Friday, September 21, 2007

I agree with this editorial


I'm feeling more political than liturgical this week, and this got my dander up, so all two of you who come here can follow the link if you want. If you read on you'll find out what it's generally about.

Can anyone give me one really overwhelming reason--more overwhelming than the evil of the "Palestinians" in deliberately shooting rockets at an Israeli daycare and advertising it as a "gift" for the start of the new school year--why the Israelis should continue to supply electricity and water to Hamas-controlled Gaza? Are they crazy? Are we crazy in the rest of the West for demanding this of them? And, here's the 64 million dollar question, if the "Palestinians" really did get the sovereign state they supposedly long for, would the Israelis then be allowed to stop sending them electricity and water?

Cutting off electricity would merely be telling the people of Gaza, "You wanted Hamas. You claim to want independence. Now act even a little bit like grownups and at least try to pretend you don't want all the Jews over here dead. Then maybe we'll start giving you handouts again." This isn't military action. It isn't trying to kill civilians. It isn't murder. It isn't even remotely like what the Gazans try to do to the Israelis day after day. Yet we hear whines about "collective punishment." Give me a break. If any group of people did this to us we'd bomb the heck out of them, probably without too much regard to collateral damage. Yet not giving them electricity is "collective punishment"?

I think some of the more sanguine Israelis think that somehow if they satisfy all the demands from their Western enemies, give the "Palestinians" everything they say they want, except perhaps for the so-called "right of return" to overwhelm Israel with descendents of those who left in 1948, then the rest of the world will leave Israel alone. I say this is a delusion. If the "Palestinians" are given a state, the Israelis will continue to be expected to subsidize them, to send them electricity and water, to let them move freely back and forth across the border to have jobs in Israel, even if the suicide attacks start again. In fact, these things will be demanded of them even more hotly than they are now because of the then-fiction that they have gotten a "peace deal" with the "Palestinians." And these things will be demanded just as unconditionally as they are now.

The policies foisted upon Israel are insane. They must stop. And it is a matter of great indignation to me that some still insist on demonizing that country as the villain of the piece when, in fact, Israel is if anything far too easy-going on her avowed and implacable enemies.



Anonymous said...

That is really surreal. Are the Israelis going to be required to supply them with weapons next?

Rodak said...

It is, of course, impossible to defend, for any reason, the attempted bombing of a daycare center. It is impossible to defend any attack on civilians whatsoever.
That said, this is precisely why cutting off electricity and water to an entire population would also be wrong: it *is* collective punishment; and it *would* punish innocent people. It is easy to imagine situations in which innocent lives would even be lost by such an action.
The author of the piece you link to provides the following threat as the more dire alternative to cutting off the electricity and water:
"Anyone who considers this measure inappropriate needs to put things in perspective and remember how the United Kingdom responded to the V1 and V2 bombing of its cities at the end of World War II, and what happened to the city of Dresden."
Well, that is just not an appropriate analogy. Germany was a major power, with a huge war machine. The Palestinians are not. Moreover, the fire bombing of Dresden, like the atom bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, is condemned by many Christians as being a violation of Just War theory.
A Christian does not do evil so that good may result.
The moral course of action in response to the rocket attack on the daycare center is to find a way to identify and punish those individuals who committed the crime. Anything else might feel good, but would not be moral.

Lydia McGrew said...

Exactly, Zippy. Food, for sure. In fact, reporters are already going over to Gaza and blaming Israel for the poverty there, even though Israel has withdrawn from there entirely. And it's being demanded that they open the border crossing. So the Israelis have to leave, but they have to allow the Gazans to come over to Israel to take advantage of their system there, not to mention to blow themselves up in malls. Basically, what it comes to is that this entire group of people in this region--the Arab people in the West Bank and Gaza--are now, in a familiar type of liberal logic, considered to be on the heads and hands of the Israelis forever, world without end, amen. And whatever bad things happen to them, even at the hands of those they themselves have elected and welcomed, will be blamed on israel.

Rodak, you are acting as if we are dealing with a police model. But the police model is exactly what the Israelis have foregone by *doing what the world demanded of them* and withdrawing from Gaza. Gaza is now a quasi-state. When Israel controlled Gaza directly, for which it was continually reviled, they could not only stop but punish such acts on a very individual basis. Once the relation between them and the Gazans is more like a state-to-state relation, which is _supposedly_ what the Gazans and Palestinians want, then the Israelis don't have police powers to treat this even a little bit like an individual crime. It is, rather, an act of war. To be sure, it is an act of war from a weaker to a stronger group. But an act of war nonetheless. And indeed these sorts of attacks are widely supported by the Palestinian people.

It is bizarre to me that liberals should think the Israelis have a duty to supply water, electricity, food, to a quasi-state entity that wishes to destroy them. The contrast to Dresden, et. al. is precisely not to say that those things were right but to show how, in terms of responses of a state to acts of war against it, merely _refusing_ actively to sustain the infrastructure and basic services of a group that has attacked you, is incredibly gentle and mild.

By the way, I do not know how this electricity and water are being paid for. Haven't been able to find out. I suppose it's possible that the Gazans are spending foreign aid (from the EU) to buy the electricity and water. Somehow I doubt it. But Israel isn't obligated to make such a sale, either, even if it's being purchased.

Rodak said...

You are speaking to me of political considerations. I am speaking to you of moral ones.
I have no doubt that from a strictly political point of view, what you are saying makes perfect sense.

Lydia McGrew said...

