Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Aaro on Hitler statistics

In today's column, Aaro suggests a rule of thumb:

A year earlier in this place that was, pace Livingstone, “exactly” a ghetto in the same way as Gaza, the death rate from starvation and disease was more than 4,000 a month - the equivalent of 12,000 in the Gazan “ghetto”. On these grounds alone, never mind any others (rockets, Hamas, etc), we may conclude that Gaza 2009 and Warsaw 1943 have very little in common.

so, implicitly, a difference in death rates of around 25 times would mean that comparisons between different atrocities are meaningless.

On this basis, he will presumably be receiving offers of employment from the public relations agencies of Saddam Hussein (=Hitler), Robert Mugabe (Zimbabwe is Bosnia), Slobodan Milosevic (Srebenica was Munich) and David Davis (=Hitler).

Otherwise, it's basically blah, IMO. We should carefully consider the circumstances before concluding that it's all Hamas' fault, due to their Nazi propaganda. They're not black and white, they're black.

162 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

And the 'no moral equivalence beyond the 25th factor' rule also renders the IDF's causus bellum in rather a bad light, doesn't it?

[capta here was 'obotert' which I read as 'Obote alert' - rather an apt phrase for Decent-watchers. In the words of the War Nerd "If you really want to kill people, be a moderate."]

Chris Williams

1/06/2009 03:03:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Breaking news...

Nick Cohen has broken his silence on the bombing and invasion og Gaza with an outright condemnation of...



...detox diets!

http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/standard/article-23612221-details/Give+up+detox+-+it%27s+bad+for+your+health/article.do

1/06/2009 03:29:00 PM  
Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

As the admirably hard-headed researchers for Sense about Science have shown

oh Nick, Nick ...

Of course, blahing about "detox" and the scientific charlatans who promote it, while in the same column chuckling about cigarette smoking, has a certain ... historic resonance, dunnit?

1/06/2009 03:56:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

I think Aaro was very good today - in the middle bit. I have a feeling that he's right about 'The Reader' and its critics (I haven't read the book, but I feel that I should have). While I don't know how fairly he represents Anthony Lane's argument, at least he's taking on a real and fairly serious individual.

He's wrong about Eno. As always, Google is your friend. Brian Eno quoted that notorious anti-Semite, Primo Levi, and expanded on that sermon. It's hardly a politically illiterate (geddit?) response to the Gaza conflict.

What is Nick talking about? Simon Singh isn't even the best science writer on health. That's Ben Goldacre.

1/06/2009 04:20:00 PM  
Anonymous bubby said...

What do these two passages mean to imply?

When 13.75 million German voters put their cross against the overtly Jew-hating National Socialist list in July 1932, didn't they make themselves complicit in the events that ended up with Hanna's choice?

and

And in that context I want to ask Brian Eno, whether he has ever - in a recording break - watched Hamas TV and thought to compare it to the propaganda, much earlier, of those who later gave the Hannas their jobs?


Dave doesn't like the comparison between the Warsaw Ghetto and Gaza but seems only too happy to compare Hamas to the Nazis. The gist of the first section seems to go further IMO by appearing to imply that by voting for Hamas the population was supporting a party analogous to the Nazis and they therefore have only themselves to blame for what is happening to them at the moment.

Perhaps I'm wrong and it is difficult to sometimes decode what Aaro is saying but it is does to me read like justification or at least soft-soaping of the obscenities currently unfolding.

1/06/2009 04:56:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

That's a really bizarre handbrake-turn at the end. "You mustn't liken Israel to the Nazis, because they're not nearly as bad as the Nazis... and actually when you think about it nobody was as bad as the Nazis, even the actual Nazis themselves... except Hamas, who are Nazis! Nazis!"

I suppose it's another case of elevating thoughtcrime over actual killing-people type crime - v. Decent.

1/06/2009 05:07:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A good proportion of the political elite of Europe was cheering when the German people elected the Nazis, because they would sort out Germany. Does that make them complicit in what happened later?

Moussaka Man

1/06/2009 05:12:00 PM  
Anonymous bubby said...

The more I re-read that article the mose it appears an attempt to soap-soft what's going in Gaza.

1/06/2009 05:26:00 PM  
Blogger Matthew said...

You have to be careful with that article if you read it online as he keeps switching between Hamas and Hannas which looks rather similar on screen. I got even more confused as a result.

1/06/2009 05:55:00 PM  
Anonymous bubby said...

Decent Watchers might be amused by Norm' harrumph at this article by Nir Rosen in the Guardian. He ends with a loud condemnation of the Guardian where all kinds of shady moral relativim lurk.

Whilst not agreeing with all Rosen said I actually found it refreshing to see someone in the media attempting to discuss the issues with such candour.

1/06/2009 05:58:00 PM  
Anonymous Marc Mulholland said...

Candour? I suppose, in a way. But Nir Rosen *is* actually supporting terrorism strictly defined, isn't he? - the murder of civilians qua civilians to put political pressure on an enemy government. His argument, as it winds on, doesn't even make much sense in its own terms. After much huffing and puffing about the weapons of the weak, he concludes that the "Zionist Israel is not a viable long-term project", so by his own argument of last efficacious resort, terrorism (or whatever he wants it to be called) isn't justified.

I don't object to the Graun ventilating this kind of stuff - I'm not into Norm's schoolmarmly boundary policing - but that's not to say that Rosen is particularly edifying.

1/06/2009 06:17:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For a laugh, this weekend I'm about to deliver my standard Bomber Harris lecture (shorter: "Not all bad.") to some local comrades. Assuming I survive until questions, I will have traversed much the same territory as Rosen, when trying to describe why the British way of war was predicated on targeting civilians.

Unlike Rosen, though, I reject that as moral option, then and now, but it's worth noting that he's in some pretty well-known and powerful company. I note also that there are at least four live Trident D missiles somewhere under the North Atlantic with a fucking Union Jack on them. Mote, beam, etc.

Chris Williams

1/06/2009 06:23:00 PM  
Blogger Dr_Paul said...

According to this sort of logic, the Ghetto inhabitants had no right to fight back against their jailers, let alone launch their heroic insurrection in 1943.

1/06/2009 06:44:00 PM  
Anonymous bubby said...

I suppose, in a way. But Nir Rosen *is* actually supporting terrorism strictly defined

Strictly defined??

Terrorism has no agreed upon definition let alone 'strict' definition. Its a boo word largely used strategically to deligitimise certain forms of political violence. And how it is deployed rhetorically depends on power relations. Rosen was correct about all that.

As I said I didn't agree with all of the article particularly the bit relating to the use of any violence to free oneself from oppression or the idea that the weak are neccessarily correct or to be supported in any action.

But I do think the issue of how language is used by the media to demonise what one one side does and sanitise what the other does is hugely significant. Plus the fact that the great bulk of journalism doesn't explain any of the historical background or what the occupation actually involves on a human rights level. Unsurprisingly the great bulk of the population of this country don't have the faintest clue about what is going on.

1/06/2009 06:46:00 PM  
Anonymous gastro george said...

Isn't this entirely relevant when it comes to discussing the rocket attacks by Hamas and others.

As it stands, this is pretty much the only way that they can respond to the Israeli blockade and attacks. If they couldn't launch rockets, then what could they do to resist?

Step-wise, this has been Israeli policy for years. To reduce Palestinian scope for action, while liberating their own. This is the embodiment of the power of the strong over the weak.

It's also worth noting that the upcoming "ceasefire" seems to be completely framed in Israeli terms - an attempt to completely demilitarise the Gazans and institutionalise the blockade. Then they will be left to rot in their jail until they decide to leave - which is one of Rosen's points.

He's also right to say that, as it stands, the two state solution is dead in the water. This is a consequence that Israel will eventually have to confront. But not yet, they have an election campaign to continue in Gaza.

1/06/2009 07:31:00 PM  
Anonymous dd said...

As it stands, this is pretty much the only way that they can respond to the Israeli blockade and attacks. If they couldn't launch rockets, then what could they do to resist?

just because you can't think of anything else to do, doesn't make "this option I have here in my briefcase" the right thing to do or even legal.

Quite apart from anything else, they could have attacked the IDF checkpoints, for example[1]. This would probably have been difficult and would have resulted in casualties, but it's a pretty fundamental point about the law on the waging of war that you're obliged to take risks and incur casualties in order to protect noncombatants.

In general, the bald assertion made by a lot of Palestinian terror groups that the IDF is so utterly undefeatable and majestic that they have absolutely no alternative at all but to put bombs in nightclubs, is taken at face value far, far more than it ought to be.

[1] I wrote this (rather heartless) piece back in 2006, noting that all this pious concern for civilians in Sderot is for rhetorical purposes only; when Hamas kidnapped Gilad Shalit, who was very definitely a combatant manning a blockade, as a matter of historical record, the Decent Likud lobby did not actually go "OK fair go, combatant = no foul".

1/06/2009 08:29:00 PM  
Blogger Alex said...

Hamas did have a damn good go at raising the siege nonviolently, when they *just tore down the fucking fence* on the Egyptian border. Great.

It's also worth noting that the upcoming "ceasefire" seems to be completely framed in Israeli terms - an attempt to completely demilitarise the Gazans and institutionalise the blockade. Then they will be left to rot in their jail until they decide to leave - which is one of Rosen's points.

Not really, all Israeli statements outside Lipni's telly emoting seem to say that the putative agreement would involve opening the border.

1/06/2009 11:20:00 PM  
Anonymous bubby said...

Suicide bombings directed against civilians are clearly not legal. Amnesty have stated that they qualify as 'crimes against humanity' under international law. Often the motive has been one of revenge for the killing/torture of relatives, or the result of the bomber having experienced torture firsthand.

This doesn't make it legal or acceptable or any less abhorrent but it have a powerful social context.

1/06/2009 11:46:00 PM  
Blogger Alex said...

Aaro is apparently unaware that other ghettos than Warsaw ever existed. Sad. Perhaps he should read a book.

Perhaps I should have punched his lights out when I had a chance.

1/06/2009 11:49:00 PM  
Anonymous Editor said...

Apologies for the length of the post, but needs prevail over manners. On 9th December, Richard Falk (UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Palestinian territories occupied since 1967) issued the following statement which I don't think enough people have actually read. I have emphasised to add to your discussion.

In recent days the desperate plight of the civilian population of Gaza has been acknowledged by such respected international figures as the Secretary General of the United Nations, the President of the General Assembly, and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Last week, Karen AbyZayd, who heads the UN relief effort in Gaza, offered first-hand confirmation of the desperate urgency and unacceptable conditions facing the civilian population of Gaza. Although many leaders have commented on the cruelty and unlawfulness of the Gaza blockade imposed by Israel, such a flurry of denunciations by normally cautious UN officials has not occurred on a global level since the heyday of South African apartheid.

And still Israel maintains its Gaza siege in its full fury, allowing only barely enough food and fuel to enter to stave off mass famine and disease. Such a policy of collective punishment, initiated by Israel to punish Gazans for political developments within the Gaza strip, constitutes a continuing flagrant and massive violation of international humanitarian law as laid down in Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

It is long past the time when talk suffices.
As AbuZayd has written, "the chasm between word and deed" with respect to upholding human rights in occupied Palestine creates a situation where "radicalism and extremism easily take root." The UN is obligated to respond under these conditions. Some governments of the world are complicit by continuing their support politically and economically for Israel's punitive approach.

Protective action must be taken immediately to offset the persisting and wide-ranging violations of the fundamental human right to life, and in view of the emergency situation that is producing a humanitarian catastrophe that is unfolding day by day. However difficult politically, it is time to act. At the very least, an urgent effort should be made at the United Nations to implement the agreed norm of a 'responsibility to protect' a civilian population being collectively punished by policies that amount to a Crime Against Humanity.

In a similar vein, it would seem mandatory for the International Criminal Court to investigate the situation, and determine whether the Israeli civilian leaders and military commanders responsible for the Gaza siege should be indicted and prosecuted for violations of international criminal law. As AbuZayd has declared, "This is a humanitarian crisis deliberately imposed by political actors."

