In that sense, the real debate — the one that actually matters — is being stifled.

Nor is it just radical critics of Israel. Again, as mentioned in the debate, similar frothing accusations and smear campaigns were directed at Barack Obama (when he dared raise Palestinian suffering), Tony Judt, and Jimmy Carter. Academics and journalists know very well that, if you want an easy life, you don’t step out of line.

As already stated, here and in the Oxford debate, the situation is different in the UK. But then, as Cockburn pointed out, UK policy is so subservient and irrelevant that the debate here simply matters less. In response, Aaronovitch played the nationalism card. One might have thought this kind of cheap ploy, common among Decentists (see, e.g., Kamm and his fixation with the "Chicago Doctrine"), might be mentioned on this blog. Instead we got an incoherent quasi-endorsement of Aaronovitch/Moore, apparently masquerading as "a plague o' both your houses" balance.

I still cannot fathom what there is to like in Moore’s piece for anyone not of the Mel P school. Does his "bloodless patrician" style somehow render bog standard anti-Palestinian propaganda more palatable? Of course he would leap on the kidnapping to contrast civilised Israeli behaviour with those "turbaned torturers", pretending as he does so that this is the untold "other side". It is an entirely standard line, and not a very credible one. He forgets, as he hymns Israeli academic achievement, the destruction of Palestinian university life. He forgets as he speaks of kidnapping and torture the grand-scale kidnapping and torture by Israelis.

And then he ends with the most fatuous line of all — the one that ignores Israelis status as one of the most powerful, nuclear-armed militaries in the world (not to mention the casualty ratio in the recent Lebanese invasion): "Forty years after its greatest victory, it has to work out each morning how it can survive." Ugh. You "recommend" this brazen lying schmaltz?

6/04/2007 11:25:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Stifling debate" is a red herring; the problem is that the Israel-nutter lobby ... have rendered it practically impossible to have anything resembling a sensible Middle East policy. The problem isn't that there's no debate; it's that you can debate until you're blue in the face (and my God we do) but it won't change anything.

One of the reasons why the Israel-nutter lobby can make it impossible to have a sensible Middle East policy is that media gatekeepers, particularly in America, restrict the ability to express the view that "the Israel-nutter lobby ... have rendered it practically impossible to have anything resembling a sensible Middle East policy" in the mainstream media.

6/04/2007 01:27:00 PM  
Anonymous H said...

The name of this blog might be Aaronovitch Watch, but the sub-heading is 'World of Decency', and I don't see how you can understand the Decents without looking at their approach to Israel - it seems so central to the whole Decent Project (a glance at today's HP and roughly a third of the posts up there relate directly to Israel).

To be sure, the Decents are much more than some wing of Britain's Israel lobby, but its worth asking how Decent writers and politicians (Macshane etc) have sought to influence public debate on Israel. Also I don't think you can understand the alienation of the Decents from the Left without looking at the role played by criticism of Israel.

So while its very true to say that debate about the Israel lobby & the Middle East can't change anything, that misses the point and shouldn't be used as a reason to avoid the subject.

6/04/2007 03:11:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

There's incoherence and nonsense wherever you look in the Moore piece (not very surprisngly given its skewed Israel-as-unheard-victim perspective) but let's take a look at this passage, for instance, asking what would have happened if the Israelis had kidnapped Alan Johnston:

Loud would have been the denunciations of the extremist doctrines of Zionism which had given rise to this vile act. The world isolation of Israel, if it failed to get Mr Johnston freed, would have been complete.

1. Isn't Moore inventing a hypothetical response which he attributes to his adversaries and then denouncing them for it? Isn't that not only poor ethics, but characteristic of the pro-war, pro-Israel set, insofar as it likes to denounce people for what they have not said?

2. In what way would "the world isolation of Israel " be complete? Would ambassadors be withdrawn and sanctions imposed on Israel? What would Moore's reasons be for thinking so? If he does not think so, isn't the claim itself absurd?

