March 16th, 1968

This is the real face of war.

This is what every pro-war person thinks is justified; this is what every pro-war politician, be it George W. Bush or Barack Obama, is responsible for. This is what is happening right now in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Pakistan; what has happened in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip and may well happen in Iran. It is happening all over the world today, where the mighty few are trying to expand their power and wealth over the corpses of those who have nothing.

And it will continue to happen until we collectively do something about it.

This isn’t some kind of utopian tree-hugging idealism.

These are the facts.

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46 Comments

  1. These things happen. I don’t like it anymore than you do. Will this stop wars from happening? No. Does this kind of violence suddenly make wars unnecessary? HECK no.

    People are stupid, greedy, power-hungry, and bloodthirsty. People make war because resources are limited and nobody wants to share, and they want to make resources UNlimited even less, because then that means no more profit, and the “profit” itself isn’t always monetary. The “profit” could be power, could be influence, could be a stinking ice cream cake.

    I don’t like war anymore than you do, Jonas. I don’t like that image anymore than you do, and I wish that image could never have been taken. But it WAS taken, and so was that little boy’s life. Who took that shot? Someone who thought he needed to take it. Does he need to be shot? In both hands.

    It doesn’t matter who took the shot, though. Wars are necessary because people make them so. They are only unnecessary in the sense that if people were more servant-minded, we would be helping each other always. But we don’t. We’re greedy, hedonistic, and look out only for Number 1.

    Evil exists. It’s very real. Some people just have more of it than others. It’s these people that make war necessary, because they always rally enough people to their unjust cause to make it so.

    I don’t agree with the idea of war. I don’t like it. And I don’t agree with the General from “The Infinite Ocean.” But until evil no longer exists in the world, people will make war. Evil rallies together to lay waste. War is necessary because that is a LOT of brainwashed minions with AK-47s.

    I wish it weren’t so.

  2. I don’t think most people are evil. I don’t even think the soldiers who did this were evil. Many of them may have been stupid, but I don’t think they were evil. What they did was evil, that’s beyond question, and they did make a choice to do what they did, but personal responsibility isn’t the real cause of this. The real cause of this, as always, are the people giving the orders. Where’s the difference, after all, between carpet bombing civilians and just shooting them?

    But that doesn’t mean that wars cannot be stopped. Most people are opposed to war; it is the system which perpetuates the power of those who can profit from war. But a system can be established which will prevent this. It won’t be a perfect system – it won’t prevent jealousy, it won’t keep people from cheating on each other, it won’t make everyone happy – but it will work a lot better than what we have. War is not a necessary condition of humanity.

  3. I wish I could agree with you, Jonas, but I live in America. And contrary to the propaganda stuffed down my throat, the Articles of Confederation didn’t fail simply because the central government was weak.

    It failed because it was written on the premise that people are naturally good and will naturally obey good laws.

    We all saw how well that worked.

    People are NOT naturally good, and I gave up on the idea that they were the third time my heart got broken. My suspicions were later confirmed by my college American History teacher when he explained the real reasons why the Articles of Confederation deserve their spot on Failblog.org.

    People are greedy and hedonistic. The people in power are usually the worst of these, unless they’re played by James Stewart.

    The Constitution was written on this premise. It’s equally stupid in that our Founding Fathers didn’t realize just how much power they gave to the President when they wrote in the power of the veto. But it hasn’t fallen apart and grants its citizens the right to make fun of it and point out its flaws while simultaneously providing spankings for anyone who thinks shoplifting is a good idea.

    Not that I like it here, but I can’t see anywhere else in this world as being any better, except a secluded and abandoned light house.

  4. I think a “people are egoistic” kind of logic is too generic. First of all, I don’t think it’s entirely true. Yes, people can be selfish, but people can also take to the streets to fight for justice – and they have done so many times in the past. Millions went out to protest the Iraq war. Right now there are protests all over the world – people are willing to fight.

    Part of the problem is that we live in an economic system which is all about greed. The system is built on the idea that the drive for profit will benefit us all – which is clearly bullshit. People are taught to be greedy, because that’s the ideology of the system, and because it means that they can’t actually organize to change things.

    Of course humans will never be perfect. But that’s not what this is about. War is not the result of personal failings. You have to differentiate between what people may do in their personal lives, and how countries and economic systems act. War is a systemic issue.

    And again, consider this: the failure of democracy in the United States (and most of Europe) has got very little to do with the political systems of these countries, and a whole lot to do with their economic systems. It’s the corporations that rule, because they have all the power.

    Look at older historical examples, like Nazi Germany. Sure, there were plenty of people who supported Hitler. But who put Hitler into power?

    1)The rich, because he served their interests.
    2) Stalin and his bureaucracy, by destroying the communist movement that was opposed to Hitler.
    3) Ironically enough, the Social Democrats.

    Nevertheless, Germany could very much have gone a different way back then. It wasn’t just the people’s selfishness and stupidity that led to the Nazis taking power, though I won’t deny that that was a real factor. But it was the economic system of Germany and the destruction of the Russian revolution that determined what happened.

    (Not that social issues cannot play a part. These days Germany is so entrenched in its values of propriety that change will be really difficult. But Germany is the only country of that kind that I know, and is probably a freak exception.)

  5. Two masks betray one face. Disregard the first two sentences of this comment via the magic of doublethink.

    Humans are not inherently malicious. There are a very few who at the right place in time take an intrinsic pleasure in the hedonstic joy of destruction and chaos, but they are rare.

    This thing you call ‘evil’ is a relative term (like every other in this life) and its phenomenon most often springs from a small amount of selfishness and a great amount of fear, apathy or ignorance. If you want to create a monster, gather twenty average people in a room with a common interest. Thinking together, we become blind to the results of our actions. We become efficient only at serving our own needs and wants.
    This is why the corporate entity has no quibbles about doing ill to the minds of the masses. Why the government of the people and its valiant foot soldiers commit such crimes against humanity. At its simplest, ignorance. At its most vicious, apathy. At its strongest, fear. And the spark of encouragement necessary to set the beast upon its prey.

    Incidentally, this is the problem with communism. It seems all too conducive to this atrocity. Collectivist economic policy I might agree with, but as a social policy it seems dangerous to me. Thinking together we cut the fat from ourselves. The irrational–our humanity–is removed and left to die. Often those dictating the common interest make convenient alterations, causing a slow degeneration into utilitarianism.

    For the reason above, we can never think together. No, as humans we must think alone and pursue understanding. Alone. You strike me as a man who has given thought some thought, Jonas, so you ought to understand.

    (This writing is jumbled and rambly, as it’s 12:16 AM. Pardon.)

    Thought and action are wholly different things. So let’s elaborate on the transition from ‘evil’ (collective interest) thought to ‘evil’ action. Supported by like-minded peers, whether they be uncertain or fervent about their march, we become anonymous. We become an idea: the soldier. No one remembers the face of the warrior, the ‘freedom fighter’ or whatever the man with the gun cares to call himself. His actions are remembered and attributed to the banner which he carries. He is but a finger of that emblem, whether it be ruled wisely or the monstrosity which is our ‘evil’. It’s not a big step. If no one will be horrified at your deed, then it is no horror at its exterior. One might horrify himself but individual feelings are already sacrificed if we’re acting in the “collective interest”.

    I would like to hear the nature of your contrivances, Jonas, to correct the holes in the communist system. I’ve contrived some of my own to correct the holes in the republic. I’ll relate to DelaSangre in expressing disgust at my nation, America, while at the same time accepting its system as near the individualistic ideal.

    And with regard to egoism, even the selfless are selfish. When I spot a box-elder beetle in the house (and precious memories from childhood they are) I gently place before it a piece of paper, lift it, carry it out the door and shake it free, watching it fly away. I do this selfishly, not in the interest of order but because I do not wish to see it die, or to imagine that it will die unnecessarily where I might have intervened. As a human being I evaluate things on a spectrum of wonder and horror, selfishly gravitating toward that which I consider wonderful.

    Anyway, mind all the rambling.

    A last question to Jonas. What does the word Lucid mean to you?

  6. I don’t really think of communism as a collectivist social policy. Quite the opposite, really – I see it as opening the possibilites of debate. The idea is to expand democracy to include more areas of life, such as the workplace; not to lessen it. That’s why I am always trying to distinguish actual socialism/communism from the utopian nonsense of the 60s movement as much as from Stalinism (and post-Stalin Soviet politics, which weren’t much better).

    I don’t quite buy the idea the helping someone or something is selfish, by the way. You may not desire to experience horror, but the reason you consider it to be horror is one of compassion. Trying to explain that as selfishness seems kind of… sophistic. (No offense intended.)

    Anyway, I don’t entirely share your fear of “mass” behaviour. It very much depends on the mass. But I don’t think that communism is about making us all into one mindless mass. It’s about altering the way resources are used and owned, and about creating more direct forms of democracy while simultaneously remembering that we are all in this together. That does not mean we all have to think the same way, or even agree on everything. It doesn’t even mean we have to like each other.

    A proper socialist educational system would place its strongest emphasis on critical thought and questioning what you’re told.

    Unfortunately, I have to get going now, so I will resort to posting the link that explains much of what I think: Why Socialism?, by Albert Einstein.

    As for “lucid”… well, that depends entirely on the context. I try to be careful not to oversimplify words.

