Reality in Gaza

January 3rd, 2009

There are three items in the press that should be read by anyone interested in understanding the reality of the conflict now raging in Gaza.

Alan Dershowitz has written an article in the Christian Science Monitor, “Israel, Hamas, and Moral Idiocy.”  Charles Krauthammer’s column in The Washington Post is headlined “Moral Clarity in Gaza.”  The Boston Globe has published a large number of high-quality photos of the conflict.

Dershowitz wrote,

There have been three types of international response to the Israeli military actions against the Hamas rockets. Not surprisingly, Iran, Hamas, and other knee-jerk Israeli-bashers have argued that the Hamas rocket attacks against Israeli civilians are entirely legitimate and that the Israeli counterattacks are war crimes.

Equally unsurprising is the response of the United Nations, the European Union, Russia, and others who, at least when it comes to Israel, see a moral and legal equivalence between terrorists who target civilians and a democracy that responds by targeting the terrorists.

And finally, there is the United States and a few other nations that place the blame squarely on Hamas for its unlawful and immoral policy of using its own civilians as human shields, behind whom they fire rockets at Israeli civilians.

The most dangerous of the three responses is not the Iranian-Hamas absurdity, which is largely ignored by thinking and moral people, but the United Nations and European Union response, which equates the willful murder of civilians with legitimate self-defense pursuant to Article 51 of the United Nations Charter.

This false moral equivalence only encourages terrorists to persist in their unlawful actions against civilians. The US has it exactly right by placing the blame on Hamas, while urging Israel to do everything possible to minimize civilian casualties.

Krauthammer wrote,

Some geopolitical conflicts are morally complicated. The Israel-Gaza war is not. It possesses a moral clarity not only rare but excruciating.

Israel is so scrupulous about civilian life that, risking the element of surprise, it contacts enemy noncombatants in advance to warn them of approaching danger. Hamas, which started this conflict with unrelenting rocket and mortar attacks on unarmed Israelis–6,464 launched from Gaza in the past three years–deliberately places its weapons in and near the homes of its own people.

This has two purposes. First, counting on the moral scrupulousness of Israel, Hamas figures civilian proximity might help protect at least part of its arsenal. Second, knowing that Israelis have new precision weapons that may allow them to attack nonetheless, Hamas hopes that inevitable collateral damage–or, if it is really fortunate, an errant Israeli bomb–will kill large numbers of its own people for which, of course, the world will blame Israel.

For Hamas, the only thing more prized than dead Jews are dead Palestinians. The religion of Jew-murder and self-martyrdom is ubiquitous. …

At war today in Gaza, one combatant is committed to causing the most civilian pain and suffering on both sides. The other combatant is committed to saving as many lives as possible–also on both sides. …

Nor does Hamas conceal its strategy. Provoke conflict. Wait for the inevitable civilian casualties. Bring down the world’s opprobrium on Israel….  Since its raison d’etre is the eradication of Israel, there are only two possible outcomes: the defeat of Hamas or the extinction of Israel.

Even if you know you disagree with Dershowitz and Krauthammer, read both articles in their entirety.  If you can find errors in their facts or reasoning, then you can use those errors to support the arguments of Palestinian apologists.  I’d also be interested in any errors you can find in either artice.

Then look at the photos  again.  They show the horror of war writ large.  And try to understand this fact:  If the Palestinians had not repeatedly attacked Israel and its citizens, this would not have happened.  It’s as simple as that.

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14 Responses to “Reality in Gaza”

  1. don |

    May all be true,but ,you are placing alot of faith in the photos and journalism of the ,not to be trusted ,leftist ,press.Is it that journalism is only to be trusted if you agree with it,Tom?

  2. Tom |

    Don, as for the photos: Yes, photos in the press can be and have been manipulated. The AP was caught doing it recently. In the photos linked to here, most are probably legitimate, it seems. The photos of the Palestinians firing rockets are probably staged, though. Brand new uniforms are one clue. And, the Palestinians have frequently staged photos of casualties, weapons, etc.