So let me get this straight: When Germany was bombing England, England's only morally legitimate response was to send a few soldiers over to Germany to try to arrest Hitler?

Note that I'm one of the people who strongly opposes Hiroshima, Dresden fire bombings, and all the rest. For this Zippy and I are considered weird.

But it is actually a morally relevant question whether you control a certain area and can treat malefactors within it as criminals within your jurisdiction to be picked out individually like raisins in a fruitcake or whether we are talking about state-to-state types of interactions. In the latter case, while it is always wrong to try deliberately in the nature of the act to kill civilians, the interactions in question will necessarily and in the nature of the case be between collective entities, and the civilians of an aggressor state or quasi-state group will have to expect to suffer some privations and discomforts, at a minimum.

Rodak said...

State-to-state kinds of interactions are pretty much obsolete--or, at least, becoming more and more rare--wouldn't you say? Is the U.S. fighting a state in Iraq?
It would seem that the future holds mostly struggles against hit-and-run guerrilla "armies" and insurgent groups. The only way to fight them, without killing innocents in the thousands, is by surgical strikes, commando raids, and policing actions.
I didn't say that England shouldn't have defended herself against Germany. What I said was that the fire bombing of Dresden was an immoral act within what may have been a just war.

Lydia McGrew said...

I'm afraid that to the extent that you are right about police actions Rodak and the obsolescence of regarding anybody as a state or even quasi-state entity, this tends to support the conclusion that Israel was morally obligated to continue to occupy and militarily to control Gaza, and is similarly obligated w.r.t. the West Bank. In fact, on this argument they probably shd. control the West Bank _more_ than they presently do and eliminate the Palestinian Authority altogether. Such measures would allow far more targeted action against bad guys, though targeting is still very difficult when nearly the entire adult civilian populace, male and female, and most children (having been so trained from infancy) hates you and wants to engage in all manner of tricks and killings (see the Ramallah lynching, for example) against those trying to control them so as to prevent terrorism against their own civilians.

And, of course, if Israel were to do anything of the sort we would hear even shriller yells from all over the world than we presently do.

The irony, though, is that the greater Israel's withdrawal from these areas in response to international pressure the greater the hardships to the Palestinian people. This is because freedom of movement into Israel has had to be curtailed as a cruder measure of protection against suicide bombings when Israel is no longer policing the Palestinian areas directly. Since the people of Gaza and the West Bank have not developed a working economy of their own but rather subsist on international handouts and jobs in Israel, restriction of movement to and from Israel causes economic hardship.

Anonymous said...

I think you've basically identified the appropriate reciprocity, Lydia: if the Palestinians want to buy Israeli goods and services they need to either (1) effectively police the bad guys themselves or (2) facilitate Israel doing so. (Even then it is not necessarily Israel's obligation to sell to them; but those are necessary conditions for such an obligation to exist). If they literally cannot do so - if the bad guys are in control enough to prevent both of these - then they aren't just bad guys, they are the present sovereign power in that territory with all that that implies. A positive duty to help the needy within prudential bounds doesn't translate into a duty to supply the enemy.

Lydia McGrew said...

And there's no question that in Gaza Hamas is in power right now. Everybody involved acknowledges this. In fact some (including Putin, whom of course only "Russophobes" dislike) are indignant with Israel and the United States for refusing to treat Hamas as a _legitimate_ state entity, send them foreign aid, etc.

Hamas got to throw the Fatah guys off the roofs of tall buildings when they swept in and took over. Fatah did the same to some Hamas guys over on the West Bank in retaliation. I believe the building was a couple of stories higher when Hamas did it. Such is the difference between Fatah and Hamas.

Rodak said...

If Israel is the only source of clean, fresh water for the people in Gaza, then Israel is obliged to either sell it to them, or give it to them. Electricity is another, more debatable, question.

Lydia McGrew said...

And how, again, did Israel get this obligation, Rodak? Just by existing? By having been nice enough to do it before, while meanwhile being rocketed for over a year? Why aren't _we_ obligated to send clean, fresh water to Gaza? Maybe to ship it there in big shipping containers? Or any other country in the world?

How Israel gets this obligation just by being the target of Gazan hatred and rage is entirely beyond me.

Rodak said...

If you don't think that Israel, under those circumstances would have an obligation to provide those people with water, that's you.
I think they would.

Rodak said...

And, if Israel wouldn't do it, then, yes, the United States should arrange a way to do it.
We would be doing it not for Hamas, but for Jesus.

Lydia McGrew said...

Well, Rodak, if we could do it, or if Egypt could do it (which manifestly it could), or if the Palestinians could just stop trying to murder their neighbors and wipe Israel off the map and hence work out a _normal_ arrangement between ruling entities for getting water from one to the other, then Israel isn't the only source of water for Gaza, is it?

In which case, I maintain that picking Israel as having this obligation is arbitrary. If anything, they have far less of an obligation than a country that isn't being attacked from Gaza.

Rodak said...

Okay, you go with *real politik* and I'll go with St. Paul:

Romans 12 [20] Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.
[21] Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.

Lydia McGrew said...

Do you consider Israel to have more of an objective obligation than anyone else? And if so, why?

Rodak said...

Why? Because the founding of the Jewish state has been a causal factor in the less-than-optimal circumstances in which the Palestinian Arabs in Gaza find themselves. And because Israel surrounds most of Gaza, and is the closest neighbor. And because Israel has a historic, God-given, mission to be an exemplar to the rest of humanity.

The Social Pathologist said...