  7. JM

     /  March 19, 2009

    Jonas, ich teile deine Auffasung über die Gruppen, die Hitlers Machtübernahme halfen, nicht. Sie trugen durch Fehler alle ihren Teil dazu bei, aber verantwortlich war die deutsche Geschichte und die vorherrschenden Denkweisen, die Mentalität, wenn du so willst. Die Menschen wählten ihn schließlich in freien Wahlen an die Macht. Das Establishment und die Reichen zählten nicht zu seinen Unterstützern während des Aufstiegs der NSDAP, das kam erst, als sie eine Massenpartei war. Zu diesem Zeitpunkt war sie aber in anderen Milieus bereits extrem stark. Die mächtigsten Kapitalisten waren insofern stark verantwortlich, als daß sie den Konservatismus unterstützten, der für den Niedergang des Systems verantwortlich war. Aber sie setzten nicht Hitler ein.

    Ebensowenig war Stalin Schuld. Es ist müßig zu spekulieren, wie sich die KPD entwickelt hätte, wenn sie nicht moskautreu gewesen wäre. Die USPD gab es ja nicht mehr, aber ob sie stark genug hätte sein können? Stalin trägt vielmehr zu einem späteren Zeitpunkt enorme Schuld, nämlich mit dem Pakt 1939.

    Am ehesten die Sozialdemokraten, die haben das Scheitern der Weimarer Republik am ehesten mit zu verantworten, da gebe ich dir Recht, wobei das schon 1918 begann. Denn sie verhinderten einen radikalen Umbruch, als er notwendig und möglich war, und mitbegründeten die Republik, ohne sie in den Köpfen und Herzen der Menschen zu tragen. Und verteidigten sie bei weitem nicht energisch genug.

    Schuld sind letztlich die Deutschen selbst, egal ob Großkapital oder Kleinbürger. Jeder, der damals geduldet hat, was passiert. Aber es fehlte natürlich auch der Vergleichspunkt, den wir heute haben, der Faschismus war damals noch neu und konnte seine zerstörerische Dynamik erst mit seinen Erfolgen entfalten.

    Wo ich weiterhin den anderen zustimme ist, daß Menschen Egoisten und vielleicht auch eher böse sind. Es braucht nicht viel, daß wir unseren zivilisierten Habitus verlieren. Sonst hätte auch der Sozialismus schon längst verwirklicht werden können. Oder glaubst du, nur Stalin war Schuld und mit Trotzki wäre es alles besser gewesen? Die meisten Revolutionäre traten mit großartigen Ideen an, die sie sich sicher verinnerlicht hatten, aber oft genug sind sie gescheitert.

    Trotzdem teile ich das negative Menschenbild der anderen weniger. Es ist halt so wie es ist, es verhindert nicht, daß wir auch gute Dinge zustande bringen. Sonst gäbe es ja auch keine Fortschritt. Aber ob wir zum Kommunismus fähig sind? Es ist ein Ideal, das wir anstreben sollten, aber ihn verwirklichen, daß halte ich für erstmal ausgeschlossen. Denn das Problem ist ja, daß es immer Menschen gibt, die einfach vom Grunde ihres Herzens Kapitalisten sind. Genauso wie Sozialisten, weshalb wir ja auch nicht im reinen Kapitalismus leben. Unsere Aufgabe sollte es sein, die Ideen des Sozialimus oder auch Kommunismus zu verbreiten, ihn aber vielleicht gar nicht einzufordern. Ohne kulturelle Hegemonie lässt sich nichts erreichen.

  8. I read Einstein’s article and I agree with him about the benefits of a socialist economy. I also agree about the danger of leaving civil liberties in the hands of the managing party. Social policy must remain individualistic.
    The collectivism I fear arises when individuals sacrifice their social rights for a sense of safety. This is incredibly dangerous, as it removes say from the people (who are the source of political power) and places it in the hands of, quite often, one of the ‘monsters’ I mentioned previously. Even in a democratic state citizens can (and have) been persuaded to vote away their own rights. As a case study (and not quite a valid one, considering the US is not and was never a democracy) consider the USA patriot act. Fervently supported, a popular vote may very well have approved it just as congress did. Yet it was a dangerous step toward fascism for our country.

    Democracy is not individualistic, then, but collectivistic–serving the collective interest–and cannot suffice as a means of governing social policy. People can be persuaded, and can be scared into selling their liberties for a sense safety. From there it’s only a matter of time until the providers of “safety” rule with an iron fist.

    So perhaps what’s in order is a heavily constitutionalized democracy with mechanisms to counter this, namely a well-defined system of human rights. And a socialist economy to make it run efficiently, assuming property rights can be excluded from fundamental liberties. (And this is a very large provision, though I’m all for it.)

    My thanks for the read. It gives a fresh perspective on economic policy as separate from, yet analogue to, social policy.

    Are you a lucid dreamer, Jonas? It’s something I’ve been looking into and “Desert Bridge” was a rather fascinating game.

  9. Schuld sind letztlich die Deutschen selbst, egal ob Großkapital oder Kleinbürger. Jeder, der damals geduldet hat, was passiert. Aber es fehlte natürlich auch der Vergleichspunkt, den wir heute haben, der Faschismus war damals noch neu und konnte seine zerstörerische Dynamik erst mit seinen Erfolgen entfalten.

    Das ist mir letztlich zu einfach. Klar, die Mentalität ist Teil des Problems – vor allem in Deutschland – aber je mehr ich über die Zeit lese, desto mehr sehe ich, daß mehr als genug Leute ganz anders gedacht haben. Selbst während dem Krieg. Es hätte einen richtigen deutschen Widerstand geben können, wenn es eine Gruppe gegeben hätte, die so etwas organisiert hätte.

    Man kann nicht immer die Individuen beschuldigen. Wenn man ständig hört, alle lieben Hitler und die Nazis, dann ist es nicht leicht sich dagegen aufzulehnen. Vor allem als Arbeiter oder Bauer. Uns erscheint es vielleicht leicht, aber man muß es aus der Perspektive der Zeit sehen.

    Und selbst wenn Leute Hitler gewählt haben, kann man nicht so leicht auf diese “personal responsiblity” Logik zurückgreifen, die in konservativen Kreisen so beliebt ist. Die Menschen schweben nicht in einem Feld der perfekten Selbstwahrnehmung. Sie sind Teil der Geschichte, und auch ihre Mentalität wird von ökonomischen und politischen Faktoren beeinflusst. Insofern sind Stalin und die Kapitalisten sehr wohl dafür verantwortlich, dass Deutschland in diese Richtung gehen konnte.

    Wo ich weiterhin den anderen zustimme ist, daß Menschen Egoisten und vielleicht auch eher böse sind. Es braucht nicht viel, daß wir unseren zivilisierten Habitus verlieren.

    Das hört man viel, aber ich finde es immernoch nicht realistisch. Es gibt viele Beispiele für primitives Verhalten, aber es gibt genausoviele Beispiele wo sich Leute in extremen Situationen altruistisch verhalten.

    Sonst hätte auch der Sozialismus schon längst verwirklicht werden können.

    So sehe ich den Sozialismus nicht. Es geht mir um die Organisation der Ökonomie, nicht um die Utopie.

    Oder glaubst du, nur Stalin war Schuld und mit Trotzki wäre es alles besser gewesen? Die meisten Revolutionäre traten mit großartigen Ideen an, die sie sich sicher verinnerlicht hatten, aber oft genug sind sie gescheitert.

    Naja… schon. Es geht mir dabei nicht um Trotzki persönlich; ich bin auch in vielen Dingen nicht einer Meinung mit ihm. Aber die Sovietunion hätte leicht in eine völlig andere Richtung gehen können. Was unter Stalin geschehen ist war eine gegen-Revolution, nicht eine logische Fortsetzung der Revolution.

    Und ja, die Revolution ist natürlich am Ende – wegen Stalin und den Mechanismen, die ihn produziert haben – gescheitert. Ich sage ja nicht, dass alle Menschen heilige Superhelden sind. Nur dass sie nicht von Natur aus böse sind.

  10. With regard to my stance on Egoism (the selfishness of compassion) this is perhaps a difference in semantics, or more specifically in perspectives. I consider all I see subjective. Other people, in the most psychological and philosophical sense, are no more than symbols and in that sense function on a very different mechanism than I myself. Is it any more wrong to engage in cruelty in a dream than in life? We feel guilt upon waking nonetheless, even if the object of our torment was not “real”.
    I wish to see a beautiful world as much as anyone. A world where we can entertain our noble passions–creativity, curiosity and love–while becoming ever more intellectual as a race. A world where our practical problems are not competitive deadlock but the simple challenges of survival which must be defeated before moving on to beautiful and impractical things. What I say here is simply my best rationalization of “why”. And it’s not something that can be very well rationalized.

  11. (Jonas- It’s probably noteworthy that I had another comment you probably missed before your german post)

  12. The collectivism I fear arises when individuals sacrifice their social rights for a sense of safety. This is incredibly dangerous, as it removes say from the people (who are the source of political power) and places it in the hands of, quite often, one of the ‘monsters’ I mentioned previously. Even in a democratic state citizens can (and have) been persuaded to vote away their own rights.

    But is collectivism the cause of that? Or is it actually perhaps individualism? Most people I’ve heard from who were in favour of things like the Patriot Act seemed to be acting out of a personal fear of the terrorists, a personal sense of threat.

    I grant you, however, that “us versus them” thinking could be seen as a kind of collectivism, even though I think that a sense of loneliness is actually what causes people to attempt to submerge themselves in such mass identities.