3. Do we not in fact have a fair number of examples of pro-Western regimes not kidnapping but actually killing journalists without their subsequent isolation? Don't these include the deliberate killing of journalists when Indonesia invaded East Timor and the reckless killing of journalists during the invasion of Iraq? What diplomatic and economic sanctions arose from these events? Was the Iraqi regime wholly isolated in the world when it killed the British journalist Farzad Bazoft? Or did its friends at the time include the US and Israel?

4. Did any such sanctions follow the killing of Rachel Corrie? Or the killing of James Miller? Doesn't the latter instance in particular utterly refute Moore's claim? Or had he just forgotten about it?

6/04/2007 03:12:00 PM  
Anonymous Not in Amsterdam now said...

As for Israel vs. Zionist, Israel has some of the same defects. Some decents for example support the left in Israel, that is the left as long as it is not Arab. No Balad or any other "all citizens are equal" left. Israel works as long as it implies the same ethnicity.

Where jewish, zionist and Israel overlap that is the core of that interest group. Non zionist jews, zionist christians and Israeli arabs and their interests are opposed, sidelined or included according to how they support that core.

6/04/2007 03:51:00 PM  
Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

On the Decent view of Israel:

Maybe I am looking at everything through Atlanticism-coloured glasses at the moment, but I don't really see all that many Decents who have an Israel policy other than "me-too"ism to the USA. Harry's Place feel able to give Israel uncritical support in everything they do, but this is more a result of the death spiral of Harry's Place than anything else; for all their faults, Geras was correct and on-side with respect to the Lebanese war crimes, and the Euston Manifesto does in fact have a two-state solution in it (plus some boilerplate ENGAGE rhetoric which doesn't really fit, politically that is, rhetorically it's a close match).

The ENGAGE tendency I to be honest see as a foreign nationalist movement pure and simple; I've often accused them of being worried about anti-Semitism because it might lead to criticism of Israel, and I think this joke has a lot of truth to it. I don't think there's anything particularly bad about being advocates of the interests of a foreign country if you like that country, but that's what ENGAGE is and (IMO) why they have chosen to run their own organisation allied to but not entirely part of the Decent movement.

On "the debate", we've criticised Aaro on a number of occasions in the past for talking shit about the Mearsheimer and Walt article. But focus on the "battle of ideas" rather than the actual politics of the situation is Michael Gove's style, not ours. The big caveat I would make is that news reporting in the USA is quite scandalously partial and inadequate, and that accurate reporting might make quite a difference to domestic politics there.

On the Moore piece, there's a lot of Israel whataboutery in there, but I think that the element that CC correctly identified in there is that just as I don't accept the nutter lobby's claim on the brand "pro-Israel", I don't think that criticism of Hamas and Fatah is in any way intrinsically "anti-Palestinian".

They are two of the worst, least competent, most corrupt and nastiest liberation movements in the world, and it is a crying shame that the Palestinians don't have anyone better. Now that Hezbollah have shown what can be achieved in the field against the IDF, I think the last excuse for mounting a shock force of stone-throwing eight-year-olds and bombs in pizza shops because "we can't possibly fight against the Israeli Army" is gone.

I did disagree with the central organising conceit of Moore's piece; given that we basically shrugged off the bombing of hospitals and the use of cluster munitions by its actual army, why on earth does he think that Israel would suffer any material sanction if a non-government terrorist group kidnapped a journalist? The kidnapping of Mordecai Vanunu was arranged while he was actually on British soil, and we huffed and puffed a bit but basically did fuck-all.

6/05/2007 06:27:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

Just some questions...

1. Are Hamas, actually, incompetent and corrupt? (That's not a rhetorical question but it does seem to me that it isn't obviously true.)

