Moral Complexity

August 23, 2014 § 3 Comments

My Judgment of  Protective Edge

I have recently been critical of Israel’s conduct of a war on the Palestinians living in Gaza.   I agree. of course, that  Israel had the right, indeed was obligated, to respond to Hamas rockets fired toward Israeli civilians.  When, after the war started, Israel discovered Hamas tunnels enabling  Hamas forces to launch surprise attacks in  Israeli territory, Israel  had the right to destroy them.

By criticizing Israel’s Protective Edge war in Gaza I do not intend to equate Israel with Hamas.  The declared aims of the two are completely different and the standards of morality professed by Israel are different from that of Hamas, especially with respect to their willingness to injure and kill innocent civilians.

These differences do not, however, excuse Israel from culpability for the results of the tactics and weaponry they have used to wage war.  I reject the idea that one combatant in a war is entitled to wage war according to the moral standards of its opponent.  That idea leads to a downward spiral of barbarity.  It is the equivalent of  what in our own country’s recent history was known as lynch law:  Where the cruelty of the crime claimed to have been committed by the suspect is offered as an excuse to lynch him.

Israel does not disagree with this analysis.   They do not claim the right to respond to barbarity with barbarity.  They do, however, respond to criticism of their tactics in Protective Edge by pointing to the nature and history of Hamas.  They point to the thousands of rockets launched by Hamas toward Israel.  Israel claims that they take reasonable measures to avoid civilian casualties, while Hamas deliberately seeks civilian casualties.

As the days and weeks of the conflict elapse, Israel’s defensive rhetoric becomes less and less persuasive.  The numbers and the pictures do not match the words.

Hamas has killed 64 Israeli soldiers and 2 Israeli civilians.  No significant damage has been done to Israeli infrastructure.

Israel has killed over 2,000 people living in Gaza, approximately 2/3 of whom were innocent civilians.  Over 10,000 homes of Gaza citizens have been destroyed and an estimated 30,000 more have been damaged.  The infrastructure of Gaza, its water, electricity, schools and health facilities have been either destroyed or significantly damaged.  The surviving population in Gaza are living in primitive conditions.

Some Historical and Current Resources

I have been reading some sources of information about the history of the present conflict.  It seems that every conflict in the Middle East is an episode in a long history that sometimes encompasses many centuries.  I have made no effort to become an expert on this trove of information, but I have found a few summaries that were interesting.  By citing them, I do not assert that they are unbiased.  I have found very little that would pass that test.

Here is an editorial from Haaretz dated July 28, 2014.

Here, for some comic relief, is an interview on Fox News of Rick Santorum concerning Obama’s “failure to support Israel”.  Toward the end of the interview, you can almost see the impatience of the Fox guy when Santorum fails to use the leading questions to attack Obama sufficiently to satisfy Fox.

Ari Shavit is a favorite of mine.  I have previously written about the valuable information I gained by reading his recent book, “My Promised Land”.   He impresses me as a clear-eyed Israeli who, despite and, in some ways, because of his love and admiration for his native land,  writes with skill and truth about its conflicts and challenges.  Here is his op/ed piece in Haaretz.  He challenges liberals like me to recognize the evil of the various Muslim groups that have emerged in the Middle East.   He warns against treating them as innocent victims while criticizing the excesses of Israel’s response to them.  In his final paragraph he acknowledges the “. . .justified criticism against Israel (for the occupation, settlements, racist fringes). . . .”

Finally, here is a powerful article written by Ari Shavit for Haaretz a couple of days ago.  It expresses better than I can, the way I feel about Israel and the proper reaction to its policies.

Ari Shavit places me squarely where I often find myself:  Opposed to the acts or omissions of one side of a conflict while equally or, as here, even more opposed to the opponents of that side.  I remember well years ago when I wrote a brief and a law review article about the right of “Remonstrance” and received very complementary responses from people eager to use my effort as justification for their hatred of government – the so-called “militia” crazy fringe groups.

Finally, here is an article by a Haaretz blogger, an Israeli liberal, who expresses the kind of troubling issues that have affected me for the past six weeks.

The View From Palestine

In addition to Haaretz, I have been reading articles posted by Nadia Harhash, a Palestinian woman who has managed to retain her gentle intelligence while living in the chaos of Protective Edge, an achievement I regard with admiration.

Here is a long essay posted by Ms. Harhash.  It reads like a “stream of consciousness” rendition of how she reacts to living in Gaza.  I  posted a comment, dissenting from a sentence in her essay and she replied.  English is not her native language but she manages to convey some of her feelings and thoughts.

The Dahiya Doctrine and Other Legal Issues

Here is a long essay by an American anthropologist, Jeff Halper, who has lived in Israel since 1973.  He is a well educated critic of Israel who has written several books about the Israel-Palestinian conflict.  It is worth noting that his presence in Israel, free to express his opposition to the policies of its government, is strong evidence that Israel practices admirable tolerance of dissent.

The Dahiya Doctrine was approved in 2006 during an Israeli conflict with Lebanon.  Here is the way Dr. Halper describes it, quoting an Israeli military commander:

“In the second Lebanon War in 2006, after destroying the Dahiya neighborhood in Beirut, the Hizbollah ‘stronghold,’ Israel announced its ‘Dahiya Doctrine.’ Declared Gadi Eisenkott, head of the IDF’s Northern Command,

‘What happened in the Dahiya quarter of Beirut in 2006, ‘will happen in every village from which Israel is fired on…. We will apply disproportionate force on it and cause great damage and destruction there. From our standpoint, these are not civilian villages, they are military bases.… This is not a recommendation.This is a plan. And it has been approved.'”

Four years later, during another conflict, the Jerusalem Post article stated that the Dahiya Doctrine was still being debated within the Israeli military leadership.  I don’t know whether that doctrine governs today’s IDF strategy in Gaza, but some of the reports of attacks on civilian locations look suspiciously like it.

For example, here is story from yesterday’s Haaretz reporting that Israel’s bombs killed three military leaders of Hamas.  Buried in the account of this success is the following description of last Tuesday’s effort to kill Mohammed Deif, the commander of the Hamas military wing:

Even more significant would be the death of Mohammed Deif, the shadowy figure who has survived several previous Israeli assassination attempts with severe injuries and was the target of Tuesday night’s attack. Mr. Deif’s fate remained unknown Thursday, though the body of his 3-year-old daughter, Sara, was recovered from the rubble of the Gaza City home where five one-ton bombs also killed Mr. Deif’s wife, baby son and at least three others.

This raises a question:  Was ten thousand pounds of explosives an appropriate way to react to a report that the subject of a long hunt was in a home?  Was there no way for troops on the ground to go to that location and either kill or capture Deif without killing his wife, son and three others?

An Afterthought

This has absolutely nothing to do with anything serious.  I will add it because, when I read it, I escaped, for a few moments, from death and war and fear.  Here is today’s post from skywalker>

 

 

 

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