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July 17, 2008

Comments

I have a hard time figuring out where to start with this one. This goes beyond being immoral or evil; it's simply stupid. It helps no one, least of all the security of Israel itself.

In recent months, the army has also closed down an orphanage . . . and other institutions in Hebron, which Israel believes are associated with Hamas.

Come on Eric, we can't have those orphans funding terrorists, ya' know? Some of the orphans are high powered attorneys that bill at $750 per hour, they're a cash cow!

Orphanage = cash cow.

In recent months, the army has also closed down ... a bakery

To get possession of the Scone of Stone.

(Sorry. At this point, black humor is my only recourse.)

Could you even make this stuff up?

Since according to Israeli thinking Arabs only understand force, I guess this makes sense to Israelis. Imagine what the last 60 years would have been like if Israelis had not constantly been using force in this manner.

And the Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity. The more force that is applied, the more intransigent they become. They never learn.

What a brilliant and humane campaign. It's such genius that I feel sure the Bush administration's occupation apparatchiks will be doing something similar in Iraq if they're not already. Do the Sadrist organizations run similar social benefit organizations?

Orphanage = cash cow.

Exactly, in fact just this week one of our hedge fund clients asked us about the tax consequences of an investment in orphanages, the best way to structure such an investment, and whether there were any 13th Amendment issues were they to take a significant equity stake in the orphans (we said only if they had a greater than 50 percent interest).

"according to Israeli thinking Arabs only understand force"

Israelis are no more monolithic than anyone else. Actually, much less so.

Nell,

Yes the Sadrists do. So does Hezbollah. It's a pretty effective means of gaining the trust and loyalty of the applicable target population.

Whodathunkit? When you support people and tend to their vital needs, they appreciate you.

And yes, the US has targeted certain Sadrist venues. In the raids on Sadr City, we shut down one hospital and bombed another, though the bombing was claimed to be inadvertant and very well could be. The result, however, is the same. And compounded by the fact that we shut down another while the first hospital was badly damaged.

But don't you understand? The Israelis don't *intend* to deny West Bankers access to baked goods (and medical care). It's simply an unfortunate side-effect of the perfectly legitimate activity of undermining Hamas. The disruption of scone distribution (and medical care) is *accidental*!!!11!!1

Plus, it's really Hamas's fault that West Bankers can't get scones (and medical care). If Hamas didn't engage in non-military activities, the Israelis could just hunt down its members and shoot them. So the moral burden for the lack of baked goods (and medical care) in the West Bank falls on Hamas.

Or don't you think Israel has a right to defend itself!?!

ha! ha! you almost had me at the beginning there.

Hate to say it, but the Taliban spent years rampaging through town shutting down girls' schools and other random businesses, and they're still pretty popular. Maybe the Israelis need to do something more crowd pleasing, like banning kite-flying or shoes that make a "seductive noise".

Ajay,

The Taliban are popular within their own tribal/ethnic/religious groupings. They are not popular outside of that set, although they are effective at garnering a certain fear-based acquiescence from other parts of the Afghani population.

It's not an analogous situation in many important ways.

In the original story all the Israeli officials say that they are closing down charities that funnel money to terrorism. The notion that Israel's "main goal" is shutting down charities because they make Hamas more popular may or may not be accurate, but it is mere assertion not backed up with any evidence or quotes by officials (even anonymous quotes).

Even the supporting quote of columnist Gideon Levy (a "prominent left-wing commentator," as Wikipedia describes him) describes the policy as shameful, but does not contain this claim that the policy has the claimed "main goal."

So it is reasonable to think the policy unwise (although the Israeli government is there, and highly motivated to do what it thinks will work), but it is not reasonable to assume that it is the sort of evil depicted in these left-wing columns.

@jdkbrown: Bra-freaking-vo!

In accordance with the principles of free speech and policies of this forum, people demonstrating a ‘blatant disrespect towards groups of people’ are subject to banishment.

Some say Hamas is a bad group of people, but Hamas may in fact be misunderstood. They seem to have good intentions too:

"The Islamic Resistance Movement does not allow slandering or speaking ill of individuals or groups, for the believer does not indulge in such malpractices."

In light of this consensus; I simply note that:

(1) The Israeli hostages were killed, and most likely suffered true torture before they were killed.
(2) Hamas has a Charter. The Charter was written before either of the two Gulf Wars. Hamas was elected by ordinary moms and dads through universal suffrage. Which is popular.

Israelis are no more monolithic than anyone else. Actually, much less so.

Saying that "according to Israeli thinking Arabs only understand force" does not imply a monolithic belief. This statement, though, is an accurate description of dominant Israeli thinking and policy throughout its history, and is an expression they use -- not something I made up. It underlies, for example, Isreali strategy in the recent Lebanon war based on Israeli notions of the value of collective punishment.

Under your logic, the statement "Americans do not believe in Communism" would be similarly unfounded, simce Americans are not monolithic, and there are and have been Americans who do believe in Communism.

In the original story all the Israeli officials say that they are closing down charities that funnel money to terrorism.

Since pretty much everything Hamas does has a link to its terrorism doctrines, it would mean that any anti-Hamas tactic is justifiable with this logic. Frankly, that is a problem Hamas has created (like the general insurgent strategy of hiding gun emplacements in hospitals), but still, shutting down an orphanage because of terrorism is a poor strategy. Maybe it is something like blowing up the hospitals first so that terrorists cannot use them for gun emplacements.

In the original story all the Israeli officials say that they are closing down charities that funnel money to terrorism.

That bit confuses me. Let's assume that these operations are funneling money to terrorism...if the Israeli government knows that, it can use those sites as continuing sources of intelligence. In Suskind's book The One-Percent Doctrine, he talks about a number of financial intelligence operations that involved tracking how money moved towards Al Queda, including some joint operations with Israeli intelligence in the occupied territories. This intelligence was enormously useful and shutting down those sites by raiding them stopped the money flow temporarily, but had a much larger adverse impact on America's ability to monitor and comprehend terrorist activities. The decision to shut down those sites was heavily based in short term thinking and hurt us much more than it hurt Al Queda.

I mean, if you know those sites are really being used for funneling money, isn't shutting them down the last thing you want to do because doing that demonstrates what information you've been able to acquire?

So it is reasonable to think the policy unwise (although the Israeli government is there, and highly motivated to do what it thinks will work)

Regarding your parenthetical, let me suggest two things:

1. governments are not always very clever about acting in their own self-interest, and

2. the government may be doing what it thinks will "work", but that doesn't mean its goals are the same as ours...to the extent that continuing conflict is useful, there is little reason to deescalate the conflict.

but it is not reasonable to assume that it is the sort of evil depicted in these left-wing columns.

Well, shutting down orphanages and bakeries that provide bread to the poor does tend to have evil consequences. If the Israeli military was willing to take over those facilities and do the job they were doing under Hamas (or even just pay an intermediary to do so), then we could talk about how there is no evil being done. But, they're not. Which is strange because doing so would also imply taking counterinsurgency theory seriously: this is one of those cases where the non-evil option happens to line up with counterinsurgency theory very well.

DWPitelli has a good point -- the article lacks any attribution whatsoever as to its main point, which is even weirder when you see that everything else in there is cited to somebody. Something is fishy here, and I can't jump to the conclusion that the Zahal is lying. Terrorist groups do in fact use front organizations to raise funds, and corruption and diversion of funds are hardly new in the PA. Hamas does authentic and much-needed social services; this does not necessarily prove that every Hamas entity is for real.

That said, this is probably going to hurt Israel a lot more than it helps. Between this, the moral and strategic failure that was the Lebanon war, and the general pattern in the last 10 years of, at the very best, ignoring political needs in the timing of military strikes, I am beginning to wonder if the Zahal has effectively cut itself completely free of civilian control. It seems to be setting national policy all by itself.

Saying that "according to Israeli thinking Arabs only understand force" does not imply a monolithic belief.

It does to me. Apparently to hilzoy as well.

This statement, though, is an accurate description of dominant Israeli thinking and policy throughout its history, and is an expression they use -- not something I made up.

Who is this "they"? Do you mean the Israeli government? The Israeli PM? Prominent cabinet ministers? Or do you mean something that polls indicate a very very large fraction of the Israeli electorate agrees with?

I mean, I have no idea how one would determine "dominant Israeli thinking"...I couldn't do that for "American thinking" and my skills don't improve when it comes to foreign country full of people speaking a foreign language.

If you are reading Israel's dominant thinking based on their media variety or the number of divergent voices speaking about this issue in the Israeli public sphere, than I'm really confused. Israel has a far more varied more honest and more useful discussion on these issues than we do in America. It makes me more than a little jealous.

It underlies, for example, Isreali strategy in the recent Lebanon war based on Israeli notions of the value of collective punishment.