It should be noted that the situation worsened in recent days due to the breakdown of a truce between Hamas and Israel that had been observed for several months by both sides. The truce was maintained by Hamas despite the failure of Israel to fulfill its obligation under the agreement to improve the living conditions of the people of Gaza.

The recent upsurge of violence occurred after an Israeli incursion that killed several alleged Palestinian militants within Gaza. It is a criminal violation of international law for elements of Hamas or anyone else to fire rockets at Israeli towns regardless of provocation, but such Palestinian behavior does not legalize Israel's imposition of a collective punishment of a life- and health-threatening character on the people of Gaza, and should not distract the UN or international society from discharging their fundamental moral and legal duty to render protection to the Palestinian people.

1/07/2009 12:18:00 AM  
Anonymous dd said...

Hamas did have a damn good go at raising the siege nonviolently, when they *just tore down the fucking fence* on the Egyptian border. Great.

in fairness to Hamas, this is the one action that I really did respect them for, and can't quite understand how the damn thing got built up again, other than a general wish not to "go there".

Aaro is apparently unaware that other ghettos than Warsaw ever existed. Sad. Perhaps he should read a book.

It would be truly dreadful if the one political legacy of the Euston Manifesto was that fuck-awful Amnesty International/gulag stand up comedy bit.

(By the way, there is no polite way to say this, but I think it needs to be raised; has Aaro had any conversations with public relations practitioners in the employment of the Israeli government over the last week, and if so, what was their content? Both of his last two cols have had big sections in them which a) seem totally irrelevant to the rest of the piece and b) are very similar indeed to talking points made in lots of other articles and on blogs.) More generally, has anyone at the Times comment desk got the GIYUS Megaphone piece of software installed on their computer?

1/07/2009 12:18:00 AM  
Anonymous dd said...

a policy of collective punishment, initiated by Israel to punish Gazans for political developments within the Gaza strip, constitutes a continuing flagrant and massive violation of international humanitarian law as laid down in Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention

Sadly, Falk is basically wrong on this. Frits Kalzhoven and Liesbeth Zegveld discuss situations of this type at length in their book "Constraints on the Waging of War" and their conclusion (which they regret) is that the Conventions and Protocols actually provide shockingly little protection for noncombatants against a blockade (only children, the sick and expectant mothers even have a right to food), and that it is all too easy under international law to launch such a blockade (which, because it does not involve incursion onto territory, is not an act of war).

1/07/2009 12:22:00 AM  
Anonymous bubby said...

So its not against international law to starve what is under interntional law, an 'occupied' people?

I really think I'd like a second opinion on that.

Although Palestinian suicide bombings are clearly crimes against humanity, they are few in number in relation to Israel's war crimes and crimes against humanity. The entire occupation is shot though with these serious violations of international law as humanitarian agencies have repeatedly pointed out. Our governments have colluded in these crimes. Its difficult to imagine how much rage there must be in the region right now considering that those populations will be watching the unsanitised footage we are no allowed to see.

1/07/2009 12:46:00 AM  
Blogger Smowboy said...

"has Aaro had any conversations with public relations practitioners in the employment of the Israeli government over the last week,"

An interesting question and one which might be profitably asked of our old chum David T.

Anyone noticed how HP has gone into war room mode, lots of new commentators, instant rebuttal?

I'd respectfully suggest that sort of operation is beyond our David, I wonder who is helping?

1/07/2009 12:47:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

and can't quite understand how the damn thing got built up again

This is why I cited Mubarak as the real villain of the piece in another thread, since as I understand it, were it not for him and his goons it couldn't have happened.

1/07/2009 01:38:00 AM  
Anonymous Martin Wisse said...

Yeah, the wall got put back up because Mubarak is scared shitless of provoking Israel, doesn't like Hamas or the Palestinians all that much and quite likes the status quo.

1/07/2009 07:16:00 AM  
Anonymous andrew adams said...

I agree with what Chardonnay Chap said earlier. The main part of Aaro's piece contains a very good argument, that we tend to see people such as concentration camp guards as "obviously monsters, sadists, mad people, criminally insane" when in reality they may not be so different from ourselves.
This is of course a fundamentally un-Decent argument because for the Decents people, especially terrorists do bad things because they are evil and any attempt to humanise them is to condone their actions.
That is the context for his remark about the 13.75m Germans who voted for the Nazis - ordinary Germany may have looked at those who carried out or were complicit in Nazi atrocities as the "other" but they were at least partly complicit themselves. It's a rather laboured point but I do think thats what he's trying to say.
The point that follows about Brian Eno is a bit silly and seems to be a rather strained attempt to round off the article by linking it back to his opening point about the Warsaw ghetto comparison.
Personally I don't think this comparison is really accurate and it is unhelpful in that there are certain extreme anti-semitic types who are only too keen to make the Jews = Nazis comparison and its best for the rest of us to steer clear of those kinds of comparisions (and comparing the current situation to the holocaust is downright offensive).
There is also the point of course that some of Israel's defenders will always jump on such comparisions to deflect attention from what is actually happening in Gaza (as the Decents notably did with Amnesty's Gitmo/Gulag remark) and I would be happier if Aaro had at least conceded that the situation merited strong condemnation even if the specific comparison did not hold water. And of course then going on to make a Hamas = Nazis point does rather undermine his argument.

1/07/2009 08:52:00 AM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

Nah, David T is more than capable of getting poor quality but pro-Israeli articles in his email and immediately putting them up, which is why HP has always looked a bit like the scrapbook of someone who's more interested in partisan blame-game journalism than factual reporting. Remember all the countless examples of untrue rubbish which have gone up there in the past because David T approves of the implications of what 'some guy with a website' has written? The place has always been about giving wingnuts a 'respectable' veneer for their voices and no more so than when Israel is bombing all hell out of somewhere.

HP is now reporting IDF statements as fact which is pretty damning really - but then again they did exactly the same thing in 2006 in Lebanon. I notice there's no 'standing with Israel' banner this time, though. Weird to see just how dense this latest conflict makes the usual commenters on there - even the published ones - look. Chavez is criticised for calling on Venezuale'a Jews to denounce the Israeli onslaught - but HP routinely pressures UK Muslisms to do exactly the same thing. scorn is pouted on the batshit theory that the IDF is intentionally shelling its own soldiers - but remember the aforementioned ambulance photos? then in the same post which claims that it's antisemitism to suggest such a thing, Hamas is accused of wanting schools to be bombed when it's clear this is just not true - they want schools not to be bombed which is why they've fired from them in the past. There is also a very odd 'noble soldier would never do wrong' line being peddled on there.

I'm not sure Aaro is genuinely being fed lines by BiCom or whatever; although his editor at the times comment is a very clearly pro-Israel partisan. Much more likely that Aaro's pieces are making little sense for a good reason - that to look in any way clever one has to rise above the Israel>Palestine or vice versa view, but ultimately Aaro subscribes to one side of that, as do most people. This is why we get a fairly good piece about complicity in horrific activies followed by a recourse to exactly what has just been criticised - or like last time, a piece in which a very measured response is spelt out but then Israel is pretty much absolved of blame at the end. In a way the recent piece in particular would make a brilliant work of satire. A shame that he wants it to be taken seriously.

Another thing - Nick Cohen eh? As I've said before, I love it when Decents claim to be engaged in TGISOOT then spend more time whining about diets or office parties than how Hamas = Nazis or whatever. The Gove column just before Christmas was the best example of this. 'it is 1939 and I am Churchill' in a small paragraph; about ten times as many words on office party etiquette.

What I find most interesting in all of this is how the 'propaganda war' constantly being mentioned is nothing of the sort. Israeli officials were always on-message with propaganda during Lebanon, there's been no change there; blogs were swamped by tedious commenters trolling the 'Israel is allowed to do whatever it wants' line. Anyone who has even the vaguest interest in the conflict will already have decided whether to believe Israeli govt officials or not. What Israel has done - crucially, and in an act of warped genius, is to realise that it's not a question of propaganda - of justification - since people's minds are generally entrenched on issues like human shields and civilian casualties. The true change is that in Gaza, there are no Western foreign correspondents and Israel aren't letting them in, and probably won't let them in for at least a month after fighting stops. That means that foreign journalists are not only forced into reporting from Israel, but also reporting on Israel, more than the amount of action there would really justify. It's the exact opposite of embedding journos with the US Army. This is how to really 'win a propaganda war' - stop the other side bof the story being told to the part of the world that matters...

1/07/2009 09:33:00 AM  
Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

I really think I'd like a second opinion on that.

The book's on the ICRC website; p63 has the reference I was talking about; there's further gloss on 183 (but note that this is from the San Reno Manual and actually refers to Naval blockades). Intentional starvation of civilians is illegal and relief convoys must be allowed through, but only if they're distributed by an impartial humanitarian organisation like the ICRC. There's suprisingly little protection for civilians against blockades.

1/07/2009 09:58:00 AM  
Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

(further to above, the prohibition on the use of starvation as a weapon of warfare is in the 1977 Protocols, not the 1944 Convention, and the prohibition is on "starvation"; as far as I know, nobody is literally starving to death in Gaza and that's all the protection international law gives them. This is not a state of international legal affairs which I endorse, by the way, despite my general prejudice that the Geneva Convention/Protocols usually get it about right).

1/07/2009 10:01:00 AM  
Anonymous gastro george said...

Not really, all Israeli statements outside Lipni's telly emoting seem to say that the putative agreement would involve opening the border.

That's not the message that I'm getting. OK, they are talking about allowing more aid through, but it's all about putting more checkpoints in place, and maybe an extended cordon sanitaire, to ensure that anything that can be used as a weapon against Israel doesn't get through.

Can you imagine how this could be implemented - considering that the existing checkpoints are already very thorough.

The only upside - which I predict will get nowhere - is the idea that the checkpoints would be administered in some way by the "international community". Israel has been very careful to exclude the "international community" as much as possible, in order to free itself from any constraints.

1/07/2009 10:27:00 AM  
Anonymous gastro george said...

just because you can't think of anything else to do, doesn't make "this option I have here in my briefcase" the right thing to do or even legal.

Sure, and that's what separates Rosen's view from yours.

But regarding the rockets, I think ejh has noted that he's more likely to be in a car accident than an Israeli is to be injured by a Hamas rocket - certainly I'd bet that more people have died on Israel's roads than in or around Gaza since the offensive started. We're talking about something that is essentially symbolic and psychological (OK, I know I'm not under these rockets, but ...).

So, frankly, Israel is prosecuting this offensive for symbolic, psychological and, let's face it, electoral reasons.

1/07/2009 10:34:00 AM  
Anonymous bubby said...

Thanks for that David. I had a quick look at the reference you posted which appears to discusses international law as it applies in inter-state conflicts. I was wondering whether exactly the same rules apply in the context of a 'protected population' in the a military occupation.

What Israel has done - crucially, and in an act of warped genius, is to realise that it's not a question of propaganda - of justification - since people's minds are generally entrenched on issues like human shields and civilian casualties.

Are they? Do you have any evidence for this? The best research in this area suggsts that the public, most of which relies on TV news, doesn't haven't a clue regarding the background to the conflict. In such a situation how the media decides to frame the fighting is absolutely fundamental to establishing legitimacy of action. That's why Israel ploughs such vast sums of financial and human capital into propaganda.

1/07/2009 11:43:00 AM  
Anonymous gastro george said...

I'd agree with bubby here. Israel knows that they are up against the court of public opinion here, hence the decision to keep foreign correspondents out. It's been notable that the tone of TV reporting has moved a long way in the last few days, especially as they developed ways to get live reports out of Gaza.

It's no surprise that the Israeli cabinet were reported this morning as urgently discussing how far they can escalate their actions in the short term. They know that they only have a short time window now.

1/07/2009 11:56:00 AM  
Anonymous bubby said...