2. Wasn't Hezbollah's situation rather different in that they were defending an observable front, with what amounted to their own territory behind them? Hamas by contrast are stuck in small bits of ground which can be attacked from anywhere and can't really fight the sort of war Hezbollah did.

3. Are liberation movements not, in fact, normally undemocratic, brutal - if not usually so brutal, due to technological imablances, as the people they're fighting - and inclined to raise funds and punish informers and collaborators by means that we would consider criminal in any normal circumstances (and may well consider criminal anyway)?

4. Doesn't the Euston two-state solution essentially carry the usual Western baggage, to wit it means "in principle the Palestinians can apply for a state, but only one that Israel is happy with and only after they've surrendered and given Israel every guarantee that Israel wants - without receiving any guarantees themselves"?

In general I don't think people do understand much about the origins of Fatah and Hamas, the differences between the two and the roots of the fight between them. I doubt that the major cause of this is media bias towards the Palestinians, though I don't doubt that there's a certain defensiveness on some of the left regarding the discussion.

6/05/2007 07:23:00 AM  
Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

1. Arafat's organisation were notoriously corrupt. Hamas are apparently less so, but they're also right-wing nationalists.

2. I think Hezb were encircled pretty early on in the war. On the other hand, the Iraqi insurgency also manage to take on exactly the kind of military targets that Palestinians have more or less abjured, so it can be done. I'm not inclined to accept excuses really.

3. Success justifies a lot, and putting bombs in pizza restaurants goes well beyond anything that could be considered the normal brutality of a revolutionary army. Plus, Hamas and the PLO never seemed to do anything else; their attacks on civilians weren't part of the struggle, that was all there was.

4. I'm sure that some Eustonites think this way, but that's not what's in the actual manifesto IIRC.

6/05/2007 08:55:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

1. Yeah, I knew Fatah were (and are) corrupt, but I'm far from sure it's true of Hamas. I'm not sure what "right-wing" and "nationalist" really mean in the Hamas context.

2. "Putting bombs in pizza restaurants goes well beyond anything that could be considered the normal brutality of a revolutionary army". You quite sure about that? I'd have thought that atrocities against civilians were far from unusual among revolutionary armies. I suppose the discussion would really be whether or not they have normally constituted policy and how central that policy has been?

3. On the comment about the PLO never doing anything else - I'm fairly sure that there were armed raids on army targets early on in the organisation's existence. It's not clear to me whether or why these ceased.

6/05/2007 09:58:00 AM  
Blogger StuartA said...

On the Moore piece, there's a lot of Israel whataboutery in there, but I think that the element that CC correctly identified in there is that just as I don't accept the nutter lobby's claim on the brand "pro-Israel", I don't think that criticism of Hamas and Fatah is in any way intrinsically "intrinsically anti-Palestinian".

But who said criticism of Hamas and Fatah was "intrinsically 'anti-Palestinian'"? Nobody here, or in the debate, as far as I can see. Nor do I see Moore making that claim, or referring to it. Where is this "element that CC correctly identified"?

I still cannot see the original posting, or your defence of it, as anything but a spurious attempt at balance. And you let weigh on the scales a grotesque piece of propagandising from Moore!

6/05/2007 11:24:00 AM  
Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

I don't agree that the attempt at balance is spurious. In so far as there's an AW position, it's that we're against violence in nearly all circumstances.

6/05/2007 01:09:00 PM  
Blogger StuartA said...

Sorry to prolong discussion of an evidently fairly hasty posting, but I honestly don't understand what your point is.

As far as I can see we have this:

1. Aaronovitch says the Israel lobby isn't as powerful as people think. His evidence is that Finkelstein sells some books. CC "roughly" agrees with this.

2. Moore thinks we never hear how jolly civilised those Israelis are.

On the strength of these two columns we are to conclude that:

1. We shouldn't discuss Middle Eastern affairs because nobody agrees anyway.

2. Moore has a point that criticising Hamas et al. isn't necessarily anti-Palestinian (but Moore doesn't say this).

Apologies if I've misrepresented the situation, but it seems any "balance" is between two things nobody said.

