December 29, 2008

Gaza

Volokh's David Bernstein summarizes my feelings on the matter virtually perfectly, and it's also an apt response to DE Libertarian's Steve Newton (with whom I differ greatly on this subject, but whose opinion I nevertheless respect immensely). All emphasis mine:

Glenn Greenwald, I take it, will not take me up on my offer of a free vacation to Sderot. My offer was specifically in response to his claim that Israel is engaging in a "massively disproportionate response" to the shelling of southern Israel from Gaza.

He obscures the issue by writing:

That "argument" is the same as saying to someone who objects to Hamas' suicide bombs or rockets: "I'll personally pay for your Ramallah or Gaza City vacation, so you can see what it's like to live imprisoned by walls, under a 40-year foreign occupation, with blockades that cause your children's growth to stunt and to be denied basic nutritional and medical needs."

The fact that the people of Location X are suffering doesn't mean that anything and everything their government directs to the general vicinity of those inflicting the suffering is justified.

So, now that I don't have to worry about paying for Greenwald's vacation, I can ask, rhetorically (though Greenwald is free to answer): when a terrorist entity controls territory bordering that of a sovereign nation, and indiscriminately lobs rockets into that nation's territory, terrifying the civilian population and making normal life unlivable, what is a proportionate response?

Israel has engaged in pinpoint targeting of military facilities operated by said terrorist entities, and has gone so far as to send messages in Arabic to residents of Gaza, warning them that if they allow their homes or businesses are sheltering Hamas weaponry, they will be destroyed. Even according to Palestinian sources, the overwhelming majority of victims of Israeli bombs thus far have been Hamas fighters. This is perhaps the least extreme response that any sovereign nation faced with an analogous situation has ever engaged in. Cf. Russia in Chechnya.

Greenwald's real problem, I surmise, is that he thinks that Israel's response is "disproportionate" not because its disproportionate relative to Hamas's military actions and Israel's military objectives compared to the civilian damaged inflicted (more or less the international law definition of proportionality), but because he believes that Israel is primarily to blame for the situation in Gaza, and therefore any suffering inflicted on Gaza's civilians is primarily Israel's fault. Hence his observation about Israel's blockade of Gaza, which is not at all relevant to whether Israel's response to the rocket fire is "proportionate," but rather to whether Israel is morally at fault in general.

But by putting the issue in terms of the "proportionality" of Israel's response, Greenwald (and others) are obscuring their real argument, which is that Israel is not entitled to act in self-defense because no matter how many rockets are launched into Israeli territory, Israel is ultimately the aggressor in the Gaza situation.

I find that argument hopeless naive, and, in fact, counterfactual. Let's start with the fact that the blockade was a response to Hamas's actions against Israel, not vice versa. (If Hamas had been a peace-loving entity, and Israel had nevertheless blockaded its territory, and I had attacked Hamas's military response as "wildly disproportionate", then Greenwald's counter-offer of a trip to Gaza would make sense). Now imagine for a moment that Hamas announced, sincerely, that its goal was no longer to annihilate Israel, but to establish a peaceful Islamic democracy that was willing to work with Israel and the Palestinian Authority to achieve a lasting agreement with Israel, and then acted on that announcement by ceasing all violence aimed at Israel and offering to commence negotiations immediately. Is there any doubt that the blockade would end forthwith? And, for that matter, that Israel would happily cooperate with a peaceful Hamas and the international community to return Gaza to the incredible rates of economic growth (and beyond) it achieved under the first 20 years of the "brutal occupation"? Hamas, however, is not interested in a peaceful settlement with Israel, and, while its leaders hide in underground bunkers, is perfectly willing to fight Israel to the last Palestinian civilian.

So, to sum up, let's rephrase Greenwald's position: "I think that Israel is not entitled to cause any casualties, civilian or otherwise, in Gaza, because Israel bears the primary, indeed, almost the entire, responsibility for the conflict it is facing with Hamas. Therefore, Israeli civilians living in the range of Hamas rockets must simply bear with it until their government adopts more enlightened policies that will magically lead Hamas to prefer to live in peace with Israel."

Finally, I find it rather amusing that Greenwald refers to me as an "Israel-obsessive." I blog a fair amount about Israel, not least because I'm there twice a year and my wife is Israeli. Greenwald, meanwhile, blogs far more about Israel, without similar ties. What does that make him?

Meanwhile, CNN uses the headline "World rallies around Palestinians amid Gaza offensive" when in the article less than 3000 people in the "world" are actually noted. (The largest protest was in Germany.) And oh gee -- protests in ... Iran?? Who'da thought? Venezuela? How much did Uncle Chávez pay 'em?

Meanwhile, here's what you may not hear in the MSM: Leading Saudi paper: Hamas to blame for conflict. Not only that, but the Palestinian Authority and Egypt place the blame for the current Gaza conflict on ... Hamas, too!!

Posted by Hube at December 29, 2008 05:51 PM | TrackBack

Comments  (We reserve the right to edit and/or delete any comments. If your comment is blocked or won't post, e-mail us and we'll post it for you.)

On the radio today I heard a report that talked about 300 deaths in Israel's last attack, and one death from a previous Hamas attack. One death. THAT ATTACK, maybe, but thanks for ignoring all the other innocent men, women, and children that have been killed in Hamas's other attacks. You know, the ones that started just after the cease fire?

To paraphrase Optimus Primal in "Beast Wars", truce just means the Hamas need time to reload.

Posted by: ShadowWing Tronix at December 29, 2008 09:26 PM

Disproportionate? Imagine the terror Hamas would inflict on Israel if it had the same weaponry.

Israel is within it's rights to protect it's citizens.

Posted by: h. at December 30, 2008 10:37 AM

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