Maybe. But governments in war are not perfect, or even very good, proxies for the wishes of their citizens. In times of war, many people accept what the government says more than they otherwise would.

For the record, I think Israel's actions in the 2006 war were incredibly stupid and evil. But I can also come up with lots of explanations for their military's behavior that don't involve the belief that "Arabs only understand force". For example, the Israeli military leadership might have thought "well, we can't really accomplish any serious military goals, but we can make them suffer, and that will make us feel better".

Israelis are no more monolithic than anyone else. Actually, much less so. hilzoy
Interesting because their official governmental policies have been consistent for decades:

Since 1967, Israel has arrested some 750,000 Palestinians, or some 25% of all Palestinians. There are now more than 10,000 Palestinian prisoners (including women, children and elderly) in Israeli jails. 360 of the prisoners are children, including a 6 months old child, who is the youngest prisoner in the world. Some 6.18% of prisoners are ill. Israel has arrested 10,000 Palestinian women since 1967. Four Palestinian women have delivered while in Israeli jails. (from As-Safir newspaper).

[via http://angryarab.blogspot.com/]

Interesting because their official governmental policies have been consistent for decades

Most democratic governments do a pretty bad job of executing the electorate's wishes. Even over long spans of time. As I recall, many people in the US aren't exactly thrilled about the Iraq war, and yet it continues unabated. Government policy isn't really a good proxy for the electorate's wishes, even in democracies.

I think you *might* have the seed of a decent argument buried here, but you're going to have to do much more to flesh it out into something convincing. Merely talking about how Israel has done evil stuff for a long time won't do it (I already believe that). You're going to have to connect the government policy with public opinion polls or something while finding a way to exclude alternative explanations for the electorate's choices. And you're going to have to do so in a way that takes into account the fractious nature of Israeli parliamentary politics.

In general, trying to infer what an electorate wants based on the actions of a government is a very hard problem. At least if you want your inference to be in any way rigorous.

Mike, do you have statistics as to the distribution of arrests since 1967? You cited only total numbers (and not from any official or objective source, so I have no idea whether they're even accurate). I can't tell whether these break down to, say, 700,000 / 41 per year, or 350,000 in 1967-1970 and 350,000 since the Second Intifada began, or what. They don't go to the proposition you stated.

"Are they serious? Having Israel attack Hamas orphanages and medical centers is supposed to make Palestinians turn against Hamas?"

They've been handing out the stupid pills again, I see.

"Since according to Israeli thinking Arabs only understand force"

This is just silly: it's no more or less "Israeli thinking" than it is "American thinking" or "French thinking" or "Palestinian thinking" or "Iranian thinking" or any other national thinking. It's the idea of a lot of stupid people around the world. Period. It's hardly representative of most Israelis, any more or less than it is of most anyone else.

"Interesting because their official governmental policies have been consistent for decades"

Meanwhile, back in reality, not so much.

I have a hard time figuring out where to start with this one. This goes beyond being immoral or evil; it's simply stupid...

Depends on your goal. If your goal is to preserve conflict rather than allow a peace process to go forward- headed towards conclusions that you find unacceptable- then inspiring bad feelings is exactly what one would want to do.
Witness the settlement movement; ignoring the question of whether god gave Israel the West Bank, it is certainly designed to prevent a settlement of the conflict on terms unacceptable to the settlers (ie terms where Israel doesn't get the West Bank). It is politically very difficult for the government to remove them. And Palestinian attempts to make them leave by violence just provoke violent responses and a hardening of positions.
I certainly wouldn't ascribe this position to most Israelis, but just as on the Palestinian side there are a significant number who drive the conflict forward lest a settlement be made that doesn't satisfy their desires.

"If the Israeli military [were] willing to take over those facilities and do the job they were doing under Hamas..."

"Willing"? What would that entail? 100 Israeli soldiers guarding 15 Jewish civilians running an orphanage? How would this reoccupation be more acceptable to the Arab people than the status quo? And how many more combat deaths would result?

I agree that closing a charity may result in "evil" -- however, if the charity is in fact funneling money to terrorist weapons and training, then that is a decision which every government would make, reluctantly or not.

If the charity's buildings are themselves used to hide fighters or weapons, then it might indeed make sense to let them stay open for a while, subject to surveillance and a wider roll-up. But if the charity is only used for access to money, this surveillance would prove much less fruitful. It's not like the Israelis can freely insert agents into Arab areas, to track cash couriers, at modest risk to themselves. (If the money is moved electronically, that might be tracked; indeed, the confiscation of computers was probably to aid that goal.)

"Force is the only language they understand" generally translates as "force is the only language we know how to speak."

"Willing"? What would that entail? 100 Israeli soldiers guarding 15 Jewish civilians running an orphanage? How would this reoccupation be more acceptable to the Arab people than the status quo? And how many more combat deaths would result?

For the bakeries, the government could ship bread baked in nearby settlements. For the orphanage, the government could make payments to a group of Palestinians to run the orphanage. This seems doable to me, albeit inconvenient.

I agree that closing a charity may result in "evil" -- however, if the charity is in fact funneling money to terrorist weapons and training, then that is a decision which every government would make, reluctantly or not.

No, that's not true. The US government is not shutting down some social service organizations run by militants because doing so is profoundly counterproductive when engaged in a counterinsurgency.

If the charity's buildings are themselves used to hide fighters or weapons, then it might indeed make sense to let them stay open for a while, subject to surveillance and a wider roll-up.

If that were the case, the Israeli military could win public support or even recover some modicum of legitimacy among Palestinians if they showed videos of raids that immediately produced stashes of weapons or armed soldiers. We have not seen any such video or even reports so far. I don't understand why you're speculating about something for which there is no evidence.

But if the charity is only used for access to money, this surveillance would prove much less fruitful.

From what I read, that's not true.

It's not like the Israelis can freely insert agents into Arab areas, to track cash couriers, at modest risk to themselves. (If the money is moved electronically, that might be tracked; indeed, the confiscation of computers was probably to aid that goal.)

As I recall from the book, it is in fact exactly like that since Israel did that for years.

I agree that not all Israelis are of the same mind of the use of force, and that there has usually been a significant minority that advocates differently. I also have over the years read many times Israelis advocating the need to use force in dealing with the Arabs. Unfortunately, history judges based on the predominant acts of the nation, and not a vocal minority that disagrees. And Israel's policies have been founded on violence against Arabs from the beginning.

So look at history, and tell me what has been the dominant trend of Israel dealing with the Arabs? 60 years of appropriating land from Arabs, which goes on today in the West Bank. A nation founded by a deliberate policy of ethnic cleansing in order to create larger boundaries than those awarded by the UN and also establish a majority Jewish population within those boundaries. A creation myth that holds that this was something "forced" on Israel and an accidental byproduct of the 1948 war rather than deliberate policy (a myth pretty much undermined by Jewish scholars themselves).

Where would we be if 25 to 30 years ago, Israel had taken the advice of the Carter and Reagan administration and not undertaken to absorb large chunks of the West Bank into Israel through a settlement policy? Many point to Arafat's refusal to embrace the peace proposals, but the Israelis have their own history of spitting in the eye of peace.

I have read that use of force is a necessity forced on Israel by Arab hostility, and there is a measure of truth in that. But then there are examples such as the 1956 war or the recent Lebanon war.

Some generalizations make sense, and characterizing Israeli policy towards Arabs as based on a belief in the use of force is a fair one based on history.

"Where would we be if 25 to 30 years ago, Israel had taken the advice of the Carter and Reagan administration and not undertaken to absorb large chunks of the West Bank into Israel through a settlement policy?"

That would have been endlessly better, and so I advocated in the strongest possible terms at the time.

Of course, the core terribly wrong decision was the entire decision in 1967 to annex the West Bank in the first place.

"Some generalizations make sense, and characterizing Israeli policy towards Arabs as based on a belief in the use of force is a fair one based on history."

Phrasing, and specific words and sentences matter, and I have no quarrel with this sentence, and will set quibbles aside.

But I stand by finding the statement "[s]ince according to Israeli thinking Arabs only understand force" less helpful.

Not going to argue further about it, however, since we'd be well beyond the point of diminishing returns.

I am not justifying Israel's actions iny way shape or form. They are stupid and evil.

Imagine what the last 60 years would have been like if Israelis had not constantly been using force in this manner.

And the Arabs and Palestinians as well. All three groups have behaved abominably.

[via http://angryarab.blogspot.com/]

[sarcasm] I'm sure that's a reliable source! [/sarcasm]

Of course, the core terribly wrong decision was the entire decision in 1967 to annex the West Bank in the first place.

I think that if Israel had annexed the West bank and Gaza and fostered orphanages and bakeries and generally treated the Palestians better than the Arabs (which wasn't really that hard), they would have had a much more defensible border (which was the point of having the lines drawn where they were) without having an "enemy" (as viewed by both Israelis and Palestinians) inside their borders.