You know what's really fascinating about all the lies, all the propaganda and all the spin is that if you really look you an actually find reports which tell it as it is.

Johann Hari nails it nice and concisely here, as does the always superb Avi Shlaim here. Even in a ferociously pro-Israel rag like the Times the times the truth will sometimes seep out.

The media is not monolithic and if you dig deep you can often find out what is really going on. The problem is that in the really important media such as the BBC the kind of analysis linked to above is completely absent, which is a great victory for the Israeli PR machine.

1/07/2009 12:27:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Have any of the 'Decents' yet called for a humanitarian intervention against Israel on behalf of the Palestinians?

1/07/2009 01:08:00 PM  
Anonymous Jonathan said...

Anon

No chance. In his latest CiF piece Brivati blames it on Hamas:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/jan/07/unitednations-justice

1/07/2009 01:16:00 PM  
Blogger Mr Kitty said...

Comparisons of Israeli foreign policy and the Nazis are normally fatuous, as Aaronovitch points out - and he's right. But, in the case of Israel justifying their actions, I'm always reminded of the film "Conspiracy" which centred on the Nazi need to make legal (within their own law) the death camps.
You can always "justify" something. The classic rape defence; "she was asking for it" was often used successfully about 20 years ago.
And, as Blair and Bush showed, law can be bent to justify any intervention. But if there's such a thing as common sense, then absolutely nothing "justifies" the strike on the UN school yesterday.

1/07/2009 02:06:00 PM  
Anonymous bubby said...

From the Brivati piece

If these reforms were passed there is also a danger that minority groups would attack governments in the hope of provoking a disproportionate response that can then be used to claim status as victims of genocide – the current policy of Hamas in the West Bank replicated around the world.

In the West Bank?

Brivati also starts of by discussing situations where governments commit genocide against their own people and then moved seamlessly into a conflict where a nation is committing politicide against a stateless people it has previously ethnically cleansed from its homeland.

I know this guy's a bit thick but this is taking the piss.

1/07/2009 03:14:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Alex, when did you have the chance to punch Aaro's lights out? Do tell. And why didn't you do it?

1/07/2009 03:29:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Surely comrade Brivati meant to write 'the successful policy of [some of] the KLA in Kosovo replicated around the world.'?

Chris Williams

1/07/2009 03:37:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

Shorter Brivati: "We must intervene wherever governments abuse their sovereignty to harass, starve and attack minority groups. Except Israel, obviously."

1/07/2009 03:45:00 PM  
Blogger Mr Kitty said...

If it http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/jan/07/unitednations-justice wasn't so serious it would be hilarious. And it is my favourite part of the Israeli defenders' twisted reasoning.
"It's the fault of Hamas (a democratically elected government) that have forced us into bombing you."
On a relaed subject this really stank yesterday. http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/jan/06/gaza-palestine-operation-cast-lead

Particularly "But the time of good neighbourly relations ended abruptly in September 2000, when Yasser Arafat decided to launch the second intifada and drag us all into the bloody whirlpool that extracts an intolerable price from us all to this day."

So, prior to the second intifada which was indeed given tacit approval by Arafat after talks broke down because Clinton told him that they had to agree to a ceasefire.

An analogy would be if the French resistance had been told to cease its attacks against the Nazis until a peace deal had been brokered with the occupying Germans.

1/07/2009 03:57:00 PM  
Anonymous bubby said...

I was just about the make the same point Chris. Surely the textbook case of a group goading a government to commit atrocities in order to trigger a humanitarian intervention was Kossovo. Now what was Brian's take on that conflict again?

1/07/2009 04:02:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

Straying off-piste wrt Decency, but that Shai Hermesh column is really extraordinary:

"The Islamist organisation has indiscriminately fired over 8,000 missiles, rockets and mortar rounds into a civilian population over the last eight years. During that time the Israeli military has gone above and beyond to minimise the damage inflicted on the Palestinian population, at times placing Israeli soldiers and civilians at risk."

Avi Shlaim:

In the three years after the withdrawal from Gaza, 11 Israelis were killed by rocket fire. On the other hand, in 2005-7 alone, the IDF killed 1,290 Palestinians in Gaza, including 222 children.

The moral high ground is over thataway. Way over thataway.

1/07/2009 04:25:00 PM  
Blogger roGER said...

I dunno where I read this, 'cause it's sure not to be an original thought...

Isn't one of Israel's dreams to dump the whole Gaza mess on Egypt, so in effect the strip 'reverts' to Egyptian control?

Then Israel builds even higher walls around its side of Gaza, and Egypt is left to provide services and security in the strip?

Therefore Mubarak closes the border with Egypt and makes damn sure that border stays closed.

1/07/2009 05:01:00 PM  
Anonymous gastro george said...

On the button roGER.

Mubarak may be a US stooge, but he knows what side of the bread his butter is on.

1/07/2009 05:22:00 PM  
Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

So, frankly, Israel is prosecuting this offensive for symbolic, psychological and, let's face it, electoral reasons.

I understand the reasons for this, but I am not a fan of attempts to trivialise the rocket attacks - it's true that they haven't caused many actual fatalities, but they are bloody rockets, at the end of the day.

1/07/2009 05:23:00 PM  
Blogger Mr Kitty said...

The comment "symbolic, psychological and, let's face it, electoral reasons." does not trivialise the rocket attacks. I took it as a description of trying to understand Israeli aggression. "symbolic, psychological" they feel cornered and are hitting out. "Electoral reasons" I took as the fact that the election in Israel is upcoming and Ehud Olmert is trying to sound out whether he's hawkish enough.

1/07/2009 05:39:00 PM  
Anonymous Marc Mulholland said...

While the current conflict is pitifully one-sided, we should, I think, be careful not to consider the the rocket attacks in isolation. They are direct successors to Hamas's campaign of suicide bombing against civilians during the second intifada, which were by no means pin-pricks, and they portend horrors to come, if Mahmoud Zahar is heeded: "The Zionists have legitimised the killing of their children by killing our children. They have legitimised the killing of their people all over the world by killing our people."

1/07/2009 05:52:00 PM  
Anonymous bubby said...

Those suicide bombings hardly came out of a vacuum either did they Marc?

If you look at Palestinian public support for suicide attacks it goes up and down depending on the political context.

What do you think its standing at now amongst the population of Gaza?

1/07/2009 06:17:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

People grow angry when they suffer things that they are quite unused to suffer and when these things go on actually in front of their own eyes. They do not wait to think, but plunge into action on the spur of their impulse. And the Athenians are especially likely to act in this way, since they think that they have a right to supremacy and are much more used to invading and destroying other people's land than seeing this happening to their own land.

1/07/2009 06:21:00 PM  
Blogger Mr Kitty said...

Nothing in the conflict is "in isolation" that is my problem with the Shai Hermesh piece. It happily plucks a moment in a terrible history and says "well, peace talks were going well until the second intafada" as if that in itself was an isolated moment. It wasn't. And the rejection of the terms of a ceasefire were ludicrous, which is why Arafat walked out.
But, that aside, if history becomes a breakdown into "who started what" - original sin; then when does it end. Or start.

1/07/2009 06:49:00 PM  
Anonymous gastro george said...

I took as the fact that the election in Israel is upcoming and Ehud Olmert is trying to sound out whether he's hawkish enough.

... and it's working, if you look at the polls. One of the most distasteful aspects of the current campaign is that Kadima are effectively trading Palestinian bodies for votes.

1/07/2009 06:53:00 PM  
Anonymous gastro george said...

I'm not trying to belittle the horror of suicide bombings or rocket attack in any way.

But what I'm trying to get my head around is why the Israelis are going ahead with this campaign when it's effects will not correspond in any way with their stated aims.

Not that their stated aims are clear - and there is plenty of misinformation going around.

Is it to stop the rockets? This is frankly impossible, because even if they manage to impose an new *improved* blockade, then Hamas, or whoever succeeds them, will find a way to make home-made devices, or some other form of attack.

Is it regime change? This is also frankly impossible, not because they aren't capable of seeking out and killing the Hamas leadership, but because the "collateral damage" will only cause a new generation of anti-Israeli leaders to be created within months. As BB has noted, you can't re-elect the population.

The only conclusion I can come up with is that essentially the needs of groups in the Israeli upper echelons coalesced around this timing. There is the election; the Army wants to re-state it's dominance after the debacle in Lebanon; Bush is a dead duck and leaving, etc.

So this campaign is entirely voluntary - there has been nothing drastic that has caused it, and it is transparent that plans have been being drawn up and been in place for months (even during the ceasefire).

BTW. I notice that one of the bright ideas is to have the PA take authority over the blockade, supposedly as a means of reintroducing their authority to Gaza. Apart from the odd situation where a non-elected (in fact defeated) authority is put in power over an elected one, how popular do you think this will make Fatah in Gaza?

1/07/2009 07:15:00 PM  
Blogger Mr Kitty said...

Indeed.
Jonathan Freedland is quite good on this quandry Israel has found itself in
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/jan/07/gaza-palestine-israel

1/07/2009 07:38:00 PM  
Anonymous bubby said...

I had do have one question for you though Marc?

Is the current one-sided slaughter against an effectively defenceless civilian population qualitatively different on a moral basis from the suicide attacks in the second intifada? And if so, how?

1/07/2009 07:43:00 PM  
Blogger Mr Kitty said...

Without wishing to appear prurient, I would love to hear Marc's defence. Just for the hell of it.

1/07/2009 07:52:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Freedland wrote:

"[warlordism and...] Most likely it would be even more radical: al-Qaida has long been pushing at the edges of Gaza, eager to find a way in.

Would either of those options appeal to Israel? Of course they wouldn't."

I don't agree. It seems entirely consistent with Israeli policy to keep the Palestinians weak, divided, and pariahs. I particularly think that if A-Q ever did take control from Hamas, corks would be popping in the Kiryia.

Chris Williams

1/07/2009 09:06:00 PM  
Blogger Mr Kitty said...

Freedland flounders a tad, but the stretch of the argument, is that, Israel need to broker a deal.
To get out. That has always been his position. He wrote a good piece about the claiming of truth in a historical perspective here. http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/jan/03/israel-attack-hamas-gaza-peace

1/07/2009 09:44:00 PM  
Anonymous bubby said...

If you want to see a really terrible article on Gaza read Hitchens' latest. Apparently all the suffering in Gaza is caused by Hamas - Israel does not get one word of criticism. He even refers to the OT as the 'disputed territories' a sure indicator of wingnuttery.

1/08/2009 01:20:00 AM  
Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

how popular do you think this will make Fatah in Gaza?

depends how much contraband they let through ;-)

I wouldn't presume to speak for Marc, but the semi-official BruschettaBoy line on war crimes (Geneva Conventions "about right" shock horror) gives a fairly simple steer here. You're not allowed to attack noncombatants, and you're not allowed to do things which incidentally harm noncombatants except in the pursuit of a direct, concrete military advantage relative to which the collateral damage is not excessive. This applies to liberation struggles, colonial wars, the lot. So you're not allowed to put bombs in nightclubs, even if you are being treated really terribly. And you're not allowed to fire off home-made rockets in the general direction of a nearby town - this is more or less the definition of an indiscriminate attack. And importantly, Hamas' obligations are not conditional on Israel's behaviour and vice versa. Blame is the ultimate renewable resource - there is no danger of us running out of condemnation of Israel and thus no need to stint on our blaming of Hamas.

My take on George's question would be that he's about 80% right, the remaining 20% being made of of equal parts a) genuine incompetence and Israel having talked itself into the belief that it might be able to interdict the smuggling and/or clear a cordon sanitaire next to the border which is longer than the range of a rocket, and b) attempts to gain some long term strategic advantage vis-a-vis Egypt.

1/08/2009 07:33:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Surely the international law issue relating to collective punishment (not the same as the international law issue relating to proportionality) hinges on whether or not Gaza is 'occupied' or merely blockaded. Have we got precedent on that?

