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July 16, 2008

Comments

Erk, last point. Then I'm out, really.

Erasmussimo, in erasing the boundaries between negligence, recklessness, and intentional wrongdoing, you summarily dispense with 2000+ years of legal and moral theory.

Von, by making this claim as you do here, you suggest that your preferred school of thought has held undisputed reign over these domains for 2000+ years.

You also ignore "what matters is the degree to which the killer took proper care not to minimize but to completely avoid the deaths of innocents". It's not that boundaries are erased; it's that "right intent" is not taken as a fig leaf for recklessness or negligence. The point is that agents be held responsible for the actions they knowingly undertake, rather than accepting equivocation declaring them not responsible for the consequences of an act simply because they'd sincerely prefer that the act not have all the consequences that they knew it would.

Absent some more substantial evidence, I don't see this one news story as sufficient basis to claim anything special about the population of Lebanon.

The only thing special about the people of Lebanon -- besides good food -- is that there may be more strong opinions among the Lebanese people than there are Lebanese people.

By the way, I haven't said anything on this thread about the Lebanese being inherently evil monsters. To the contrary, I wrote: "I would strongly caution against assuming that a majority of the Lebanese share this view [that Kuntar is a hero]. I suspect that more Lebanese are disgusted with Kuntar than believe him to be a hero; it's just that the folks disgusted with Kuntar aren't the ones firing rockets into Israel." Hizbollah does not equal Lebanon. It does not even equal Shia Lebanon. Not even close: Just because Amal isn't firing rockets into Israel does not mean it's nonexistent.

Are you arguing that I'm unfamiliar with the Israeli political scene?

I'm saying that the Israeli political scene is rather turbulent, so that I find it hard to credit the idea that one group is using external threats as a means to hold power.

I said most of what I had to say in the post I just put up. However: Turb: I thought publius just asked whether he was missing something. That's not a request for some sort of emotional validation; it's a question about whether there's something he overlooked.

Also, I think the reason the kid's skull is salient isn't just that it's horrible, viscerally; it's that unlike killing a kid with a stray bullet, when you really were attempting to hit something else, smashing a kid's skull in is something you cannot do en route to a legitimate military objective.

Finally, one of the arguments I had with people during the Lebanon war went like this:

Them: But Hezbollah did all these awful things! Do you expect them to just sit back and take it?

Me: But this bombing will not actually make Israel safer in any way. In fact, it will make things much worse for everyone. The choice is not: (a) make Israel safe from Hezbollah's missiles, at a high cost in innocent life, or (b) "sit back and take it." (Nb: I am not saying, here, how I would come down on that question. It's irrelevant here.) The choice is: (a) do something that will at best not make Israel any safer, at a high cost in innocent life, and (b) do something else that will not make Israel any safer, at no cost in innocent life.

There's a similar argument about torture:

Pro: But the terrorists did bad things! Why shouldn't we take the gloves off in return?

Con: Not only because torture is wrong, but also because it doesn't work. Again, the choice is not (a) take the gloves off and gain something vs. (b) leave the gloves on and live with terrorist attacks; it's (a) take the gloves off and gain little or no useful info and a lot of lies that you then have to sort out, plus create tons and tons of hatred for America and sympathy for terrorists, and (b) do things the old-fashioned way and respect the rule of law.

In both cases, the original argument says: other people did bad things; we must respond, and the reply says: but since the response you envision will not actually achieve any of the things you claim are motivating you, you get all the costs and none of the alleged benefits; and the moral costs are huge.

In general, when "striking back" takes a form that will not work, that just sows death and destruction without achieving any good end, it's an emotional response, and the right thing to do is to resist it.

This was true when Israel bombed Lebanon (after the first day or two). That's why opposing that bombing was, for me, a very easy call. It's true in the case of torture.

Question: why shouldn't we make exactly the same reply to someone who says: the Israelis have done a whole lot of very bad things to me, and that's why I decided to smash this kid's head into a rock?

What will that achieve? What could it even remotely be imagined to achieve, other than the death of the kid, and one's own moral ruin? How is it supposed to constitute a strike back against the existence of Israel, or against the architects of war?

If the Israelis were wrong to bomb Lebanon in the absence of any convincing story about how this secures their country, and if we are wrong to torture people in the absence of any convincing story about how this is a remotely reasonable response -- if the mere presence of strong emotion and legitimate grievances in these cases does not justify doing appalling things -- then why are we not obliged to say the same thing in this case?

@Gary:
Better to just post "hey, explain why Macs sux."

Macs suck because they objectively promote consumption of latte with elitist intent. I see your point, that's so blindingly obvious as to not need asked.

Question: why shouldn't we make exactly the same reply to someone who says: the Israelis have done a whole lot of very bad things to me, and that's why I decided to smash this kid's head into a rock?

I've been really consistent is saying that smashing kids' heads is wrong, full stop. Why do you think otherwise? Why are you directing this point at me?

hilzoy, how would you react to this case if you were a Lebanese woman who believed that the Israeli government wasn't telling the truth about what happened? Your comment and post above never really grapple with the notion that governments often lie, especially in cases like this.

I said most of what I had to say in the post I just put up. However: Turb: I thought publius just asked whether he was missing something. That's not a request for some sort of emotional validation; it's a question about whether there's something he overlooked.

I read his post as expressing a primary question "why shouldn't I be disgusted here" followed by an amplifying secondary question "am I missing something here?". I don't know how to read the sentence "why shouldn't I be disgusted" except as a request for emotional validation. Can you explain how else it could be plausibly read?

Moreover, I gave publius several explanations for what he might be missing and his response was "none of that addresses my question". In the same comment, he hinted that one of things motivating his post was the belief that unspecified people fail to express moral outrage because they fear giving support to neocon domination fantasies. Seen in that light, I think his post is more plausibly read as an expression of disgust rather than a morally neutral quest for information. He certainly didn't express interest or engage with people who tried to answer his question. Instead all we got was the blank statement that this was a cold blooded murder which had no ostensible purpose besides killing for killings' sake.

Also, I think the reason the kid's skull is salient isn't just that it's horrible, viscerally; it's that unlike killing a kid with a stray bullet, when you really were attempting to hit something else, smashing a kid's skull in is something you cannot do en route to a legitimate military objective.

I don't agree. Once you decide to kill a kid, it doesn't matter much to me how you go about doing it; you're a child murderer no matter how you do it. And killing kids can be a means to achieve a military objective, namely intimidation or provocation to retaliation. The US killed children through sanctions in order to coerce the Iraqi people to depose Hussein; was that not a legitimate military objective? (Yes, I know that the numbers killed are nowhere near half a million, but they're certainly not zero either.)

Now, you (and I as well) don't consider intimidation or provocation legitimate military objectives, but so what? People argue about what constitutes legitimate military objectives all the time. There were something like 200 leadership strikes against Hussein at the start of the war and none of them were even close to successful but many of them did kill civilians. So, after the 195th failed pointless useless strike with a vast civilian deathtoll, do you really think that another leadership strike was a legitimate military objective?

Beyond that, any serious use of military force will cause children to get brutally murdered. You cannot unleash armies into the field, no matter how well trained or well disciplined, without reasonably expecting innocent people (including children). So yes, this girl's death was senseless, but any attempts to prosecute legitimate military objectives will bring about senseless deaths. Obviously, this does not excuse Kuntar of individual responsibility for his acts in any way.

Hilzoy: I've been really consistent is saying that smashing kids' heads is wrong, full stop. Why do you think otherwise? Why are you directing this point at me?

I'm actually not sure that anyone on this thread suggested that smashing kids heads in so that they die was even a morally neutral thing to do.

Not even Publius, who asserted that when smashing kids heads in with rocks is done by bombing their homes from a great height it's bad but it's just what nations have agreed to do in wartime, it's not as bad as smashing a kid's head in individually, with a rifle-butt.

oops. Turbulence, not Hilzoy. They don't even look alike.

"Once you decide to kill a kid, it doesn't matter much to me how you go about doing it; you're a child murderer no matter how you do it."

But we haven't agreed to the "once you decide to kill a kid" formulation in all the cases discussed above. You can't just say that any thing which leads to a greater chance of having a kid die counts or you have to start asserting that facilitating bike riding or swimming is tantamount to murder.

And as far as I'm concerned, the guilt for the death of a human shield lies primarily in the person who arranges to use a human as a shield. If a gunman grabs a kid to hide behind and starts shooting people around him, the police may very well have to kill the gunman, and that is very likely to put the kid at serious risk of death. But if he dies, I'm not going to think of the policeman as a child murderer

The IDF also slaughter individual childrendeliberately. Please, Publius, provide link to your condemnation of that act?