Perhaps the reason why water and electricity is being supplied to the Palestinians is because Israel wants to have some measure of control over the Palestinians.

I can't imagine Israel being too happy if the Palestinians decided to build a nuclear power station to supply electricity to themselves. The Israelis are pretty shrewd and I'm sure they would like to keep control of the fusebox.

As for water, the Gaza strip sits on the edge of the Mediterranean. Desalination technology is cheap and effective. Arab states which border the ocean have been using this as a drinking source of water for years. The only reason Israel need to supply water to the Palestinians is because they can't get their act together.

But as long as the Arabs are more concerned with fighting, killing and Jihad you can bet your bottom dollar that civic infrastructure and education will take second place. Is there are a moral obligation to help someone who won't help himself?

Lydia McGrew said...

The day the Palestinians have anything remotely near the economic capacity to build a nuclear power plant for themselves is far, far away and probably won't come, for the very reason you give, SP: They _won't_ help themselves. Indeed, this is part of their raison d'etre, because they hold out continual hope of "liberating all of Palestine," by which they mean destroying the Jewish state, if necessary by the demographic "right of return." Here's a story to show that: When there was actual talk of establishing a Palestinian state, the UN agency which exists solely to serve so-called "Palestinian refugees"--which includes everyone descended in the male line from Arabs who left the territory of the present-day Jewish state in 1948, no matter who they are or where they are presently living--got anxious queries from Palestinians living in *what would be the discussed Palestinian state* as to whether they would then still be considered refugees! They were very anxious that it should be so. Even if a sovereign state were created solely for them, they still wanted to be regarded as "refugees" in order to retain a right to make a fuss about not, with all their descendents forever and ever, going and living in what is presently Israel!

It is they who want to retain a handle on the Israelis, not the other way around. And what use is the threat of shutting off electricity to the Israelis if they never use it and if the kassams keep coming? It doesn't seem to have done them much good so far, and I doubt it ever will.

Okay, Rodak, we've flushed this out into the open now: You are wrong to hold that this gives Israel some special duty. Nearest neighbor? Ever hear of Egypt? They've closed their border on the other side and have given the Gazans no electricity, that's for sure! And Egypt occupied Gaza pre-1967, gave the Gazan Palestinians no citizenship even though they were fellow Arabs and Muslims, and then got into an aggressive war with Israel and lost that strip of land in '67. (I note here that no one ever squawked at Jordan and Egypt, who were at least as much occupiers of the regions now known as "Palestinian," to set up a "Palestinian State" during the years before 1967.)

The founding of the Jewish state has been a "causal factor" in the less-than-optimal circumstances in which the Palestinian Arabs find themselves? A much more relevant and on-going causal factor is the absolute refusal of said people to accept the existence of the Jewish state. Do you know that they could have had Jordanian citizenship up into the 1980's? But nope. They were offered statehood in the early years of this very century but wouldn't take it without the Israel-destroying "right of return." Instead, they launched the intifada and started blowing themselves up to kill Israeli citizens. Then they voted in Hamas. Time and time and time again they have been given opportunities for peace and haven't taken them. Nothing less will do than the destruction of Israel, and they will destroy themselves before they give up on that hope.

And in that context, Israel is required to, as Zippy so well puts it, supply the enemy? What about their duty to protect their own citizens? Because they are supposed to be a "light to the nations"? To my mind they've been a light to the nations by their remarkable and supererogatorily ethical, not to say perhaps suicidal, restraint thus far, and by having supplied water and electricity already for this long under these circumstances. There is no eternal duty for them to do so.

The Social Pathologist said...

It is they who want to retain a handle on the Israelis, not the other way around. And what use is the threat of shutting off electricity to the Israelis if they never use it and if the kassams keep coming? It doesn't seem to have done them much good so far, and I doubt it ever will.

I don't doubt that the average Arab is better off under an imperfect Israeli rule rather than an existing Arab one. But I'm fairly cynical in nature and I feel that Israels supply of basic essential services to the Palestinians is more a gesture of self interest rather than a humanitarian gesture. Facilitating the dependency state of the Palestinians may in someway go towards keeping Israel secure and Palestine weak. I'm not saying that Israel is deliberately oppressing the Palestinians, rather it is exploiting the situation to its advantage. Imagine if Canada controlled the provision of U.S utilities. It would give Canada some control over U.S affairs.

I personally don't have a beef with the state of Israel and I believe it has legitimate right to self defense. I do believe it gets excessively criticised when the country takes legitimate measures to defend itself. However it is still putting down illegal settlements and disposessing Arabs which adds fuel to the fires of Arab nationalism. While I agree that Israel does not have an obligation to provide basic services to its enemies, it also has an obligation not to keep stirring up the enmity. It you want to see the truly surreal have a read of this.

You reap what you sow.

Best wishes on your blog. I hope you don't mind me commenting.

Anonymous said...

Positive obligations to act always fall under prudence, and prudence doesn't require one to supply one's enemies with the means to attack, even when that failure to supply one's enemies will knowingly (that is, as a result of the expected acts of one's enemies) result in hardship and death on the part of innocents living under the thumb of that enemy. This one is a straightforward application of double-effect, I'm afraid.

Rodak said...