Chris Williams

1/08/2009 08:43:00 AM  
Anonymous Marc Mulholland said...

Bubby, Mr Kitty,

On qualitative gradations, there's various levels I suppose:

(1) Civilians killed as collateral damage, all reasonable allowances being made to minimise such.

(2) Civilians killed as collateral damage, with reckless disregard for their safety.

(3) More or less explicit re-definition of civilians as legitimate targets, and killed as such.

(4) Civilians targeted in their capacity as civilians, and killed as such.

The Israeli offensive covers elements of (1), (2) and (3), I'd say. Pivoting on (2), perhaps.

Hamas operations typically cover (2), (3), and (4), pivoting on (4). (I'm not sure that it's useful to limit the moral calculus to simply the last couple of weeks).

What BB says. Like Grace, opprobrium is an inexhaustible resource, and expending wrath on Hamas in no way diminishes that left available for the Israeli government.

1/08/2009 09:54:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Surely there's got to be some kind of measure of absolute lethality as well as proportionality. If, for example, the UK retaliates against the Israeli nuclear destruction of Akrotiri (itself an escalation from whatever some kind of naval battle. Whatever.) by hitting Lod with a Trident, then it's going to wipe out a significant military target. Thus (3). But it's also going to kill tens of thousands of civilians. This would be a war crime in an enirely different league to a Kassam in the direction of Sderot or an exploding teenager in a Tel Aviv pizza queue, which both score (4).

Thus we mustn't let the qualitative gradations obscure the fact that there's another, quantitative axis, as well.

I think that there might be a third one, as well: ongoing duration and instiutionalisation of the war crime. Hamas, the IDF, and the UK all come out rather badly in that one.

Chris Williams

1/08/2009 10:25:00 AM  
Blogger Mr Kitty said...

Marc's logic is bang on and the statement "expending wrath on Hamas in no way diminishes that left available for the Israeli government." is utterly correct. But, and at the risk of getting drawn into futile semantics, isn't the crux of the problem locked somewhere in "3) More or less explicit re-definition of civilians as legitimate targets, and killed as such."

To take an extreme example, if the Omagh bombers were asked to justify their attack they could (within their own - let's face it -twisted logic) say it was not (4) it was (3).

They'd be wrong, but you could see how it could be turned.

I'm all up for the geneva convention but there seems to be a linguistic problem when law is applied to an unlevel playing field.

1/08/2009 11:33:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

D'oh - in my comment above, for (3) read (2).

Chris Williams

1/08/2009 11:41:00 AM  
Anonymous Marc Mulholland said...

Omagh was (2), in fact.

Suddenly my categorisation by numbers system seems a bit callous!

1/08/2009 11:44:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think this assessment of the IDF at ground level has some relevance:

http://turcopolier.typepad.com/sic_semper_tyrannis/2009/01/the-idf-ground.html

rioja kid

1/08/2009 11:50:00 AM  
Anonymous bubby said...

I broadly agree with the comments made so far but I am really having difficulty differentiating (3) and (4).

But the issues are even more involved than this.

A lot of Hamas bus bombings were directed at buses full of soldiers who aren't in the OT at the time. Where does this fall?

Also many of the Israeli attacks have been directed at public buildings and what of the attack on the police cadets? Surely that has to be a (3) or (4).

It seems to be many of the Israeli attacks are qualitatively the same as suicide bombings - civilians have been attacked as civilians to place pressure on a population to change course politically. Also Chris's point is surely relevent that the Israeli attacks have also been of a much higher quantitative magnitude.

1/08/2009 12:14:00 PM  
Anonymous gastro george said...

That's an interesting post. It would certainly make a lot of sense in the context of other incidents, like the killing of certain Westerners in Gaza (Tom Hurndal, etc.).

Alongside a culture of cover-up it leads to a culture of impunity, which is exactly what we see.

1/08/2009 12:19:00 PM  
Anonymous Editor said...

To dd/Bruschetta Boy :

their conclusion (which they regret) is that the Conventions and Protocols actually provide shockingly little protection for noncombatants against a blockade (only children, the sick and expectant mothers even have a right to food)

I suggest you read Article 55 of the 1949 Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War;

To the fullest extent of the means available to it the Occupying Power has the duty of ensuring the food and medical supplies of the population; it should, in particular, bring in the necessary foodstuffs, medical stores and other articles if the resources of the occupied territory are inadequate

No doubt you will argue that Gaza is not occupied but only blockaded.

To Mr Mulholland, regarding his war crimes gradation system; from today's Daily Telegraph:

Concerns had been growing that Zeitoun had witnessed massive civilian casualties after surviving members of the Samouni clan reached Gaza City three days ago. They said that after the Israeli army first took the town on Saturday night soldiers had ordered about 100 members of the clan to gather in a single house owned by Wael Samouni around dawn on Sunday. At 6.35am on Monday the house was repeatedly shelled with appalling loss of civilian life. A handful of survivors, some wounded, others carrying dead or dying infants, made it on foot to Gaza's main north-south road before they were given lifts to hospital. Three small children were buried in Gaza City that afternoon. According to the survivors between 60 and 70 family members had been killed by shrapnel and falling masonry.

Can we agree that the IDF have now committed a Level 4 offence, Marc?

1/08/2009 12:21:00 PM  
Anonymous Editor said...

To Bubby:

A lot of Hamas bus bombings were directed at buses full of soldiers who aren't in the OT at the time. Where does this fall?

I don't know for sure - were French Resistance fighters war criminals if they hit at Nazi military installations inside Germany? Surely not.

If you don't care for that analogy, then consider how Hamas could lawfully resist the occupation/blockade in Gaza if the IDF remained outside the territory and simply shelled and bombed it. You appear to be questioning whether any Palestinian resistance to the illegal blockade could be lawful since there were no Israeli military targets inside Gaza. Please say it ain't so...

1/08/2009 12:30:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Level 4 offences are worth thinking about. Some of them terrorism, designed to send a political message to the civilian survivors. Oradour, Lidice, Deir Yasin, the A-Q attack on NY (but not the one on DC), the UVF's murder campaign against random Catholics, the Bologna station bomb - all fit into the category.

Sanctions on Iraq? Perhaps, but it's probably better described as (2).

But not all war crimes against civilians fall into this category. Operation Reinhard is the classic example. There weren't supposed to be any survivors from the target groups to receive the message.

Thus category 4 probably needs dividing into terrorism (4) and genocide (5).

1/08/2009 12:36:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oops - that musing on Oradour abover was me.

Chris Williams

1/08/2009 12:38:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In the Telegraph, Mary Riddell appears to be making that connection between the right to intervene and the failure to do so over Gaza: she's performing the Decent trick on condemning teh eevil relativists, but here she's lining up the pro-Israel faction with the non-interventionists.

Looks like the post-Amiel age is upon the Torygraph.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/columnists/maryriddell/4161970/Our-humanity-has-failed-us-in-Gaza.html

Money para:

"The end of the Bush/Blair Manichean foreign policy should clear the way for rich, formidably-armed, serial aggressors such as Israel to be stripped of automatic righteousness. Instead, the lack of outrage over Gaza suggests the dawning of an age of prevarication, in which thousands may die, in Congo, Zimbabwe, Sudan and elsewhere, as a supine world nitpicks at the smallprint of UN resolutions destined never to be passed or implemented."

Chris Williams

1/08/2009 12:46:00 PM  
Anonymous bubby said...

Editor

I was asking a question not positing an opinion. The great bulk of Israeli civilians who are over 18 are also reservists. Is it legitimate to attack any of them in Israel at any time? Does it make any difference if they are in uniform at the time? I'm not sure about the legal status of such actions- that's all.

Aside from the legal issues there are also moral issues. To resist a brutal ocupation cannot in my eyes be equated with enforcing it- even if the actions committed by both sides are identical.

Finally there is the question of justice. Those Palestinians who commit (1-4) are typically extrajudicially executed or face long prison terms- even if there resistence is legal under internatonal law.

On the other hand whether an Israeli commits 1,2,3 or 4 they are highly unlikely to face any sanction - in fact quite the opposite. That's a very important point that's rarely raised though I'm sure it crosses the mind of many people in the wider ME.

1/08/2009 01:00:00 PM  
Blogger Andrew Bartlett said...

Furthermore, where we place Israeli actions in Gaza on Marc's 1-4 scale depends on what we think the objectives are.

If we believe that the objectives are to prevent rockets being fired, then either we or the Israelis are stupid, as the recent article on the Huffington Post demonstrates that rocket fire was almost eradicated by the ceasefire, and has risen since the attack on Gaza. If you quibble at the 'almost eradicated', the same article demonstrates that it is almost always the Israelis who kill first after a period of calm.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/nancy-kanwisher/reigniting-violence-how-d_b_155611.html

Even if this were not the case, you'd have to find some way of describing the blockade of Gaza (and the constant land grab in the West Bank) as something other than continual violence against the Palestinians.

None of this is to justify the resort by Palestinians to violence that appears to be in category (4). Rather, it forces us to ask whether Israeli violence really does pivot on (2), as Marc thinks and as the Western press appears to believe, even at its most critical.

Couple the fact that the violence in Gaza is not retaliatory and it does not diminish the threat to southern Israel from rockets, with the fact that Israel is not a state for all its people, that there are continual - racist - 'worries' about the Arab population of Israel, and that Israel has employed a policy of ethnic cleansing since its inception, why does anyone believe that Israeli actions is Gaza pivot on (2)?

1/08/2009 01:01:00 PM  
Anonymous gastro george said...

No doubt you will argue that Gaza is not occupied but only blockaded.

Surely Gaza, while it is not occupied in the physical sense, is still occupied in the legal sense, as are all of the "Palestinian-controlled" areas of the West Bank. Israel, as the occupying power, has ultimate responsibility for the totality of the West Bank, Gaza and the Golan Heights.

"Palestinian control" only derives from the Oslo accords, and doesn't affect that ultimate responsibility (much as Israel might want to think otherwise).

1/08/2009 01:02:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

I'm really not sure about the distinction between (3) and (4) - "define civilians as legitimate target" vs "attack civilians as civilians". Surely what both the IDF and Hamas have done is, precisely, define civilians as legitimate targets. I don't think reprisals, even on the scale of Lidice, rise to the level of (4) either: they said you'd be held collectively responsible, they said they'd kill ten for every one, and now they're going to do it.

If there is a level (4), I think you only get to it when people are being killed for no apparent reason - this is where the Twin Towers and Madrid have something in common with Bologna, not to mention the Shankill Butchers and the killers of Brabant. Personally I'd like to reserve the word 'terrorism' for those situations - when the immediate reaction is "WTF is happening? People are getting killed!" rather than "they're doing this to try and hurt us" - but I think it's pretty much a lost cause.

1/08/2009 01:23:00 PM  
Anonymous bubby said...

My opinion FWIW is that (3) and (4) are essentially identical. Its sophistry to claim otherwise.

Israel's actions in Gaza are a (3) or a (4) not a (2). In fact its leaders have been fairly candid - not in the international media of course - that the attacks have been designed to put pressure on the civilian population to turn against Hamas.

We shouldn't be suprised as this has been policy even before the establishment of the State. From the pioneering use of bombs in market places during the Mandate period, through Unit 101 attacks in the 1950s and the napalm and cluster bomb offesives against Lebanese villages in the 1970s Israel has openly targetted (the 'dove' Abba Eban admitted as much) civilians to achieve political ends. This offensive is exactly the same.

1/08/2009 01:23:00 PM  
Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

No doubt you will argue that Gaza is not occupied but only blockaded.

I don't know which is the case, but frankly they ought to be allowed the food either way.

The great bulk of Israeli civilians who are over 18 are also reservists. Is it legitimate to attack any of them in Israel at any time? Does it make any difference if they are in uniform at the time?

As I understand it, no and yes.

By the way, just to make sure that everyone's clear on the fact that in Marc's classification, the line between what's a war crime and what isn't is drawn between (1) and (2), not between (2) and (3).