Sebastian: You can't just say that any thing which leads to a greater chance of having a kid die counts or you have to start asserting that facilitating bike riding or swimming is tantamount to murder.

So now you're comparing aerial bombing civilians, or cluster bombing of urban areas, with bike riding?

Mike: Please, Publius, provide link to your condemnation of that act?

I think we have established that Publius does not support killing children on either side.

But we haven't agreed to the "once you decide to kill a kid" formulation in all the cases discussed above. You can't just say that any thing which leads to a greater chance of having a kid die counts or you have to start asserting that facilitating bike riding or swimming is tantamount to murder.

I don't think I said anywhere that anything which increases the risk of a child dying is tantamount to murder. Did I? Surely any probabilistic assessment depends on the actual probabilities. If you know that children bicycling on a particular trail have a 40% death rate, then you I don't see much difference between you and a murderer if you send your kid to ride their bike on that trail.

Also, I'm not sure how you can object to a statement about what I think holds given some precondition. You're not really authoritative as to what I think. If you like, you can disagree with me in saying that when someone has decided to kill a child, the precise manner in which they do so is vitally important to you. I'd be curious as to how and why you'd argue that...

And as far as I'm concerned, the guilt for the death of a human shield lies primarily in the person who arranges to use a human as a shield. If a gunman grabs a kid to hide behind and starts shooting people around him, the police may very well have to kill the gunman, and that is very likely to put the kid at serious risk of death. But if he dies, I'm not going to think of the policeman as a child murderer

I don't agree. While I think there are cases where this reasoning might work, it doesn't seem to scale to all cases. Specifically, it fails to take into account the relative benefit that the police are working towards. If the gunmen is holding a human shield in order to evade a $30 parking ticket, I really think the just thing to do is to let him walk away without paying the $30 fine.

The reason the man was welcomed as a hero is because he was acting in accordance with the http://bia2.com/forum/index.php?showtopic=3677 ">Hezbollah Charter. His actions were sanctioned. Kinda sick isn’t it.

We are an umma linked to the Muslims of the whole world by the solid doctrinal and religious connection of Islam, whose message God wanted to be fulfilled by the Seal of the Prophets, i.e., Muhammad.

We see in Israel the vanguard of the United States in our Islamic world. It is the hated enemy that must be fought until the hated ones get what they deserve.

I don't agree. Once you decide to kill a kid, it doesn't matter much to me how you go about doing it; you're a child murderer no matter how you do it.

Yeah, because what difference is there between a quick and "painless" death and a long drawn-out and agonizing one?

I mean, why pay my vet to put my dog down gently when I can just bash his brains in with a lead pipe or skin him alive for free? I'm a dog murderer either way and there is no moral difference between any of ways of killing out there.

Snark aside - dude, the idea that all ways of killing are equal is transparently out-of-this-world wrong. I know that killing kids is immoral and I wouldn't excuse it because someone did it "humanely" but god-damn-it there is sometimes a big honking difference in the morality of different ways of killing someone let alone in the different intentions behind the act.

"While I think there are cases where this reasoning might work, it doesn't seem to scale to all cases. Specifically, it fails to take into account the relative benefit that the police are working towards. If the gunmen is holding a human shield in order to evade a $30 parking ticket, I really think the just thing to do is to let him walk away without paying the $30 fine."

Nothing scales to all cases.

But I'm confident that using human shields to protect your military operations is closer to my hypothetical than yours. Hamas and Hezbollah aren't just trying to get out of a ticket.

We only have the Israelis word that Kuntar killed the father and his daughter.

Mr. Kuntar, who was formally pardoned by Israel on Tuesday as part of the swap agreement, gave a different version of the night of the attack in his court testimony in 1980, excerpts of which were published for the first time on Monday in Yediot Aharonot, an Israeli newspaper. He told the court that Israeli gunfire had killed Mr. Haran as soldiers burst in to free him and that he did not see what happened to Mr. Haran’s daughter.

BTW, talking about bashing in children's heads, the Israelis are no different (very graphic) to the Palestinians they are just far better armed.

Better still, why not kill the entire family:

Some houses were destroyed; one was a house in the old city which was bulldozed down on top of its occupants on 5 April. Mahmud Umar al-Shabi discovered the demolished house of his family only a week later, on 12 April, when the curfew was at last lifted for two hours. He began to dig in the rubble with the help of friends and neighbours; he was fired on several times for breaking the curfew and it began to rain. Late at night the rescuers found a small opening to the ground floor of the house and discovered, alive, Mahmud al-Shabis uncle, Abdallah al-Shabi, 68, and Shamsa al-Shabi, 67, his wife (crippled from before the intifada). At 1.30am they found the eight other members of the family, all dead, huddled in a circle in a small room: Mahmud al-Shabis father, Umar, 85; his sister Fatima, 57; his cousin Abir, 38; his cousin Samir, 48; Samirs 7-months pregnant wife, Nabila, 40; and their three children, Abdullah, 9; Azzam, 7; and Anas, 4.

If the gunmen is holding a human shield in order to evade a $30 parking ticket, I really think the just thing to do is to let him walk away without paying the $30 fine.


Hezbollah just wants to avoid paying some tickets?

Wow. Talk about analogies that have NOTHING to do with the situation under discussion. Hezbollah is not trying to "escape" or "walk away" from anything.

Yeah, because what difference is there between a quick and "painless" death and a long drawn-out and agonizing one?

Why do you assume that one method is a priori quicker or more painless than the other? I mean, I suppose you can make this assessment for individual cases, but I haven't seen any data for the case we were discussing.

I mean, why pay my vet to put my dog down gently when I can just bash his brains in with a lead pipe or skin him alive for free? I'm a dog murderer either way and there is no moral difference between any of ways of killing out there.

Did you just compare your dog to someone's child?

OK, let me explain slowly. People are not animals. There are all sorts of behaviors that our society considers acceptable when done to an animal that are not considered acceptable when done to a child.

Snark aside - dude, the idea that all ways of killing are equal is transparently out-of-this-world wrong. I know that killing kids is immoral and I wouldn't excuse it because someone did it "humanely" but god-damn-it there is sometimes a big honking difference in the morality of different ways of killing someone let alone in the different intentions behind the act.

I never said equal. There are lots of differences in life that don't matter for particular questions. For example, whether I'm driving 14.3 or 14.4 miles per hour over the speed limit doesn't really matter for what my ticket will be. And yet, despite that, 14.3 is still not equal to 14.4.

I happen to think that in the course of a war where many people are being killed, the difference between various means of killing a child don't matter much in comparison to the serious moral evil of killing a child.

Nothing scales to all cases.

Very true.

But I'm confident that using human shields to protect your military operations is closer to my hypothetical than yours. Hamas and Hezbollah aren't just trying to get out of a ticket.

I prefer to analyze things on a case by case basis. If Israel blew up a mosque where a bunch of militants were meeting, I wouldn't object. When Israel blows up a water treatment plant where there is no possible military objective, I do object. When Israel seizes farmland from families that have no connection with terrorism and hands it over to settlers, I object.

Then again, I'm not particularly interested in finding one bad guy in this conflict on which to blame everything. There are many actors here and most of them have behaved atrociously.

I'll note that you still haven't explained what military objective was achieved by bombing Lebanese water treatment, water purification and power plants.

Hezbollah just wants to avoid paying some tickets?

That seems like a very incorrect statement, so I don't know why you would write it. I certainly never wrote anything like that.

Wow. Talk about analogies that have NOTHING to do with the situation under discussion. Hezbollah is not trying to "escape" or "walk away" from anything.

When I wrote that I wasn't thinking of Hezbollah; I had the case of Iraqi sanctions in mind. In that case, we laid siege to a country for the better part of a decade with one goal: regime change. The US government made it clear that what Hussein did was not irrelevant; the only thing that would satisfy our blood lust was him leaving power. And in order to bring that about, we were going to strangle the country and deprive them of basic necessities until the people deposed him. Now, maybe laying siege to a country and starving its citizens out would be justified for some political objectives. But if Hussein was willing to cut a deal and we insisted on continuing the misery for no other reason that because we didn't like him, well, then I think that is equivalent to risking a bystander's life over a parking ticket. Hussein is nothing; what matters is how he behaves and we had many ways of ensuring his behavior. Moreover, even if we had replaced him during the 90s, we would have had the exact same problem: some guy controlling Iraq whose behavior we would have had to have incentivized.