In a case like that, settlement would have been worked out between friendly parties not imposed on one hostile one by another.

I think that if Israel had annexed the West bank and Gaza and fostered orphanages and bakeries and generally treated the Palestians better than the Arabs (which wasn't really that hard), they would have had a much more defensible border (which was the point of having the lines drawn where they were) without having an "enemy" (as viewed by both Israelis and Palestinians) inside their borders.

But it is not too late! There's no reason Israel can't make this counterfactual dream a reality today. All Israel has to do is declare that the West Bank is part of Israel and that everyone who lives there is an Israeli citizen. You know, the kind of person who can vote in elections and serve in the Army get elected to the Knesset. This is such a great idea, I'm sure massive political support for it will organically develop in Israel as soon as you share it with the polity.

What's that you say? There are some problems that make implementation impractical? Huh. Who would have thought. I wonder if those problems also existed in 1976.

I think that if Israel had annexed the West bank and Gaza and fostered orphanages and bakeries and generally treated the Palestians better than the Arabs (which wasn't really that hard), they would have had a much more defensible border (which was the point of having the lines drawn where they were) without having an "enemy" (as viewed by both Israelis and Palestinians) inside their borders.

One interesting thing I've noticed is that if you look at key health statistics for the West Bank and Gaza Strip, they indicate a higher quality of care than almost any neighbor except for Israel (natch) and Egypt. The statistics I'm referring to are infant mortality rate and life expectancy at birth, from the CIA World Factbook (somewhat more reliable, I think, than angryarab.blogspot.com). Not that this justifies the occupation, but I really don't think low quality of life in the occupied territories--which does exist, and should be remedied--is what motivates most anti-Israeli feeling.

To be honest, the thought that somehow the Palestinians' neighbors actually care about them has always been surprising to me. Sure, life in the occupied territories sucks. But after '48, Egypt and Jordan could have integrated the Gaza Strip and West Bank into their countries, allowed the Palestinians to resettle there (as Israel allowed the 850,000ish Jews kicked out of their homes in other Middle East countries to resettle), and there wouldn't have been an issue. Rather, Egypt and Jordan chose to keep the Palestinians penned up in much worse conditions than they've been subjected to under Israeli occupation, simply to use them as political pawns.

Really, there are quite a few things to criticize Israel about. It was stupid to annex the West Bank and Gaza, though I can see why they would want to do it. The Lebanon wars were ill-planned and poorly carried out. Their public relations have been terrible. They should have repudiated their settlements a long time ago. But this attitude of Israel as public enemy #1 is quite old to me. It has a far better human rights record than any of its immediate neighbors--not a huge accomplishment, I admit--and has a better civil liberties record than any country under constant terrorist threat I can think of.

So now they're closing down charities that funnel money to Hamas. Frankly, I'm pissed at Hamas for using money raised by charities to support terrorism, instead of for, y'know, charity. Can we talk about that for a little while? Or do we just let it slide, because we don't expect anything better out of the Palestinians?

So now they're closing down charities that funnel money to Hamas. Frankly, I'm pissed at Hamas for using money raised by charities to support terrorism, instead of for, y'know, charity. Can we talk about that for a little while? Or do we just let it slide, because we don't expect anything better out of the Palestinians?

Well, it seems that Hamas does both - and devotes enough resources to charity and other services that they engender respect and admiration.

And yes, supporting terrorism with some of their assets is counterproductive and vile.

To be honest, the thought that somehow the Palestinians' neighbors actually care about them has always been surprising to me.

Why is that? Is it because Arabs are beasts who can't be expected to feel anything for other human beings? Seriously, why do you expect people in neighboring middle eastern nations to treat Palestinians any differently than Africans treated South Africans under Apartheid? And what makes you think these people treat Palestinians in a noteworthy manner at all? Is there some quota where 1 out of N comments on OW has to loudly claim that Arabs don't give a fig for Palestinians?

They should have repudiated their settlements a long time ago.

I'm glad you think so. But the point remains that they have not. I don't see any reason to believe that they will in the near future, do you?

But this attitude of Israel as public enemy #1 is quite old to me.

Well, this attitude that I can grow wings and fly through the air is quite old to me as well.

Can you quote where anyone has said that Israel is public enemy #1?

Or is the real issue here that mere American taxpayers should pay their tribute to Israel and keep their mouth shut about where the money goes? I understand that some Israelis are very offended when pathetic American taxpayers have the temerity to dare question how their money is being used. If Israelis ever get tired of hearing our mild dissent, there's an easy way to work past it.

It has a far better human rights record than any of its immediate neighbors--not a huge accomplishment, I admit--and has a better civil liberties record than any country under constant terrorist threat I can think of.

That's great...who cares? How does this tie into any larger point? No one is arguing that Israel is uniquely evil. Even if Israel had a perfect human rights record, the occupation would still be wrong. I really am capable of believing that Israel has done some very bad things and some very good things at the same time. Don't you think other people here are just as capable as I in that regard?

So now they're closing down charities that funnel money to Hamas. Frankly, I'm pissed at Hamas for using money raised by charities to support terrorism, instead of for, y'know, charity. Can we talk about that for a little while? Or do we just let it slide, because we don't expect anything better out of the Palestinians?

Why do you uncritically accept the Israeli government's claims that the charities are being used to support terrorism? Do you think governments in general are trustworthy when they make claims regarding their opponents?

DWPittelli - I read your contrarian comments with great interest. I have long ties with Israel from my Grandfather's Irgun days thru 35 relatives living there and my more than 50 visits to the country since going there for my bar mitzvah in 1956.

The first question I have of you is do the Palestinians have any rights in Gaza and the West Bank to resist the Israeli occupation? If not, did the Jews in the Irgun, Stern Gang and Haganah have the right to resist the British occupation? If resistance to an occupation is legitimate then hiding guns in homes, businesses etc is legitimate. From the information I gathered from my grandfather, he and others certainly hid their weaponry and had no compunction about shooting British soldiers as well as Arab civilians. I have pictures of an arab marketplace after a bomb my grandfather planted in a donkey cart blew away 12 shoppers.

Whether the Israeli people believe arabs only understand force or not is irrelevant. This has been for at least 80 years an armed struggle for land that both sides want.I have listened to Israel's politicians for decades describe strategies at shul totally inconsistent with public pronouncements.

In fact, recently I heard Kadima cabinet minister, Ze'ev Boim, give a talk in Beitar Illit at which he commented about the status of the peace talks. He claimed the cabinet was united in ONLY giving the Palestinians the old area A as designated from Oslo and Wye River Agreements. While Israel may have to give vague assurances about turning over more land as security improves he assured the settlement residents that ultimately the ONLY acceptable peace treaty was 4 Palestinian "reservations" in Gaza, The northern reservation area encompassing Jenin, Nablus and Tulkarm, a central reservation of Ramallah and Jericho as well as a southern reservation of Bethlehem to Hebron.

Over the past 52 years I've watched the Israel/Palestinian problem grow worse with each passing year. I can guarantee you the settlers will NEVER leave and there is no stomach in Israel to force the issue. While I don't have an accurate public opinion poll, I would say at this point 30%-35% of Israelis support ethnic cleansing of the west bank and this number will continue to grow as the years pass to the point it becomes inevitable. The Palestinians will never agree to "reservations" and Israel will not give up the west bank sufficient for a Palestinian state.

If as I suspect ethnic cleansing becomes once again acceptable to Jews (as it did during the period 1945-1948) Israel and our Jewish faith will have lost it's soul. For that, this old Jew will never forgive the Politicians. My dream of being buried in Israel will die as sure as my faith.

Turbulence--

(1) I expressed myself inartfully re the Palestinians' neighbors. It's not that they care, and it surprises me. It surprises me that anyone thinks they care. Sorry for confusing you. If you want cites, the internet is rife with them. My connection is sucking now, but I can find them for you later if you like.

(2) If the criticism of Israel was expressed as mild dissent, or was in any way proportional in volume to their sins vis-a-vis the rest of the world, or even the rest of the world that gets our money, I would be perfectly happy and might even join in. If you believe that it is either of those, I've got a bridge in Tel Aviv that you can have for the low low price of 35 shekels.

(3) To be honest, when the Israeli government tells me that money received by Hamas goes toward terrorism, they don't have to try very hard to convince me. Sorry if that makes me sound naive.

Eric--
Do you think it's Hamas's charitable activities that primarily accounts for its admiration and respect, or its record of terrorist attacks against Israel? That's not rhetorical, I don't have an answer. But I would at least hesitate to assume it's the former.

What's that you say? There are some problems that make implementation impractical? Huh. Who would have thought. I wonder if those problems also existed in 1976.