It is certainly ironic that any Jew in the world has the right of return to the same piece of real estate that Arabs who were displaced from which (as opposed to Europe), have no right to return to. And why don't the Arabs have this right? Because, since Israel is a democracy, if the Arabs were allowed to return, they would immediately be able to dominate the government.
I'm not too sure how what was done to the Jews in Europe by Hitler and Stalin gives them the right to an ethnically-cleansed piece of land in the Middle East which was last in the political control of Jews long centuries in the past.
Israel will never have peace, because there is a fundamental injustice intrinsic to its very existence *as a Jewish state*.
We all deplore the holocaust. And those of us who are Christian all feel guilty--very guilty--for the centuries of persecution and pogrom endured by the Jews in our lands of origin.
The Jews are probably the most remarkable ethnic group on the planet. Their contributions to every field of human intellectual and artistic endeavor have been hugely disproportionate to their numbers.
But, two wrongs don't make a right. The status quo in Palestine is not viable and will not become so until the scales of justice have been balanced.

Rodak said...

I'm wondering as well if it is the case that most of your arguing against my positions feel Islam to be instrinsically evil, and a religion with which it is ultimately impossible to co-exist?
If so, what would you propose to do about that?

Rodak said...

"...prudence doesn't require one to supply one's enemies with the means to attack..."

How is providing clean water to a civilian population construed as "supplying one's enemies with the means to attack"?
And why don't you, at least, respond to what I find to be the clear message of Romans 12:20-21?
I have already indicated that, in terms of *real poltik*, all of my positions are undoubtedly refuted.
But, is *real politik* EVER the means to the highest good? By definition--"No."

Anonymous said...

Rodak: I have no position on the specific morality of Zionism, and I have every reason to believe that any number of immoral things were done in its pursuit. In general I am too ignorant of the particulars to make pronouncements on it. I am sympathetic to the idea that settlements forcibly displacing indigenous populations are morally wrong, and I am unsympathetic to the idea that given the present state of affairs Israel should just do everyone a favor and cease to exist. History is not a justifying - or damning - sacrament, and every day is a new day. Welcome to reality; have a nice day.

However that is as far as I can tell completely separate from the question presently on the table.

If so, what would you propose to do about that?

Live in different places. Good fences make good neighbors and all that.

How is providing clean water to a civilian population construed as "supplying one's enemies with the means to attack"?

Supplying an area controlled by your enemies - enemies who want to destroy you utterly - with anything at all is supplying them with the means to attack.

Lydia McGrew said...

Social Pathologist, I'm very glad to see you here. I never knew you would show up on my humble blog. :-)

Here are a few probably too wordy responses to a couple of your comments. Of course I agree with you that Israel gets excessively criticized. Boy, is that right!

I read the TAC article. (You need "html" at the end of the URL, but I figured it out.) Is what it reports surreal? In one sense, yes, assuming it is true. But this is because I--unlike nearly everybody else with an opinion about foreign policy--think little of policy attempts to exploit divisions amongst one's enemies and play off one group against the other. For the most part, it's par for the course for all nations at all times. The article author brings himself to hint at this but somehow still manages to give the impression that he's scoring some big expose against Israel by telling us that Israel has tried this sort of thing along with everybody else in the world. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. In this case, it didn't work. We're now pressuring Israel to do the same thing the other way, releasing members of the Fatah terrorist group the Al Aqsa Martyrs' brigade so we Americans can "train them to fight Hamas." I have contempt for this sort of thing as being often fantasy-based, as it surely is in our new designation of Fatah as "moderate" and our insistence that Israel do the same. I also question its morality, particularly when it involves actively assisting groups of bad guys. When it involves merely (in the words of the story) "turning a blind eye" to bad guys in a region over which one has only partial control, which the whole world doesn't regard as part of your sovereign territory anyway, then it is less obviously immoral. It may be dumb, and I often feel it's a fool's game as well as morally dicey, but much foreign policy for most nations is based on it.

In fact, here's the real irony: TAC is a paleoconservative journal. I don't know much about **, the author of that article. But I do know that playing off your enemies against each other and exploiting divisions among them is _hugely_ popular in paleocon foreign policy right now. They are constantly implying that America should do _exactly_ this, should cozy up to the thugs in Syria in order to get Syria to help us against Sunni terrorist groups, and on and on. They have nothing but scorn for people who, in their view, "lump together" their enemies. Yet when Israel apparently tried this sort of advice and it didn't work out, here we find the paleocon journal TAC saying, "Ha! Look how Israel helped Hamas before." Basically, it's a "gotcha" moment if Israel tries it and it doesn't work. But if the rest of the West isn't doing enough of it for the paleocons' taste, and they can spin it as hawkishness and anti-intellectual "lumping," then we'll get criticized for that.

Color me unimpressed with the article as some sort of major moral indictment of Israel.

Now, as regards building settlements. As far as I know, since Sharon was elected, the policy of encouraging settlement building has stopped. And of course the Gazan Israeli settlers were forcibly removed, though they'd many years ago been encouraged by the then-government to go there, and their homes turned over to the "Palestinians," who promptly turned the place into a wasteland, launching pad for rockets, and sink of misery for themselves. You should see the pictures if you haven't already of the beautiful greenhouses the Israel "occupiers" left for them in which to grow their own food. The "after" pictures show those same greenhouses completely barren, with huge holes dug in the middle of them--the entrances to tunnels to try to get under the border and engage in acts of war against Israel. Just a couple of weeks ago the IDF forcibly removed some Jewish "settlers" from a home in Hebron. The days of expanding settlement are over, so that criticism needs to be updated.