By the way, you do know that Hezbollah didn't exist at the time these crimes were committed, right?

Einat Haran would probably have been 33 or 34 if Samir Kuntar had not landed on her beach. She might have had kids by now; she might have graduated university and made a difference in the arts or sciences; she might just have had a pleasant life with people she loved. Surely every kid deserves that. When I think about what Samir Kuntar actually did, I experience sorrow that overwhelms any indignation at how (some) Lebanese view him.

The same thing, of course, applies to all the Iraqi and Afghan kids who found themselves on the wrong end of a bullet, or the bumper of a Hummvee, or a JDAM. Distance does not insulate anyone from responsibility, because it has no effect on the consequences. A dead child and a life stolen do not somehow get "better" with distance. Nor does distance and technology negate malice; witness the glee with which at least one warblogger wrote of the hoped-for irresistibility of American weapons.

Erasmussimo: An interesting precedent from Nuremberg holds that you can't use a combination of the rules of war and technology to prevent the enemy from carrying out operations. In the inter-war period, naval conventions aimed to make submarines into commerce raiders; they had to surface near their targets, give the crew time to take to the boats. By the time the war came, radar and ASDIC made it impossible for any submarine on either side to do this, and the court essentially condoned the submarine tactics that navies actually used.

Hilzoy: You put your finger on the question here, but I don't totally agree with your answer. The degree of Samir Kuntar's guilt depends on what he thought at the moment he killed Einat Haran. He might have feared, in the stress of a firefight, that she would cry out and draw fire on him. Or he might have killed her for the same brutal reason General Sherman gave for killing Indian children. We'll never know. You appear to assume that killing with a gun butt indicates he killed for the sake of killing. I suspect maybe he did, but I don't blame his supporters for reaching the opposite conclusion; they can argue that in such a firefight, commandos do kill out of necessity.

This just raises the question of the guilt of the men who sent him. And I believe the question of guilt in war comes down to necessity. In wars, bombings, gunfire, and famine kill children. Soldiers rape women. Unprintable horrors happen all the time. Those who make war by choice bear the deepest, blackest guilt. Only one thing can justify war: absolute necessity. Not necessity as in we'll lose money if we don't fight, not necessity as in we feel really angry and we badly want to wale on somebody, not necessity as in our genital dimensions will shrink by twenty percent if we don't go to war. Necessity as in we fight or they kill most of us and enslave the rest, and not in some imaginary future, but right now.

Like many who post on this issue, publius seems to live in a moral void. This:

"but that doesn't justify treating a child murderer as a national hero. and yes, i do think there's a difference b/w an aerial raid and bashing a child's skull in with a rifle. the former is bad, but it's part of what nations (unfortunately) accept as war. bashing children's skulls is not"

says it all. It's okay to kill children so long as you don't look them in the eye while doing it.

And this:

"Also, I think the reason the kid's skull is salient isn't just that it's horrible, viscerally; it's that unlike killing a kid with a stray bullet, when you really were attempting to hit something else, smashing a kid's skull in is something you cannot do en route to a legitimate military objective."

See? Israel has "legitimate military objectives" when it murders children. The nigg--Arabs are just beasts. So long as we all just keep to the fiction that Israel doesn't intend to kill anyone but "terrorists" when it destroys whole apartment blocks, we can pretend we are civilised and the dark people are not.

Dr. Zen: the posting rules require civility. It is not civil to assume that I meant anything at all about the Israelis. It is absolutely not civil to assume that think that "nigg--Arabs are just beasts", on the basis of this thing I didn't even say.

Likewise, though publius can explain what he meant, I didn't take him to be saying anything remotely resembling "It's okay to kill children so long as you don't look them in the eye while doing it."

This is a warning under the posting rules. Calling people racists (me) or sociopaths (publius) is out of line, unless they have demonstrated that those terms apply a lot more clearly than either of us have.

The degree of Samir Kuntar's guilt depends on what he thought at the moment he killed Einat Haran.

But Samir Kuntar has denied killing Einat Haran!

I never said equal. There are lots of differences in life that don't matter for particular questions. For example, whether I'm driving 14.3 or 14.4 miles per hour over the speed limit doesn't really matter for what my ticket will be. And yet, despite that, 14.3 is still not equal to 14.4.

I have always, and will always, take intent and purpose into account when I judge actions. Kuntars actions had no political purpose. His mission, IIRC, was to kidnap hostages for bargaining tokens. When he failed in his mission, he chose to kill his hostages even though their deaths served no purpose other than simply revenge and/or spite. This is espeically true of the child who, probably unlike the father, could not even be claimed to be a solider on account of universal service.

Killing people who are currently actively engaged in trying to kill you, serves a legitimate purpose ( In fact, that is the whole freaking premise behind any justifications of anti-Israeli violence - that it justifiable because of what the Israelis are doing). Killing people simply for the sake of not letting them get away before you are caught, is not. I think that one should at least compare apples to apples and compared pointless revenge killings of Israeli children with pointless killlings of Palestinian children, and "collateral" killings of Israelis with "collateral" killings of Palestinians.


Also, apparently Kuntar disputes the allegation about the kid - and it well may be a bogus horror-story to gin up public rage, but thats not what we were discussing.


Specifically, it fails to take into account the relative benefit that the police are working towards. If the gunmen is holding a human shield in order to evade a $30 parking ticket, I really think the just thing to do is to let him walk away without paying the $30 fine.

This might be a good analogy on the other side.

I'm sure that Israel would be happy to put down their Palestinian human shields if the Palestinians would end the fight and let it simply "walk away" with the lands it has already conquered.

Now, obviously life as a refugee sucks and that it's not comparable to getting out of a small fine. However, how would you evaluate it if the refugees could all be guaranteed a good life, not perfect but materially sufficient, elsewhere in other countries? How would you evaluate it if all the material problems could be solved and only the emotional attachments would be felt? Would it change the equation and if not, which variables are responsible for keeping the Palestinians in the right?

Personally, I wouldn't think they lost their right to fight even if they could just walk away and live well elsewhere. I think moral responsibility is more complicated than that.


OK, let me explain slowly. People are not animals. There are all sorts of behaviors that our society considers acceptable when done to an animal that are not considered acceptable when done to a child.

I was not comparing any children to animals. Putting a pet down is an emotional experience many people can relate to much more readily than killing a human child and since I figured that even if you hadn't had to do it you would intuitively understand the huge freaking difference between putting your pet to sleep and beating it to death, I figured it wasn't a big freaking deal to use this to demonstrate the massive differences between some forms of death.

Hilzoy, do you believe the bombing of Lebanon would have been justified if it had made Israel safer? Ditto for torture and the US?

a-train: it depends on what you mean by "the" bombing. If what you mean is: some amount of bombing, possibly, oh, one bomb, and if by "safer" you mean: safer by some degree that I get to specify, like maybe completely safe, then I would say: under the circumstances, yes. Recall, though, that "under the circumstances" means, among other things, "Hezbollah having committed an unprovoked act of aggression." I am also assuming that the target of the bomb is, in fact, a Hezbollah facility, and that we are not talking about bombing an orphanage because, through magic, killing innocent kids will make Israel safe. Finally, that there is no less destructive means of achieving the same result.

Which is just to say: given an initial act of aggression, I do, on occasion, support responses aimed against the people who perpetrated that act, if they're proportional, and if there's no less destructive way to do it. I say this accepting that other people might get killed, though before deciding on any particular case, I'd want to know how many, and with what likelihood.

I leave it to you to figure out the many ways in which what goes on at Bagram and Abu Ghraib differs from this.

hilzoy, is there any chance you might respond to my comment here? Or, less importantly, the comment here?

"Hezbollah having committed an unprovoked act of aggression."

How a particular incident is framed depends on when you start the history, so to describe the capture of the two Israeli soldiers as an unprovoked act of agression assumes that there was no history of conflict between Israel and Lebanon prior to 05:07 UTC on 12 July 2006 and we both know that is rubbish.

What would I do if I didn't believe the Israelis? Depends on whether I had actual evidence of his innocence. If not, I think I might reserve judgement.

In the other comment -- well, it's long, so I'm not sure I'll be answering the bit you want. I'll let publius explain what he meant here. About deciding to kill kids: I really don't think that deciding to do something that might involve the risk of a kid's death is tantamount to deciding to kill a kid. It can be -- I mean, we could kill bin Laden right now by the simple expedient of blowing up the planet, but I think it would be silly to say: oh, but we were only aiming at him.