    As a case study (and not quite a valid one, considering the US is not and was never a democracy) consider the USA patriot act. Fervently supported, a popular vote may very well have approved it just as congress did. Yet it was a dangerous step toward fascism for our country.

    Which is why the emphasis with socialism has always been on education. People cannot make educated decisions if they aren’t educated. Educated to understand the political situation and to question what they’re told. You cannot have socialism without critical thinking.

    So perhaps what’s in order is a heavily constitutionalized democracy with mechanisms to counter this, namely a well-defined system of human rights. And a socialist economy to make it run efficiently, assuming property rights can be excluded from fundamental liberties. (And this is a very large provision, though I’m all for it.)

    That I agree with. I do think a well-defined system of human rights is very important, as are safeguards – though I still think there is no better safeguard than education. As we have seen in the US, safeguards can be removed if people are idle. But people who understood would not be idle.

    As for property rights – I’m not so much for abolishing them as I am for limiting them. I don’t think we should even try creating a property-free society; that’s just absurd utopianism, and it’s not necessarily a utopia I would particularly like to live in. People do need to have stuff of their own. But there’s a difference between “this is my garden” and “this is my factory” or even worse, “this is my power plant.”

    Are you a lucid dreamer, Jonas? It’s something I’ve been looking into and “Desert Bridge” was a rather fascinating game.

    No, not at all. I’ve always thought that the dreams that really matter are the ones we have when we’re awake. My night-time dreams are just fricking bizarre. The other night I dreamt that Verena and I were fighting aliens in my old school. With toilet paper. And on skates. Go figure…

  13. Other people, in the most psychological and philosophical sense, are no more than symbols and in that sense function on a very different mechanism than I myself. Is it any more wrong to engage in cruelty in a dream than in life? We feel guilt upon waking nonetheless, even if the object of our torment was not “real”.

    To me that seems like you’re looking at the image upside-down. The fact that you could feel guilty about a dream is not because people in real life are as insubstantial as dreams. It’s because you do have a strong sense of compassion and morality – and because you treat the people in your dream as if they were real. But that actually says something very positive about you and the world.

    And I honestly think that when you become close with someone, this abstraction – seeing others as symbols – fades, and you feel the truly awesome (in the original sense of the word) reality of the existence of others.

  14. “But is collectivism the cause of that? Or is it actually perhaps individualism? Most people I’ve heard from who were in favour of things like the Patriot Act seemed to be acting out of a personal fear of the terrorists, a personal sense of threat.”

    Pure democracy is not individualism, unfortunately. The importance of individualism is the protection of rights and liberties; the emphasis upon a government which exists to ensure people may act freely until the point at which they are acting against others’ rights and liberties. To vote away rights is a clear violation.

    “I grant you, however, that “us versus them” thinking could be seen as a kind of collectivism, even though I think that a sense of loneliness is actually what causes people to attempt to submerge themselves in such mass identities.”

    As I said, Evil is a relative term, and to preach that it exists breeds a society that can be convinced of its existence elsewhere, in other populations perhaps. It’s not ‘terrorists’ we’re fighting in Iraq. They call themselves freedom fighters, and see us, quite clearly as the monsters. The evil ones. And yet on both sides good men fight and die, as in any war. The word “Evil” is all too conducive to blindness and prejudice.

    “Which is why the emphasis with socialism has always been on education. People cannot make educated decisions if they aren’t educated. Educated to understand the political situation and to question what they’re told. You cannot have socialism without critical thinking.”

    This is good. But it’s dangerous to trust the judgement of the populace too much. To trust them enough to leave their rights, mutable, in their hands.

    “As for property rights – I’m not so much for abolishing them as I am for limiting them. I don’t think we should even try creating a property-free society; that’s just absurd utopianism, and it’s not necessarily a utopia I would particularly like to live in. People do need to have stuff of their own. But there’s a difference between “this is my garden” and “this is my factory” or even worse, “this is my power plant.””

    I don’t mean abolishing property rights per se, but establishing a system of ownership which is more controlled and monitored. I speak of economic socialism, in a general and indefinite way. I don’t believe in property rights as fundamental because property is merely a means (or percieved means) to what is actually desirable to a human being, whether that be satisfaction of the vices–pride, pleasure and order–or fulfillment of the nobler passions–creativity, curiosity and love.

    You might find with a lot of things, dreams certainly not least among them, that searching for meaning where none was apparently intended tends to turn up jewels.

  15. “And I honestly think that when you become close with someone, this abstraction – seeing others as symbols – fades, and you feel the truly awesome (in the original sense of the word) reality of the existence of others.”

    I find myself losing sight (in a good way) of the distinctions between ‘real’ and imagined. Illusion can be as concrete as anything else, and has to be so in our modern world. Take concepts like authority, or the various abstractions we use to look at the world–science, life, society–and that ancient idea of ‘it is as you see it’ begins to ring on ever deeper levels. At least, for me.
    A purely scientific viewpoint would call another person a piece of coherent matter; a pile of chemical reactions performing biological functions and such. The perspective I find myself toying with more and more, however, asserts that most concretely, a person is an idea. You manifest yourself with words, here, and the idea which represents you–is you–slowly takes more detailed form.
    And such an idea can be loved. The idea which is humanity, too, can be loved, and this feeling compels me to seek a better world.

    What you say is true, too, however. This is a world of many perspectives. Many paradigms. I simply use the one I’m describing because it’s novel. Unexplored.

  16. Uriah

     /  April 10, 2009

    The same also happened recently in Sri-Lanka, Georgia, Sudan (Darfur) and many other places around the world, but they aren’t mentioned here nor, as it seems, by many sites you link to. Why this focus on specific conflicts?
    When I was a kid, I was told sometimes that “it takes two to have a fight”, as a way to convince me to ignore kids picking on me in order to make them stop. It didn’t work. I’ve come to believe that it takes two to make peace, but only one to have a fight – sometimes one has to defend itself against belligerent enemies.
    Disclosure: I’m from Israel. These things happen here too.

  17. Actually, the sites I link to often refer to these conflicts, especially Sri-Lanka and Georgia.

    The question is, who is the belligerent enemy? All too often the powerful paint themselves as the poor, tiny nations that have to stand up to the bullies. But it is powers like the United States, Israel and the European Union, with their vast armies and powerful weapons, that have the upper hand – they are the bullies. (Which does not mean that I approve of the barbaric and reactionary methods of various terrorist groups, or of their nationalist or religious ideologies.)

  18. Uriah

     /  April 11, 2009

    In other words, you simply believe that the strong are always the wrong?

    Besides, I don’t really see how Israel in particular “has the upper hand” so obviously, when it is surrounded by enemy nations much larger than it in both population and area. And if Iran openly calls for destroying “the Zionist entity” while arming and encouraging terrorist groups attacking Israel, is Iran not belligerent is in the simplest meaning of the word?

    P.S. It is not that I totally approve of the operation in Gaza or the Israeli policy in general. I must admit though that my disapproval of the former fades away when facing an onslaught of criticism from all directions on the verge of hate-speech… (not referring to this blog).

  19. Well, I think that in 99% of all cases those who use violence to achieve their goals are wrong. Especially when they are gigantic nations attacking groups who don’t stand a chance against them.

    Israel has the upper hand in that it has an extremely powerful army and the support of the United States (and a nuclear arsenal). The countries around it are far from wonderful, but Israel has consistently been the aggressor, in war after war. That doesn’t mean Israeli people are evil. But the actions of its successive governments are anything but peaceful.

    As for Gaza, well, I don’t think there’s even the remotest way of pretending that Israel doesn’t have superior force there. We’re talking a high-end military force versus a few groups whose best weapons are self-made missiles that spend most of their time failing. Well, actually what we’re talking is a high-end military force against a defenseless civilian population. That’s simply genocide – as every human rights organization agrees, including the Israeli ones.

    When it comes to criticisms of Israel, you have to be careful to differentiate. What I just wrote above has nothing to do with hate, and everything to do with international law and human rights. Most of the criticism is like that, and entirely justified. But there is also another kind, the one employed by many state leaders in the Middle East: an attempt to mix nationalism with Israel-bashing so as to appeal to the strong emotions of the public. That’s despicable and extremely reactionary; it’s abusing the very real and justified feelings of the population in order to gain more power and keep people from thinking of the ways in which their own government is oppressing them. It’s also a great way of pretending to be angry about these events while actually being partially responsible for them. Egypt may have complained about the butchering of civilians in Gaza, but they had a pact with Israel not to let any refugees through. If the Egyptian government cares so much, why didn’t they do anything – like open the border? But of course they don’t care, they’re just trying to stay in power.

    The same goes for Europe and Iraq. They pretended to be opposed to it, but had no problem helping transport innocent prisoners to countries where they would be tortured, in some cases to death.

    So, are the strong always the wrong? When they behave like bullies, yes, they are. Because being strong, they have other options, which the weak may not have.

  20. Uriah

     /  April 12, 2009

    Israel has consistently been the aggressor, in war after war? Well I’m afraid you’re plainly misinformed here. The Israeli war of independence erupted after the Arabs of Mandatory Palestine rejected wholesale the UN partition resolution – which the Jewish leadership did accept – and turned to violence, later joined by the invading armies of several Arab nations. The war of 1973 started with a surprise attack by Egypt and Syria, and the latest war in Lebanon was started with an attack by Hizballah. Other wars had their pretext which may or may not seem justified to you or anyone else, but I think that blaming Israel for having consistently been the aggressor, when its civilians have been attacked by terrorists who openly aim at the destruction of that state, is rather one-sided.