Nor is it clear to me that it was intrinsically immoral in any event. I am far from being convinced that it is impossible for a country morally to win territory in war, especially if the war was not of its own making and was not undertaken for reasons of territorial expansion. And once the territory is won, allowing your citizens to go and live there should certainly be an option, though the actual impact of that on the people there at the time always has to be weighed. The opinion according to which, forever and ever, the Israelis would be immoral in settling the areas its attacking enemies lost in the 6-day war would require in consistency all sorts of nonsense. Are we Americans occupying parts of the Southwest that we won from Mexico in the 1800's "illegally according to international law"? It is literally impossible for everybody to "put it all back the way it was" as regards territory lost and won in war over the course of history.

Prudentially, if Israel wished to use Gaza and the West Bank areas as bargaining chips in negotiation, it was unwise to allow settlements there. The worst criticism I can definitely make of that policy years back is that it was inconsistent. They should have made up their minds one way or another.

Oh, by the way, I recommend to anybody interested in the subject Yaacov Lozowick's _Right to Exist_, recommended to me by a reader on Jihad Watch. If anything, IMO Lozowick is a little too hopeful and too kindly. This probably is because he was originally a peacenik in Israel itself. But he has lots of good factual information.

Lydia McGrew said...

Rodak, since you evidently regard the existence of Israel as originally constituted, as a majority-Jewish state, as some sort of original sin which cannot be expiated until the Jews there are either driven out or overwhelmed demographically, turning "Israel" into just another Arab state in the region (and how wonderful _that_ would be for everyone!), there is little I can say to you on the subject. This, I gather, is an article of faith with you. And it at least makes it clear why you think Israel "owes" water and electricity to the Gazans in secula seculorum. More attempts at expiating their sin in existing as a Jewish state, I suppose.

But I will respond to the fairly ignorant phrase "ethnically cleansed." Hello? Israel has whole oodles of Arab citizens with the full rights of citizens. If you did know that, then your use of "ethnically cleansed" was hateful, misleading, and irresponsible. If you didn't, then you obviously need to do a little study on the nature and history of Israel, and somewhere other than on the Daily Kos or with some other Israel-hating group.

And by the way, I don't consider that this really has much to do with the Holocaust at all, one way or another.

Rodak said...

I've been to Israel, and I know that there are Arabs living there. I also know that there aren't enough of them living there to fill all the jobs for which they are needed, and that many commute in daily, or weekly, from the Arab territories to work in Israel.
I won't insist on the term "ethnically cleansed," if you think that it doesn't accurately describe the prevailing situation, post-1948. Perhaps something like "demographically controlled" or "quota stabilized" would be better. The salient point is that if the Arabs had the right of return, the Jews would soon be a minority and would lose political control.

Rodak said...

"This, I gather, is an article of faith with you."

I would think that it takes more "faith" to posit the legitimacy of the Jewish state, than it does its illegitimacy.

On what do you base Israel's legitimacy, other than "might makes right," and the fact, as Zippy points out, that it's a done deal? If you had to explain to an Arab individual who left his property in order to save his life and is now not allowed to return to it why he should accept this as just, how would you do so?

Rodak said...

"Supplying an area controlled by your enemies - enemies who want to destroy you utterly - with anything at all is supplying them with the means to attack."

I'm sure that Henry Kissinger, to name one prominent Jew, would agree with you on that. I doubt that Jesus Christ, to name another, would.

As for "double-effect," to me that's just a bit of sophistry, designed to sneak moral relativism in through the service entrance.

Lydia McGrew said...

Why, Rodak, does Israel have to "explain its legitimacy" anymore than any other country in the world? These double standards just fascinate me. Well, no, they don't. More like disgust. It does honestly make one think there's something about Israel that makes people irrational. Why, for example, doesn't the United States have to "defend its legitimacy"? Should we perhaps go with the reconquista doctrine and give our cities in the Southwest back to Mexico?

What would I say to such an Arab? Well, we'd be talking about 1948, so if he hasn't gotten on with his life in that long, I think he has a problem. And the question of how many Arabs left because they thought the Israelis were going to harm them when they weren't, how many left expecting to return *as part of a victorious bunch of Arabs after the armies of the surrounding Arab countries squooshed the newborn Jewish state*, how many were in fact driven into the surrounding countries by the Israelis themselves, and how many stayed (some of them Arab Israeli citizens and ancestors of Arab Israeli citizens today), is an extremely vexed question among scholars, as perhaps you know. Moreover, if someone is to blame for the loss of property of those who left under these various circumstances, it should at least in part be the surrounding Arab nations themselves who made war *immediately* upon the UN resolution to establish the Jewish State of Israel. I note that they could instead have directed their efforts at that time to establish a new Arab state in the areas designated for that very thing by the UN, and which supposedly the Palestinians so desire today, but they did not, nor did they push for such a thing from Jordan in the years that followed, after Jordan chose to expand into that area in what is now the West Bank.

Many Jews relocated from Arab countries to Israel. None of them have demanded to be allowed to return to their property in those Arab countries. In the course of history, populations do change locations. It happens all the time. There are always wrongs and rights involved, but much as I like to defend property rights, I do not think they are eternal.

And I have even less sympathy if what we're really talking about is the _grandson_ of someone who left what is now Israel in 1948.

Oh, one more thing: Israel offered (I can look up the year but don't have it to hand) to admit 100,000 Arabs who had left property in Israel as part of a peace deal offered to various surrounding Arab nations. It was rejected.

Rodak said...

So, you'd have no answer for my hypothetical Arab--other than, perhaps, "It's your own damn' fault!"
Israel needs to establish its legitimacy because it was wrested away from people already living there, by colonists who were largely European and with no recent historical or cultural ties to the region. Why couldn't Saddam keep Kuwait? He won it, fair and square, didn't he?