But the example I used was: you hit the kid by accident. You are aiming at something or someone else entirely. There are cases in which I would not care much -- you're doing target practice in an orphanage -- but there are also cases in which the risks are small enough, and the point great enough, and you take enough care to minimize the risks, that I'd say: OK. (I can't remember in which thread I said: suppose you could blow up the trains to Auschwitz, but you couldn't entirely eliminate the risk that a non-combatant would get killed.)

The point is just: I'm not a pacifist, and I do not think that there are no cases, even the Auschwitz one, in which you can risk innocent life without having someone say: you have as good as decided to kill the innocent. (I also think that if we go down that road, we really will have to stop driving, etc.) But I care hugely about proportionality, minimization, etc.

I thought that Israel's bombing of Lebanon, as it actually took place, was completely unjustifiable in these terms. Though I also think that some strikes aimed at e.g. their larger missile batteries, strikes that would not have lasted more than a day or two, were justified.

Hope that helps... ;)

hilzoy, thanks for responding; I appreciate it greatly.

What would I do if I didn't believe the Israelis? Depends on whether I had actual evidence of his innocence. If not, I think I might reserve judgement.

That makes sense. I'm not sure I could reasonably expect many people in Lebanon to hold this view. I mean, if one of Saddam Hussein's courts convicted an American relief worker of spying for the CIA, I wouldn't accept that accusation at face value, even if I had no evidence to the contrary save the word of the relief worker. I have the feeling that many people in Lebanon look upon the Israeli government the way that many Americans looked upon Hussein's regime. I don't necessarily think that's a fair or reasonable assessment (the Israeli government is substantially different -- for the better -- than Hussein's regime), but I think that if I was a Lebanese man who had lived through the 2006 war, it would be a very very easy assessment to make.

I'm still shocked that so many ordinarily skeptical people just assume that of course the government officials in a politically important prosecution told the truth. Perhaps the Israeli government really is much better than the US government in that regard.

About deciding to kill kids: I really don't think that deciding to do something that might involve the risk of a kid's death is tantamount to deciding to kill a kid.

But if you decide to do something 20 times knowing that each time you have 0.05 probability of killing a kid, surely that is tantamount to deciding to kill a kid, isn't it? I mean, what is the difference?

But the example I used was: you hit the kid by accident. You are aiming at something or someone else entirely.

I think maybe we're seeing this differently because we have different beliefs about factual matters. As I understand it, aerial bombardment often amounts to setting down a field of destruction the size of a house anywhere within an area the size of a football field centered on where the pilot aims. To me, that makes such bombing in a crowded urban environment simple madness, unless you have reason to believe that all the buildings within a football field around the target are clear of civilians.

I don't see how aiming at something else helps the moral case if you know that your weaponry isn't any more precise, and especially if you don't even bother to determine whether civilians are located near your target. According to HRW:

The major exception was emerging targets, especially leadership targets. A Department of Defense source told Human Rights Watch that CENTCOM did not perform adequate collateral damage estimates for all of the leadership strikes due to perceived time constraints. While the U.S. military hailed the quick turn-around time between the acquisition of intelligence and the air strikes on leadership targets, it appears the haste contributed to excessive civilian casualties because it prevented adequate collateral damage estimates.

I think I'm struggling to articulate the distinction between a "pure" accident and death by negligence where people die because a military doesn't prioritize their lives in a serious way. The difference is only one of probabilities after all. It is difficult to imagine that the US DOD does treat civilian deaths seriously given their steadfast refusal to even count the dead.

Though I also think that some strikes aimed at e.g. their larger missile batteries, strikes that would not have lasted more than a day or two, were justified.

Indeed, I agree with you there. Not that you needed to hear that, but I wouldn't want you to think that I disagree with you about everything or that I think Israel is always wrong no matter what.

You should be disgusted. Any society, group or individual who thinks a child killer is a hero is just as dysfunctional as the killer. It's not mitigated by the actions of others, or by religion or culture or how long the killer was in custody.

One of the other things I don't think we've discussed is that the majority of boys and young men taken by Israel never came home at all. Most of them simply disappeared, and their families in Lebanon are left to wonder, for years or decades, if they are alive or dead.

Samir Kuntar is one of the few to come home. Even though 29 years ago, at the age of 16, he committed murder, I think that makes his welcome home somewhat understandable.

As noted above, it's not as Americans don't do the same thing - even with child killers.

turbulence, nv, erasmussimo, thanks for your clarity. I still see a moral difference between expected collateral damage during attacks on "legitimate" military targets, and terrorist murders, but I am less sure of that than I used to be. You pushed me to abandon my complacency, and I appreciate it.

(and, no, I'm not saying all of Israel's targets were legitimate).

Because this thread has, for understandable reasons, focused so much on Israel's failures, I would like in fairness to add a word about Israel's restraint.

Occupation is a bloody mess, literally and figuratively. It is demoralizing in both senses of the word, and tends to degenerate into massacre. Israel has been stuck in the position of occupier like Br'er Rabbit in the Tar Baby for 40 years. I say "stuck," even though I agree Israel squandered Oslo and lately sabotaged Palestinian moderates, because there was never a clear road to peace and security even if Israel had been perfect (which no nation is). It is too easy to say, as Jesurgislac does, that there is no peace because Israel doesn't really want it. Most of the time, peace has not been even a faint possibility, and at the best of times, it would have taken a heroic effort.

Setting that issue aside, please notice that Israel has done something incredibly difficult for 40 years with far fewer deaths than history would lead us to expect. I'm not denying callousness, murders, whitewashes, etc., I'm just saying that if any other nation in the world tried to carry out a long occupation against a vastly inferior (in military terms) enemy that routinely bombs civilian targets, sends children to stone soldiers, and generally provokes retaliation, it would have indulged in a lot more retailiation. Most nations wouldn't use rubber bullets against those kids, bulldoze houses, or do house-to-house raids -- they'd use real bullets, decimation, and cluster-bombs. Look at what we did in Iraq during a very short occupation, and imagine that for some reason we had to stay there against an armed resistance for 40 years, with regular Iraqi 9-11-type attacks on our own shores. Baghdad would be glass.

I wish Israel had never done things I am ashamed of. But it is easy not to notice when something does not happen. I think Israel's restraint under these circumstances is worth taking the effort to notice.

As noted above, it's not as if Americans don't do the same thing - even with child killers.

Just like to point out that in the last Lebanese war (do we have a name for that yet?)
almost all the cluster bombs Israel fired were used after the cease-fire had been signed but before it went into effect.
So how was this an attempt to attack Hezbollah militarily?
It was an attempt to force evacuation of southern Lebanon by deliberately inflicting civilian casualties in the post-war period.

trilobite: I'm just saying that if any other nation in the world tried to carry out a long occupation against a vastly inferior (in military terms) enemy that routinely bombs civilian targets, sends children to stone soldiers, and generally provokes retaliation, it would have indulged in a lot more retailiation

As we've seen with the US occupation of Iraq, yes: five years, a million deaths. By comparison, Israel has treated the people of the Occupied Territories relatively lightly.

Nevertheless, the first wrong is deciding to keep a country and a people under permanent military occupation. That Israel bombs, kills and tortures fewer Palestinians by comparison with the US is pragmatic, as much as it is moral: the US doesn't have to deal with the millions of Iraqi refugees fleeing, which Israel certainly would, one way or another: and the US wants to exploit Iraq oilfields, not settle Americans in Iraq as farmers and business commuters.

libarbarian: If we assume Samir Kuntar or whoever actually struck the blow that killed Einat Haran meant to kill out of spite, we will naturally look on them as malignantly evil, inflicting death and suffering out of pure hate. And maybe they did, but I think it matters that we understand that we cannot know this. In the heat of a firefight at night, the killer may have feared she would cry out and draw fire. Irregular forces and command teams operating in hostile territory have to make this kind of decision all the time.

When we talk about the people celebrating Samir Kuntar's release, we have a triple set of assumptions: first, that he did the killing, second, that he killed out of spite or hatred, and third, that the people celebrating his release believe all of this.

There is something really embarrassing about a bunch of adults jumping on a person for expressing the sentiment that bashing a child's head in is reprehensible.

Let me say to you all: I know you think of yourselves as the defenders of the Lebanese and Palestinian causes in an inhospitable and unsympathetic country, but you are not doing them any favors with reactions like this.