Turb, of course my post was a countrerfactual. The point I was trying to make is that the Arabs don't care for the Palestinians, except as pawns.

If we take as our start the incredibly dumb and ethnically insensitive Balfour Decision (ie, Israel exists in some form as it does in the real world), the best course for the Israelis would have been to work with the Palestinians instead of against them. In this "what if" scenario, the Palestinians might not aid Israel against the Arabs, but they wouldn't be the major force against them, either.

In terms of South Africa, if the whites had ditched apartheid back when Gandhi was working cases for civil rights, the ANC probably wouldn't have been much of a factor in its history.

Not much to do with the real world, granted, but if we see where nations went wrong, maybe we can see how to guide them to the right.

Turb: You know that we don’t agree on much. But I have to say that you have been absolutely on fire these past few days. Quantity has a quality all of its own – but every comment you made had quality as well. That is very tough to do – you have my respect (as always).

My “knee-jerk” position is that you are wrong – but you do get me thinking. Anyway, you have my appreciation for all of your comments here the past few days.

Eric and publius – dudes – IP threads? Whoa.

It's not that they care, and it surprises me. It surprises me that anyone thinks they care.

I really don't understand why you would introduce such a bizarre notion into the conversation. You want to refute a belief held by people not participating in the discussion that has no bearing on the discussion; and you're going to refute it with a non-sequitur about health statistics? Look, I know lots of people like to get in little swipes at Arabs, but could you at least make a token effort at relevancy?

If the criticism of Israel was expressed as mild dissent

It is good to know that I'm permitted to voice my opinion about how my tax dollars are used provided that I keep my dissent mild. Thank you for that privilege. Is there anything else I can do to be of service to the state of Israel to whom I apparently owe fealty?

or was in any way proportional in volume to their sins vis-a-vis the rest of the world

I think you don't understand the point about tax money. I don't support Mugabe's regime, so I have somewhat less of an interest in how he doesn't spend my money.

or even the rest of the world that gets our money I would be perfectly happy and might even join in.

I'm pretty critical of many other recipients of US funds and arms. But Israel gets more than any other nation and the closest runner-up only gets funds because of our Israel policy.


So what exactly is your claim? Why do you think so many people (none of whom seem to have a media position) all consistently overreact in their disagreement with Israeli policies? Is it all due to our anti-semitic nature?

Turbulence,

Do you know how hard it is to have a conversation with someone who interrupts you after every phrase? What you're doing is similar. It's hard to keep track of exactly what you're responding to. I'll do my best, though.

As to the bizarre notion that I introduced--umm, (a) it's not a bizarre notion--health conditions in a country are an important indicia of quality of life, I think; (b) I didn't introduce it, I was responding to a previous comment on the subject of Israeli treatment of Palestinians vis-a-vis Arab treatment of them. Sorry it didn't happen to be your comment I was responding to, but it happened before we began this delightful colloquy.

(b) Mild dissent. I didn't say it had to be. You're the one who suggested we were discussing mild dissent; I merely responded that if only 'twere so, 'twould be 'tweriffic. You're welcome to whatever form of dissent you like, of course, that's the beauty of free speech. But please don't put words into my mouth, especially to suggest that I'm arguing you owe fealty to Israel. I've heard that line of discussion before, suggesting treason, etc., and I find the red herring pretty distasteful.

(c) As you might have noticed if you didn't cut off my sentence midway, I would be happy with criticism even proportional to the part of the world that gets our money (or favorable trade benefits, hint hint). Really, cutting off my words midway, then suggesting I was wrong for leaving out the part that *you* cut out is somewhat irritating.

(d) You ask my claim, so I'll reiterate: "Frankly, I'm pissed at Hamas for using money raised by charities to support terrorism, instead of for, y'know, charity. Can we talk about that for a little while? Or do we just let it slide, because we don't expect anything better out of the Palestinians?"

As to your penetrating question about anti-Semitism, I have some thoughts about it. Since you're being quite vigilant about keeping us on topic, though, even to the point of criticizing me for somehow introducing a point that was under discussion, perhaps that can await another thread. These posts have been long enough as is, and I have a soccer game to get to.

PS: David Schraub, at www.dsadevil.blogspot.com, has several posts on that subject that, while I may not agree with entirely, at least come close to approximating my positions. That, and he's smarter than I am, so he's phrased them better. Feel free to start there until I get back.

Just wondering if any of those dissing theangryarab blog have some reason for thinking it is worthless, other than the name? (I mean, clearly no one should believe an angry arab, I suppose.) The comments section at that blog is totally worthless--I've read it and if you enjoy reading racists and anti-semites bashing each other, then you're in for a treat. He doesn't ban anybody and it shows. The blog itself is written by an Arab academic who despises virtually every political actor in the Mideast, from the Israeli government to Hezbollah. He's angry the way I think I would be if I were from that part of the world.

Just wondering if any of those dissing theangryarab blog have some reason for thinking it is worthless, other than the name?

Since that was all that was put out in the introductory post, I was dissing him based on his name. If there had been some sort of comment like "The blog itself is written by an Arab academic who despises virtually every political actor in the Mideast, from the Israeli government to Hezbollah." with a link to the site, I might have read the blog first.

I also don't expect a blog named "I Blame The Patriarchy" to be balanced and nuanced towards "men's rights" [grin].

As to the question concerning the admiration and respect that Hamas gets being due to social services or its "terrorist" activities, its probably a combination of both. However, I think the reason for its success in the elections, it was primarily due to the former.

Charities have frequently been a way for violent groups to get financed. The IRA received a lot of financing from American through charitable fronts. The problem is that money went both to charitable purposes as well as the violence being utilized.

And closing down a hospital or a bakery is not really going to stop the flow of money. In fact, since less money, at least for the time being, is used on the charities, more money gets funneled into the otheractivities.

I think the points made above about keeping the charitable activities functioning, but following the money trail beyond there is somewhat viable. And if anybody thinks it would be difficult for Israel to get someone into those activities, don't worry. I don't have any doubt that they are well situated in most places.

Having just returned from Israel 2 weeks ago, I don't think the commentators here realize that this shuting down of Hamas related charities is not a one off tactic. According to my two IDF nephews it is part of Barak's plan to literally arrest every Hamas member and hamas sympathsizer in the West Bank. Notice the arrest of 12 Hamas members in Nablus a few days ago.

Israel realizes that the only way they can get Abbas to sign a "autonomy" agreement and make it stick is to neutralize Hamas in the West Bank (to Israel, Gaza is a forever lost cause).

Israel doesn't care whether the Palestinians like what they are doing to the Hamas charities - it's strictly a power grab on behalf of Abbas. The next step, according to the IDF is a large release of Fatah prisoners (about 3,000 over the coming months) to be replaced by Hamas members. As a result of the Hezballah prisoner exchange as well as the upcoming Hamas/Shalit exchange, Abbas needed something also.

Just remember when looking at events over the coming months that the Hamas charity gambit is just ONE set piece in the larger context.

jdledell: "do the Palestinians have any rights in Gaza and the West Bank to resist the Israeli occupation?"

1) Gaza, at least, is no longer occupied. (And neither are the lands lived in by most West Bank residents.)

2) Israel holds both Gaza and the West Bank by conquest, as indeed it holds what is generally called Israel. As all countries hold all of their territory.

3) It is silly to speak of a "right" to wage war. Rights are actions which the government does not have authority to punish. Whether or not a war is waged properly, a government so targeted may properly respond with its most extreme punishment -- lethal violence.

"If resistance to an occupation is legitimate then hiding guns in homes, businesses etc is legitimate."

And it is equally legitimate to look for those guns. And to shoot people holding them. This is true whether we see Arab resistance as war or not.

Also note that much of Arab resistance has consisted of the deliberate targeting and killing of civilians, often with no other military objective. In contrast, Israel launches attacks with clear military objectives. Civilian deaths are an evil of war, one which is not unusual to Israel, whose killing is far cleaner than that of almost every superior war power throughout history. (This despite Arab use of human shields and Arab fighters hiding amongst civilians, often without use of insignia.)

Even apart from failure to maintain proper uniforms and chain of command, virtually all Hamas fighters are thus war criminals. Conventionally they would face the firing squad en masse, not be jailed or exchanged for Israeli corpses.

"If as I suspect ethnic cleansing becomes once again acceptable to Jews (as it did during the period 1945-1948) Israel and our Jewish faith will have lost it's soul."

Maybe. But our moral judgment must also depend on our perception of the level of provocation that Israel is responding to. Few now decry the forced removal of 2.2 million Germans from the Sudetenland (1945-6), and even from adjacent parts of Germany proper (which territories were then ceded to Poland, Czechoslovakia, etc.). These Germans had been used as an excuse by the German government for war and expansion, but the Sudeten Germans themselves were at least as innocent as the Palestinian Arabs.