  21. OK, let’s have a closer look at history then.

    The Zionist movement advanced as the solution to the persecution of European Jewry and the greatest tragedy of the 20th century, the Holocaust, not the struggle for the democratic and social rights of the Jewish people but their separate existence in a new state, Israel. It was to be established on part of one of the patchwork of states that Britain and France carved out of the old Ottoman Empire after World War I.

    In the aftermath of World War II, the establishment of Israel was viewed with sympathy by millions of people around the world who were appalled at the catastrophe that had befallen the Jews. This, plus the political calculations of the major powers, led the United Nations to vote in 1947 for the partition of Palestine into two states on May 15, 1948, when Britain’s League of Nations Mandate to rule the country expired: one for the Jews, half of whose population would be Palestinian, and one for the Palestinians. It would be a theocratic state based upon religious exclusiveness.

    And while the Arabs were the ones who rejected the plan, this isn’t exactly strange, is it? Their homeland, which had already been through a lot, was suddenly declared to partially belong to someone else. After centuries of imperialist oppression, it’s no wonder they felt this was invasion. From their perspective, they were on the defensive. Also – see below.

    The establishment of Israel and the ensuing war led to the forced expulsion of 750,000 Palestinians from their homes, as Israel secured for itself 80 percent of the land controlled by the British under the Mandate. King Abdullah of Transjordan, Britain’s client state, seized the West Bank, and Egypt took control of Gaza, both of which became home to many of the refugees forced out of Israel.

    It was one of the largest forced migrations in modern history. Many were expelled at gunpoint, others fled in terror. Israel portrays these expulsions as retaliation for hostile Palestinian actions and the war that broke out on May 15, 1948 when Israel’s Arab neighbours attacked the nascent state, as well as a few aberrant massacres by Zionist terrorist groups, such as that at Deir Yassin, in April 1948.

    Israeli historians have demonstrated that this was not the case. Ilan Pappe’s The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, explains that nearly 300,000 expulsions took place before the war; that they were deliberate and conceived as a way of forcing a war that would enable Israel to acquire more land than that allocated by the UN. The Zionist leadership openly declared in March 1948 that it would take over the land and expel the indigenous population by force under its infamous Plan Dalet.

    Those who fled were not allowed to return to Israel. They became refugees, living in tented cities and slums in Jordan, Syria and Lebanon, and dispersed throughout the world. According to the UN, the original refugees and their descendants now number four million.

    The expulsion of the Palestinians, the take-over of their land without compensation, and the revocation of their citizenship and right of return were the essential prerequisites for the establishment of a Jewish majority. In addition Israel immediately sought to encourage immigration and passed the Law of Return in 1950 and the Citizenship Law in 1952, granting every Jew throughout the world the right to immediate citizenship upon arrival.

    The dispossession continued after 1948. Of those Palestinians who remained in Israel, many were expelled from their own homes and resettled elsewhere within Israel. Always second-class citizens, they were subject until the 1960s to military laws established by Britain during the Mandate period.

    You can fight about the causes of the Six-Day War; it’s too simple to claim that Egypt was just being aggressive for no reason (they viewed Israel as a threat imposed on them by the imperialist powers of Europe), but it’s also impossible to condone their policies and methods. Nevertheless, what cannot be denied is that Israel used this war to essentially continue its policy of conquest, expulsion and colonization.

    Arab countries over the years refused to regard Israel as having a right to exist, and Arab nationalists led by Nasser called for the destruction of the state. In 1967, Egypt, Syria, and Jordan massed troops close to Israeli borders, expelled UN peacekeepers and blocked Israel’s access to the Red Sea. Israel saw these actions as a casus belli for a pre-emptive strike that launched the Six-Day War, Israel achieved a decisive victory in which it captured the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Sinai Peninsula and Golan Heights.

    The promulgation by the government of literally hundreds of “occupiers’ laws” directly contravened not only the tenets of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights but the Geneva Conventions as well. These violations of basic democratic rights included administrative detention, mass land expropriations, forced movement of populations, and torture.

    Palestinians were made homeless and whole areas were ethnically cleansed so that Israelis, often new immigrants, could be housed. Initially it was only the right-wing zealots, determined to colonise the West Bank (known as Judea and Samaria in biblical Palestine), who came to the new settlements. But it was only possible to populate them by offering financial inducements, in the form of subsidies and tax rebates, to encourage poor Israelis to settle there who otherwise had no chance of obtaining decent, affordable housing. Even after talks to reach a negotiated resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict resulted in the 1993 Oslo Accords, settlement building did not abate. The opposite occurred, it increased, transforming the demography of the West Bank and Jerusalem.

    As for Lebanon, Israel has been anything but peaceful:

    It invaded Lebanon in the “Litani Operation” of March 1978, killing an estimated 1,000 civilians, including Palestinian refugees. In June 1978 Israeli forces withdrew to the present “security zone” where they work with the Israeli-financed South Lebanon Army of some 3,000 soldiers. Israeli troops have remained there ever since, in defiance of UN Resolution 425, passed in that year, which calls for Israel’s complete withdrawal.

    In June 1982, Israel again invaded the rest of Lebanon. In operation “Peace for Galilee” Israeli forces bombed and besieged Beirut for two months until Palestine Liberation Organisation leaders agreed to leave the city. An estimated 18,000 people were killed and 30, 000 injured. The Israeli military only withdrew to its “security zone” in 1985.

    In July 1993 Israel launched Operation “Accountability”, a week-long assault designed to drive the entire civilian population of southern Lebanon to Beirut. More than 55 villages were shelled and 300,000 people displaced. Nevertheless, fighting soon resumed along the border.

    As for the war against Lebanon a few years ago…

    The Olmert government in Israel has seized on two incidents involving the kidnapping of Israeli soldiers, first in Gaza on June 25, and then on Wednesday on the Lebanese border, as pretexts for an enormous military operation that was clearly prepared long in advance.

    […]

    No one can seriously suggest that bombing Lebanese towns and villages, imposing a naval blockade and attempting to assassinate Sheik Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, are methods likely to win the freedom of the captured Israeli soldiers. The two soldiers taken by Hezbollah are far more likely to die as a result, killed either by their captors or by Israeli bombs.

    Likewise in Gaza, the indiscriminate killing of dozens of Palestinians with bombs, shells and air-to-ground missiles will do nothing to win the release of Gilad Shalit, the private seized by Islamic militants in their raid across the Gaza border into southern Israel.

    And very importantly:

    There is a long history of Israel using such events as the excuse for carrying out military actions that have a far broader strategic purpose—going back to 1978, when a full-scale invasion of Lebanon was launched using the shooting of the Israeli ambassador to Britain by Palestinian militants as a pretext. Only much later did it emerge that the invasion had been long planned, awaiting only the proper incident to provide a suitable official justification.

    To summarize: Israel has consistently followed a policy of conquest and colonization, as well as genocide (the latter aspect has been documented thoroughly lately, including by the United Nations). It has not initiated every war, but it has in many cases used small incidents to launch large-scale attacks that had often been prepared long in advance, and that were mostly aimed at a) conquest b) destruction or expulsion of native populations.

    The fact that the existence of Israel was imposed upon the region (to a large degree based on 2000 year-old writings), however, does not justify the actions of its neighbouring countries, whose motives usually have little to do with the oppression of the Palestinians – though it is understandable that they have always viewed Israel as a threat.

    In the end, Israel has consistently followed policies of conquest and oppression; the violent attacks on its citizens, while never justified, are the result of these policies. They are also, ironically, a perfect excuse for Israel to continue its genocide, responding to limited missile attacks with full-scale invasions and bombings of a civilian population that can neither flee nor retaliate.

    (More than a few Israeli historians will agree with this, by the way. We’re talking about history and government policies here, not hatred of Israelis.)

    (This post was going to be more detailed, but I’m running out of time.)

  22. Uriah

     /  April 13, 2009

    I had a feeling this would be useless… So it all boils down to Israel’s right to exist, doesn’t it? Arabs “understandably” reject it and use violence – from full-scale wars to terrorism – to weaken and destroy it. Well, my point of view is the other side, that Israel “understandably” uses force to maintain its existence and protect its Jewish population from explicit threats of genocide or forced migration (which were tried by the Arabs in 1947, just failed). Condemnations of aggression and terrorism by Arabs, rather sparse already, do nothing to reduce those threats, so we tend to ignore the all-too-enthusiastic condemnations of Israeli policy… Some of which, as you’ve said, is politically motivated, some of which is fair enough, and some of which stems from questioning Israel’s very right to exist. It is not surprising that a country would use whatever means it sees as necessary to protect its existence, is it? Especially being one of very few nations whose very existence is threatened time and again.

    There is no need for a more detailed post, thanks. I could also collect quotes by Palestinian leaders openly stating that there is no “Palestinian nation” actually, that they fight in the name of the Arab nation or Islamic religion, that regardless of any past agreements they refuse any sort of peace with Israel… I don’t believe this would lead any closer to a solution for this conflict. Same for the other way around.

  23. So it all boils down to Israel’s right to exist, doesn’t it?

    No, it boils down to history and to policies of conquest and genocide.

    Arabs “understandably” reject it and use violence – from full-scale wars to terrorism – to weaken and destroy it.