In fact, you're harming them. You're harming them, because there are both Americans and Israelis who need to be won over, to make progress on issues of Middle East peace. And being outraged for whatever reason when when someone expresses shock that a vicious murder is being welcomed as a hero, it only confirms these people's suspicions: that you've become unhinged, that your opinion is not to be trusted, that you must be deeply wrong about Israel and Palestine and Lebanon in some way which makes them right. And, furthermore, that you and those people who celebrate this guy as a hero are just dangerous in some way.

There isn't going to be a Middle East peace until the Israeli public is won over into believing that it is acceptable for concessions to be made. And people don't make concessions to those whom they feel have no regard for their lives, have nothing but monstrous intentions. They just don't. And it's ridiculous to expect them to.

So as long as Arabs in Lebanon or Palestine keep doing this, there's going to be no progress. And does that help the cause? No it doesn't. Are you going to help them along in not getting anywhere? It seems that time and time again people who are very well-intentioned about bringing forth an equitable resolution to these problems will do just that.

There is something really embarrassing about a bunch of adults jumping on a person for expressing the sentiment that bashing a child's head in is reprehensible.

Word.

Thanks -

ara: There is something really embarrassing about a bunch of adults jumping on a person for expressing the sentiment that bashing a child's head in is reprehensible.

Word. Where was that happening?

There isn't going to be a Middle East peace until the Israeli public is won over into believing that it is acceptable for concessions to be made. And people don't make concessions to those whom they feel have no regard for their lives, have nothing but monstrous intentions. They just don't. And it's ridiculous to expect them to.

Right. But the problem with that, Ara, is that it applies to both sides. There isn't going to be peace so long as the Palestinians believe that the Israelis have no regard for Arab lives, have nothing but monstrous intentions.

And the problem with the American public is that so long as they argue that it's not so particularly monstrous for Israelis or Americans to kill Arab children - providing it's done by bombing, at a distance - why then was this murder so particularly monstrous? If a pilot who flew bombing missions in Iraq can have a hero's welcome, though he killed far more children, what moral high ground is there for Americans to stand on to claim that a man who, 29 years ago when he was 16, killed a child in a firefight, is such a monster that he ought to rot in a foreign jail the rest of his life? If Suntar is a monster, what are we to make of the Haditha Marines? Ought they to rot in an Iraqi jail the rest of their lives? If they don't - and since Americans exist who will defend what those Marines did - does that make the US a nation of monsters?

This is not particularly directed at Publius, who did agree that killing children is bad...

Jesurgislac, I hope not to threadjack here, and I'm not going to get into a long discussion on this, but describing Israel's seizure of a defensible boundary from Jordan in a war of defense as "the first wrong," and describing its various strategies to cope with rapidly changing facts as "deciding to keep a...permanent military occupation," is so simplistic and biased as to be false. Israel's return of the Sinai peninsula, its detachment from Lebanon and Gaza, and its recent request for talks on the Golan should make it obvious that Israel is willing in principle to trade back land for peace. The question has generally been how, not whether.

That Israel bombs, kills and tortures fewer Palestinians by comparison with the US is pragmatic, as much as it is moral

There are always pragmatic reasons to avoid massacre, genocide, and/or ethnic cleansing, but they keep happening anyway. They are so much simpler and cheaper in the short term, so much easier to rouse public support for in most countries, than occupation or negotiation. You do not give enough weight to Israel's ground-in horror of turning into Nazi Germany.

But I'm glad you acknowledge the moral factor.

MikeN:
the last Lebanese war (do we have a name for that yet?)

Wikipedia puts the Lebanese name as the July War, and the Israeli as the Second Lebanon War.

MikeN:
the last Lebanese war (do we have a name for that yet?)

Wikipedia puts the Lebanese name as the July War, and the Israeli as the Second Lebanon War.

MikeN:
the last Lebanese war (do we have a name for that yet?)

Wikipedia puts the Lebanese name as the July War, and the Israeli as the Second Lebanon War.

Eeeeeeeep! Sorry about that, Typepad hiccuped and I didn't roll with it.

And, furthermore, that you and those people who celebrate this guy as a hero are just dangerous in some way.

OK ara, now I'm going to call you a liar. Tell me who specifically on this thread celebrated this guy as a hero. Quote their words and highlight the celebratory bits. Do that if you want me to think that you are anything but a liar.

This is a little late, but apparently this is the Hezbollah version of
the Kuntar story

It's apparently circulating in quite a number of places, I couldn't (to my own surprise) find that much more specific information regarding as to why he is seen as a hero in Lebanon.

I was out of town for this one. Publius is right--we should be disgusted by the praise given to a child-killer. And Publius's critics are right--this also applies to Israel.

Of course, the usual bulls*** response to this is that Israel doesn't intend to target civilians. It's collateral damage and so it's really the fault of Hezbollah, blah, blah, blah. Unfortunately, that turns out not to be the case, and I know damn well we covered all this ground before--

< a href="http://hrw.org/english/docs/2007/09/06/isrlpa16781.htm">Link

Okay, see if this works. Otherwise cut and paste or go to the HRW website and do some searching. They also have some reports on Hezbollah war crimes, but lord knows nobody has any trouble believing that those bad non-Western people deliberately kill civilians.

Link

OK ara, now I'm going to call you a liar. Tell me who specifically on this thread celebrated this guy as a hero. Quote their words and highlight the celebratory bits. Do that if you want me to think that you are anything but a liar.

Turbulence, I apologize, but I think what I wrote was syntactically ambiguous. I wrote:

you and those people who celebrate this guy as a hero

I only meant the who-clause there to apply to those people, and the way I read it, that's the most natural interpretation, but it is possible to read it in a way that applies to both "those people" and "you".

But even if I had intended that, what makes me a liar? I just may have been mistaken in what people here were asserting. Unless I intended to deceive (and how could I deceive people I'm trying to convince about their own beliefs?), I'm not a liar.

I'd just be a sorry fool.

There was no videotape when Israeli forces interrogated the 16-year-old Samir Kuntar.

There exists videotape of the US interrogating the 15-year-old Omar Khadr.

The main difference I can think of is that I doubt Kuntar would have been surprised to realize he had fallen into the hands of people who did not care about him and who intended him to rot in jail for the rest of his life.

What external evidence, besides Kuntar's confession, exists that he did kill the child? I ask out of genuine wish for information. The way Kuntar had been presented in the media over the past few years, I had never thought to look up his birth date (shame on me) until today, and discover how old he was when he committed the crime for which he has spent 29 years in prison. Knowing he was 16 at the time, and that the Israelis tortured captured Lebanese prisoners: well, I'm British. We've learned that convictions that depend solely on a confession extracted from a prisoner by the police are not to be relied on.

trilobite: You do not give enough weight to Israel's ground-in horror of turning into Nazi Germany.

I don't believe in the claim of Israel's "ground-in horror" of turning into Nazi Germany: it is already running an apartheid state with ghettos where people are locked up to die slowly.

People who were refugees from the Nazis had a ground-in horror of living in a country that was turning into Nazi Germany. But even in 1948, those people were a minority in Israel, as they are a minority everywhere.

Erasmussimo,

"When killings occur, the reasonable foreseeability of those killings determines the moral reprehensibility of the killing. A killer's motives are irrelevant; what matters is the degree to which the killer took proper care not to minimize but to completely avoid the deaths of innocents."

And if avoiding the deaths of innocents is impossible? That is to say, suppose retaliation will result in the deaths of innocents, but that failure to retaliate will result in further attacks in which innocents on the "killer's" side will die. Now what?

For the record, I have relatives in northern Israel, including children. All fine sentiments aside, Hezbollah is firing rockets at them. So you think that if those firing hide among civilian populations it is wrong for Israel to attack them, because there is no way to avoid hitting Lebanese civilians. Leave aside the suicidal implications of following such a policy, it does not even achieve your objective, because it will not avoid the deaths of Israeli civilians in further attacks.

Your argument makes Israel wrong whether it retaliates or not.

Jesugislac,

Nevertheless, the first wrong is deciding to keep a country and a people under permanent military occupation.

From what date are we numbering wrongs? Surely not 1967?

And what was "the first wrong" in Lebanon?

Bernard, if you have the time, read the link to the Human Rights Watch report that I provided at 6:16.

Just because Israel has the right to retaliate against Hezbollah (and vice versa) doesn't mean that they have the right to bomb (or fire rockets) indiscriminately.