Lydia McGrew said...

Again, many of the Arabs living there at the time stayed, many more could have stayed, so "wrested away" is ridiculous. It's also ridiculous because actually the region was controlled by the British, and had been since the fall of the Ottoman Empire, so the people with whom you are so concerned were not ruling an existing country on that spot at the time of the so-called "wresting away." This alone makes the analogy to Kuwait ridiculous.

And did you miss the bit where I said that it makes a difference if the war was aggressive or not? Saddam simply tried to conquer Kuwait. Israel was not the aggressor in 1967. And in 1948 the British, the de facto rulers since the end of WWII, asked a supposedly neutral international body to decide what to do with the albatross that the Palestinian area was for them. The UN came up with a plan that included both a Jewish and an Arab state in the region. The Israelis accepted this plan, but the Arabs wouldn't allow any Jewish state at all and immediately tried to crush any such idea. And there were plenty of Jews living there at that time already, too. The British got out, and the newly-sanctioned Jewish state fought for and won its brand new existence. The Arabs could have taken their Arab state at that time in the regions designated, over which Israel had no control at all, but either chose not to or were stopped from doing so by fellow Arabs. If you think this is analogous to one established country's conquering another, you're nuts.

Rodak said...

Okay. Fair enough. That's putting the best possible spin on it, from the Israeli point of view, but basically it's historically correct. While not established by military invasion as such, Israel is still the result of a power-play by non-indigenous people. I also believe that Jewish insurgents played some role in the fact that the British "got out."
But, since you are well versed in the historical facts, if you see no moral ambiguity in the establishment of the state of Israel, I'm not likely to convince you otherwise.
Do you foresee the day when the Arabs and other Muslims will give up on it?

Lydia McGrew said...

The Brits' having turned the matter over to the UN showed a strong desire on their part to get out of the mess. And who can blame them? That part of the British Empire was more trouble than it was worth. And they could hardly be expected to re-establish the Ottoman Empire!

No, I don't see the Muslims' ever accepting it. That, I say, is their problem. It's pathological with them. The things they teach their children, the death cult, the glorification of killing oneself so long as one can blow up some Jews along with oneself, are horrifying, disgusting, and culturally suicidal. Someday I should post some links. Golda Meir was right: There will never be peace in the Middle East until the Arabs love their children more than they hate the Jews. If that means that there will never be peace in the Middle East, well...

Rodak said...

"No, I don't see the Muslims' ever accepting it."

In that case, we are more or less wasting our time, as well as the lives of our sons and daughters, by staying involved in the region.

"That part of the British Empire was more trouble than it was worth."

If so, that part of the American "empire" is more trouble than it's worth, too. Or, if not, why not? (Note: I put "empire" in scare quotes, because we don't colonize, as such. But what other power has the globe garrisoned from the Atlantic to the Pacific?)

Lydia McGrew said...

Our sons and daughters did not fight in the Yom Kippur War, the 6-Day War, etc., etc.

The best sort of involvement in the region I believe we could have would be to stop yelling "Stop!" at Israel every time it tries to defend itself. I tend to think that, contrary to the leftist and paleocon view, much of our involvement in diplomacy and what-not with Israel has been to Israel's detriment.

If you think our armies are presently defending Israel, you are wrong. It's one country that _doesn't_ ask us to send our soldiers in to fight and defend it. It has a good-sized army of its own. Our biggest contribution to its defense has been arms sales. Do I think those should stop? No, I don't. The country is formally our ally. It fights against countries around it that hate us and that want to destroy it. I see no reason not to sell it arms. But I don't propose garrisoning it. Nor do we. If you think I'm some sort of expansionist Pax Americana hawk, you are mistaken. I'm a hawk, but not that sort.

Rodak said...

I'm not too sure what our armies are fighting for. I'm told it's not Israel. I'm told it's not oil. In the first Gulf War we defeated a Republic in order to restore a monarchy. Our allies in the region include two monarchies (the Saudis and the Jordanians) and a dictator-and-a-half (Egypt and Pakistan); so it's evidently not republican democracy we're fighting for.
What are we fighting for, Lydia?

Lydia McGrew said...

Did I ever say I was in favor of the Iraq war?

Heck, I nearly got an undeserved spontaneous membership card in the Lew Rockwell Society for a rather amusing anti-war piece I wrote for Right Reason. You're welcome to look it up in my archives there. It's called "The Battle Hymn of the Republican." They thought I was more paleo than in fact I am, and you couldn't really tell from that piece. I got quite a fan notice from Stephen W. Carson, I think his name is.

I've argued against that war from the beginning, though I never thought it had anything to do with Israel one way or another. Nor, I believe, did many of the people who favored it. I think Bush actually believes the various things he says over the time span of the war. He's no monster.

What we should do now, having started the whole thing, I have no idea.

Again, you're barking up the wrong tree.

Rodak said...

"What we should do now, having started the whole thing, I have no idea."

Who does?

"Again, you're barking up the wrong tree."

That's good to hear.

"He's no monster."

But he plays one on TV?

Thanks for your time. You put up a formidable argument!

The Social Pathologist said...

Lydia, I think you missed my point. I wasn’t morally indicting Israel; I was trying to point out that Israel’s “humanitarian” actions may be more guided by self interest rather than genuine goodwill to the Palestinians. Hamas wants Israel to collectively punish Palestinians who were not involved in the rocket attacks because it will have the further effect of radicalizing Palestinians towards Hamas; it’s a basic tenet of guerilla warfare.