Personally, I don't expect the Israeli people will or should come to such a decision unless and until they face another major (existential) war, such as 1967 or 1973.

Jeff: The point I was trying to make is that the Arabs don't care for the Palestinians, except as pawns.

What does this mean? Where does this idea come from? I mean, has someone here loudly and repeatedly claimed that all Arabs love Palestinians unconditionally and would give their lives for them? Who? Where?

I don't know how you can talk about how hundreds of millions of people living in many countries stretch across the globe have a single perspective regarding the Palestinians. That seems like madness to me. Also, for a claim that broad, some evidence would be handy. You know, maybe.


OCSteve: You know that we don’t agree on much. But I have to say that you have been absolutely on fire these past few days.

Bah! We agree on practically everything except for a few minor details of no import. I thank you for your kind words; coming from someone I admire so much that means a lot.

My “knee-jerk” position is that you are wrong – but you do get me thinking.

Well, you are probably right about some things. You should join the fray: come on in, the water's great! (Except for the fact that all the frogs just died and my clothes are melting and the sand between my toes is turning into glass.) Hmmm, on second thought, maybe you would be happier if you stayed out.

You know what would be hilarious? A special opposite-day IP threat at TiO. Anyone could comment, but they'd have to argue the opposite side from what they usually argue. If nothing else, I bet it would be funny to watch Jes (or me) try and turn 180 degrees. You'd at least get some arguments you agree with out of us.

Do you think it's Hamas's charitable activities that primarily accounts for its admiration and respect, or its record of terrorist attacks against Israel?

Might I suggest that this formulation isn't a good way to look at it? Consider how groups like Hamas develop: they're started by people who look around and see suffering. Some of that suffering that they see is immediate material want (the poor have no food, the orphans no guardians) but some of it is political in nature: we suffer under occupation. Oftentimes, people connect the two: we suffer material want because of the occupation. Now, I'm not saying that these assessments are correct, but I am claiming that people in places like Lebanon or Gaza or the West Bank might plausibly believe them.

So what do you do if you feel that way and are an organizing sort? Well, because you care about your people and because you love them, you organize to help them. To the extent that many people in these areas detest the material suffering of their people and blame foreign occupation, their relief organizations will both engage in charitable works and acts of violence. Some violence I think is unavoidable: these areas tend to have weak state institutions at best and without hired muscle, you can't effectively give aid (food stolen at gunpoint does not satisfy the poor's hunger). But the violence goes far beyond that of course, into some legitimate aims (killing Israeli soldiers that are attacking your city) and some illegitimate aims (killing Israeli civilians on a bus that are attacking a bagel).

This is how human institutions develop: what I've described is one model for both state formation and for organized crime. Hamas and Hezbollah have much in common with both sets of institutions I think.

My point is that it may not be useful to analyze this situation in terms of "that vile and evil Hamas is using its charity to cover terrorist activities because obviously, terrorism and charity are so completely categorically separate that there is no legitimate reason to ever combine the two efforts under one organization". For many people, love of their fellow countrymen, agony at their suffering, hatred of the occupiers, a firm belief that future happiness can only be assured by defeating the occupiers, hatred of the other, and the quest for vengeance all commingle together in their understanding of what Hamas is.

From that perspective, doing both relief work and terrorism under the same house makes sense. Talking about splitting them is insane: both sides of the house do what they out of love for the people and to banish the military side merely for the convenience of the charity side is tantamount to betrayal: the whole point of these organizations is that the people have been divided against each other and can only realize peace and plenty by putting an end to the divisions imposed by external enemies. When these people hear Americans talk about how Hamas can't be a serious charity organization as long as it also runs terror operations, they hear Israel's big brother shrieking about some pointless bookkeeping as an excuse for its divide and conquer goals. After all, the people are great and cannot be destroyed as long as they are united right? Think of it as a sort of Dolchstoßlegende; these places certainly look like they just lost a war, what with all the rubble lying about and the lack of Starbucks.

In the case of the Palestinians, I suspect that there really are a number of people working on the inside for the Israeli government compelled in part by material want. That makes this talk about unity rather important: your survival might depend on whether or not your friend is stabbing you in the back by passing information to Israeli intelligence. If I had to guess, I'd say that the lack of an equivalent informant network in southern Lebanon was both a surprise and a real problem for the Israeli military. If you can't impose suffering on people, then you can't turn them into spies. But that's just my hunch.

"Civilian deaths are an evil of war, one which is not unusual to Israel, whose killing is far cleaner than that of almost every superior war power throughout history. (This despite Arab use of human shields and Arab fighters hiding amongst civilians, often without use of insignia.)"

Sigh. Link

"you know what would be hilarious? A special opposite-day IP threat at TiO. Anyone could comment, but they'd have to argue the opposite side from what they usually argue."

It might also be revealing, if we make it a rule that you have to be vehement and wholly unfair and one-sided in your arguments. I think some of us could do a plausible job on either side, because we know both sides commit despicable atrocities. So if we want to play the role of someone who sees the whole conflict in simple black and white terms it's easy. Just forget half of what you know. Organizations like Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and B'Tselem are highly embarrassing, unless you carefully read only those reports criticizing The Side That Is Evil.

What would be entertaining to read would be the people taking the opposite side who don't think there's any legitimate thing to be said for the opposite side, especially the ones who claim to be compassionate. I've heard many comments of this type, mostly from the pro-Israel side since that's the more common viewpoint among people I know, but I've heard a few gems from the pro-Palestinian side as well.

Does anyone have proof to post that the charities from which the Israelis have confiscated buildings or equipment have

(a) funnelled money to Hamas (they have denied it), or

(b) any association at all with Hamas (once again, they have denied it).

If you have the evidence, please post it. If you don't, then let's postpone the discussion of the infamy of Hamas leaders who divert funds meant for orphans into a military budget. Until we actually know they have done so.

DWPittelli - Your comments border on amoral. In other words might equals right. You state Israel has the right to keep all lands aquired by conquest and that maybe ethnic cleansing isn't necessarily bad. May G-d have mercy. Given your attitude, I'm sure that you will not shed a tear if someday the same thing happens to our people, as has occurred a few times over these past thousands of years.

Eric--
Do you think it's Hamas's charitable activities that primarily accounts for its admiration and respect, or its record of terrorist attacks against Israel? That's not rhetorical, I don't have an answer. But I would at least hesitate to assume it's the former.

I'm outsourcing to Turbo at 12:08

Turbulence: You know what would be hilarious? A special opposite-day IP threat at TiO. Anyone could comment, but they'd have to argue the opposite side from what they usually argue. If nothing else, I bet it would be funny to watch Jes (or me) try and turn 180 degrees. You'd at least get some arguments you agree with out of us.

I don't comment at TiO any more, but if anyone wants to set up a front-page open thread here where regulars can present any opinion as a comment so long at it's 180 degrees from their usual stance...

Let's all eat lots of beans, too.

Turbulence--That's a cogent analysis. I appreciate the turn to the eloquent, from the argumentative. :) I don't really have anything to disagree with you about it. Of course, it does make some hay with Eric's earlier point that Hamas "devotes enough resources to charity and other services that they engender respect and admiration," if you can't really separate the two.

In fact, that really does present the whole question raised in the OP in a different light, doesn't it? If the two are inseparable, how does Israel combat terrorist Hamas while ignoring or somehow supporting charitable Hamas?

I guess what it comes down to is that it's easy to snark (looking again at the OP now) and much harder to comment productively and/or fairly.

Donald Johnson:

1) I do not necessarily accept Human Rights Watch as omniscient or objective, despite their catchy name. But if you do, note that HRC agrees that Hezbollah fighters mingled among civilians, often not wearing uniforms.

2) Despite HRC's broad "if in doubt" claim to the contrary, HRC has not here made any specific claim that Israel has violated any legal or normative standard. Despite civilians' "protected status," their possible presence does not rule out attacks except on places specified, such as marked civilian hospitals and marked civilian convoys(4th Geneva Convention, Articles 18 & 21).

3) For the sake of argument, let us say I accept unconditionally HRC's claim of relatively indiscriminate bombing by air or artillery by Israel in Lebanon. In that case Israel's action is on par with that of most nations which have used artillery or air power in major wars over the last century, including all sides in WWII.

4) Except that most nations in WWII did all they could to maximize such random damage, whereas Israel inflicted at least an order of magnitude less damage than it might have chosen to (not even including nuclear weapons, of course).

5) In part for this reason, it is hard for me to believe that Israeli bombardment was truly indiscriminate. That is, if Israel wanted to destroy essentially all moving vehicles in South Lebanon, they would not have succeeded, of course, but they would have destroyed many times more than they in fact did. Something made Israel choose a subset of these possible targets. That they probably made some mistakes (shot perhaps 1,000 "civilians") and that they did not choose to share all the intelligence they were working on in each shooting with HRC, does not change this fact.