Bernard: And if avoiding the deaths of innocents is impossible? That is to say, suppose retaliation will result in the deaths of innocents, but that failure to retaliate will result in further attacks in which innocents on the "killer's" side will die. Now what?

Well, in that case, you get a situation like the second intifada, where both sides have reasoned as you describe - avoiding the deaths of innocents is impossible, and failure to retaliate just means further attacks in which innocents on the other side will die.

Numerically, Israel has killed far more Palestinian and Lebanese children and other unarmed civilians than have been killed in Israel - or ever could: as noted in Ha'aretz, rocket attacks on Israel which killed no one (the rockets are old and ineffective) have been used as an excuse for "retaliations" in which hundreds have been killed.

Proportionally, Israel is by far the largest killer of innocents, between Palestine and Lebanon.

From what date are we numbering wrongs? Surely not 1967?

Touche. In the history of Palestine, then Israel, you can work your way back and start anywhere for the "first wrong".

Donald Johnson,

I have no problem believing that Israel is guilty of many sins. I also understand that there are segments of Israel society that hold repugnant ideas. Yet I also know that there are segments who honestly seek a peaceful and just agreement with the Palestinians.

I strongly endorse trilobite's 2:30 comment. Israel's position is, and always has been, an extremely difficult one. It's not as if the hostility to it began with the West Bank occupation. It has always faced an enormous defense burden and operated under enormous pressure.

(Tell me, how much damage did IRA terrorism do to the UK, a country ten times or so Israel's size, and one that faced no enemy countries, and how well did the UK respond?)

Yet, the sense I have is that entirely too many people are all too eager to condemn virtually any use of force by Israel, and "explain" any attacks against it. I think that is wildly unfair. Above, Turbulence accuses me of thinking the worst of Arabs. Well, I don't, but I understand his criticism in context. And equally I think too many people think the worst of Israel, and criticize it reflexively.

Jesurgislac,

I don't believe in the claim of Israel's "ground-in horror" of turning into Nazi Germany

I do.

People who were refugees from the Nazis had a ground-in horror of living in a country that was turning into Nazi Germany. But even in 1948, those people were a minority in Israel, as they are a minority everywhere.

I have no figures on this. Perhaps you have a cite. Of course much depends on who you define as "refugees" from Nazi Germany. Lots of Jews who tried to get to Israel after the war would have been happy to have merely been refugees. More would have succeeded, by the way, except for British efforts to keep them out. Some of those kept out did not get a second chance.

And if you do not think that memories of the Nazi experience pass from generation to generation you are absolutely wrong.

Bernard--

My own impression is that Israel gets more than its fair share of criticism at the UN and much less criticism than it deserves inside the US. The flippant conclusion I could reach is that it all balances out, but of course what really happens is that the two types of hypocrisies feed on each other.

And, furthermore, that you and those people who celebrate this guy as a hero are just dangerous in some way.

OK ara, now I'm going to call you a liar. Tell me who specifically on this thread celebrated this guy as a hero.

Gramatically, no such claim was made in the quoted sentence.

A comma after "you" would have helped make that clearer, though. Thus the great evil of not using the serial comma is revealed. Focus, people.

For the benefit of anyone interested:

[The palestinians] also heaped praise on Lebanese prisoner Samir Kuntar, who killed four people in 1979, and Dalal Mughrabi, the Fatah woman who led the 1978 Coastal Road Massacre that claimed the lives of 36 people.

Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza took to the streets to celebrate the prisoner deal. Chanting slogans in support of Hizbullah, many distributed candy and pledged to continue the fight until all Palestinian prisoners were freed.

Palestinians also demonstrated in support of Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, who has been charged with genocide in the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who is currently visiting Malta, welcomed the prisoner swap and sent greetings to Kuntar.

Abbas's Fatah party organized a rally in Ramallah to celebrate the release of Kuntar and the return of Mughrabi's remains.

"This is an historic victory over Israeli arrogance," said Ahmed Abdel Rahman, a top Fatah official and adviser to Abbas.

He described Kuntar as a "big struggler" and Mughrabi as a "martyr who led one of the greatest freedom fighters' operations in the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict."

From the Jerusalem Post, thanks to Brad DeLong.

I only meant the who-clause there to apply to those people, and the way I read it, that's the most natural interpretation, but it is possible to read it in a way that applies to both "those people" and "you".

Yeah, that statement is indeed ambiguous. I'm sorry for calling you a liar then; I would not have done it had the alternative parsing been apparent to me.

I'd like to repeat Jes' query to you: who specifically are the "adults jumping on a person for expressing the sentiment that bashing a child's head in is reprehensible"? Please name and quote them. I don't think these people exist, but I'd like to be proven wrong.

But even if I had intended that, what makes me a liar? I just may have been mistaken in what people here were asserting. Unless I intended to deceive (and how could I deceive people I'm trying to convince about their own beliefs?), I'm not a liar.

I've written half a dozen times now in this thread that I think this guy is guilty as sin and is a horrible monster who should rot in prison forever and that terrorism is wrong wrong wrong. I can easily imagine someone reading this thread and missing one of the comments where I expressed that sentiment. Even two comments. Three, easily. All six? No. I have too much respect for you to assume that you could "conveniently" miss that much.

Since I know you're an intelligent writer and I know that it is extremely hard to believe that there is anyone here celebrating this guy's return (the only way I can see of doing that involves ignoring most of the comments and then deliberately misconstruing several other comments), the only way I can envision for you to be wrong in this way is either intentional deceit or a level of intellectual negligence that I find ethically no different (as in "I'm just going to spout things without concern for whether they're true or not" DaveC style).

dictionary.com agrees with me that intentionality is not a required component of the definition of lie.

My own impression is that Israel gets more than its fair share of criticism at the UN and much less criticism than it deserves inside the US.

I agree with that. However, since the UN is essentially powerless and since the US is very powerful and showers Israel with money and weapons, I don't think this is a wash; I think Israel comes out ahead. But YMMV. I'd be open to arguments that the UN has made Israel's existence materially worse or that the US doesn't really significantly favor Israel or that its favor is useless.

You do not give enough weight to Israel's ground-in horror of turning into Nazi Germany.

I'm not sure how much weight we should give it if we can't see its effects manifested in policy. I mean, I'm thrilled that Israel has not resorted to rapid and outright genocide -- I guess they deserve a pat on the back for that. But economic strangulation leading to 30% of children experiencing chronic malnutrition while Israel seizes water sources and the best farm land for settlers seems problematic...apparently the starvation aspects of life in the Nazi camps didn't make much of an impression. I can understand that; the ovens would certainly hold my focus.

Of course, I'm certain that Israel's legitimate security interests are best assured by seizing control of water sources to improve the viability of some quasi-legal settlements.

Let me suggest something that you may not have given enough weight to. When a child is horribly abused and mutilated and only barely survives, we don't expect that they will have a happy carefree life without incident once the abuse stops. We expect that the psychic wounds of abuse will require a tremendous amount of work and time to heal and we further expect that some abuse survivors will never fully recover. We expect that even if they do recover, they must take special care when raising children so as to avoid transmitting the abuse to another generation. Why should these expectations not carry over to nations as well? The people that became Israeli were brutalized in unspeakable ways beyond the power of imagination. Is it so strange to believe that maybe Israel will have more difficulty making peace with adversaries than other nations that were not forged in the fires of the Holocaust and that did not bear its imprimatur on their national character? Is it so surprising that the nation of Israel might need, at a very fundamental level, to dominate another people, or to end conflicts by crushing their opponents into dust? All peace settlements (except those that result from abject capitulation) involve an element of trust, but if one side has lost the ability to trust, how can they ever settle?

Israel is at peace with its neighbors. With its most powerful neighbor, that peace is solidified by treaty and has lasted three decades. It is by far the most militarily powerful nation in the region and it enjoys the unshakeable protection of the most powerful nation on Earth. And yet none of that seems to matter; oftentimes when I speak with people about IP issues, they exhibit a sense of terror as if Israel stands on the knife's edge, ready to fall at any time. This is a mindset that I have difficulty understanding.

I don't really believe that Israel has been horribly scarred and thus is less willing to negotiate peace, in part because I can't envision a way to prove or disprove that theory. But I do occasionally wonder. Usually though, I assume that this sort of concern doesn't apply and that most of Israel's leaders are behaving like perfectly rational people responding to incentives, just like most of the Palestinian leaders.

Bernard: I have no figures on this. Perhaps you have a cite.

