Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Against Israel, against anti-Semitism

By Heraclitus

Hmmm... I was going to post a quick comment on Israel's use of collective punishment against the Lebanese, and note that this just continues its policy of collective punishment against the Palestinians, but after reading a few of the comments responding to
Michael's bigotry post, maybe I need to deliver a bit of a preamble.

Some of the comments are less than ideally coherent, so I may be misreading them, but the Bush administration is not composed of "rabbinical warpigs." The names Bush, Cheney, and Rice come to mind as prominent gentile hawks working in the White House. Paul Wolfowitz is, of course, the most famous Jewish proponent of the Iraq war, but let's not forget that he was booed in the spring of 2002 at a pro-Israel rally in Washington for the crime of mentioning that Palestinians were suffering and dying in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The booing prompted protests not only from
Frank Rich, who went so far as to express hope in President Bush, but also Edgar Bronfman, the President of the World Jewish Congress. In other words, the American Jewish community, like all groups or "communities," is itself riven with various disagreements, contradictions, and differences, and it is stupid to believe otherwise. Just to make sure we're clear: Using the word "rabbinical" as an insult is vile and ignorant.

By the way, I'm not Jewish, and have more than once been accused of anti-Semitism for daring to criticize Israel, a state which bases its immigration policy entirely on race and has been engaged in a forty-year military occupation of a civilian population that currently numbers over three million (for more on the Israeli treatment of Palestinians living under their occupation, see the work of
Amira Hass). It also practises collective punishment, both against this civilian population and against the civilian population of Lebanon. I'm not only talking about the 1,000+ Lebanese civilians that were murdered during Israel's recent invasion of Lebanon to recover two kidnapped soldiers (who are still there), but its use of cluster bombs, which have left over a million "bomblets" unexploded in southern Lebanon. Here are the highlights from the BBC's story:

Up to a million cluster bomblets discharged by Israel in its conflict with Hezbollah remain unexploded in southern Lebanon, the UN has said.

The UN's mine disposal agency says about 40% of the cluster bombs fired or dropped by Israel failed to detonate - three times the UN's previous estimate.

It says the problem could delay the return home of about 200,000 displaced people by up to two years.

The devices have killed 14 people in south Lebanon since the August truce.

The manager of the UN's mine removal centre in south Lebanon, Chris Clark, said Israel had failed to provide useful information of its cluster bomb strikes, which could help with the clearance operation.

Last month, the UN's humanitarian chief, Jan Egeland, accused Israel of "completely immoral" use of cluster bombs in the conflict.

Israel says all its weapons and munitions, as well as their use, comply with international law.

Mr Clark said information Israel had provided to help with the bomblets' clearance had been "useless".

"We have asked for grid references for [cluster bomb] strikes," he said.

"We have not received them so far."

From an earlier story:

The UN's humanitarian chief has accused Israel of "completely immoral" use of cluster bombs in Lebanon.

UN clearance experts had so far found 100,000 unexploded cluster bomblets at 359 separate sites, Jan Egeland said.

Mr Egeland described the fresh statistics as "shocking new information".

"What's shocking and completely immoral is: 90% of the cluster bomb strikes occurred in the last 72 hours of the conflict, when we knew there would be a resolution," he said.

"Every day, people are maimed, wounded and killed by these weapons. It shouldn't have happened."

Bookmark and Share


  • I have to take exception to the statement the Israel bases its entire immigration policy on race. There is no Jewish race; Judaism is a religion. Chinese jews, Ethiopian and other African Jews, Sepharidic Jews all would have the right to immigrate under Israeli law. It's possible to see this as inclusionary in light of the difficulty such people have long had in entering many countries, even as refugees.

    You might have a much harder time becoming a Swiss citizen, for instance, than an Israeli citizen and the same obtains with a host of countries. I would probably be rejected out of hand by virtue of my religion if I applied to become a citizen of any Muslim country and the practice of Christianity is in some countries the US supports, a capital crime.

    I'm curious as well as to why the continued occupation of lands on the border formerly owned by an attacking enemy is more questionable to you than the widespread genocides within Arab nations.

    To me the real question is not whether Israel is a heavy handed bully, but why its singled out as such while it occupies a world full of vastly larger and more relentlessly murderous bullies.

    By Blogger Capt. Fogg, at 10:03 AM  

  • Thanks for your comments, Capt. Fogg. Israel bases its immigration policy on race, not religion, because you don't have to be a practicing Jew to immigrate. A Russian who doesn't know a word of Hebrew and nothing about Judaism can immigrate to Israel; a Palestinian driven out in 1948 or 1967 cannot.

    As for their military occupation, those things are usually considered to be unjust. As for genocide in Arab countries, I've already posted twice on Darfur. I'm not aware that there are any other "widespread genocides" at the moment.

    As for why Israel is singled out for criticism, it's probably because it claims to be a democracy and receives billions of dollars in military and financial aid from the US. You're right that they're much less brutally oppressive than the other governments in the region, but that's not just setting the bar low, it's digging a ditch three feet deep, and dropping the bar in it. Israel and its defenders usually claim much more than that.

    In fact, your defense of Israel could apply equally well to Burma. They're not engaged in genocide at the moment, and allow greater freedom of religion than SA. So, the governments of Israel and Burma occupy the same moral ground?