    You’re implying I approve of the violence. I do not. But what if this was any other country? What if a group of aliens arrived and declared that, say, half of the United States now belonged to someone else, because an ancient book said so? And they followed a consistent pattern of using the rejection of ordinary Americans to conquer more territory? (Someone ask the Native Americans about this, I guess.)

    Furthermore, do you seriously believe that starving people in Gaza or Lebanon are a real threat to a superpower like Israel? Even Israel says that its policy is one of using disproportionate force. “They kill one of us, we kill a thousand of their children.” That’s not exactly peaceful.

    And again, blowing people up won’t solve anything for either side.

  24. Uriah

     /  April 14, 2009

    I’ve had enough of this rhetoric. If Israel is such a superpower then how have the Palestinians survived decades over decades of “genocide”? Who has already investigated and convicted Israel of alleged war crimes – or does this require no trial? And how many Palestinians have died of starvation according to your knowledge? Dozens of trucks with basic supplies enter the Gaza Strip from Israel every day. Some Palestinians in Gaza may have died of lack of medical treatment, yes, yet others are still treated in Israel – and in any case many more people die from lack of medical care in other 3rd world countries, without Jews nearby to shoot at and then demand humanitarian aid from.

    Indeed the Palestinian terrorists may not pose an existential threat to Israel… Just to each and every one of its civilians. And we expect our government to protect us from that, not sit idly and let dozens get killed in a bus exploding, or tens of thousands run to shelters several times a day, because for the rest of the world this is not enough to warrant a “disproportionate” response.

    And please, if you do not condone violence from the Arab side, don’t insist on explaining it by legitimizing their refusal to accept Israel’s existence.

    Unlike what you imply, I do not believe the Israeli policy has always been that of force. In many cases yes, quite obviously resulting from violent attempts to destroy it, which could only be countered by force. But it was Israel which eventually gave the entire Sinai peninsula to Egypt for the sake of peace. It was also Israel “the superpower” which came to recognize the Palestinians in the Oslo agreements and pulled out its army from their cities, and also retreated unilaterally from South Lebanon and later Gaza – for nothing but increased extremism and violence from the other side. You could claim that Israel didn’t do so willingly but was force-handed to, but I could say the same about steps for peace from Arabs. So do you have a better suggestion?

  25. Uriah

     /  April 15, 2009

    This is just a report which raises doubts about Israeli claims (not about Palestinian claims, God forbid). If I remember correctly, the writer, John Dougard, has been denied entry due to having repeatedly lashed out against Israel in the past, showing him to be completely non-objective. One of his statements regarding the Gaza war (reflected in section 11 of the report) was that it was “a war crime to being with, to perform such a large-scale military operation in a densely populated area”. That is, if terrorists are attacking Israeli civilians from within Gaza, Israel cannot retaliate with force since there are too many civilians around.

    I don’t intend to argue about the rest of this “report”, because this is the crucial and repeated issue in my opinion. While the report does mention the rocket attacks against Israel and describes them as illegal and immoral, it doesn’t provide any real means to stop them, or terror activities in general. Like too many “human rights” organizations, it just documents and condemns action which violate human rights – while ignoring the potential outcome of avoiding any action.

    So Israel will avoid military action against the “too-densely-populated” Gaza, and maybe try to “talk” with the Hamas fanatics who actually rule it and staunchly refuse any prospect of peace, in the meanwhile giving them a chance to improve their rockets and kill some more Israelis. And Bush or Obama will avoid the attack which maybe left those two kids dead in the picture above, accidentally though expectedly, and then maybe many other children would be killed – but the hands of Bush and Obama would be clean, wouldn’t they? Or maybe not, because they have the power to do something, and therefore bear responsibility for using it – as well as for avoiding its use and letting things go on. If the U.S. can stop the killings in Darfur, though at a price of civilian death, and chooses to do nothing, is it OK or will it be again a source of U.S.-bashing?

    In fact, the terrorist organizations exploit this, firing rockets from civilian homes and even schools and hospitals, storing ammunition in them and using their own civilian population as a (willing or unwilling) human shield. So I’ll ask again, do you have any better suggestions how to deal with such a situation? When the enemy violates any moral rule of war you impose on yourself yet exploits those same rules as a weapon against you?

  26. firing rockets from civilian homes and even schools and hospitals, storing ammunition in them and using their own civilian population as a (willing or unwilling) human shield

    Why do you so easily buy this nonsense? It’s the same bullshit excuses used by everyone who bombs civilian populations. What kind of threat are Red Cross ambulances? And what justifies the bombing of innocent children? What?

    And since when does humanitarian intervention involve bombing and murdering people? How is that humanitarian? Like in Kosovo? Like in Somalia? Countries that have been totally ruined in the name of stopping genocide? Would it be a good idea to bomb Israel to stop their genocide? Should American civilians have been bombed because of what their government did to Iraq? Destroying the infrastructure of a country and murdering its population does not solve problems, it creates them.

    The crimes of Israel against the Palestinian population are what put Hamas into power in the first place. Furthermore, Israel has gone against the most basic of human rights again and again in its treatment of the Gaza Strip. And don’t give me this “woe is me, everyone hates us” crap. Facts are facts. The actions of the government of Israel have been documented. The people in the Gaza Strip are living with shit in the streets, dying of diseases and starvation, and Israel consistently blocks aid coming into the area. That’s a fact. Israel again and again has destroyed basic infrastructure that has NOTHING to do with Hamas’ ability to wage war, and EVERYTHING to do with destroying the ability of the Palestinians to organize even the minimums of civilization.

    Do you want to stop missile attacks?
    How about letting international aid through? (Always, not just sometimes.) Hell, how about not shooting at the people who try to help? How about not continuing colonization of disputed areas that have been acquired through conquest? How about not bulldozing houses and raiding homes? How about not limiting basic services like electricity and sewage disposal? How about acknowleding the many massacres of refugees and civilians? How about not treating people like shit?

    And your reaction to the UN report basically puts you right in the camp of conspiracy theorists and holocaust deniers, people who see what they want to see but cannot deal with the documented truth (documented by multiple neutral sources). I guess you’d say the same to the reports by Israeli human rights groups, right? Either they’re Israel-hating lunatics or they’re just not understanding the cost of not bombing children and innocents.

    It is simple.
    Violence towards Israel is the result of Israeli policies. It is the result of decades of oppression and systematic aggression. That does not mean the violence is justified. But it does mean it is in Israel’s hands to make the first move towards peace. Even Hamas has been willing to agree to a ceasefire, and when it has, Israel has not kept up its part of the agreement. That’s what started the last conflict.

    The whole idea that bombing people will keep more people from dying is as crazy as thinking that invading Iraq, destroying its government and looting the country would lead to democracy.

  27. Uriah

     /  April 16, 2009

    “And don’t give me this “woe is me, everyone hates us” crap. Facts are facts. ”
    Hm. The UN Human Rights Council has conducted ten special sessions so far, five of which convened specifically for dealing with Israeli military actions in Lebanon or in the “Occupied Palestinian Territories”. The council has condemned Israel about a dozen times, Myanmar once, and no other country at all. These are some facts I’m aware of. I seriously doubt that the human rights situation in the rest of the entire world is so swell that the council can so conveniently focus Israel, and given that it’s led by countries such as Iran and Cuba, yes, I have the impression that it’s because they hate us.

    “It is simple.
    Violence towards Israel is the result of Israeli policies.”
    Arab violence against Jewish immigrants to Mandatory Palestine has started already in the 1920s, long before Israel and any of its policies. It was led among others by Sheikh Izz-uiddiin el-Qasaam, spiritual father to present-day Hamas – which openly rejects Israel’s very existence, like all other terrorist organizations, like all Arab countries in 1948 (and most till this day) – on the basis of ideological principle, not Israeli policy. That is more of an excuse, which, I’m tempted to add, you buy so easily. Maybe you should take a look at the Hamas Covenant and the PLO Charter.

    Or maybe just keep blaming Israel for infuriating those who openly aim at its destruction, who would supposedly have avoided any action if Israel had sat still and didn’t piss them off – or just hadn’t come into existence…

    “The whole idea that bombing people will keep more people from dying is as crazy as thinking that invading Iraq, destroying its government and looting the country would lead to democracy.”
    Well, if someone goes on a gun spree in a mall or school, usually the cops try to shoot him in order to keep more people from dying, go figure. Actually, invading Nazi Germany and destroying its government (not to mention worse damages) did lead to democracy… But it seems you would have objected to that, you object to military operations, you object to sanctions (wouldn’t that lead to civilians “starving and dying from diseases” as you’ve described in Gaza?), you just condemn. So go on condemning, just don’t expect it to have any effect… Oh, and expressions such as “crap” and “bullshit” and overall raging don’t add strength to your arguments.

    I do believe Israel could listen to some criticism, in both the meaning that it is capable of it and that it should sometimes… But when it seems the world “public opinion” is focused on us and against us, as the UN Human Rights Council exemplifies, hardly any of it would be taken as fair and objective.

  28. Well, if someone goes on a gun spree in a mall or school, usually the cops try to shoot him in order to keep more people from dying, go figure.

    a) Yes, but why does thing kind of thing actually happen? Couldn’t it be prevented, or at least partially prevented?
    b) In most cases where the police shoot people, other options could easily have been followed. The same goes for international relations.

    Actually, invading Nazi Germany and destroying its government (not to mention worse damages) did lead to democracy… But it seems you would have objected to that, you object to military operations, you object to sanctions (wouldn’t that lead to civilians “starving and dying from diseases” as you’ve described in Gaza?), you just condemn.