Well, Bernard, my understanding is that just over 3 million of Israel's Jewish citizens - that is, just over 50% of the population - are either Middle Eastern immigrants/refugees - from Israel's neighbors, and also from Iran, Iraq, and Turkey, and their descendents. In the remaining 50%, Europeans who made aliyah between 1929 and 1950 to get away from the Nazis or post-Nazi persecution are certainly a large minority (and, according to a British Israeli, are unofficially at the top of the racial hierarchy in Israel's stratified society) but there are also Jews from Ethopia, the USSR, and South America. None of this is - or ought to be - unfamiliar information to anyone with basic knowledge of the history of Israel.

You might also want to acquaint yourself with the tension/hostility Israelis themselves are aware of (or used to be - my source of first-hand information now lives in London) from sabras towards holocaust survivors, for not fighting back, for presenting an international image of Jewish victims. This is perhaps less readily available information than the basic demographics of Israel, but it's part of the real Israeli culture, not the shiny myth many Americans subscribe to.

Jesurgislac,

If someone asks what percentage of the US population is of Hispanic origin, that does not mean he is utterly unfamiliar with the ethnic composition of the US, Nor does it mean he is unaware of conflict among various groups. It means only that he wanted to know a precise figure for the Hispanic population.

I'm well aware of the general makeup of Israel's population, and of various ethnic tensions in the society. I was not familiar with the actual breakdowns. I am also familiar with the history of Israel, thank you.

I think most Americans Jews, at least, have some awareness of all this as well.

Bernard: I'm well aware of the general makeup of Israel's population, and of various ethnic tensions in the society. I was not familiar with the actual breakdowns.

Really? Oh well, call me a statistics nerd. I mean, this kind of thing - especially in Israel - just strikes me as basic to formulating any kind of understanding of the situation, like knowing the difference between Sunni and Shi'a.

I think most Americans Jews, at least, have some awareness of all this as well.

Why do you think that? I mean, you didn't have enough "awareness" not to realize that when I said Holocaust survivors were a minority in Israel, that was an obviously true statement of fact - if you knew the basics of Israel's population breakdown. And you didn't have enough "awareness" to know that "holocaust survivor" doesn't, in Israel, have the same kind of resonance as it has (for example) in the UK or the US.

So you're under the impression that "most American Jews" have a better awareness than you do?

Turbulence,

In all the things you find unsurprising for historical reasons is there not also room for the feeling of many Israelis that the country is on "a knife edge?" Why is that so difficult to understand?

Yes, Israel is at peace with Egypt. (Is Egypt more powerful than Iran?) But not without several wars, and not without a remarkable act of courage by Sadat, which horrified many in his government. We know how it ended for him. Perhaps the peace is not so secure. In any case, bear in mind that for the early decades of its existence Israel was under constant and real threat from its neighbors.

And as for Israel's alleged unwillingness to settle, note that the agreement with Egypt involved handing back the Sinai. Of course Israel is also talking about returning parts of the Golan to Syria as part of a peace agreement.

Indeed, Israel made similar offers to Egypt and Syria - the return of conquered territory in exchange for a peace agreement - soon after the 1967 war. There was also considerable sentiment for handing a major part of the West Bank to Jordan, though this was never a formal offer. So I think your characterization of Israel as "unwilling to settle" is just wrong on the record.

Is it unwilling to negotiate a peace with the Palestinians? I doubt it. We can argue for years over the fault for the collapse of various efforts and not agree. You say agreement is not possible without trust. But sometimes distrust is sensible, and requires no psychological explanations. I think distrust of Arafat was wholly justified. This is a man who stole from his own people. Perhaps Abbas will prove different.

Israel is certainly the strongest nation in the region. This is a good thing to be in a rough neighborhood. And yes, it has the support of the US, but ultimately it must rely on itself. In 1973, for example, there were certainly questions about resupply from the US.

Finally, do not ignore the threat from Iran. It is one thing to dismiss Ahmanijad as a blusterer with little real power. From a distance it's easy to do that. From the Israeli point of view things look different. The country is under threat of nuclear attack from a neighbor. Careful parsing of translations and deep analyses of Iranian power structures are less reassuring in Tel Aviv than in Washington.

Really? Oh well, call me a statistics nerd. I mean, this kind of thing - especially in Israel - just strikes me as basic to formulating any kind of understanding of the situation, like knowing the difference between Sunni and Shi'a.

Oh. You mean knowing what percentage of Israelis are from Turkey, say, is absolutely basic to understanding the conflict with the Palestinians. Give me a f**king break. Your insulting tone is uncalled for.

Why do you think that?

Because I actually know a fair number of American Jews, and talk to them sometimes.

I mean, you didn't have enough "awareness" not to realize that when I said Holocaust survivors were a minority in Israel, that was an obviously true statement of fact - if you knew the basics of Israel's population breakdown.

Of course survivors and refugees (I take it you now grasp the difference) are a minority. Given the passage of time how could it be otherwise? I was, quite obviously, asking about them and their descendants. Failure to know whether that group constitutes a majority or a large minority hardly disqualifies one from claiming any understanding of the mideast conflict. Indeed, I would say that your knee-jerk anti-Israel sentiments are a much greater bar to understanding.

And you didn't have enough "awareness" to know that "holocaust survivor" doesn't, in Israel, have the same kind of resonance as it has (for example) in the UK or the US.

Where exactly did this issue arise, and on what do you base your statement?

Turb: I think it is fair to characterize Jesurgislac's first comment as "jumping on someone's head". Mind you, I haven't accused either you or Jes of thinking that child-killing isn't wrong. Or any such thing. In fact, I haven't accused anyone on this thread of any moral fault at all.

My only point was that I think the Left feels that Arab brutality is propagandized in the media, so they feel an obligation to stick up for people / draw analogies on the other side and that *sometimes* that is more counterproductive than helpful, because people get the wrong idea.

From the Israeli point of view things look different. The country is under threat of nuclear attack from a neighbor.

Perhaps you could clear up a point that's long troubled me. Why, oh why, are we to assume that Israel's concern with Iranian nuclear capabilities is existential and not strategic? Beyond the suicidal aspect of a nuclear first strike on a nuclear power that completes the nuclear triad (i.e., will almost certainly retain second-strike capabilities, and how)... why exactly are we to expect an Islamic theocracy to want to detonate nuclear warheads in and around the third holiest site in Islam? Israel is all of 20,330 sq km; Tel Aviv is all of 50 or 60 km from Jerusalem. But I'm sure I'm missing something; please do enlighten me.

ara: I think it is fair to characterize Jesurgislac's first comment as "jumping on someone's head".

But I put on my woolly slippers, first.

Why, oh why, are we to assume that Israel's concern with Iranian nuclear capabilities is existential and not strategic?

No need to sound so plaintive. The answer is simple. Israel's existence has been threatened by Ahmanidejad, the President of Iran. If my neighbor, who I know dislikes me, threatens to kill me I'm going to be worried about it. That's not so hard to understand, is it?

why exactly are we to expect an Islamic theocracy to want to detonate nuclear warheads in and around the third holiest site in Islam? Israel is all of 20,330 sq km; Tel Aviv is all of 50 or 60 km from Jerusalem. But I'm sure I'm missing something; please do enlighten me.

Please read what I said. There all sorts of sophisticated analyses leading to the conclusion that Iran will not in fact launch a nuclear attack on Israel. These conclusions are very comforting to those far from the scene.

What they miss is that Iran's President has in fact threatened to attack. Why Iran would act or not act on his threats I don't know, and neither do you. Regardless, they cannot be ignored, despite your rationalizations.

Are you enlightened?

What they miss is that Iran's President has in fact threatened to attack. Why Iran would act or not act on his threats I don't know, and neither do you.

Actually, I think I do. Two reasons: one, he didn't make them. Saying that a regime will vanish from the pages of history is not the same as saying it will be wiped off the map. It's bad, politically charged translation error. One states a conviction that a regime is unsustainable, the other states that it will be aggressively destroyed.

Two, because Ahmadinejad is head of government, not head of state. Ahmadinejad can decide tomorrow to declare that Iran is gonna conquer Israel and till the soil with salt, and it won't matter one bit unless the head of state, Khameni, signs off on it... since the Supreme Leader, not the President, is commander of the armed forces and also the entity in charge of declaring war.

Now that I've made some modest effort to address your appeal to ignorance, would you care to give me some reason to believe that an Islamic theocracy is going to suicidally nuke the third most holy site of Islam?