6) You may decry such action, just as many people decried Anglo-American bombing of German cities, but that doesn't change the fact that Israel's actions reflect historical norms on such matters, not a deviant aberration from such norms.

7) Also note that HRC is in the habit of conflating "civilian" with "noncombatant." They are not the same thing, especially in a war with combatants who do not wear uniforms and are free to claim civilian status. Civilian combatants are proper targets in any war.

jdledell - Your comments border on amoral. In other words irredentist losers can murder with impunity forever until they get their way. Let's hope the backers of Aztlan, the Sudeten Germans, and Native Americans don't become as amoral as you. Given your attitude, I'm sure that you will not shed a tear if bombs start going off in your neighborhood, and someone bashes in your daughter's skull.

(See, it works -- or actually, doesn't -- both ways.)

DW--Points 3 and 6 I agree with. I don't think Israel is worse than other Western countries. This is not a point of pride for anyone. Points 4 and 5 are irrelevant--yeah, Israel could have killed even more if they wanted to. So what? Most governments guilty of war crimes could argue the same.

Point 2--A legal issue. I'm no expert. I suspect that a clever lawyer could always find some reason why it was military necessity that justified this or that air strike. It's clear that Israel bombed indiscriminately. Towards the end they were dropping cluster bombs.

Point 7--It's clear that Israel killed hundreds of civilians because they didn't care or else intended to do so.

It's HRW, btw, not HRC. Hillary Clinton is on your side.

Turb: When referring to "Arabs" in my comments, I should have used "Arabian countries, especially Egypt and Syria". Does that make more sense?

I have not been snide or sarcastic to you in my comments. May I ask for the same from you?

In fact, that really does present the whole question raised in the OP in a different light, doesn't it? If the two are inseparable, how does Israel combat terrorist Hamas while ignoring or somehow supporting charitable Hamas?

By offering an alternative to the charitable work. Lessen their appeal in that respect.

But if you think that Hamas is going to be less popular because Israel dismantles their social services network without providing the people with an alternative, then I would suggest you look at the origins for Hamas that Turb discusses.

If it's a grievance based organization, adding to grievances isn't going to lessen their appeal.

"I don't comment at TiO any more, but if anyone wants to set up a front-page open thread here where regulars can present any opinion as a comment so long at it's 180 degrees from their usual stance..."

I agree with Jesurgislac!

(No, I'm not starting early; I often agree with Jes.)

Of course, it does make some hay with Eric's earlier point that Hamas "devotes enough resources to charity and other services that they engender respect and admiration," if you can't really separate the two.

I don't understand what you're saying here. People have multiple reasons for thinking well of Hamas and these reasons need not conflict. One reason is that they appreciate the social services aspect. But I see no reason why that belief can't coexist with other beliefs. If Hamas did no social services work, then many people might conclude that as an institution, Hamas was primarily interested in enhancing the power of Hamas, or in the bloodlust of revenge killings against Israelis. The social services work can act as a signifier: it says we're not just a gang of thugs with guns, we're people who act out of a set of beliefs and you can rely on the strength of those beliefs for your protection.

In fact, that really does present the whole question raised in the OP in a different light, doesn't it? If the two are inseparable, how does Israel combat terrorist Hamas while ignoring or somehow supporting charitable Hamas?

Why must Israel combat Hamas? Is Israel ideologically dedicated to the elimination of Hamas at all costs? Or is Israel interested in a set of particular security goals? If security goals matter, then Israel can achieve them by cutting deals, just like any other country. Make serious efforts at eliminating some settlements and reducing economic strangulation for as long as Hamas is willing to maintain a ceasefire. Last I checked, it was Israel that had repeatedly violated the ceasefire that Hamas had unilaterally imposed.

@DWPittelli: The months of electoral haranguing have clearly taken their toll: the acronym for Human Rights Watch is not HRC.

And don't expect to convince anyone here, even those most sympathetic to the Israeli government point of view, that the West Bank isn't occupied.

The occupied West Bank is crisscrossed with highways on which Palestinians can't travel; checkpoints at which they must wait for hours, be searched, be shouted at by soldiers, and can be denied the ability to cross at all; settlements on whose behalf the highways and checkpoints are built and Palestinian olive groves razed, and which are given preferential access to water.

"don't expect to convince anyone here... that the West Bank isn't occupied"

Nice way to overstate my claim.

Donald Johnson: "It's clear that Israel killed hundreds of civilians because they didn't care or else intended to do so."

Why is that clear to you?

Soldiers regularly shoot even their own uniformed comrades ("friendly fire") with rifles, artillery, and by airplane, in all wars. Is this because they and their countries don't care about killing their own people, or perhaps because it's hard to figure out what's going on in real time, in a combat situation? Is it harder to avoid such friendly fire against your own uniformed comrades, who generally want you to know their position, than it is to avoid firing on the wrong group of non-uniformed people?

Why must Israel combat Hamas? Is Israel ideologically dedicated to the elimination of Hamas at all costs?

I was reading a review of the history of HAMAS (since it's an acronym, albeit in Arabic, shouldn't the whole name be capitolized?), and the authur stated that while Israel didn't directly support HAMAS when it started, it didn't work against it, seeing it as a friendly alternative to Fatah.

Last I checked, it was Israel that had repeatedly violated the ceasefire that Hamas had unilaterally imposed.

I heard that it was bilateral, and HAMAS was still sending rockets into Israeli towns. Suffice it to say that violence on both sides was down, although I'm not sure it still is.

(Minor quibble, can one side violate a ceasefire that the other "unilateraly imposes"? "I won't shoot at you!" "Ok!" [Bang!])

DWPittelli: Gaza, at least, is no longer occupied. (And neither are the lands lived in by most West Bank residents.)

Your claim is the narrow one that the scattered islands of "lands lived in by most West Bank residents" are not occupied.

My comments are still to the point, in that they show up the meaninglessness of your limited claim.

In all the senses that count, the Palestinians of the West Bank are living under occupation; the fact that IDF soldiers are not garrisoned right in their neighborhoods does not change that.

since it's an acronym, albeit in Arabic, shouldn't the whole name be capitolized?

Depends on your style book. Many news orgs incl the NYTimes have gone to the rule of initial cap only in acronyms of five letters or more. When the resulting acronym is a word in itself, as is the case with Hamas, there's an additional psychological pull to do so.

DW - Was my Irgun grandfather amoral or immoral? Is my IDF captain nephew amoral, immoral or moral when in the 2006 Lebanese war as a forward air controller called on cluster bombing and/or 500lb bombs of Lebanese villages if he saw even one person carrying a weapon. He will tell you to your face he could care less whether any arab "pigs" were killed.

I suggest a trip or two to Israel and the West Bank before you solidify your complete admiration of all things Israeli. If you liked Jim Crow in the south you will love Jim Crow prime in Israel proper which for Palestinians is absolute paradise compared to Gaza and the West Bank.

Haifa, Jerusalem and most other Israeli cities have uniform municipal taxes yet look at the stunning difference between Jewish and arab schools.

As a Jew, I feel compelled to be critical of Israel because they are MY people and they are falling FAR short of what they need to do for their long term survival.

Nell,

Regarding the occupation of the West Bank. I was responding to jdledell's silly notion, contained in his rhetorical question: "do the Palestinians have any rights in Gaza and the West Bank to resist the Israeli occupation?"

Your claim is the narrow one that the West Bank is occupied, even though Israel decided to pull out of population centers there (and later pulled out of Gaza). Fair enough. (Although I think Israel deserves some consideration for making these two essentially unilateral moves.)

So... what, exactly? Do you really think that Arabs have a right to wage war, without Israel waging war back?

On another subject, acronyms lose their caps once they are commonly used and pronounced as words (e.g., radar, snafu).

DW - I notice you decline to argue with me or debate my specific points. I get annoyed with people here in the US, in particular, spouting off about Israeli/Palestinian issues from their comfortable armchairs without ANY understanding of the conditions on the ground. In my working life running an International financial services company, I've lived in about a dozen different countries, including Israel where I hold joint citizenship. PLEASE visit Israel and environs and see firsthand what is really going on there - I guarantee your attitude will not be quite as positve as your intellectual understanding.

jdledell,

I can't tell you whether your Irgun grandfather or IDF nephew were immoral, because I wasn't there. Neither were you, and I won't judge them based on your brief second-hand accounts.

Deliberately setting off bombs among crowds of noncombatants is generally immoral. It is also generally against longstanding laws of war, although a bomb triggered to go off when a British colonel was passing by would likely be legal. The Geneva Conventions permit proportionate collateral damage when attacking appropriate military targets.