1/08/2009 01:38:00 PM  
Anonymous bubby said...

And the distinction between war crimes and crimes against humanity is drawn between (2) and (3)/(4) I think.

1/08/2009 01:47:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No, bb - it's a crime to wage aggressive war, sez Nuremburg (and, indeed, me), so actions described under (1) can be war crime. Say the UK declared war on Ireland tomorrow and subdued it in a 6-week campaign conducted entirely along jus im bellum lines, only attacking military targets and going to great lengths to minimise damage to civilians and even civilian infrastructure? It would still be a war crime.

Chris Williams

1/08/2009 02:02:00 PM  
Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

ah yes, right you are sir.

1/08/2009 02:07:00 PM  
Blogger Mr Kitty said...

Just out of interest. Which category does everyone think the victims of the Twin Towers attack come under? Given Al Qaeda's claim it was "at war" with the US.

1/08/2009 02:10:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

It certainly passed the WTF? test.

Let's unpack Marc's levels. You could say that (1) equals We Genuinely Didn't Mean To Do That; (2) equals Innocents Will Always Suffer In War ((c) P O'Neill); (3) equals None Of Our Targets Are Innocent, and (4) equals Let's Kill Lots Of Civilians!

There was a bit of NOOTAI rhetoric around after the Twin Towers, but I don't get the impression AQ cared even that much about the victims; I think it was a real LKLOC attack. I don't think Hamas actions rise to the level of LKLOC, or that the IDF's are explainable as IWASIW - in short, as I said earlier, they're both working on the basis that NOOTAI.

1/08/2009 02:44:00 PM  
Anonymous Marc Mulholland said...

I think 'None Of Our Targets Are Innocent' is a separate category if it fails the WTF test, i.e. if an argument can be made with some credibility (to the chap on the Clapham / Belfast / Gaza / etc. Omnibus) that people are being targeted as contractors for a war-machine (not just a 'enemy community'). Once attacks on civilians are sufficiently indiscriminate to potentially include as targets children under 14, say, or old codgers, then we're definitely in (4) category.

1/08/2009 03:11:00 PM  
Anonymous bubby said...

I not sure I completely agree with that analysis Phil.

3&4 again are not so easily seperated. I think both the IDF and Hamas work on both these levels - let's kill lots of civilians for instrumental reasons who we see at the same time see as not completely innocent.

You could even argue that Bin Laden's motivation was NOOTI - if you check his speeches he says Americans are comlicit in their country's foreign policy because they have democratically elected those who carry it out. This looks suprsingly similar to some of the Pro-Israel commentators who argue that the Gazans deserve what they are getting because they voted for a party committed to the destruction of Israel.

In fact the more I think about it the more I see theis justification cropping up all over the place!

1/08/2009 03:19:00 PM  
Anonymous bubby said...

Once attacks on civilians are sufficiently indiscriminate to potentially include as targets children under 14, say, or old codgers, then we're definitely in (4) category.

So by this logic then Marc much of the Israeli assault on Gaza falls under a (4) then?

1/08/2009 03:21:00 PM  
Anonymous Marc Mulholland said...

Bubby,

Not really, as kids / old codgers aren't being *targeted* by the Israeli government, only recklessly endangered; Hamas rockets do *target* anyone within reach, including kids/codgers (for convenient purposes of illustration, in the past few days falling on a kindergarten and an OAP home, mercifully without causing injury).

(Having said this, the news re IDF actions in Gaza is becoming ever darker - it's looking like there's evidence of a 'kill 'em all' attitude being operationalised at least by some units on the ground. Hard to be sure in the fog of war, but a My Lai mentality amongst IDF soldiers would hardly be surprising; I would be surprised if it was IDF policy.

(For all their efforts keeping journos out, it looks like Israel is going to lose this aspect of the propaganda battle badly, at least until some pro-Palestinian Islamists manage to blow up a synagogue or something.)

1/08/2009 03:35:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

You sure about that Marc? They are actually deliberately firing their rockets at schools and OAP homes rather than lobbing them recklessly at civilian areas in which such places are common?

(They may be, for all I know: I'm just trying to clarify.)

1/08/2009 03:47:00 PM  
Anonymous Marc Mulholland said...

My point being, they chuck them at civilian areas because everyone within range is a target. A 3 year old or a granny is as much of a target as a 32 year old male (and more likely to be hit, being less able to run). Reckless endangerment is targeting a combatant, however defined, but caring little or not at all about who else gets killed; actively trying to kill anyone regardless of their civilian / combatant status is (4).

1/08/2009 03:54:00 PM  
Anonymous bubby said...

Not really, as kids / old codgers aren't being *targeted* by the Israeli government, only recklessly endangered; Hamas rockets do *target* anyone within reach, including kids/codgers (for convenient purposes of illustration, in the past few days falling on a kindergarten and an OAP home, mercifully without causing injury).

This is utter nonsense.

Hamas rockets cannot target old codgers or 14 year olds. They are unguided. They are fired in 'that general direction'. They are thus completely indiscriminate in who they kill or maim.

As to your other point - when you fire a missile into a densely packed civilian area that is packed with civilians including children as Israel has repeatedly done it is absurd to say that they are not being targeted. What about the shelling of the UN compound? The Israelis had the coordinates so its highly unlikely that the slaughter was accidental. I notice that Israelis are now backing away from the disinformaton that was put out about this originally- that fighters were firing from the vcinity. What about the report in the Telegraph about the Palestinians being herded into the bilding by the IDF and then it subsequently being bombed.

You seem a bit naive about all this Marc and prepared to see the IDF actions in the best light despite all the evidence to the contrary.

Are you not aware that Israel has a fair bit of previous in this area? Both Amnesty International and the UN concluded that the bombing of the UN compund at Qana killing around 100 civilians was deliberate.

1/08/2009 03:59:00 PM  
Blogger Mr Kitty said...

A Qassam rocket is probably what Hammas use - it can't "target" (whatever that means) but it is an effective piece of hardware, I think the software the perpretators use may be be able to hone in on places and pinpoint its 5-6 mile range, but we're back here in the "Fog of War" dilemma.

1/08/2009 04:07:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

You seem a bit naive about all this Marc and prepared to see the IDF actions in the best light

That's not my interpretation of what Marc said, is it anybody else's?

Just a note on atrocity stories - I'd be a bit cautious about them, IDF or no, until we have more information and more time. As a rule, the more lurid the atrocity story the more likely I am to distrust it. I don't doubt the IDF will have been committing atrocities all over the shop: it's what they do. But even so.

(Can I also repeat my remarks about not losing tempers that I made in the comments here.)

By the way, admirers of Frederick Kanouté may like to Google search for him with the word Gaza attached.

1/08/2009 04:08:00 PM  
Anonymous bubby said...

Apologies for losing my temper and being rather rude. Sometimes you type in haste and regret in leisure.

1/08/2009 04:19:00 PM  
Anonymous andrew adams said...

I don't think that Marc is glossing over the IDF's actions, he's trying to be being realistic. It's a messy situation - Israel is entitled to go after those launching the rockets and probably the Hamas leadership, and given that Gaza is such a densely populated area it would be difficult to do so without endangering the civilian population at least to an extent. There are lots of stories that Hamas has been using universities as missile factories and firing rockets from schools and hospitals which it is difficult for us to prove or disprove but it would not be out of character for them. One does not have to buy the HP line that Israel is entirely blameless and that the entire responsibility for Palestinian deaths lies entirely with Hamas to believe that Hamas has knowingly put its own people in danger and must share some responsibility for their deaths.
I would tend to go along with the "reckless endangerment" argument, coupled with possible rogue actions by certain elements in the IDF.

1/08/2009 04:20:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

Israel is entitled to go after those launching the rockets

If Israel is entitled to attack Gaza because of a series of almost entirely unsuccessful attempts to kill Israelis, presumably Gaza is at least equally entitled to attack Israel for successfully killing 400 Gazans per annum between 2005 and 2007. I mean, they can't all have been in self-defence, surely.

1/08/2009 04:29:00 PM  
Blogger Mr Kitty said...

As regards this debate and AA's comments, the phrase "back to square one" comes immediately to mind.

1/08/2009 04:30:00 PM  
Anonymous Marc Mulholland said...

Just right now, if I was in the vicinity, I'd rather be considered a legitimate civilian target by Hamas (4) than be recklessly endangered by the Israeli government (2).

It's even more dispiriting to think that Hamas will probably come out of this more popular with the Palestinians, despite their demonstrable military incompetence.

1/08/2009 04:31:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

Israel is entitled to go after those launching the rockets and probably the Hamas leadership

That might be so, but if it is, then Hamas is surely entitled to go after the Israeli leadership too.

It can't be said often enough that the kidnapping of a soldier was pretext enough for Israel to invade Lebanon and for all the goons in the world to support them on the grounds that Israeli was otherwise facing annihilation. Nothing to do with civilians then, and it didn't change anything. So while the rockets clearly are an issue, I don't think anybody needs to accept that Israel has a case for what it's actually doing.

1/08/2009 04:34:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

Incidentally, those comparative statistics in full: 104 deaths on the roads in Spain in three weeks over Xmas.

1/08/2009 04:37:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

surely, the efficacy of violence is also relevant.

a LKLOC attack to deter a genocide - if it worked you could make the case that it was moral.

Also, i don't think that even the twin towers was purely LKLOC. the building was hit because it was a symbol of US financial power and the aim was to gain maximum media coverage. (i think it was "let's kill lots of civilians for instrumental reasons who we see at the same time see as not completely innocent")

afer all, they could've targetted nuclear power plants etc?

1/08/2009 04:44:00 PM  
Anonymous bubby said...

Andrew

Surely firing a missile at a police graduation ceremony attended by parents and children is a bit more than 'reckless endangerment'. Isn't it the direct targeting of civilians - protected persons - under international law? Similarly attacking infrastructure such as ministries, mosques, schools and universities also appears more than 'reckless endagerment'.

The Israelis claim that these were used for missile development and/or storage but we don't have any independent verification of this and I'm sure both sides are involved in widespread disinformation.

But let's accept Israel's claim that they were used in weapon development and storage.

Would the Palestinians be justified in doing the same thing. If they detonanted a car bomb in Tel-Aviv University which is involved in Israeli weapons development, killing students and academics - would that be acceptable. Would that be more than 'reckless endangerment'?

Similarly the Israelis - as a matter of policy rather than 'rogues action'- decided to kill Nizar Rayan plus ten of his children, two wives and neighbours early in the conflict. Would the Palestinians be justified in detonating a massive bomb at Ehud Barak or Shaul Mofaz's residence murdering his family and neighbours in the process?

1/08/2009 04:49:00 PM  
Anonymous andrew adams said...

I don't think the "almost entirely unsuccessful" argument re the rockets really holds water. They have at least killed some people and a lot of others have either left their homes or are constantly living in fear because of them. Furthermore, the intemtion is there and I find it hard to believe that if Hamas managed to get its hands on more powerfl and accurate riockets they would not use them, so I don't see how we can expect Israel not to react in some way.
So do the Palestians have the right to attack Israel to retaliate for the deaths on their side? Probably so, but the arguments about differentiating between different types of target then apply as they do to the Israelis.
But Mr Kitty is right of course, this just takes us back to sqaure one, and "you started it" kind of arguments. I think we would all broadly agree that Israel has to stop the attacks on Gaza and end the blockade and Hamas has to stop the rocket attacks. The more interesting arguments are around whether and how this will happen and how to make any peace agreement last so we don't end up exactly where we are again.

1/08/2009 04:57:00 PM  
Anonymous andrew adams said...

bubby,

I take your points, I can't justify the attacks of the police graduation ceremony and WRT to the attack on Rayan and other similar attacks there is also the proportionality argument that the "collateral" damage far outweighed the legitimacy of the target.
I'm not defending what Israel is doing, but neither do I think that its overall aim is just to kill civilians. That doesn't make it ok for it to do so of course.
I don't want to egt into hypotheticals about what would be ok for the Palestinans to inflict on Israel as I don't think any of it is ok.