And also, please give some reason to believe that the sophisticated analysts you cite are sincerely convinced that Iran must be stopped from obtaining nuclear arms in order for Israel to continue to exist, rather than for it to continue to exist as the sole nuclear power in the ME, with all the strategic freedom that affords.

NV,

This discussion will go much better if you stop being a sanctimonious a**hole. It really is ridiculous and infuriating.

To answer your objections:

The translation of Ahmadinejad's words is controversial. The original "wipe off the map" wording originated in Tehran. Subsequently there has been a lot of backpedaling, but even saying that the "regime must vanish" is a threatening statement. How does one make a regime vanish? Fine linguistic and semantic analysis of these statements is not all that helpful. It is plain that Ahmanidejad wants Israel to disappear.

If you say that he "merely" wants the land to come under Muslim rule that is hardly better. The history of Jews in countries where they are an unpopular religious minority does little to make one think this would be other than a disaster.

Anyway, it hardly seems reasonable to give a Holocaust denier the benefit of the doubt when he makes comments about Israel.

would you care to give me some reason to believe that an Islamic theocracy is going to suicidally nuke the third most holy site of Islam?

As I said above, I don't know how the mullahs think. And despite your claims I don't believe you do either. You think you do. You've figured it all out very cleverly. But your opinion could easily be wrong. And if it is wrong, and guides policy, then Israel pays a very dear price. Benny Morris tells us today in the NYT that most Israelis across the political spectrum believe that the country's existence is at stake. Go explain why they are mistaken.

Sensible action in any situation depends on the risks involved. Those risks are very high for Israel. It makes sense to view threats in the most serious possible light. If that response makes the mullahs unhappy, let them shut the president up.

please give some reason to believe that the sophisticated analysts you cite are sincerely convinced that Iran must be stopped from obtaining nuclear arms in order for Israel to continue to exist,

I said nothing of the sort.

I said nothing of the sort.

I am sorry; you are correct. Conflation of rhetoric from two paragraphs.

This discussion will go much better if you stop being a sanctimonious a**hole. It really is ridiculous and infuriating.

And from my point of view, it would go much better if you stopped doing likewise. Though I'm sure you're incredulous to think that anyone could take your comments in this thread ass such.

Actually, no. This discussion will go much better if it stopped, full stop. Tempers are flared. Farber had the right of this. Good day.

*as such

[/sigh]

Stupid sticking 's'.

Though I'm sure you're incredulous to think that anyone could take your comments in this thread as such.

On rereading and reflection, no, I'm not incredulous.

Two, because Ahmadinejad is head of government, not head of state.

If the Queen of England said "Tomorrow we conquer Belgium," no-one would pay it much mind, because the Prime Minister is visible and vocal and is widely understood to be The Voice Of Great Britain.

I keep hearing that Ahmadinejad is in a position much like the Queen (I'm sure he'd enjoy the comparison), but he is presented as The Voice Of Iran. Khameni seems to be doing nothing to combat this image. If he seems content with the belief that Ahmadinejad speaks for the country, why should we question it?

I keep hearing that Ahmadinejad is in a position much like the Queen (I'm sure he'd enjoy the comparison), but he is presented as The Voice Of Iran.

Who is doing this presenting?

No offense, but most people in the media are profoundly stupid. They hear that there is an office called "President" in Iran and assume that means the Iranian President is exactly like the American President.

Khameni seems to be doing nothing to combat this image.

Exactly what do you think he should be doing and why should he do it? Do you really expect the leader of a country to busy himself correcting the misimpressions of pathologically ignorant American news media? I mean, I don't think it would be good for various world leaders to assume that the American government is so stupid that it will invade countries unless they make every effort to correct our news media.

Also, the Iranian government is constrained by domestic political concerns just like our government is. Khameni probably doesn't want to reinforce the notion that the President is actually rather powerless in foreign and military affairs since it undermines the regimes claims of democracy which act as release valve for discontent.

If he seems content with the belief that Ahmadinejad speaks for the country, why should we question it?

Because the structure of the Iranian government is such that the military take orders from Khameni? I mean, we can pretend that the structure of the Iranian government is radically different than what we know it to be, but that seems kind of pointless.


Note that I still haven't seen any evidence that Ahmadinejad seeks to destroy Israel at any cost.

Your entire post could have consisted of Khameni probably doesn't want to reinforce the notion that the President is actually rather powerless in foreign and military affairs since it undermines the regimes claims of democracy which act as release valve for discontent.

That makes sense. With the history of Iran being what it is, I can see why Khameni wants to perserve whatever claims of democracy he can.

"I keep hearing that Ahmadinejad is in a position much like the Queen"

If so, anyone telling you that is badly misinformed. The Supreme Leader is the Head of State.

It's generally a good idea to include the correct information when mentioning such misinformation.

"Khameni" "Khameni" [used by multiple parties; the following comment is not directed at any individuals, but solely at readers in general, and is an expression of my own general cynicism]

[Jeff, I'm not directing this at you, okay?]

Once again, ObWi-ers are back to discussing some non-existent person. The Supreme Leader of Iran is Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Generally speaking, when people can't even get the name right of the people they're talking about, or what their role is, or basic facts about them, it may be a sign that the folks in the conversation have next to no idea what they're talking about, and might want to consider doing more reading and learning, and less writing.

Not that much knowledge is ever required for an I/P thread, and indeed, lack of such seems to be more or less a requirement.

However, I have to say, that I'm pretty darn sure this is wrong: "If the Queen of England said
'Tomorrow we conquer Belgium,' no-one would pay it much mind...."

I have serious doubts.

Gary: normally I'd not raise an eyebrow to you nitpicking, but I must object to you complaining about inconsistent spellings of a word that's been transliterated. You post a link that undermines your resolve to do so, actually: it features the name transliterated in three ways within it alone: Khâmene'î, Khamene'i, and Khamenei. The degree to which any of these vary from each other is largely dependent on the accent and pronunciation of the speaker.

And now, to highlight my own hypocracy, I'll confess that I personally dropped the "e" in retyping, and that I personally do hear a difference between what I'd write as "ei" and "i"... and that I usually (though not always) drop glottal stops when writing transliterated words. Plus, there's always how he himself transliterates it. So I personally agree, it should be Khamenei. But I'd still argue that, even if one is nitpicking, this genre of terrain isn't a fertile ground for good, healthy nits.

Publius, here is a post from Michael Young explaining that the welcome of Quntar is all about internal Lebanese politics and not about the harm he did to Israel at all.

Leave to one side the relative morality of killing by hand in person vs. killing at long range by pushbutton.

Bob Kerrey did not spend twenty-nine years in prison. Not only did the U.S. Department of Defense award Bob">http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2001/05/01/60II/main288832.shtml">Bob Kerrey a Bronze Star for his heroism in the raid of Thanh Phong, but subsequently the citizens of Nebraska elected him twice to the U.S. Senate.

A Vietnamese witness, Pham Tri Lanh: "I was hiding behind the banana tree and I saw them cut the man’s neck, first here and then there. His head was still just barely attacked at the back... There was an old woman, an old man, two girls and a boy and they were all young. They were the grandchildren. The three children were scared and they crawled into a ditch. The old man and the old woman were lying down inside a house like the houses here. There was a water pump. He was sleeping inside the house and they went in and grabbed him and dragged him out to the water pump and that is where they cut his throat. Then they stabbed the three children..."

"It was very crowded so it wasn’t possible for them to cut everybody’s throats one by one. Two women came out and kneeled down. They shot these two old women and they fell forward and they rolled over. And then they ordered everybody out from the bunker and they lined them up and they shot all of them from behind..."

An American witness, Gerhard Klann:

Dan Rather: "Do you remember how many there were?"

Klann: "Five or six that I recall. Five I think."

Rather: "All males or a mixture of males and females?"

Klann: "No it was a mixture."

Rather: "When you say a mixture - were there children?"

Klann: "Yeah, three."

Rather: "Any of them small children?"

Klann: "I’d say I don’t think any of them coulda been older than twelve years old... That’s, I can see it. I relive it often enough but I can’t describe it.. It was, it was carnage. It was, we just virtually slaughtered those people. I mean, there was blood flying up, bits and pieces of flesh hitting us..."

Rather: "You said certain people were moaning or making noises. Were all those adults?"

Klann: "A few. I remember one baby still crying. That baby was probably the last one alive."

Rather: "What happened to that baby?"

Klann: "Shot like the rest of em."

Memories Of A Massacre: Part I (W. Kiernan's link, fixed)

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