    The two articles discussed here are not “news” reports, if that’s what you mean by “journalism.” These are opinion columns expressing the views of the authors, based on their own knowledge and experience. We’re all free to agree or disagree. In this case, I think both authors have it exactly right.

  3. Kevin |

    Dershowitz builds a logical Straw Man and then proceeds to pummel it. No surprises there. The surprise is that otherwise reasonable and intelligent people so easily fall for the grossly fallacious argument which says that pointing out where Israel bears responsibility is tantamount to making a moral equivelancy argument.

    It’s doubtful that humanity would have progressed into the Industrial Age, much less progressing beyond it, if Dershowitz’s core “logic” had been used to dismiss to Newton’s Law of Motion (for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction) as a fatally flawed moral equivelance argument.

  4. Tom |

    Kevin, moral equivalence is assigning equal moral weight to the actions and motives of all sides in a conflict. In effect, it’s saying that neither side is more right or wrong than the other. Pointing out that one side has made mistakes or bears some degree of responsibility is not making a moral equivalence argument.

    In the case we’re discussing here, assigning equal moral weight to the actions and motives of the Israelis and the Palestinians is truly flawed reasoning. Unless, of course, one assigns equal moral weight to terrorists and to the democratic country defending itself against them. That would be on a par with considering the terrorists who destroyed the World Trade Center buildings as morally equal to the people they murdered.

    The fact of the matter is, there’s right and wrong, good and evil in this world. Palestinian terrorists, like all other terrorists, are wrong and evil. Tragically, innocent civilians die when terrorists draw fire on them, but that’s primarily the responsibility of the terrorists.

  5. Kevin |

    Assigning moral weight is an inherently subjective exercise. Ditto for assigning of percentages of the same.

    I submit that any defense of the “morality” of one side which is predicated on the “morality” of the other side is morally, ethically and logically bankrupt which, ironically, is itself an exercise in moral equivelancy.

  6. MaxedOutMama |

    Kevin I submit that any defense of the “morality” of one side which is predicated on the “morality” of the other side is morally, ethically and logically bankrupt which, ironically, is itself an exercise in moral equivelancy.

    That’s ridiculous. When a cop shoots someone, the inquiry focuses on whether the person was doing something dangerous enough to warrant that degree of violence. There is no system of possible ethics that doesn’t weigh actions and responses between parties based on circumstances and behavior, and adjudicate between the parties based on the same.

    Tom – nice post.

  7. Kevin |

    If it’s so rediculous then explain to me why we don’t bomb suspected criminals who are hiding in populated areas. How can we justify our justification of Israel doing that in Gaza but reject it as somehow unreasonable if our own government were to adopt similar tactics?

  8. Kevin |

    Upon reflection… you’re right. On the face of it it’s ridiculous. It made sense in my head as I typed it…

    What I meant is that a defense of morality which is predicated on the morality of the other is nothing more or less than another facet of the “moral equivalence” equation. It differs only in the subjective moral weight assigned.

    Which is why/how we can intellectually aknowledge the massive numbers of civilian deaths of our firebombing of Dresden in WWII, but rationalize it as a necessity of war and yet feel moral outrage at even minor injuries sustained from guidance-less missiles lobbed into Irael by Hamas.

    We’re all familiar with the saying that history is written by the victors. It’s a truism. But underneath the surface is the simple fact that the “morality” of what it took to be the victors is subjectively parsed while comparable moral actions by the loser are held up as a reason why the victor was morally right to do what they did.

    It is this exercise in hypocrisy which yields the moral, ethical and logical bankruptcy I mentioned.

    Lastly, I’ll point out that I’m as guilty of it as anyone else is. But I attempt to at least be honest with myself about it.

  9. MaxedOutMama |

    Kevin, I am miserable about the situation in Gaza as well.

    Nonetheless, collateral damage occurs in wars. The innocent do suffer. Attempting to avoid as much damage as possible to the innocent is considered by Western nations to be a necessity and law. Thus, I do not consider the Israelis wrong for employing the automated calling system to prewarn targets so that civilians can clear. It is far more than any other nation has ever done, because it sharply limits Israel’s ability to kill people who are launching fire (combatants).