    By Blogger ., at 12:49 PM  

  • If a black man from South Africa and a blue eyed blond lithuanianor a brown skinned atheist from Bombay can rightly claim to be Jewish, the concept of race you're using must be a bit looser than most people use. Ethnicity might come closer to the truth, but that is a very different thing.

    Israel was founded as a refuge for Jews as Pakistan was founded as a refuge for Muslims and being a refuge was always a part of its immigration policies, but they are no more restrictive than those of other countries. In my own lifetime, it was illegal for Chinese to immigrate to the US and shortly before that Chinese who were second and third generation Americans were deported. We still base immigration quotas on race as do most countries I can think of.

    I see a double standard in effect, sorry.

    Arabs are slaughtering Arab women and children at the moment and I don't have space to list the massive atrocities committed by Muslims against Muslims in the last few decades and as to receiving US aid, please look at our long record of financing and arming the world's worst tyrants and training their death squads. We don't get to pontificate about the moral high ground particularly as concerns a nation fighting for survival against an enemy eager to kill its own children in the process of utterly annihiliting Jews worldwide.

    I suspec that former Arab residents of Israel would have an easier time returning if they renounced the policy of a fight to the death in the cause of Killing Jews, but I can only guess because the renunciation isn't happening.

    I am not about to approve of all Israel's actions and I'm not defending their mistakes, but when one condemns collateral damage done in defense and totally ignores deliberate sacrifice of civilians, Lebanese and Israeli, one is liable to be suspected of bias.

    So how do you view Egypt, an ostensible democracy that murders political opponents, censors news and has launched unprovoked attacks on other countries and receives a great deal of US aid? What do you think of Wahhabist countries like SAudi Arabia, our close ally who promotes the mutilation and murder of innocent women and children, finance terrorist schools and don't even pretend to be democracies?

    And of course there's Burma which is not under relentless attack from implacable enemies with an inexhaustable supply of Iranian weapons and human bombs yet it has no free press, no elections, no civil rights of any kind and is closed to foreigners. I'm having a hard time thinking of a more absurd comparison.

    By Blogger Capt. Fogg, at 3:27 PM  

  • Hi, Capt. Fogg, thanks again for your comments. Of course the Israel-Burma comparison is absurd; that was my point. I was, perhaps too snidely and obliquely, making light of your defense of Israel, which would apply equally well to Burma. But as I myself said in a post a couple of days ago, Israel not only has a free press but has one of the most dynamic and varied presses, and larger public intellectual lives, of any country in the world. A perfect example is how much freer one is to criticize the actions of the Israeli government in Israel itself than in the United States.

    I say nothing at all to suggest that I support any of the governments or actions you mention, and there is simply no reason to think that I somehow support political oppression as long as it's being carried out by Arabs or Muslims. But I do believe that one can criticize Israel without being obliged to list every terrible thing an avowed enemy of Israel has done sometime during "the last few decades," just as one can criticize Bush without being obliged to recite every horror perpetrated by Islamist terrorists, or criticize Reagan without making a ritual denunciation of Soviet communism.

    And if I am critical of Israel and the U.S.'s support for it, of course I am all the more critical of the enormously worse Shah, Pinochet, contras, Saudi Arabia, and so forth. But, again, I think it is perfectly reasonable to criticize Israel, or any other country, without giving a comprehensive account of every graver injustice that has ever been committed, and saying, "But I'm not saying there's as bad as that!"

    As for the immigration policy, there is an obvious and crucial difference between allowing immigration from all parts and peoples of the world, and establishing quotas in that system, and only allowing one group (whatever word you want to use for it) to immigrate, and banning all others.

    By Blogger ., at 4:26 PM  

  • There are shameful things about Israel's immigration policies - a marriage ban between Palestinian arabs and Jews for instance, and it's true that it is very difficult for a non-jew to become a full citizen. 50 years of war does make for a lot of paranoia, but you should note that there is a move to get away from the automatic citizenship policy and that we are dealing with a country that although influenced by religious crazies and cranks is none the less a Democracy with an ability to change and the ability to propose change without decapitation. Again, restrictive policies and even racist policies are not unique to Israel and are predominent in the region and in States we subsidize and in States we have made rich. Why single them out? I can't become a Saudi Citizen either, beard notwithstanding.

    One last jab - until I was an adult, my current marriage would have been a felony in 12 states because of race laws. It's too early to be smug and morally superior.

    We are a Democracy and we eventually succeded in changing that and many of the other racist and bigoted laws we recently rid ourselves of. Changes to such laws are not going to happen in the Islamic states we support and we do not press them to do so, but liberal Israelis at least have the chance and some of them have the will.

    The one point I really was contesting was the question of occupation and although I do oppose, as many Israelis do, the West Bank settlements, I can't understand how one depicts the occupation of land taken from an attacking power that still does not accept your existence and will not sign a peace treaty, as wrong. What country would return strategic positions to an active enemy??

    By Blogger Capt. Fogg, at 9:41 AM  

  • I appreciate your comments, Captain Fogg, but it looks like we'll just have to agree to disagree-especially since I'm not sure how much we really disagree, and how much we just have different emphases.

    By Blogger ., at 4:19 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home