1/08/2009 05:06:00 PM  
Anonymous andrew adams said...

Furthermore, the intemtion is there and I find it hard to believe that if Hamas managed to get its hands on more powerfl and accurate riockets they would not use them,

Jesus, if bad spelling were grounds for retaliation I would be fucked.

1/08/2009 05:09:00 PM  
Blogger Mr Kitty said...

I was actually talking about the entire discussion...but... I'm always one to seize on a fragment.

There is no chance that Hamas will agree to a ceasefire, having found its country hit and its civilians dead. They will hit back. Just look at the controlled intensity of this entire debate and then multiply it by a 1,000. Of course, this will be counter-productive as they then will be hit by Israel again. But blood-letting can only be stopped when something akin to the Good Friday Agreement is put into place.
On which subject, and forgive my language, wasn't that twat Blair supposed to be an envoy. http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/con_coughlin/blog/2009/01/06/what_is_the_point_of_tony_blairs_middle_east_mission

1/08/2009 05:15:00 PM  
Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

Would the Palestinians be justified in doing the same thing. If they detonanted a car bomb in Tel-Aviv University which is involved in Israeli weapons development, killing students and academics - would that be acceptable. Would that be more than 'reckless endangerment'?

We need to get away from the sort of civil criminal thinking here. "Reckless" targeting of civilians is always a war crime as there is an obligation to consider the consequences to them and to be sure that they are not excessive relative to the concrete, definite, military advantage anticipated. So if you are sure that a university is carrying out a Manhattan Project, it isn't excessive to kill all the civilians in it; but if you aren't sure then you can't just bomb it anyway because "it's the sort of thing that university does" (After World War 2, the scope for bombing people who were "contributing to the war effort" was tightened considerably).

So I'd redraw Marc's list in terms of proportion to a CDM advantage (the "M" is important as it has to be a military rather than political advantage, otherwise it's reprisals). That's the legal standard, not one of "effort to minimise". You have to minimise civilian casualties anyway, and per the ICRC book, even "minimised" damage to noncombatants may still be "excessive" (in which case you're just not allowed to do the thing).

1: would be a proper military operation in which noncombatants were killed and it wasn't excessive. Bombing a firing position for a Katyusha rocket in a university car park, and killing two students who happened to be walking past.

2: Would be one in which the military goal wasn't such as to justify the damage to noncombatants. Bombing a bus that had one soldier and fifty civilians on it.

3: Would be one in which the military goal wasn't concrete or definite. Bombing a university on the basis that Hamas "often store missiles in universities".

4: Would be one in which there was no military objective. Bombing a dairy or office building.

otherwise:

Similarly the Israelis - as a matter of policy rather than 'rogues action'- decided to kill Nizar Rayan plus ten of his children, two wives and neighbours early in the conflict. Would the Palestinians be justified in detonating a massive bomb at Ehud Barak or Shaul Mofaz's residence murdering his family and neighbours in the process?

No, and the Israelis weren't justified in doing this. Assassination is not a valid means of waging war, so assassination of a commander is not a military objective, so damage to combatants is by definition excessive. I never understand why the Israeli assassinations policy doesn't cause much more trouble than it actually does, because it seems to me that it's obviously illegal as a method of war and if considered other than as a tactic of war, it's plain old fashioned judicial murder.

1/08/2009 05:20:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

Well, "because it's Israel" is probably the answer, because they've always attracted the admiration of Western commentators who dislike the sort of constraints that Israel ignores and find exciting their willingness to do whatever they see fit in pursuit of their goals.

And also because those goals are always framed as "preventing our annihilation" - I don't know what the law says about this but most people mwould probably acept that your latitude if you're about the be wiped out is considerably greater than your latitude in other circumstances. But, of course, Israel isn't about to be wiped out.

1/08/2009 05:27:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

this just takes us back to sqaure one, and "you started it" kind of arguments

I was thinking more in terms of "you've been killing our citizens on a daily basis for several years with impunity, so it's not immediately obvious that you've got any right to the moral high ground which you're so keen to claim" kind of arguments.

1/08/2009 05:37:00 PM  
Anonymous bubby said...

Well your redefinition of the 4 legal situations is certainly thought provoking.

On the basis of what we have seen so far there seems to have a fair bit of (1) and (2) and lots of (3) and (4).

Also I think although the whole issue of what is legal and illegal is vital we shouldn't lose sight of two other important points. Firstly one side is imposing a brutal military occupation on the other which is resisting, and secondly that Israel has an awful lot more options about how it can proceed. You mentioned the policy of assassinaions and what makes that policy particularly bad in my eyes is that Israel (in the WB at least) has the option of arresting these individuals but decides to murder them anyway.

Well I'm glad I brought this issue up. Its certainly genertated plenty of intelligent debate even if I feel a bit sheepish about losing my rag at one point. Is this the first AW post to top a 100?

1/08/2009 05:50:00 PM  
Anonymous ichomobothogogus said...

"Israel is entitled to go after those launching the rockets and probably the Hamas leadership"

in what sense is Israel "entitled"?
rocketfire had virtually stopped in the months before Israel broke the ceasefire. If Israel launches an attack on its neighbour it cant use retaliatory fire as the justification for a full-scale war. and why does Israel have the right to destroy or target the government of its neighbour anyway? (it can't just be because Hamas are arseholes surely?) Israel doesn't get to decide who an acceptable government for palestine is (especially considering what such a government would look like - a bunch of murderous quislings a la Dahlan)

"There are lots of STORIES that Hamas has been using universities as missile factories and firing rockets from schools and hospitals which it is difficult for us to prove or disprove but it would not be out of character for them."

"I don't know whether any of this is true or not, but it seems like the sort of thing Hamas might do, so rather than actually try and verify it i'll just imply its true and moan about how evil Hamas is because they might have done something bad" seriously, in almost every attack Israel has launched against the palestinians, or abroad, they've used exactly the same excuses "theyre using civilians as human shields, they're attacking us from schools, they're deliberately drawing fire to force us to attack etc. etc." and they've usually been exposed as lies. so why assume they're true in this case? The UN has already challenged Israel's claim that Hamas gunmen were in the school that was shelled, why should we assume the other stories arent just nonsense too? And even if it were true, its hardly exculpatory. It's a very passive agressive and pathetic excuse. Remember Israel chose to launch this attack. If Israel bombs somewhere by choice, then any deaths are the fault of the Israeli government. crying "but they MADE me do it" is hardly an acceptable defence. that goes for this bit too

"Hamas has knowingly put its own people in danger and must share some responsibility for their deaths."

If Israeli soldiers bomb a school, in what sense is it both Israel's and Hamas' fault? I understand the idea that Hamas either through stupidity or malice gave the Israelis an excuse to attack, and are using the dead palestinians as propaganda fodder but after all it was just that, an excuse. The actual plan of attack had apparently been agreed on months ago. all of this blame must be apportioned to both sides stuff seems to be an attempt to lessen Israel's culpability. Remember, this is a war of choice. The Israeli government wasn't forced into it. they weren't unwilling. How could Hamas have prevented the Israeli attack short of ceasing to exist?


"Furthermore, the intemtion is there and I find it hard to believe that if Hamas managed to get its hands on more powerfl and accurate riockets they would not use them"

I often find that justifying or extemporising about Actually Existing Atrocities by talking about imaginary situations isn't particularly helpful. I doubt Hamas would have any moral qualms about using katushyas or similar weapons against Israeli civilians, but its irrelevant, because they don't have them. Its similar to the claim that the US should attack Iran to stop it making nuclear bombs even though it isn't, because they might get some in the future (or in a parallel universe). If we're going to imagine what might happen in the future or in different situations you could just as easily claim that if Hamas had more powerful rockets (ones that could accurately target government buildings in Tel Aviv for example) it might lessen violence because it would act as a deterrent against Israeli military attacks. Its quite clear that the recklessness and extreme violence of the current Israeli assault is because the Israeli government knows that the palestinians are effectively helpless. I don't doubt that it was partly because of Hezbollah's more powerful weapons that Israel was eventually forced to stop pounding Lebanon, and the same could easily be true of Gaza.

1/08/2009 05:54:00 PM  
Anonymous ichomobothogogus said...

sorry andrew, i didn't mean to pick on you, your comments just happened to be at the bottom and encapulated a bunch of things that had been bugging me about the arguments around this conflict

1/08/2009 05:58:00 PM  
Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

I think it is!

Firstly one side is imposing a brutal military occupation on the other which is resisting, and secondly that Israel has an awful lot more options about how it can proceed.

true, although we should keep this separate from the war issues; it will still be true once there's a ceasefire in place.

1/08/2009 06:15:00 PM  
Anonymous bubby said...

Although I agree with you about keeping the issues of legality distinct from the issue of the immorality of the consequences of mass ethnic cleansing and 40 years of occupation, I can't supress the feeling that there is something instinctively unfair in expecting the Palestinians to wage such an unequal fight in a scrupulously clean manner never achieved by any side in a previous conflict. Plus its hardly as if legal/nonviolent options haven't been pursued like taking the wall to the ICJ. And where did that get them?

1/08/2009 06:28:00 PM  
Blogger Mr Kitty said...

There has to be some irony in the scale of this AW post topping a 100 and the increasing violence in Gaza with regards intellectual polarization but I'm not brave enough to elucidate it.

1/08/2009 06:30:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

Bubby - I have strong sympathy with the point that the Palestinians have tried everything and been shat on for their pains: that you end up with Hamas precisely because that's the sort of place people end up. And yet, and yet.

1/08/2009 06:34:00 PM  
Anonymous bubby said...

Yeah I know what you mean Justin - but there's a part of me that thinks 'what right do I have to tell people who have suffered so much for so long (and have tried non-violent approaches) how to run their liberation struggle'

You know if I can remember specific instances in my life when I have suffered humiliation. I can remember the burning all consuming hatred that overtakes you and prevents you thinking rationally. Now I'd imagine growing up in a colonial situation feeling that on an everyday basis amplified by routine experiences of arbitrary imprisonment, torture and the murder of friends and relatives - and everybody in Gaza has experienced these things- I feel it very easy to imagine that I could carry out a suicide bombing or some other atrocity. History, as well as anthropology and sociology, teaches us that most people are capable of such things. But often we try to kid ourselves that such atavistic tendencies are the province of 'other people', a different breed far removed from our civility. But as a Lebanese friend always reminds me the space between civility and barbarity is deceptively narrow.

I guess this brings us back to the question of why we need laws and statutes to keep these tendencies in check. But we must always remember the social inequities that breed such wickedness.

1/08/2009 06:59:00 PM  
Anonymous gastro george said...

+1, bubby.

You only have to look at the anecdotal evidence from the former Yugoslavia to see how peaceful neighbours can end up killing each other within a short space of time.

1/08/2009 07:57:00 PM  
Anonymous andrew adams said...

I was thinking more in terms of "you've been killing our citizens on a daily basis for several years with impunity, so it's not immediately obvious that you've got any right to the moral high ground which you're so keen to claim" kind of arguments.

Well yes, I agree that's a better way of putting it, but like it or not Israel and its supporters would say that Hamas and its supporters have no right to moral high ground themselves. I just think that instead of focusing on who has done what in the past it is more important for both sides to do the right thing now.

1/08/2009 08:06:00 PM  
Anonymous andrew adams said...

ichomobothogogus,

No worries.

I didn't mean to suggest that I'm assuming that the stories about Hamas and the schools/hospitals are true, but neither do I think that because they are coming from Israel and its supporters they must be false. I am keeping an open mind until we know for sure, but I do think Hamas are capable of that kind of tactic.

I don't think you can pin the blame for the ceasefire totally on either side but even if you hold Israel responsible that doesn't mean that it is acceptable for Hamas to fire rockets at civilian targets. A lot of the discussion here has been about what constitutes acceptable and unacceptable targets in a war situation and I think that targetting civilians is wrong (and illegal) in any context.