6/05/2007 02:04:00 PM  
Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

I have just seen that the Moore piece has been linked approvingly by that unbelievable cunt Martin Peretz, and so am retrospectively revising my opinion of it. If it turns out that he came across it via Aaronovitch Watch I may have to commit ritual suicide.

6/05/2007 05:21:00 PM  
Blogger cian said...

With respect, Dsquared, the comparison with Hezb is bollocks.
Hezbollah were able to acquire sophisticated weapons and training. They controlled their territory (which the Palestinians assuredly do not, not even in Gaza), and were able to build sophisticated bases from which they could defend their territory. They also had a larger territory to fight on, and one which their enemy was not very familiar with. Even when Hezbollah was fighting the occupation, Israel was never able to fully control the territory, or its borders, due to size/resources/etc.

I'm not arguing that Fatah, or Hamas, are militarily competent * (they're assuredly not) - merely that your comparison was a silly one.

* One only has to read accounts of the PLO's "defense" of Lebannon to realise how hopeless they are, though that was largely because Arafat appointed people according to status in Palestinian society, rather than whether they knew what the fuck they were doing.

6/05/2007 06:02:00 PM  
Anonymous dd said...

Cian, I don't agree that it's bollocks, viz:

1. Hezb do own sophisticated weaponry (the anti-ship missiles and the big bastards that they kept threatening to drop on Haifa). But their successes in the field owed a lot more to RPGs and IEDs which are not sophisticated weaponry. The way that they knocked out the supposedly indestructible Merkava tanks was to use large shaped charges laid as mines. There's no reason at all that the Palestinians couldn't have done this at some point or another, except that they have intentionally chosen a strategy of military helplessness.

2. Hezb's "sophisticated bases" are tunnels, not unlike the tunnels used by the Vietnamese in Cu Chi and similar. The Palestinians are capable of digging tunnels; they have loads of them going over the border into Egypt. In any case, Hezb only dug their tunnels because their aim was to defend open territory, which is much harder than the task facing the Palestinians. An urban environment notoriously favours insurgents and guerillas over regular troops.

The whole strand of Palestinian apologetics that I'm arguing against here is that the poor ickle Palestinians have to blow up pizza restaurants because it is utterly out of the question that they could carry out any sort of fight against the IDF because they are so utterly outgunned. Hezb (and even more so, the Iraqi insurgents) have shown that it is actually possible to fight against a modern technological army, which kind of brings into sharp relief the fact that the commanders of the Palestinians haven't tried. Hamas are just as bad as the PLO in this regard; they have at least tried to have the odd token stab at military targets, but they still have the systematic targeting of civilians as their main tactic and they still use the old Arafat excuse that "this is the only means open to us".

6/06/2007 06:27:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

is that the poor ickle Palestinians have to blow up pizza restaurants because it is utterly out of the question that they could carry out any sort of fight against the IDF because they are so utterly outgunned.

Does anybody think this? I wouldn't have thought there was much of a constituency for that proposition.

6/06/2007 07:05:00 AM  
Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

The specific argument I have in mind is the one implied by this talk by GA Cohen - I am not sure he actually makes this argument but it's in there. I think it's quite common; it's implicit in anyone who talks about suicide bombers and air forces.

6/06/2007 09:05:00 AM  
Blogger cian said...

In the context of the Palestinian/Israeli conflict, RPGs are sophisticated weapons. As are the rockets fired into Israel. The Palestinians don't have them - they have AK-47s and home made rockets. Hamas and Al-Aqsa (who in some instances are the same thing) have used IEDs, and knocked out a Mervka with one. The problem the Palestinians face is that the lifespan of a bomb maker is quite short (I have a suspicion that the main makers of IEDs are probably dead) and deploying them so they'll hit tanks and not random Palestinian cars is quite difficult. They're more effective in a warzone, than a military occupation of the kind taking place in the west bank.