If I had to choose between Israeli or Arab culture then Israeli wins hands down. If the Arabs were given Switzerland or the U.S. no doubt they would trash them. The root cause of their poverty is their culture. The Isrealis who arrived in 1948 were as wretched group of humanity as there could have been. They were probably far worse off than the Palestinians now, but by their brains—cultivated in a Christian environment-- and their exertions they were able to form a viable state. The Palestinians have not been able to do such a thing.

The Palestinian state has been unable to function for a variety of reasons. Their Arab brothers have robbed them of a portion their land, their culture inhibits the formation of a stable democratic society and the Israeli’s have been working to actively sabotage it. Could not the Israelis have swapped some of the Gaza strip for the West Bank? Or how about resettling the Palestinians to another continuous area of Israel while still maintaining control of it? Rather, the Israelis through their “security measures’ make life intolerably difficult for the Palestinians with a net aim of encouraging emigration from the area.

Hamas was not the natural choice of the Palestinians, the PLO—a secular orginisation—was. It however was a corrupt organization unable to manage an effective state and provide basic services. Under its representation the Palestinians continued to loose land and rights. Now along comes Hamas and

1) Provides effective basic services.
2) Kicks Israeli butt regularly both in Military and terrorist activities.
3) Its members are willing to die for the cause.
4) And seems genuinely concerned about the well being of the ordinary Muslim.

Now put yourself in the position of a young Palestinian boy. You’re family are refugees, your family may have owned land upon which a kibbutz is now on, A couple of your mates are in prison for rioting against the Israelis and you regularly get roughed up by Israeli soldiers who need to “check your papers”; Who is going to attract your sympathies?

Part of the radicalization of Palestinians is due to the Israeli conduct towards them. The more enlightened Israelis have acknowledged this as well. A lot of Righties feel that criticism of Israel is the same as support for Islam: It isn’t. Neither is legitimate criticism of Israel a repudiation of its right to exist. There is a double standard with regard to Criticism of Israel but that’s because we don’t think it’s a barbaric Arab state: It’s meant to have higher standards

Rodak said...

Perhaps I can ask you what I asked Lydia: what is the basis of Israel's right to exist as an essentially European colonial state in a Middle East context?
Or is this an unfair characterization of what Israel is?
As I remember, the lyrics of the "Theme from Exodus" went:
"This land is mine/God gave this land to me" Is that the basis?

The Social Pathologist said...

Hello Rodak,

The governing Authority "The British"
Partitioned Palestine into an Arab and Jewish area. Jewish Land area was increased by Arab Land sales to the Jewish community. The British actively tried to stop the Arabs from selling Land to the Jews but the Arabs were determined to give their land away. Many of the Arabs who were thus dispossessed had been on the farms for generations as tenant farmers. Their Muslim overlords did not care about them. The people of Israel declared independence and the Arabs declared war. The belligerents were divided along ethnic lines. The state of Israel was established by force of arms. Arabs who were perceived as a security threat were expelled by the Jewish community and many Arabs left at the urging of their leaders. The Area that was left under Palestinian control was stolen off them by their fellow Muslim brothers.
Bottom line. The Jewish state was established by a group of people who declared independence and defended their claim by force of arms. Much like the U.S.

As in the U.S., there seems to be a structural racism in Israeli society which confers upon the minorities a lesser status. So they treat their minorities badly. Israels' bad behaviour towards Palestinians, Christians and Arabs is a different issue to its existential legitimacy. Israels' founding is pretty much the same as most other New World countries with one possible exception; Israel bought a fair amount of land from the Arabs before it took the rest over.

Put it this way,if the Israelis had declared their independence and the Arabs did not declare war on them would Israeli independence be an issue?

Rodak said...

"Put it this way,if the Israelis had declared their independence and the Arabs did not declare war on them would Israeli independence be an issue?"

No, surely not. But so what? The fact is that the Arabs did declare war.
You concur with my point that Israel was established by force of arms. From this follows the likelihood that Israel will always need to be perpetuated by force of arms.
You make an analogy to the founding of his country. I think it is apt. The legend has it that Manhattan Island was purchased from the Indians with beads and trinkets. The Indians, too, came to regret the sale of their land by some of their number.
In land grabs, might makes right. The U.S. trumped up a war with Mexico to acquire large chunks of our Southwest. The analogy is a good one.
The question, I guess, is Israel's legitimacy, as currently configured, under international law, on the one hand; and Israel's moral legitimacy, on the other.
The gun or the Bible? Elements in the U.S. seem to think that you can have both. I call that contention "cognitive dissonance."

Rodak said...

If you're interested, you can get a fuller explanation of what I mean by "cognitive dissonance" here:

The Social Pathologist said...


Thanks for the link, but I don't see the relevance. I think a more appropriate term would be double think rather than cognitive dissonance as most of the conservatives whom you seem to think hold contradictory values have no anxious state whatsoever.

Rodak said...

"The theory of cognitive dissonance states that contradicting cognitions serve as a driving force that compels the mind to acquire or invent new thoughts or beliefs, or to modify existing beliefs, so as to reduce the amount of dissonance (conflict) between cognitions."

I mean it more in the above sense. I believe that fundamental Christian beliefs are modified so as to be compatible with both "greed is good" capitalism, and "my country, right or wrong" nationalism; the manipulation of which modified beliefs tends to used to good advantage to promote the agendas of right-wing politicians.