Sorry I don't have time to address all your arguments, but I'm not trying to apologise for Israel's behaviour, I just think we need to try to put it into some kind of context. As a general point not particularly directed at you, putting the entire moral responsibility on one side is what the Decents excel at, let's not fall into the same trap.

1/08/2009 08:28:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is it right for us to have this discussion? I think so: what's the alternative? There are demos and vigils to go on already. A spot of clear thinking never did anyone any harm.

Of which: "Assassination is not a valid means of waging war, so assassination of a commander is not a military objective"

Hmm. Heydrich? [I was reminded of that during the recent 'attempt to kill Shiri', although this isn't the same kind of thing] Yamamoto? Sure the proximate results of the former were pretty bad, but losing Himmler a deputy of that calibre probably shortened the war by a couple of days. Ditto for the latter, although I think it's less clear cut.

More to the point, both were combatants in uniform at the time.

Chris Williams

1/08/2009 08:38:00 PM  
Anonymous Editor said...

AA - Sorry I don't have time to address all your arguments, but I'm not trying to apologise for Israel's behaviour, I just think we need to try to put it into some kind of context. As a general point not particularly directed at you, putting the entire moral responsibility on one side is what the Decents excel at, let's not fall into the same trap.

I agree entirely that the situation is not black and white and that that the Palestinian leadership must bear some responsibility for the condition of their people.

However, it is Israel that has repeatedly shown bad faith in its dealings with the Palestinians, it is Israel that has the power to deliver justice to those that it oppresses (illegally, in contravention of numerous UN resolutions and ICJ udgements), and it is Israel that is currently slaughtering Palestinian civilians indiscriminately.

We have discussed the finer points of Hamas' and IDF morality but the fact remains that it is Gaza on fire tonight and tomorrow more Palestinian children will be dead.

Anyone for a boycott?

1/08/2009 08:52:00 PM  
Anonymous bruschettaboy said...

Computer says Yamamoto probably legal, Heydrich probably illegal. Worth remembering that although they often hold military rank (not that the Hamas commanders do), heads of states and leaders of liberation movements are often noncombatants under the meaning of the act. I think it would be hard to argue that Niyar Razan's house was a military planning centre or other DCM target, but it appears that the view of assassinations as always and ever illegal is a bit of an urban myth, sorry folks.

1/08/2009 09:05:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

it appears that the view of assassinations as always and ever illegal is a bit of an urban myth

I think it's a good rule of thumb, though. A key part of the Yamamoto 'probably legal' argument is that Yamamoto was not only in uniform but in a military plane and on the aerial equivalent of the battlefield: yes, he was singled out, but the situation he was in was a perfectly normal & legitimate one with regard to being killed by enemy forces.

I think the term 'assassination' generally implies 'of a person not at that moment in active service and on the battlefield' - and if you make that qualification explicit, surely you do end up with something 'always and ever illegal'.

1/08/2009 10:23:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

One other afterthought - the 'moral high ground' wasn't really what I wanted to get at earlier on - precisely because that argument is always vulnerable to the realist concession that neither side is entitled to the moral high ground, which can in turn lead to the ostensibly realist argument that we should forget about all that history and all those grievances, and start the clock tomorrow. (Which, of course, is mightily convenient for whoever's winning today.)

What I'm saying is that what people do matters - and that something that's done to a lot of people matters more than the same thing done to one or two people, and that something that's done for a decade matters more than something that's done for a month.

So the fact that Hamas rockets killed one Israeli in 2008, and that the IDF killed 400 Gazans in the same period, is hugely important for understanding what's going on now - not just understanding how the invasion looks to the Gazans, but understanding the invasion for ourselves. If you keep those figures in mind, I don't think you can entertain the idea that the invasion is a justifiable response to Hamas provocations. At the very least, you have to start wondering what a justifiable response to IDF provocations would look like - and why that question is never asked.

1/08/2009 11:53:00 PM  
Blogger Smowboy said...

Taking Mark's scale,


(1) Civilians killed as collateral damage, all reasonable allowances being made to minimise such.

(2) Civilians killed as collateral damage, with reckless disregard for their safety.

(3) More or less explicit re-definition of civilians as legitimate targets, and killed as such.

(4) Civilians targeted in their capacity as civilians, and killed as such.)

Where would we put imprisoning 1.5 million people for 40 years while destroying their economic and social infrastructure so that 75% of them rely on food aid, and then when they react, killing them like flies.

1-4? I think thats about 150.

1/09/2009 12:36:00 AM  
Anonymous bubby said...

I just think that instead of focusing on who has done what in the past it is more important for both sides to do the right thing now.

But surely the point is that without providing some kind of restitution for 1948 you will never end the conflict. The Palstinians were ethnically cleansed from 80% of their homeleand. In an amazing concession which was pocketed by the Israelis, with hardly anyone noticing, the Palestinians agreed to accept this loss and form a state on 20% of what they used to own. I think we really underestimate what a concession that was and how bitter Palestinians feel that they have to haggle over the 22% that's left. And that's before we even get to the humiliation of forty years under foreign occupation.

Although it was little publicised at the time, one of the key issues at the talks at Camp David in 2000 involved an apology and admission by Israel of its role in the dispossession of the Palestinians in 1948.

Living in Britain I think we really forget how in some countries history and historical injustice are part of people's everyday lived experience. Try talking to someone from Northern Ireland and in five minutes they are getting heated about something that happened 300 years ago.

1/09/2009 01:50:00 AM  
Anonymous bubby said...

Sorry should have said the 'British mainland' in the last post.

1/09/2009 02:34:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

You probably shouldn't, actually, the M word tends to annoy some people...

1/09/2009 08:05:00 AM  
Anonymous andrew adams said...

Bubby,

Sure, yes that's a fair point and in the context of a long term solution and the establishment of a Palestinian state those issues will need to be addressed. Many of Israel's supporters are too quick to dismiss events of 1948 as if they happened centuries ago and were therefore irrelevent. The immediate priority though is a deal to end the current violence and the blockade of Gaza, to create a stable situation where the more complex issues can be thrashed out.

1/09/2009 08:10:00 AM  
Anonymous andrew adams said...

At the very least, you have to start wondering what a justifiable response to IDF provocations would look like - and why that question is never asked.

Yes, I think that is a good point.

WRT the rocket attacks, they have been going on for years now, and have had a material effect on the lives of the people on the receiving end, even if relatively few have died. I don't think Israel's current response is justifiable, but states do have a responsibility to protect their people so I don't think they can just ignore them either. I honestly don't know what the answer is to be truthful.

1/09/2009 08:16:00 AM  
Anonymous andrew adams said...

We have discussed the finer points of Hamas' and IDF morality but the fact remains that it is Gaza on fire tonight and tomorrow more Palestinian children will be dead.

I have to agree that the more the situation develops the harder it is for me try to understand Israel's position, and the balance of responsibility moves further in its direction (and it was already more on its side anyway).

1/09/2009 08:22:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The immediate priority though is a deal to end the current violence and the blockade of Gaza, to create a stable situation where the more complex issues can be thrashed out."

Sounds like Oslo to me - and we know how that turned out. More ethnic cleansing. The Palestinians need to await the emergence of a partner for peace on the Israeli side.

I am actually slightly optimistic about the Israel/Palestine situation in the medium term. Israel's personpower is limited, and appears to be falling. Second-generation Russians aren't so good at being Zionists, the ultra-orthodox refuse to do military service, and an increasing chunk of the secular youth are emigrating to France [man, I love France] to avoid military service. The IDF might end up with nobody to fight its battles in a few years. Which would force the emergence of a true partner for peace.

Our job as anti-Zionists ought to be to exercise the most extreme philo-Semitism in our countries, in order to accelerate this process. This applies _especially_ to the way that we deal with Jewish people who hold Zionist views. Anti-semitism in any form is the friend, not the enemy, of Zionism.

Chris Williams

1/09/2009 08:53:00 AM  
Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

The thing that frightens me is that an awful lot of people (Finkelstein in the Times, even) seem to treat the whole thing as being a problem of "The West Bank and Gaza". The clients of the UNRWA just get totally forgotten about and there are something like 4 million of them.

It's like they don't exist, or as if everyone thinks that they will just basically fuck off and become Jordanians, Lebanese, Syrians etc. I really don't believe that they will (on the basis of pretty good evidence), which is unfortunate, as it means I am not able to help myself to the otherwise extremely congenial and convenient "oh yes, two-state solution blah blah" position.

1/09/2009 09:26:00 AM  
Blogger Mr Kitty said...

Sorry to be slightly off-topic but if this is true http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/7819492.stm
my gloves are off

1/09/2009 10:39:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fair enough - but remember to engage your brain before removing your gloves. The way to help Palestinians and prevent this kind of atrocity in the future is to go hard on the IDF and soft on Israel's partisans in the UK.

1/09/2009 10:55:00 AM  
Anonymous gastro george said...

And this. Channel Four News (bless their socks) were giving the Israelis a very hard time about it last night.

1/09/2009 11:02:00 AM  
Blogger Mr Kitty said...

Very true anon and sorry for the spleen venting.

1/09/2009 11:16:00 AM  
Anonymous Editor said...

The way to help Palestinians and prevent this kind of atrocity in the future is to go hard on the IDF and soft on Israel's partisans in the UK.

Yes, that strategy has paid dividends for years, what with the ongoing occupation, the blockade, and the massacres every few years.

And what exactly do you mean by hard on the IDF? Do you think the IDF care one iota what Brits have to say about anything? Can you even remember the last time an Israeli politician took note of anything a British politician had to say.

And what exactly do you mean by soft on Israel's partisans in the UK? As far as I can see they already get a pretty free ride in most of the press and TV. Both main political parties already side with Israel on all salient points of the dispute. How much softer do you want it?

We need to listen to the Palestinians when they call for the boycott of Israel; economic, academic and cultural/sporting. Israel should be isolated until its behaviour approaches the norms of the international community. It worked with Apartheid South Africa.

Alternatively, we can wring our hands about the complexity of the situation, we can criticise the Palestinians for the distastefulness of their methods of resistance, and we can watch the horror be repeated ad nauseum.

Obviously, if anyone's got a better idea than a boycott, please share it.

1/09/2009 11:17:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Editor - that anon was me.

Objective: institute a proper arms boycott on Israel. We can support cultural links between Palestinian and British groups, which are a good way to get ordinary Brits familiar with the actual nature of the problem. ISM-style missions also work for this, if the post-visit PR is done well.

I'm not altogether sure that the boycott _did_ do it for the RSA. I think that that might have had more to do with the end of the cold war and the nature of the RSA economy. More to the point, for many/most South Africans the narrative they had about themselves and their country was not centred around walling themselves in and sticking up two fingers at the world. Unlike the Israeli state, they were so dependent of black labour that walling the problem out was not an option. Especially given the economic decoupling of Israel from the West Bank over the last decade, I'm not sure that international isolation will work.

But how about a non-stop picket outside each Israeli consulate?

Above all, though, don't forget to do everything you can to keep the diaspora sweet, and give it no reason ever to think that Israel might be a better place for it. Look for example at where CiF's Seth Freedman has ended up politically. The state of Israel needs to import thousands of young people every year - if more than a certain fraction become peaceniks like Freedman, the house of cards will collapse, and the Israeli partner for peace will emerge.

It's a long term strategy, I admit: but I note that the 'intermittent artillery fire' tactic hasn't eliminated oppression from the Middle East either.

Chris Williams

1/09/2009 11:55:00 AM  
Blogger cian said...

I get the arguments about legality, and my brain agrees with them to some degree.
But...
Israel was founded upon the theft of Palestinian land and property, something they've never apologised for, or paid compensation for. There was no justification for this theft. Today the Palestinians are forced to haggle over the last remaining 22%. The original wrong, if you're looking for such things, was that of the Zionist Jews.