Your nephew's voiced bigotry and disdain makes it somewhat more plausible that he would be willing to deliberately target noncombatants, but "[I] could care less whether any arab pigs were killed" hardly amounts to a confession of the same.

Cluster bombs are not by design inherently sinister relative to other explosive munitions. Cluster bombs kill people out in the open or in vehicles, but do not generally kill people hiding in masonry buildings. These would be good traits in many scenarios. This does not of course eliminate possibility of misuse, and I concede it is troubling that some of these munitions fail to explode, and risk killing children who might pick them up later. It is largely for this reason that it might make sense to outlaw them, which has not been done yet (the text of the Convention on Cluster Munitions was finalized in May 2008).

While a 500 pound bomb may have been overkill in some of its uses, its blast will kill most men in the open within a radius of 50 feet or probably kill everyone in a building you drop it on, which seems a reasonable thing to do with it in war if you have seen a gunman enter or exit said building.

jdledell,

Pardon me for not responding in as timely a manner as you would like.

Sometimes maintaining a distance can increase one's objectivity. For example, it is obvious to me that it is obscene and shameful for you to compare the situation in Israel with America's infamous Jim Crow laws. Nothing I could see in Israel could change my opinion on this matter. That is because Jim Crow was not a response to an 1876 campaign whereby the blacks in this country's South were frequently (or ever) setting off bombs in marketplaces, nor did it follow attempts by adjacent African nations to overrun this country.

Did you know that in 1920, 40% of the population of Baghdad, to take one example, was Jewish? Why don't you go there, or to some other Arab country, to see all the aggrieved Baghdadi Jews complaining, blowing things up, and living uncomfortably under "Jim Crow" laws?

" can't tell you whether your Irgun grandfather or IDF nephew were immoral, because I wasn't there. Neither were you, and I won't judge them based on your brief second-hand accounts."

It follows, then, that you don't judge the actions of any Arab terrorist if you weren't an eyewitness.

This is odd, DW. I've read of terrorist actions by Zionist groups in the 30's and 40's, so it's not as though what jdlelell says is something new and startling--of course none of us know who he is or who his grandfather was, so we don't know if the story is true, but if you take it at face value, it's something that could have happened. So what's the problem in judging it as wrong? It looks as though you're employing a double standard.

In response to your last question to me, I'd just say you should read the HRW report. If you're still inclined to defend Israel's 2006 Lebanon bombing campaign after that, I have nothing further to say.

DWP: This does not of course eliminate possibility of misuse, and I concede it is troubling that some of these munitions fail to explode, and risk killing children who might pick them up later.

Cluster bombs are designed so that about 20% will not explode on impact. It's not an accident. They're intended to lay down a minefield on a city street. Afterwards, the cluster bomb minefield kills children and other civilians. This isn't a "risk" - it's a known consequence. When the US military drop cluster bombs, they are killing children, and they know they are doing that. (Once you go far enough up the chain of command, at least: I perfectly concede that the bomber crew may well have taken care not to know who cluster bombs kill.)

"Cluster bombs are designed so that about 20% will not explode on impact. It's not an accident. They're intended to lay down a minefield on a city street."

Cite?

(Jes may ignore me; anyone else want to ask her for a cite on this?)

@DWP: I'm not inclined to answer your question, particularly uninclined when it's shouted at me. I can dispute your effort to minimize Israel's status as an occupier without taking a position on the question that apparently led you to do the minimizing.

On the acronyms: organization and official document names retain an initial cap in the 'five letters or more' stylesheet: Unicef, Arena, Nafta, etc.

DW and others - I apologize for jumping in here with by strong words. I am new to this site(a friend recommended it). However, if you google me you will see a consistent attitude stretching over a number of years at sites such as TPM Cafe, Moderate Voice etc.

Nell,
I used bold so you would not overlook my question, buried as it is in text. If you find it as annoying as ALL-CAPS, I am sorry for doing that.

The notion that one could have a "right" to wage war without being warred upon in return is potentially a key point. This notion is also ridiculous on its face, which is I think one reason no one will directly address it, even if it is a necessary implication of some peoples' positions.

Of course proper nouns are initial-cap, whether they are acronyms or not. Also note that the first word in a sentence is initial-cap, whether it is an acronym or not. These aren't mere NY Times style book rules, but pretty much universal rules of English, independent of word length and derivation by acronym.

I call BS on Jes.

Donald Johnson: "It follows, then, that you don't judge the actions of any Arab terrorist if you weren't an eyewitness."

No. It follows that I won't judge the actions of any specific individual based only on what I read here.

"I've read of terrorist actions by Zionist groups in the 30's and 40's... So what's the problem in judging it as wrong?"

I have also read of such actions. I did judge "it" ("Deliberately setting off bombs among crowds of noncombatants") to be "generally immoral." What hoop do you want me to jump through?

I also read the Human Rights Watch (yes, HRW, not HRC!) report when it came out (indeed, I have read many of their reports on many topics), and as you may note above, I question their subjective and legal conclusions, as well as some of their factual claims.

DWPittelli: I call BS on Jes.

Thank you for demonstrating, yet again, that Americans who are quite prepared to condemn Palestinians or Lebanese for deliberately killing children, prefer not to condemn their own military for deliberately killing children.

The Lebanese who celebrate the return of a man who murdered a child 29 years ago have at least the excuse that it was 29 years ago and that their evidence for the murder was an enemy state.

The Americans who refuse to believe their military deliberately kills children have only their systematic doublethink that when their military use weapons knowing they will kill children, they're not really deliberately killing children because their soldiers may not even see the children killed and mained, and the chain of command spreads out the blame - the people who actually drop the bombs aren't responsible for the senior command's decision to use them, the people who make the decision to use them aren't responsible for the civilian-killing design. Nevertheless: the US military deliberately kills children.

The Military Effectiveness and Impact on Civilians of Cluster Munitions - this document dates from the 1990s.

And, this year, as 111 countries agreed they would no longer use, develop, acquire, retain or transfer cluster munitions or bomblets: "Cluster munitions, which break apart in flight to scatter hundreds of smaller bomblets, are what the International Committee of the Red Cross calls a "persistent humanitarian problem."
Most of a cluster bomb's bomblets are meant to explode on impact, but many do not. Estimates show the weapons fail to explode on impact between 10 and 40 percent of the time, the Red Cross says.
That means unexploded bomblets lie scattered across a target area, often exploding only when handled or disturbed -- posing a serious risk to civilians." May 30th, 2008 Those 111 countries that decided they didn't want to deliberately kill children and other civilians any more did not include the United States.

Gary, this link has this:

About 40% of the bomblets dropped by Israel (many of which were American-made) did not explode in the air or on impact with the ground.

I guess what you are asking is if it is a planned design. My understanding is that this is the way they are designed. A college summer job of mine was working in a factory that made the 'grenades' that were packed into a 155 mm shell casing. The shell was designed to break apart in flight and the grenades would spin out and arm themselves, but there was no additional mechanism to ensure detonation, except contact.

This article also notes

Faced with growing international pressure, the Pentagon is changing its policy on cluster bombs and plans to reduce the danger of unexploded munitions in the deadly explosives.

The policy shift, which is outlined in a three-page memo signed by Defense Secretary Robert Gates, would require that after 2018, more than 99 percent of the bomblets in a cluster bomb must detonate.

While they call unexploded grenades 'duds', I think the name is a misnomer. Unexploded ordinance prevents the military from reoccupying the location. I suppose it hinges on what one means by 'designed', but it seems that the memo suggests that currently, a much smaller percentage of cluster munitions explode.

But DW, why do you question HRW's factual claims? Or moral claims, for that matter? Though I think I understand the moral part--you are willing to take the collateral damage argument and run with it, which is why Westerners can kill so many civilians with bombs and not feel guilty about it. This is why HRW is such a useful organization. They are willing to listen to the collateral damage justification, but they are also willing to look at the detailed circumstances of a given air strike to see if there was any reasonable way it could be applied.

I'm glad you read HRW reports. They (and Amnesty International) are widely cited when they put out reports about the Evil Other. Their credibility in certain circles dries up when they discuss the US or one of its close culturally similar allies. (Bashing Egypt would be okay.)

Thanks, DWP, I'm glad you didn't intend to shout. For calling attention to a question that might be overlooked, bolding the name of the person being asked is probably enough of an alert, and a good technique.

However, as I said, I'm continuing to decline to engage in the specific debate you invite. You can attribute whatever motive you like to my refusal, though it doesn't generally enhance discussion to do so (one reason why ObWi has a tradition of calling 'Karkak penalties' for mindreading).

My purpose in posting was solely to correct a misleading impression created by your comment about the state of occupation.

The attitude you express toward nations and the land to which they lay claim envisions a permanent state of war, and a relatively unlimited war. That attitude is certainly shared by hardliners among the Palestinian parties.

The way out of a generalized state of war is negotiations.