Rodak said...

You can, btw, catch a glimpse of the repressed conflict/anxiety in persons afflicted by such cognitive dissonance on many religious/conservative blogs. It is visible in the angry reactions you evoke by pointing out these contradictions in such a way that looking at both sides at once can't be avoided.

Lydia McGrew said...

SP, I do want to comment briefly on this: "Could not the Israelis have swapped some of the Gaza strip for the West Bank? Or how about resettling the Palestinians to another continuous area of Israel while still maintaining control of it?"

It seems to me that the reason Israel has maintained the whole "Gaza-West Bank" situation so much the way it was in 1967--in the sense of land-line-drawing, is because these were in fact the areas won from Egypt and Jordan respectively. Can you imagine the international outcry at _any_ talk of resettling? Anywhere? The people of these places themselves have (their speeches to each other and television shows indicate as much) as their goal none other than "the liberation of all Palestine," including Tel Aviv and all. Would _they_ put up with any such thing? It was bad enough resettling the Israeli "settlers" from Gaza and leaving Gaza to the Palestinians, but there was less bloodshed and horror than there would have been in any attempt to resettle the Gazans, and no international fury. The Israelis were doing what many people said they were morally obligated to do. Under a Democratic presidency, they might indeed lose American support of every sort for any such action as moving any Palestinians anywhere, even if it made sense to some degree for the Palestinians themselves. Of course, what would have made the most sense would have been for many of them to take Jordanian citizenship long ago, before Jordan shut down the offer. But they wouldn't accept that either.

Do lots of young Palestinian boys "regularly get roughed up" by the IDF to "check their papers"? How young? How roughed up? I wonder, myself. There are certainly plenty of news outlets from which I would not accept such stories.

The Social Pathologist said...

Firstly here's a site which appears quite unbiased with regard to Israeli human rights abuses; it's run by Israelis.

Secondly; Populations transfers were done by Greece and Turkey in the 20's and by Croatia and Serbia in the 90's. The subsequent separation of populations seemed to cut down the incidence of violence between the combatants. The aims of the Palestinians and the aims of the Israelis are mutually exclusive: agreement is never going to happen. The two communities need to separate but this won't happen since the Palestinians need Israeli jobs and the Israelis need Palestinian labour. Furthermore Israel still covets Palestinian land.I would probably encourage Palestinine re settlement to another area funded by the Countries which recognised Israel and and by Israel compensating the Palestinians fairly for land acquisition. I can't see this happening though.

Thirdly; I agree that Israel gets a lot of unjustifiable bad press but some of it is justifiable. Currently there would appear to be a policy of making economic life difficult for the Palestinians in the West Bank. From what I understand approximately 50% of the land in the West Bank is now inaccessible to the Palestinians. Furthermore there are numerous instances of the state turning a blind eye to Israeli settlers who commit crimes against Palestinians. I imagine that what's happening in the West Bank right now is pretty analogous to White behavior towards the Blacks in the "Good old South". Palestinians may have the same legal rights as the Israelis on paper, but their practical enforcement is another matter.

Lydia McGrew said...

SP, I've only been able to look so far at the main page of that site. My browser doesn't like the Hebrew characters. But it doesn't inspire confidence in the objectivity that one of the top headlines concerns the very point of this blog post and is screaming about the "collective punishment" that would be going on if Israel (gasp!) cut electricity to Gaza. Actually, peaceniks and leftists in Israel can be _very_ irrational and can accept and pass on factoids as facts and put exceedingly weird spins on things. The statistic about 50% of the land in the West Bank arouses all my suspicions in exactly this regard. I haven't researched it but wonder how it's being measured, who is reporting it, what the reasons are, etc., etc.

About "coveting land" and resettlement: There would be no need for resettlement if only the Palestinians would make a country of their own for themselves where they are. They were offered this chance at Camp David in 2000. All they had to do was stop trying to kill Israeli civilians, destroy Israel, etc. In return for peace, the Israelis would have done to all the settlers what they have since done in any event to all of them in Gaza (which has, of course, turned out very badly)--removed them forcibly. It would have been the Jews being resettled, not the Palestinians. They could have had that land and made a life and a country. They won't. They refuse. Instead of accepting what they were offered at Camp David, they began the Second Intifada.

In other words, if they were prepared to settle _anywhere_ and make a life for themselves, they could have settled in a continuous area approximately where they are and done so, without the need for the traumas of resettlement, and without Israel's getting any of the land they supposedly "covet." The Israelis actually offered it to them for a state. Since they refused that, why should we think any resettlement plan to anywhere (if there were any good place) would work?

The best thing would have been if they had been absorbed not collectively but in a spread-out fashion as citizens of various Arab nations long ago. The Arab nations, except for Jordan, refused to do this, though in some (such as Syria) they have near-citizen status. And I really can't blame Jordan for not wanting any more Palestinian citizens now and having closed the offer in the 80's, given all the terrorist problems they would probably be importing. Though if we are to rake up past history, Jordan has probably, along with Egypt, one of the most historically-based responsibilities to take the Palestinians as citizens. Given that no place wants to do this, and that this is understandable, and given that they are where they are now, the next-best present solution is for them to put down the weapons and get on with productive life. Since they won't do this, there is _no_ solution.

But perhaps you agree with this final conclusion anyway.

The Social Pathologist said...

I agree with you that there is probably going to be no solution.


Rodak said...

Great. We've achieved the Orwellian state of perpetual war. Even as Big Brother watches us from the other side of our computer monitors.