    No, but I do think that using the threat of communism to invade Poland and then the rest of the world wasn’t such a good thing for Germany to do. And yes, I will condemn unnecessary violence on the side of the Allies, like using the atomic bomb or the firebombing of Dresden.

    And Germany was a powerful nation, not a small group of people or a terrorist organization.

    or just hadn’t come into existence…

    While I don’t think that Israel should be dissolved, are you so incapable of seeing the problematic nature of its creation, and how it was imposed on the native population?

    But when it seems the world “public opinion” is focused on us and against us

    Have you been watching the news? The Palestinian side was barely touched in the coverage of the events in the Gaza Strip.

    on the basis of ideological principle

    You see, that’s part of the problem. Very few things happen out of ideological principles. Nations don’t act on ideological principles, they act on what they think is best for themselves – “themselves” usually being the ruling elite.
    And when it comes to people, people mostly want to live. If people have a decent quality of life, and don’t feel threatened, what they want to do is have families and sex and children and fun and a job – not to blow themselves up to defeat “the enemy”. What motivates Palestinian terrorists isn’t hatred, it’s desperation. Because what humans want to do is live. You have to push people for them do give that up.

  29. Uriah

     /  April 18, 2009

    “While I don’t think that Israel should be dissolved, are you so incapable of seeing the problematic nature of its creation, and how it was imposed on the native population?”

    Most nations have been created, and their borders defined, through war and conquest. I agree this is not the way things should go, but I don’t see how the creation of Israel is more problematic than that of other nations. Israel was established also on the basis of a UN resolution, rejected violently by the Arabs, so I strongly disagree that the responsibility for all that has happened, for all that will happen, and for finding a solution lies solely on Israel.
    Israel also faces threats not just from the “weak Palestinians” but from multiple states much larger than it, so neither should Israel be loaded with sole responsibility because it is stronger than each enemy separately, IMO.

    I don’t know about the news, I watch Israeli sources mostly. But it seems obvious that the largest demonstrations abroad regarding foreign issues are against the US and Israel, and UN reports which I’ve taken a look at always concentrate on “violations of human rights caused to Palestinians by Israel”, not vice versa, and not violations caused by Israelis or Palestinians among themselves.

    “Very few things happen out of ideological principles. Nations don’t act on ideological principles, they act on what they think is best for themselves – “themselves” usually being the ruling elite.
    And when it comes to people, people mostly want to live. … What motivates Palestinian terrorists isn’t hatred, it’s desperation. Because what humans want to do is live. You have to push people for them do give that up.”

    Ah, you see, I used to think similarly… about a decade ago, when I still would vote for Meretz (the Israeli most-leftist party). So I supported the Oslo agreements, recognizing the Palestinian people after a long time, negotiating with its leaders and getting our army out of its cities and towns… And it was at that same period that Palestinians started blowing themselves up in Israeli buses and restaurants. You can check it out, it started in 1994. Why should they be so desperate just at this period of breakthrough? Nevermind the Hamas and Jihad leadership, why should an ordinary Palestinian have volunteered to sacrifice his life in order to kill a bunch of Jews at exactly that period of supposed hope? Was it worse than the long decades before that when Israel flatly refused recognition of the Palestinian people? And I’m talking before the peace process came to a standstill.

    The same goes for nations. Hamas currently rules the Gaza Strip, what interest does it have to staunchly refuse any recognition of Israel or agreements with it, when subject to such massive pressures by international diplomacy and the Israeli army? What interest do Iran, North Korea, Sudan or Zimbabwe have to repeatedly provoke the international community by denying the Jewish Holocaust, calling to wipe Israel off the map, launching ballistic missiles, deporting UN forces etc.? Could it be that in some cases the explanation isn’t “desperation” or “interests” but simply fanaticism, combined sometimes with inflated egos?…

    And in any case, I suppose you know a bit about the history of the Jews, so you could ask yourself just the same what pushed *them* into creating Israel where it is, in the way it happened, and that state of theirs to behave as it does…

  30. Most nations have been created, and their borders defined, through war and conquest. I agree this is not the way things should go, but I don’t see how the creation of Israel is more problematic than that of other nations.

    It is different and more problematic in that it was not simply an act of conquest but also of colonization.

    Israel was established also on the basis of a UN resolution, rejected violently by the Arabs, so I strongly disagree that the responsibility for all that has happened, for all that will happen, and for finding a solution lies solely on Israel.

    Yes, because this colonization was forced on a territory that had already been dealing with imperialism for decades. If you’ve been conquered enough times, it starts bothering you. Don’t the Palestinians have the right to live freely in the country that has been their home for thousands of years?

    Israel also faces threats not just from the “weak Palestinians” but from multiple states much larger than it, so neither should Israel be loaded with sole responsibility because it is stronger than each enemy separately, IMO.

    I’m not saying the other countries couldn’t or shouldn’t make a difference; they could and they should. I’m also not claiming they are wonderful in any way. But when it comes to peace with the Palestinians, it is the occupier who has to iniate change, not the occupied.

    I don’t know about the news, I watch Israeli sources mostly. But it seems obvious that the largest demonstrations abroad regarding foreign issues are against the US and Israel, and UN reports which I’ve taken a look at always concentrate on “violations of human rights caused to Palestinians by Israel”, not vice versa, and not violations caused by Israelis or Palestinians among themselves.

    There are also plenty of demonstrations about other issues, though the US and Israel are definitely two of the biggest ones. And I don’t see why not; these are two powerful countries engaging in extremely undemocratic tactics.
    On the other hand, I think that Russia and China deserve to be criticised just as much, and Europeans should stop pretending their governments aren’t involved. It’s not like they didn’t bomb Kosovo.

    Ah, you see, I used to think similarly… about a decade ago, when I still would vote for Meretz (the Israeli most-leftist party). So I supported the Oslo agreements, recognizing the Palestinian people after a long time, negotiating with its leaders and getting our army out of its cities and towns… And it was at that same period that Palestinians started blowing themselves up in Israeli buses and restaurants.

    And there were also events like the Cave of the Patriarchs massacre. And it was an Israeli that assasinated Yitzhak Rabin. Which doesn’t mean that the Israelis are to blame.

    You can check it out, it started in 1994. Why should they be so desperate just at this period of breakthrough? Nevermind the Hamas and Jihad leadership, why should an ordinary Palestinian have volunteered to sacrifice his life in order to kill a bunch of Jews at exactly that period of supposed hope?

    Because desperation and fear (and hate) don’t go away from one day to the next. After so many years of horror, and with events like the massacre mentioned above, there were bound to be some who did not believe in peace.
    But there’s more to it, of course. You see, the problem can’t be seen as simply a division between Israelis and Palestinians. There’s also the economic side; what kind of system are groups like Hamas fighting for? Are they fighting for the rights of Palestinian workers? Do they want equality for ordinary Palestinian people? No. And the same goes for the big Israeli parties. And given that they are not interested in defending people’s rights or improving their living conditions, two things become apparent:
    a) Peace won’t necessarily solve the problems that many people are experiencing – poverty, homelessness, etc.
    b) These parties – on both sides – are ultimately dependent on the conflict to remain in power. The attacks on Gaza were basically a pre-election PR campaign. And Hamas knows that people only vote them because they are angry at Israel.

    It is also important to remember that while military campaigns are waged by the nation of Israel, most of the attacks against Israel come from small terrorist organizations. Even when Hamas declares a ceasefire, there may well be small groups of people who continue attacking Israelis. But it is a war crime to engage in collective punishment.

    The same goes for nations. Hamas currently rules the Gaza Strip, what interest does it have to staunchly refuse any recognition of Israel or agreements with it, when subject to such massive pressures by international diplomacy and the Israeli army? What interest do Iran, North Korea, Sudan or Zimbabwe have to repeatedly provoke the international community by denying the Jewish Holocaust, calling to wipe Israel off the map, launching ballistic missiles, deporting UN forces etc.?

    See above.

    And in any case, I suppose you know a bit about the history of the Jews, so you could ask yourself just the same what pushed *them* into creating Israel where it is, in the way it happened, and that state of theirs to behave as it does…

    Yes, but of all the peoples in human history, the Jews are those who should have learned best the dangers of oppressing others. That’s the terrible, terrible irony of Israel: it commits the exact kind of crimes that were committed against many of its people. Discrimination, forced exodus, collective punishment…

    I would, by the way, suggest also reading news outside the Israeli media. It’s so easy for the media to skew opinions by how they present things, and by leaving out important information. I remember vividly how many people here in Germany were in favour of bombing Kosovo and murdering hundreds of people to stop “Milošević, the Second Hitler.” And the German media were full of stories that were either completely made up or totally twisted. (By now they have admitted as much – in tiny third-page newspaper articles that no-one is likely to see.)

  31. Uriah

     /  April 21, 2009

    I guess I’ve forgotten to mention colonization explicitly… But when nations conquered areas they often colonized them – the U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand being prominent examples of colonization (overseas), but surely not the only ones. Problematic, but Israel is again not unique.

    And this land has been subject to imperialism not for decades, but for millennia. The Palestinians have never had independence here, the nearest attempt to rebel that I know of was against the British Mandate due to Zionism… not against the following conquerors, Jordan and Egypt.
    (That is not to say they do not deserve independence, as things are now, regardless of my feelings about their nationhood).