And secondly, Israel can stop this any time they want. They know it, we know it, why pretend. If they returned to the 67 borders, this would end. No rockets, no conflict. The Palestinians don't have that power. The Israelis can completely divorce themselves from the Palestinians if they want - its just that they choose not to because they're trying to hang onto some of that remaining 22%.

1/09/2009 12:12:00 PM  
Anonymous andrew adams said...

Sounds like Oslo to me - and we know how that turned out. More ethnic cleansing. The Palestinians need to await the emergence of a partner for peace on the Israeli side.

Sure, pressure will need to be applied from outside - it isn't going to happen by itself. I don't know about an outright boycott, although an embargo on arms sales would be right, the best hope is surely a new president in the White House. Although of course Obama will find anything other than unconditional support for Israel politically difficult to say the least.

1/09/2009 12:55:00 PM  
Anonymous bubby said...

Time for the EU to pull its weight methinks. The EU is Israel's main trading partner. They could put real pressure on the Israelis. Trouble is there really is no realistic prospect of that. Its hopelessly divided and many of the States, particularly the new ones pretty much grease up to Washington on every policy issue.

I do think Chris is right about the unsustainability issue. Faced with a demographic timebomb and a younger population increasingly unwilling to fight its colonial wars it is difficult to see the State surviving in its current form in the medium to long term.

This is compounded by the way rocket technology is nullifying the IDF enormous military edge. There really is no effective military antidote to the rockets. Israel's long standing policy has been to commit massive firepower against those who use them but this has never worked and only generates more resistence. Israel really is coming to the point now where all its military handware cannot protect its cities from Hezbollah's rockets. This is a huge sea change and there is every reason to suspect that Israel's military planners will finally wake up to this.

1/09/2009 01:28:00 PM  
Blogger cian said...

Well demographics is certainly part of it. Not just Israeli demographics, but also Palestinian (both inside and out), which mean that eventually they may face the problem that the Ulster Prods faced.

But a bigger problem is the financial and economic unsustainability of their military edge. They can't fight these wars without massive military and financial subsidies from the US. At some point these will stop, because the US will be unable to afford them. I don't see this happening any time soon, but I suspect that when it does happen it will happen with terrifying speed for the Israelis. Not sure what will happen then, but I doubt it will be good for anyone.

1/09/2009 02:16:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yabbutt, with luck, before that happens, enough Israelis will follow Avram Burg to the writing on the wall, and decide that the risk of being only one major advance in anti-submarine technology away from instant death is not a nice place to be. There are a number of acceptable deals on the table: they only have to pick one up.

Also, I wonder about the scenario of a sudden and unexpected collapse of US support based on their ability to offer it. US support is a large amount for Israel, but it's frankly peanuts for the Pentagon. The US is far more likely to see Israel as a strategic liability before it runs out of money to pay it.

Chris Williams

1/09/2009 02:44:00 PM  
Anonymous bubby said...

I think Chris is right here. US military aid to Israel stands at $2.4 billion - small change to a country which spends $700+ billion a year on defense out of a GDP of around $14 trillion.

US military aid isn't even a particularly big slice of Israeli defence spending - less than 20%. Losing it - although inconcievable - would be no big deal.

1/09/2009 03:00:00 PM  
Anonymous bubby said...

BTW Chris do you have a cite for Burg on the anti-submarine technology?

1/09/2009 03:01:00 PM  
Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

They can't fight these wars without massive military and financial subsidies from the US

Not really so much. The US money is *nice*, but it's not the whole damn show wrt the Israeli economy. Israel's a first world country with third world enemies and is not realistically going to face a financial constraint on its ability to wage war - helicopter predator drones are nice toys and all that, but really, an awful lot of Israeli military spending is either simple waste or the usual gold-plating. I don't actually think that the removal of the whole US subsidy would effect them that much (although it would be devastating to Israel's domestic arms manufacturing industry, which is just as important and just as awful a political lobby as any other).

The real economic danger to the Israeli military is the simple fact that there's a lot of reservists in that army, and while they're in the army, they're not doing their proper jobs. In a high-value-added-per-employee economy, that's bad news; a real war footing for the Israeli economy would mean a *big* drop in living standards, and I certainly think it's an interesting political question whether if that's what they faced, they might think that the threat from the Palestinians wasn't really all that existential after all.

Shorter: The US financial support isn't vital to the Israeli military's ability to age war, it's vital to their ability to wage politically costless war.

1/09/2009 03:05:00 PM  
Anonymous bubby said...

I don't actually think that the removal of the whole US subsidy would effect them that much (although it would be devastating to Israel's domestic arms manufacturing industry, which is just as important and just as awful a political lobby as any other).

I am not sure this is true. Most of the subsidy is used to buy US kit which makes it another nice little earner for US military manufactures. Its quite possible that cutting back US aid might actually benefit the Israeli defence by encouraging them to source domstically though this is difficult to ascertain because so much hardware is the result of joint US-Israeli projects these days.

1/09/2009 03:26:00 PM  
Blogger cian said...

Hmm, point taken on the Pentagon budget (though I suspect the true cost once you factor in all the hidden subsidies, donations, loans, politically motivated purchases etc), though I was thinking on a 50-70 year timescale. I can't see much changing for at least a generation. But still, is it really going to be politically feasible for the US congress to throw 2.3 billion at Israel when they're visibly borrowing so much money... The US population is not nearly as supportive of Israel as it once was.

DD: The US has generally provided extra money to Israel whenever it fights one of its wars. That also helps make these things costless. And I'm not convinced that Israel could eliminate the waste. Is there a lean army in the world, particularly one with such a huge arms industry (and a fairly corrupt political elite).

1/09/2009 03:27:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This may take this thread into War Nerd territory, but is there that much the Israeli government buys from the US these days? They've got their own tanks and APCs, the Merkava, their own rifles and machine guns - just about the only two major US weapon systems I can think of are their F-16s and Apaches.

1/09/2009 04:19:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry, it's not Burg on the anti-submarine tech, it's me. Burg is yr man for the general doctrine of post-Zionism, and the absolute incompatability of Jewish supremacism and liberal democracy. I am yr man for ultraleft WarNerdism and unclear blog comments.

Probably a yet more highly militarised Israel could maintain an edge over its Third World opponents even without US help. I doubt that it could beat a long-term US tech _embargo_, though - some of this stuff is difficult and they are very short of people.

But either way, for this to work, the enemies have got to stay third world, and there's a weapon-system trickle-down effect. H-bombs help, but you need a reliable second-strike system for deterrence to work. Hence my crack about anti-sub technology. What if in 2035 someone passes the Syrian Navy one of those new neutrino snooper sets? At this point - or when this point becomes likely - Israelis might want to lower the temperature rather than raise it.

Perhaps a putative Sleazy Solidarity campaign, in between donating money to our local synagogues, ought to get _The Prince_ translated into Hebrew and distribute it free to every Israel household. You can cope with being hated so long as you are also feared. . . but what happens you can't maintain the fear?

Chris Williams

1/09/2009 05:46:00 PM  
Anonymous bubby said...

But do 'H bombs' help Israel against most of its conventional foes?

I can't really see Israel using an atomic weapon against Southern Lebanon - for all the obvious reasons. I am fairly sure that Hezbollah are getting longer range and more sophisticated missile technology all the time. I imagine soon all of Israel will be within their reach. I just can't see how Israel will be able to protect their cities from these rockets. The interceptors don't work and the rockets negate Isareli air superiority.

For years Isarel has been able to use its neighbours as punchbags without fear of retaliation but I think that period is coming to an end.

1/09/2009 06:03:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

H-bombs are no use as retaliation against conventional rocket attack, but this form of attack, while annoying, isn't going to destroy the state of Israel - just as cross-border shelling didn't do so in the 1970s. What they do is make it plain to anyone who might be planning to park a tank division outside the Knesset, that the Israeli state will end with a bang. It's called the 'Samson option'.

Of course, you can always threaten to use them in retaliation for conventional rocket attacks, as David Levy did in 2000. But that might go bad, ally-wise.

Chris Williams

1/09/2009 06:17:00 PM  
Anonymous bubby said...

I am not saying that they will 'destroy it' but you have to ask the question how many young Israelis - approximately 50% of whom hold foreign passports- will want to stay once the rockets start landing on Tel-Aviv.

As you pointed out Israel needs these youngsters to survive and maintain the demographic balance over the Palestinians.

The more I look at it the more the state looks doomed in its current form if it continues trying to survive by continually brutalising its neighbours.

1/09/2009 06:28:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

What if in 2035 someone passes the Syrian Navy one of those new neutrino snooper sets? At this point - or when this point becomes likely - Israelis might want to lower the temperature rather than raise it.

This reminds me oddly of a comment by David Hirsh on CiF, back in 2006. He'd written a post arguing that, if Israel (collectively) believes it's threatened with destruction, then the threat of destruction is effectively a reality that we need to engage with (in the words of the old sociological dictum, if people believe something to be real, then it's real in its consequences). Some commenters objected to being asked to engage with a patent falsehood, at which point Hirsh dropped the social psychology and said, well, actually, it's not as false as you might think:

Imagine if the regime in Syria and Iran were joined, perhaps by a Jihadi-revolutionary regime in Saudi and perhaps a Muslim Brotherhood regime in Egypt. Add these to a Hamas led Palestine and a Hezbullah led Lebanon. This is hypothetical, yes, but entirely possible.Imagine also, perhaps that the neo-cons in Washington are replaced by the neo-realists - Mearsheimer and Walt advising the White House that it is in the national interest of the US to ditch Israel.

Imagine also a global liberal intelligensia and labour movement that believes the Israelis are so evil that they deserve what’s coming to them. But it's OK, because Israel is heavily armed. The logic of your position, then, is that it is a good thing that Israel has the 4th largest army in the world (or whatever it is) because it guarantees their survival.

So how do you feel about the proposal of an arms embargo against Israel? How do you feel about the proposal to stop US aid and to stop the US selling arms to Israel? What then is there to guarantee Israel’s survival?


What indeed. ("There's nothing for it, General. We'll have to try diplomacy.") I think the key to this mindset may be that word 'guarantee' - like the Victorian-era British Navy insisting on having as many ironclads as the next two navies combined*, Israel has to have overwhelming military power so that its survival can be guaranteed against any possible threat. (And how can anyone know your army's overwhelming if you don't get it out and overwhelm someone once in a while?)

Of course, it could be argued that Israel's in no position to play Palmerstonian games with temporary allies and temporary enemies - Iran and Syria and 'Hamas-led Palestine' don't just dislike Israel, they quite seriously want to destroy it. But a serious Palestine settlement, and a seriously pacific foreign policy, would surely change the climate throughout the region and get Israel into the diplomatic game on a fairly normal footing. To think otherwise - to believe, as I think Hirsh does, that Hamas and Ahmadinejad are genocidal anti-semites and hate Israel because of that - we'd have to believe that the past 40 years of fairly unremitting hostility towards Palestine and Israel's neighbours hasn't had any effect on the way people in the region think about Israel, which would be a bit counter-intuitive.

*I think. O-Level History, and before we got to the interesting bits.

1/09/2009 08:02:00 PM  
Anonymous bubby said...

I notice that there were some demonstrations in Baghdad today.

I wonder which direction Iraq will face when the Americans finally pull out. I could easily forsee them being quite anti-Israel. I wonder what Hirsch thinks about that prospect.

1/09/2009 09:40:00 PM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

Mearsheimer and Walt advising the White House that it is in the national interest of the US to ditch Israel

this is pissweak isn't it? as with all Decents, yet more M&W-bashing without having read their book. It's not an argument for 'ditching Israel being in the US national interest' by any stretch of the imagination.

This 'What if' school of thought is boneheaded. Do they not understand that a change in US policy which doesn't give the Israeli state carte blanche doesn't = 'ditching Israel'?

1/10/2009 08:22:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Egyptian state, mysteriously, no longer has a policy of trying to destroy Israel. Now why could that be?

Chris Williams

1/10/2009 01:41:00 PM  

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