A further distinction, is that Israel has almost total military control of the terrain that counts, something which they didn't have in Lebannon (and due to the size, the US army will never have in Iraq). The West Bank areas controlled by the Palestinians are tiny (particularly in comparison to the size of the Israeli military). This is quite rare, and makes an insurgency very difficult. The Palestinians do not have anywhere much in the west bank where they can train (well they do, but they'll draw attention to themselves).

Hezbollah's underground bunkers were built so they could withstand an airstrike, and so soldiers within them could remain undetected for many days (apparently they included power and airconditioning). That's pretty fucking sophisticated. By some accounts they were built using construction equipment, and seem to have involved the use of a lot of concrete. Its easier to do something like that when you have access to Iranian civil engineering expertise, you control the terrain (its not as if the Israeli army were going to invade Lebannon to stop them) and you only have to worry about drones and the occasional spy. The Palestinian tunnels are hardly comparable.

"In any case, Hezb only dug their tunnels because their aim was to defend open territory, which is much harder than the task facing the Palestinians. An urban environment notoriously favours insurgents and guerillas over regular troops."

South Lebannon is excellent territory for gureillas. Lots of valleys, hills, etc. And much of the fighting (and indeed where the bunkers largely seem to have been) took place in towns.

And Hezbollah did not aim to defend open territory, which is why they won. The whole point of their defence was to let the Israelis advance as far as they wanted, and then hit their flank. Its actually easier to defeat an invading army using this tactic, than an occupying one, as their supply lines will be far less established, and they won't have been able to establish secure bases. Particularly if you've used the intervening few years to prepare the landscape for such an invasion.

I think Iraq is an even worse comparison, btw. Iraq is far larger, the US have very little control over it, the borders are porous, much of the insurgency received military training prior to the occupation and the place is awash with fairly sophisticated weaponry.

6/06/2007 10:45:00 AM  
Blogger cian said...

Incidentally, I'm not defending Palestinian tactics. They suck, they always have done.

A further comparison between hezbollah and Hamas/Fatah strikes me. Discipline and stability. Its very hard for Hamas/Fatah to manage either, as leaders tend to get arrested/assassinated at a fairly rapid rate.

That said, a disciplined and organised resistance (which periodically bits of Al-Aqsa and Hamas have shown signs of, before the relevant person got picked off) could probably drive the Israelis out, even now.

Also, I'm a bit bemused by your belief that "Putting bombs in pizza restaurants goes well beyond anything that could be considered the normal brutality of a revolutionary army". Um, have you really thought that one through? It seems about par for the course, better than some, worse than others. Algeria for example?

6/06/2007 10:54:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

I wondered when we'd get round to Pontecorvo.

6/06/2007 02:24:00 PM  
Anonymous H said...

BB: "On the Decent view of Israel: Maybe I am looking at everything through Atlanticism-coloured glasses at the moment, but I don't really see all that many Decents who have an Israel policy other than "me-too"ism to the USA."

I'm sorry but I think this is fundamentally wrong. Israel's not some tangential issue for the Decents merely bound up with their attitude to America - its emotional resonance is much more than that. It also does the Decents a big disservice because Atlanticists they may be but they're not uncritical ones and certainly give Washington both barrels over its relations with states (other than Israel) involved in gross human rights abuses.

6/06/2007 03:39:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Israel's not some tangential issue for the Decents merely bound up with their attitude to America - its emotional resonance is much more than that.

Right. For example (or, especially), if you look at Norman Geras's occasional condemnations of Israel, what he writes seems to be there for the record, brief, and in a very dry tone. It's not as if he's involved or even anguished in any way. At least, that's my memory, as someone who months ago moved from reading to rapidly skimming his blog. (I'd say the same for his occasional condemnations of US actions.)

6/06/2007 04:12:00 PM  

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