    “But when it comes to peace with the Palestinians, it is the occupier who has to iniate change, not the occupied.”
    I could just as well say that it is the terrorist who has to initiate change, not the terrorized. If you mean the side which happens to currently have the upper hand, there is a point to it – but for how long? Like I’ve mentioned, Israel has started the Oslo agreements with the Palestinians, later retreated from Southern Lebanon and Gaza, all to be slapped in the face with extremist ideology and intensifying, rather than subsiding, terrorism. “Fear and desperation” don’t disappear in one day, but why should they grow stronger? When do you think the Palestinians, or Lebanese, should also prove some peaceful intention?

    And I’ve heard the claims during the Oslo days that Hamas etc. were “a handful of extremists who want to destroy the peace process” and of course we mustn’t let them. Recently that “handful of extremists” has won about 70% support in elections. you can blame Israel if you want, but the same would go for right-wing governments being elected in Israel during periods of rampaging terrorism (but more left-wing ones during periods of relative calm).

    I certainly don’t remember those first waves of suicide-bombers being related at the time to the despicable massacre in the Cave of the Patriarchs, rather than to Hamas’ objection to peace. This seems a more recent claim… But there were actually suicide-bombings before that massacre, just not very “successful”.

    “There are also plenty of demonstrations about other issues, though the US and Israel are definitely two of the biggest ones. And I don’t see why not; these are two powerful countries engaging in extremely undemocratic tactics.
    On the other hand, I think that Russia and China deserve to be criticised just as much”
    — But they’re not, are they? You don’t see tens or hundreds of thousands of people demonstrating against Russia or China, like they do against the US and Israel. And with all due respect, China and Russia and quite a few other countries are much bigger and stronger than Israel, just look at the map… And they hardly behave more “democratically”.

    “But it is a war crime to engage in collective punishment.”
    I’d like then to hear your stand about sanctions, economical or otherwise, against nations.

    “Yes, but of all the peoples in human history, the Jews are those who should have learned best the dangers of oppressing others. That’s the terrible, terrible irony of Israel: it commits the exact kind of crimes that were committed against many of its people. Discrimination, forced exodus, collective punishment…”
    This comparison is completely invalid, unless one thinks that the Jews in exile were battling against other nations to destroy them. They were discriminated against simply because they were different! (unless one buys Nazi propaganda about the Jews planning to take over the world or something). Israeli actions, whether you object to them or not, are (mostly) within the context of a violent conflict. Of course, not all are justified, I’m not for discrimination against Arab Israeli citizens (but you’ll find discrimination everywhere) or for holding Palestinians forever as right-less subjects.

    And interestingly, that was your answer to my suggestion to consider what has pushed the Jewish state to behave as it does. So you say the Jews should have learnt from their history *not* to be oppressive and violent? But I don’t see that you expect, on the same basis, the Palestinians to also avoid violence due to their history under oppression and occupation.

    (Apologies, I don’t know how to nicely quote or emphasize text here…)

  32. I guess I’ve forgotten to mention colonization explicitly… But when nations conquered areas they often colonized them – the U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand being prominent examples of colonization (overseas), but surely not the only ones. Problematic, but Israel is again not unique.

    And indeed, for hundreds of years terrible war crimes were committed against the native populations of said countries. And the native populations fought back in ways that aren’t that different from what some groups amongst the Palestinians are doing. Their methods were often violent and probably wrong, but they were trying to defend their homes, the lands of their ancestors, against a foreign invader. And, even though they had the ability to inflict damage on their conquerors, it was their conquerors who are ultimately responsible for it all – because they started it, and because they didn’t have any rights to these lands, and because they had superior strength and the ability to end the wars. The history of the United States could look quite different – but now it includes a massive genocide. Israel is a newer example, and still has the ability to change the course of things.

    I could just as well say that it is the terrorist who has to initiate change, not the terrorized. If you mean the side which happens to currently have the upper hand, there is a point to it – but for how long? Like I’ve mentioned, Israel has started the Oslo agreements with the Palestinians, later retreated from Southern Lebanon and Gaza, all to be slapped in the face with extremist ideology and intensifying, rather than subsiding, terrorism. “Fear and desperation” don’t disappear in one day, but why should they grow stronger? When do you think the Palestinians, or Lebanese, should also prove some peaceful intention?

    Israel has always had the upper hand. That’s the point. Israel is a nation. With bombs and tanks and an army. As we saw all too well in Gaza, even if the Palestinians wanted to resist, they couldn’t.
    And again, many if not most Palestinians want peace. There have been more than a few attempts from the Palestinian side. As I said, even Hamas kept the truce. It was Israel that did not keep its part of the bargain.
    And I did explain my position on why terrorism doesn’t just stop.
    (Do note that in many cases Israeli terror hasn’t stopped, either.)

    I’d like then to hear your stand about sanctions, economical or otherwise, against nations.

    Mostly they kill the poor and achieve nothing else. There may be scenarios that work, but I can’t think of any.

    And interestingly, that was your answer to my suggestion to consider what has pushed the Jewish state to behave as it does. So you say the Jews should have learnt from their history *not* to be oppressive and violent? But I don’t see that you expect, on the same basis, the Palestinians to also avoid violence due to their history under oppression and occupation.

    Of course. But the Palestinians aren’t a nation, they’re small groups of people that have been constantly under attack for over 60 years, their homes destroyed by bombs and tanks, their rights practically nonexistent. Second-class citizens in the land of their birth. You can only expect someone to learn from horror once the horror is over, or at least abated.
    (And again, let me make clear that I think the real road to peace does not revolve around nationalism of any kind, but is deeply bound up with economic issues.)

    Israeli actions, whether you object to them or not, are (mostly) within the context of a violent conflict.

    I quite disagree, because Israel has consistently continued this violence to promote its agenda of colonization – as far back as 1948. (Read up on some of the massacres commited back then, before any wars started. There are Israeli historians who have written about this in detail.) Furthermore, actions like the attack on Gaza are motivated by little other than election-related PR. There was no credible threat emanating from Gaza that would justify anything like an invasion.

  33. Uriah

     /  April 24, 2009

    Well I beg to differ, the Jews certainly have more rights to their ancestral homeland than any Arabs who happened to OCCUPY and COLONIZE it 1300 years ago or so, in fact even the precious UN recognized it in the partition resolution.

    That Hamas kept a truce temporarily does not mean in any way that it wants peace, a truce is often a tactical move to regain strength for next round of battles.

    “There was no credible threat emanating from Gaza that would justify anything like an invasion”… right, just a few thousand rockets being fired for several years – long before the “blockade” but indeed also after the Israeli disengagement – and tens of thousands of Israeli civilians threatened by them almost daily. Belittle that threat all you want, Israelis will not sit idly and suffer it until Hamas develops chemical weapons or something.

    That you ignore that “minimal terrorism” also lets you claim that Israel has the upper hand and can make it stop. How do you suggest to do that, when the terrorists launching rockets, exploding themselves in buses and restaurants and running over people with tractors, openly vow to continue fighting until Israel disappears? Not an option, sorry. On the other hand, the amount of rockets fired has decreased from several dozens a day just before operation Cast Lead to about one per week or two now… Just like suicide-terrorism has been reduced to almost nothing after operation Defense Wall in the West Bank and the establishment of the security barrier.

    “You can only expect someone to learn from horror once the horror is over, or at least abated” – again, can be said about Jews also, who have been subject to terrorism and random killings and threats of expulsion and destruction by Arabs already from the 1920s.

    As for sanctions against nations, well, it is said they worked against South Africa… But probably hurt the poor first and foremost, nonetheless. So I’ll ask again: you object to war, you object to sanctions, what do you suggest? Condemnations? They don’t stop terrorist organizations, they don’t stop Israel and the US, they don’t stop Russia and Sri-Lanka and Sudan and Iran. If you think there’s nothing that should or could be done, fine, but then I don’t see what this argument is about…

  34. Well I beg to differ, the Jews certainly have more rights to their ancestral homeland than any Arabs who happened to OCCUPY and COLONIZE it 1300 years ago or so, in fact even the precious UN recognized it in the partition resolution.

    By that logic, should all “non-indigenous” Americans have to leave the American continent? Should Turkish people leave Istanbul?

    … right, just a few thousand rockets being fired for several years – long before the “blockade” but indeed also after the Israeli disengagement – and tens of thousands of Israeli civilians threatened by them almost daily.

    a) You’re putting together the events of many years, under extremely different conditions.
    b) Most of the missile attacks at the time around Operation Cast Lead were completely ineffectual. Which doesn’t mean it was OK for people to shoot missiles at civilians – but that does say something about the threat level. Home-made missiles that didn’t even hit their targets versus a vast and high-tech army. And again, Israel didn’t keep its side of the bargain, either.

    You have to differentiate between organizations, governments and populations. The invasion of Gaza was a crime against its population. Punishing a population for the acts of a few individuals – in most cases not even allied to the government – is a war crime. It’s not the schoolchildren that were a threat to Israel. Neither were the ambulances.

    But probably hurt the poor first and foremost, nonetheless. So I’ll ask again: you object to war, you object to sanctions, what do you suggest?