For the state of Israel to survive and thrive, will it be best to foster a climate in which negotiations can succeed, or can Israel simply win this war?

I don't believe that it can, and therefore am not interested in asserting anyone's right to wage war, with or without retaliation. That kind of affirmation just entrenches the positions that endanger everyone in the region.

s/b 'Karnak penalties'.

Which we'll soon have to revert to calling 'mindreading penalties', for the sake of everyone under the age of... {mumble}

A few nights ago when Stephen Colbert launched into a brief improv Karnak digression in an interview segment, I wondered if he was losing half his audience or keeping the bit alive as a cultural reference.

"I guess what you are asking is if it is a planned design."

No, I'm asking Jes for a cite on the three separate claims she made: "Cluster bombs are designed so that about 20% will not explode on impact. It's not an accident. They're intended to lay down a minefield on a city street."

1: "Cluster bombs are designed so that about 20% will not explode on impact."

I'd like a cite demonstrating that cluster bombs are designed with the intention that about 20% will not explode on impact.

2. "It's not an accident."

3. I'd like a cite demonstrating that any failure rate is not a failure or accident, but that said delay rate is "not an accident," but is intentional.

3. "They're intended to lay down a minefield on a city street."

Again: cite?

Because, to come out of Socratic mode, it's not my understanding that any of these three claims is what we call "true."

Cluster munitions do not, in fact, typically contain mines, and confusing the two is unhelpful. As is Jes' favorite thing, confusing events with intentionality. (If consistent, that would mean that whenever Jes gets something wrong, she intended to get it wrong, and should be held responsible accordingly.)

Try here.

Note that when cluster ordance does contain mine submunitions: "In order to avoid rendering large portions of the battlefield permanently impassable, and to minimize the amount of mine-clearing needed after a conflict, scatterable mines used by the United States are designed to self-destruct after a period of time from 4-48 hours."

This is not a defense of the many criticizable aspects of cluster munitions. I'll pre-emptively cite this:

[...] While all weapons are potentially dangerous to civilians, cluster bombs pose a particular threat to civilians for two reasons: they have a wide area of effect, and they have consistently left behind a large number of unexploded bomblets. The unexploded bomblets remain dangerous for decades after the end of a conflict.

Cluster munitions are opposed by many individuals and hundreds of groups, such as the Red Cross,[3] the Cluster Munition Coalition and the United Nations, because of the high number of civilians that have fallen victim to the weapon. Since February 2005, Handicap International called for cluster munitions to be prohibited and collected hundreds of thousands of signatures to support its call.[4] 98% of 13,306 recorded cluster munitions casualties that are registered with Handicap International are civilians.[1]

And so on. But the question of whether cluster munitions should be limited, of the problematic aspects of unexploded ordnance, their morality, their failure rates, the possibility irresponsibility or immorality of using them, and endless other related question is not what I asked about, and not what Jes wrote about in her three specific claims above, which is all I'm asking about.

If anyone would like to give cites, I'd suggest they be cites to authoritative sources, not anecdotes about someone who knew someone who heard something.

If anyone wants to discuss specific munitions -- which I'd suggest would be more useful than engaging in vague generic discussion, here is a starting place. Google is your friend, if you don't know good military information sites otherwise.

I'll try to help: starting places: here. Here. Here. Here.

Although I have no internet links to confirm that, the failure rate for US cluster bomb submunitions seem to be significantly higher than of those produced in some other countries. Numbers can of course be deceiving (and weapon manufactures are not the most honest of merchants). My personal guess is that US manufacturers indeed produce submunitions with a higher dud rate because they lack any incentive to do better. It would cost money but not yield a higher price and there is no governmental pressure [unlike in some European countries]).
I suspect that the "mining" effect is seen by some in the military as a feature not a bug (the Israeli actions hours before the ceasefire in Lebanon are a strong indicator of this) but I do not think that the manufacturers have a deliberate "dud quota".
I think it's the same as with depleted uranium munitions: Those responsible for the use simply do not care about negative side effects because they are unaffected by them.

Gary,
I agree that we get into a rather sticky discussion of intentionality here, but the points that I would make are
1)failure rates for munitions are probably classified
2)sometimes, they aren't bugs, they are features

I won't quote your links (btw congratulations on getting 4 links in one comment! Living dangerously, I sez!), but there are two design imperatives for Area denial submunitions and these two design imperatives are the opposite of each other, i.e. to have submunitions that act like mines, prevent the enemy from moving thru/using an area and to have them self destruct/deactivate after a period of time. I think that the first imperative is going to get priority over the second and aggressive attempts to fulfill the second could degrade the effectiveness of the first.

Now, I apologize for taking your question not as Socratic but as a request for information and discussion. I think that the general question of weapons design is quite interesting from a lot of standpoints, as it is often a place where human ingenuity (sadly) shines and is often dealing with a problem in a way where the tolerance for error is a lot smaller than other problem solving, but if this is just Socratic questioning of Jes by proxy I'll pass.

Nell: "The way out of a generalized state of war is negotiations."

Indeed, it often is. And I believe that the Israeli government has recognized this for over a decade. Their adversaries, not so much.

"I don't believe that [Israel can simply win this war], and therefore am not interested in asserting anyone's right to wage war, with or without retaliation. That kind of affirmation just entrenches the positions that endanger everyone in the region."

Perhaps Israel's policies are unwise. But it is not for you to assert Israel's rights, unless you are designated to do so by the Israeli government. Israel asserts a right. The rest of us accept or deny this assertion.

Generally we look to past practices and written treaties when determining what a state's rights are.

Is it your point that we should pretend the Laws of War are something they are not, and have never been before, because this unilateral change will force Israel to accept your preferred policy decision, which is wiser than that of Israel's elected government?

You say you won't answer whether Arabs have a special right to wage war on Israel, without Israel waging war back. Can you answer whether Israel has a special obligation to not wage war in the way that other nations can? If so, please tell us why you think your preferred policy position is so evidently better than that of Israel's government as to trump law and custom and subject Israel to uniquely harsh standards.

Hartmut,

Cluster munitions failure rates vary enormously with the target environment. Softer materials such as desert sand result in a much higher failure rate than do hard materials, such as pave roads and runways. So I wouldn't put much stock in claimed or relative rates unless explanation is given as to how the figures were arrived at, preferably in a study where a relatively unbiased group (not a manufacturer or manufacturing nation) compares the various products.

"(btw congratulations on getting 4 links in one comment! Living dangerously, I sez!)"

As I've said a bazillion times: four works, but five is too many.

"Area denial submunitions" are a very specific and limited subcategory of cluster munitions.

"but if this is just Socratic questioning of Jes by proxy I'll pass"

Not socratic; I think it would be nice if Jes -- as anyone should -- would either back up her specific claims or withdraw them, but as I alway say, I have a rich fantasy life. I got nothing further to add, otherwise.

I certainly agree that cluster submunitions that don't go off, and lie around in noticeable numbers, are a horrible thing, and should be eliminated as much as possible, of course. But that's besides the point.

I don't know if you or anyone actually looked at any of the material I linked, but here's the DoD policy as of last week.

From what I remember the first fielded cluster bombs* had a failure rate of about 30%. European producers (in ads) claim now about 1-2%. Anti mine and cluster bomb activists I talked to estimated the real failure rate to be in the range of 5-10% depending on conditions (again this is for European products). As I said above I consider US producers to be more sloppy in those things because the buyer does not care and the victims do not buy.
There was a debate in German parliament on the topic recently including, whether the failure rate should be a criterion for legality.
One cheap first step would be of course to make a bright skull and bones mark on the submunitions mandatory. That could reduce the civilian casualties at least a bit.
---
and DWPittelli: not all of Iraq is sand deserts, cities clearly are not. The US is specifically accused of using those things in urban areas too (and that is considered a war crime in itself).
---
Well the US has a general tendency to hunt flies with shotguns in china shops and acting surprised that someone could blame them for the resulting pile of shards (and rarely apologize for not even hitting any fly**)

*I do not count WW2 era experiments here
**but many fleas died together with the shopowner's dog and that should count for something

Gary: As I've said a bazillion times: four works, but five is too many.

That has not been my experience, but hope to have a successful test soon.

@DPW: I said all I have to say in my comment at 11:20. Have a good evening.

"The way out of a generalized state of war is negotiations."

"Indeed, it often is. And I believe that the Israeli government has recognized this for over a decade. Their adversaries, not so much."


As best I can tell both sides have plenty to be ashamed of on this topic as well as others. I don't get your view of things from Robert Malley or Charles Enderlin or Avi Shlaim or even Shlomo Ben-Ami, who is certainly no admirer of Arafat.

Anyway, time to abandon this thread.

Here ends the comments for the day. Just wanted to get this thread to an nice even 100 commnets.

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