    In fact, under western law systems the behavior of Hamas (installing weaponry in civilian areas, storing weapons in mosques, civilian housing and hospitals, using ambulances to conceal fighters, etc) are all considered war crimes which would usually earn the death penalty if they resulted in civilian deaths. Israel does not impose the death penalty.

    I do not reprove you for grieving for the innocents, but please apply your values system equally to Hamas and to Israelis. That is the only honest thing you can do. I have been praying for the innocents in Palestine for a long, long time, but I also pray for the innocents in Israel, Lebanon, Iraq, Iran and the Sudan.

    Hamas declared war. They have also shot hundreds of Palestinians, and the Christian population is diminishing rapidly. This is not a one-way street, with brave people advocating for freedom or fighting honestly for it. The only way for Israel to prevent the Palestinians from being slaughtered en masse is to keep their violence under control. It may be hard to accept, but in reality Israel’s offensive will save the most Palestinian lives.

  10. Kevin |

    I have been unequivocal in my condemnation of Hamas. In fact, in my post which Tom linked to earlier (along with your post), I explictly stated that I feel no pity over them reaping what they have sown. That remains the case.

    But… just as pointing out where Israel is culpable for Hamas existing in the first place neither rationalizes nor excuses anything that Hamas has done, so too does that apply to Irael.

    There is a logically false choice being set up by Israel’s apologists – that the choice is either do absolutely nothing -OR- respond with massively disproportionate force.

    The reality is that there is an exceptionally wide swath of choices which lay somewhere inbetween those two false choices. And that doesn’t even broach the logic of the military response (which has ALWAYS left whatever Palestininian entity it was launched against in a STRONGER position than before). The choice is false even when restricted just to the military option.

  11. MaxedOutMama |

    There is a logically false choice being set up by Israel’s apologists – that the choice is either do absolutely nothing -OR- respond with massively disproportionate force.

    Here is where I absolutely disagree. Hamas says and apparently believes that it can attack Israel, provoke responses, and arouse enough foreign support to essentially cut Israel off at the knees. Oh, for internal purposes they talk about their brave soldiers and wonderful martyrs, but if one is seeking martyrdom one need not hang out in a hospital disguised as a medico.

    Israel would be foolish to respond with proportionate force. That would throw more support to Hamas. Israel’s only gain comes from a very strong and decisive campaign which inflicts substantial harm on Hamas and demonstrates that the international card ain’t working.

    Israel doesn’t have a lot of choices. If you lived in Sderot, I don’t think you would believe it does. Nor will this end with Hamas in a stronger position. They will be in a much, much weaker position, and part of the reason is that the Arab community is not very strong in its support for Hamas in this conflict, and the international response is not what Hamas hoped for either.

    One of the conditions of a just war is that it should be successful. Israel cannot indulge in more tit-for-tat and be successful.

  12. MaxedOutMama |

    Oh, and try reading Lafif Lakhdar’s comments on the situation.

    A lot of the Arab world feels cheated by Hamas as well. Lakhdar’s view is that unless the Palestinians can unite as a people and negotiate with Israel, Egypt will get Gaza and Jordan will get the West Bank. It’s quite plausible.

  13. Kevin |

    Look at the weight of history. Overwhelming force is the IDF’s usual approach. And every single time the Palestinian group on the receiving end of it has come out the other end stronger than before.

    Your mention of the West Bank is actually highly relevant here, but not for the reason you gave. Consulting a map would instantly reveal why.

    Israel will never give Jordan the Occupied West Bank for the simple reason that there no longer IS a contiguous West Bank for Jordan to take over. Israel has been busy these last several decades carving up the West Bank (i.e., stealing land from Palestinians and shooting or imprisoning anyone who tries to forcibly stop it).

  14. Zelda |

    Kevin, Israel did not “steal” the West Bank. They won it in a defensive war. In other words, if the Arabs didn’t want to lose that land, they should have thought long and hard about it before attacking Israel in 1967.

    Also, the terms “Palestinian” is a relatively new invention of the PLO. Before the 1967 war, the people in those territories were either Jordanians or Egyptians.

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