    What I suggest is considerably more difficult, yet has the chance of also yielding long-term results: economic and political reorganization and leadership by example. If Israel were to stop its tactics of terror and human rights abuses, and were it to start seriously helping to rebuild the damage to civilian life (bridges, power plants, hospitals, schools) while also initiating programs that would support the poor (both Israeli and Palestinian) and working people in general, then organizations like Hamas would soon begin to lose their support. The best weapon against war is living standards. The same goes for other wars: if the US really wanted to “win” Afghanistan, they would use the billions of dollars that have been wasted on war to help rebuild the country and provide drinking water. People would be a lot less inclined to blow up the US then.
    (Also, violence will always beget more violence. This isn’t just a point of philosophy, it is simple political fact. Someone has to stop.)
    The solution lies in recognizing that none of the major governments – US, Europe, Israel, Iran, Hamas, etc. – are working in the interest of the common people. Change has to come from below, and it has to be systemic.

  35. That Hamas kept a truce temporarily does not mean in any way that it wants peace, a truce is often a tactical move to regain strength for next round of battles.

    And how does that give anyone the right to attack them? Because they might do something? Under those conditions, there can never be peace, because you’re always assuming that there won’t be and then striking first.

  36. How do you suggest to do that, when the terrorists launching rockets, exploding themselves in buses and restaurants and running over people with tractors, openly vow to continue fighting until Israel disappears?

    I have already pointed out the causes of violence several times. As long as the causes persist, there will always be enough desperate or stupid people who will fall for the ideas of nationalist terrorism. But it’s a mistake to assume that when people say “We want to destroy Israel because it is an affront to our religion” they are actually stating the real cause of their actions. They are stating the justification, not the cause. Would they be doing the same if they weren’t discriminated against and attacked? Would they feel the same if history started moving in a different direction? Would they feel the same if they had electricity in their houses and a working sewage system?

    (And yes, there will always remain a few nutcases – both in Israel and in Palestine. But the whole point of terrorist organizations is that they are not nations or populations, but individual groups, and you can’t just declare war on a whole population just because some crazy people did something.)

  37. Uriah

     /  April 28, 2009

    “By that logic, should all “non-indigenous” Americans have to leave the American continent? Should Turkish people leave Istanbul?”
    I didn’t say so, and I didn’t also mean that the Palestinians should be removed. Preferably no one is removed, preferably to claims of “justice” and “land”. But if the Arabs decide to remove Israel by force then they cannot lay all responsibility to the conflict on Israel.

    “And how does that give anyone the right to attack them? Because they might do something? Under those conditions, there can never be peace, because you’re always assuming that there won’t be and then striking first.”

    No, no, that’s not what I meant. I just pointed out that keeping a truce does not necessary indicate a will for peace. But Israel is in a state of truce with Syria and Saudi Arabia, for example, and that’s certainly better that an incessant war…

    And in the particular case of the six-month “tahdi’a” around Gaza, several hundred rockets were fired into Israel during that truce, including by Hamas members and in addition to other attempts and preparations for attack.

    “The invasion of Gaza was a crime against its population. Punishing a population for the acts of a few individuals – in most cases not even allied to the government – is a war crime.”
    Excuse me? It is estimated that Hamas in Gaza has more than 10,000 armed members, it shares the same tactics and agenda with the other terrorist organizations firing rockets, and it was elected by a vast majority of the population. Far from “a few individuals not even allied to the government”.

    And it is not a crime to attack and invade an area from which attacks are made against one’s country and army, even if “occupying”. It is also not a crime to use “disproportional” force, so the level of threat posed by the rockets is in fact irrelevant.

    “The best weapon against war is living standards. ”
    Sadly, that is not always true. It is not always the poor who become violent. Osama Bin-Laden isn’t poor, and neither were the plane hijackers who killed 3000 people in the WTC. On the other hand, you don’t see widespread war in all of Asia, South America and India. Individual nutcases going for shooting sprees in schools and malls appear in the US and recently in Europe, and I do not remember any of them being exceptionally poor. As for the Palestinians, to the best of my knowledge their situation improved economically as well as politically during the Oslo period – and yet it was then that their terrorists started exploding themselves here. It is not all about economics, just not.

    Nonetheless, economics do have a part in it, and so far as I know there are some improvements in the West Bank (which is also relatively quiet) – easing security restrictions and better cooperation with Palestinian forces to ease commerce, etc. The new Israeli PM Netanyahu actually declared support for “economic peace” by helping development of Palestinian regions in the West Bank. Since that side is currently quiet, I hope such slow steps towards building trust would lead the way to a more comprehensive solution (even if not during Netanyahu’s office).

  38. Individual nutcases going for shooting sprees in schools and malls appear in the US and recently in Europe, and I do not remember any of them being exceptionally poor.

    This kind of phenomenon has increased in Europe with the destruction of social security; in many of the cases, both in the US and in Europe, the people involved were either poor or strongly affected by economic problems.
    (Besides, people going on a shooting spree aren’t the same as terrorism. We’re also talking serious psychological problems.)

    And it is not a crime to attack and invade an area from which attacks are made against one’s country and army, even if “occupying”. It is also not a crime to use “disproportional” force, so the level of threat posed by the rockets is in fact irrelevant.

    Attacking a population for the actions of an individual group IS a crime.
    And the use of disproportional force, while not falling into a legally defined area, is certainly not something you can easily justify. A person slaps you, you shoot them? Someone tries to kill you, you kill their family?

  39. On the other hand, you don’t see widespread war in all of Asia, South America and India.

    Actually, you do see pretty severe problems in both Asia and India, many of which stem from economic issues.

    Some parts of South America are trying to go for an approach that is fairer to the masses, which certainly helps. It’s not just whether you’re poor, but why you’re poor. But generally, South America is a whole other situation.

  40. Excuse me? It is estimated that Hamas in Gaza has more than 10,000 armed members, it shares the same tactics and agenda with the other terrorist organizations firing rockets, and it was elected by a vast majority of the population. Far from “a few individuals not even allied to the government”.

    1) It is not fair to describe all of Hamas as a terrorist organization. Hamas also acts as a government. That’s part of the criminal behaviour; bombing “symbols of government” like bridges and power plants, not with the intention of protecting Israelis but to destroy all Palestinian self-government.
    2) Again, if Hamas as the government ceases to attack Israel, Israel cannot attack the Gaza strip because of the actions of other organizations or even individuals; especially not if Israel itself has refused to honour its side of the bargain, thus provoking militant groups into action.

  41. Uriah

     /  May 2, 2009

    “Again, if Hamas as the government ceases to attack Israel, Israel cannot attack the Gaza strip because of the actions of other organizations or even individuals; especially not if Israel itself has refused to honour its side of the bargain, thus provoking militant groups into action.”

    What? If militants from country A attack country B then country B can most certainly retaliate, even if said militants are not related at all to the government of country A. Of course it is preferable that country A deal with them itself, but it seems to happen in several conflicts that it “fails” (rather willingly) to do so, and country A is entitled to fight to defend itself. What you’re suggesting here is completely ridiculous.

    And you ignore again the fact that those militant groups expressly fight against Israel’s existence, so certainly some of the fanatics who have willingly joined them won’t wait for an actual provocation… They’ll start digging a tunnel into Israel, for instance, intended to kidnap additional soldiers, and when the IDF attacks that tunnel they’ll shout “Provocation! How dare you stop us from attacking!” and you’ll blame Israel again.

  42. So bombing the civilian population of an entire country over the actions of an individual organization is all right? Well, I’m sure the Nazis agree with you, but I sure as hell don’t. Collective punishment is a war crime.

    They’ll start digging a tunnel into Israel, for instance, intended to kidnap additional soldiers, and when the IDF attacks that tunnel they’ll shout “Provocation! How dare you stop us from attacking!” and you’ll blame Israel again.

    I wouldn’t shout that if there was a tunnel. But what will be attacked will be a bunch of civilian homes, or a hospital, or a school, and then these crimes will be covered up by saying there was some kind of secret terrorist presence there – as if the existence of such a thing would justify the murder of families and children.

  43. “The people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.” – Hermann Göring, an expert at these tactics

  44. Uriah

     /  May 2, 2009

    Right. There was no tunnel, there were no armaments or booby traps in the houses, there were no terrorists, there were of course no mistakes – just one of the strongest armies in the world, invading with full power into the most densely populated area in the world, intentionally targeting civilians (according to you) for three weeks and killing a whopping… 1400 or so. Rather lame, I’d have said, if I had believed that was the intention.

    Whatever, I’ve tried to find little points of agreement about economic development and such… But it appears you’re more interested in condemning. And condemning and condemning yet supporting no reaction at all, except maybe pouring money and support on those who use violence. I can just wish you that you don’t run into some bully violating your own rights unjustly, and having to put all that to the test.

  45. intentionally targeting civilians (according to you) for three weeks and killing a whopping… 1400 or so. Rather lame, I’d have said, if I had believed that was the intention.

    According to me? ACCORDING TO ME? Have you read up on ANYTHING AT ALL? Not according to me, but according to every human rights organization, including Israeli ones, and according to multiple sources within the Israeli military. According to every single investigation into the matter except the one by the Israeli military. Denying this is as absurd as denying the Holocaust. Sorry, but you need a reality check.

    I can just wish you that you don’t run into some bully violating your own rights unjustly, and having to put all that to the test.

    Oh, because I lead such a sheltered and simple life, huh? Give me a fucking break.

    one of the strongest armies in the world, invading with full power into the most densely populated area in the world, intentionally targeting civilians (according to you) for three weeks and killing a whopping… 1400 or so. Rather lame, I’d have said, if I had believed that was the intention.

    I’m sorry, but since clearly you have no respect for human life, and no interest in actually having a look at the facts, I see no reason to continue this discussion. Continue to wallow in your miserable nationalism and revisionism, and see where this gets you.