Deal Hudson on Israel and Palestinian Christians, Revisited

Sunday, April 19, AD 2009

In his latest article for InsideCatholic.com, Deal Hudson presents Ten Hard Facts Confronting Benedict XVI in the Holy Land concerning the plight of Palestinian Christians.

One would expect that — when presenting a list of “hard facts”, particularly a topic as provocative as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — elementary journalistic standards would require the citation of a source.

Furthermore, one might expect the placement of such statistics in context to further enable a moral evaluation.

That Hudson completely neglects to do this is frustrating, to say the least.

Continue reading...

5 Responses to Deal Hudson on Israel and Palestinian Christians, Revisited

  • The Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group is a good source. The group is very critical of Israel, Hamas and the Palestinian Authority and seems quite even-handed. There is a wealth of material on the site.

    http://www.phrmg.org/

  • Jerusalem Fever, that malady that frequently affects traverlers to the Holy Land seems to have bitten Deal.

  • Christopher,

    Good post but you may want to go back through and clean up the formatting. It’s a little unclear when you are quoting others and when you are writing in your own voice.

    Again, good post and one I plan to share with friends.

  • Mark,

    Thanks — For some reason I always have this difficulty w/ WordPress. (I tend to write in straight HTML to my other blogs, cut/paste into WordPress; for some reason the latter has trouble interpreting multiple-paragraph blockquotes. I’ll have to be more vigilant. =)

  • Good information. I remember a Lebanese Christian family I once knew. They were terrified of their Muslim countrymen.

Nationalism and the Problems of the Middle East

Wednesday, January 7, AD 2009

One of the books I’ve been reading off and on over the last year has been Avi Shlaim’s The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World. Shlaim is a one of the Israeli New Historians, which is essentially a “post-Zionist” revisionist school of Israeli history, who criticize the “old historians” of Israel of being too personally involved in the 1948 war and its aftermath, and thus writing history which is essentially apologetics for Israel.

There are places where I get the feeling Shlaim is leaning too hard in the other direction (for instance he spends a good deal of time on the expulsion of Palestinians from Israel in 1948, but glosses over the expulsion of Jews from surrounding Arab countries.) However, given that you know where his leanings are, it’s a fascinating read because it’s closely based on documented sources, and it focuses on the very real problem of Israel’s relationship with the Arab world. Among the things it made me realize, however, was how alien the modern sense of nationalism is to citizens of the US.

This may seem a strange conclusion at first,

Continue reading...

16 Responses to Nationalism and the Problems of the Middle East

  • Excellent post Darwin and much thanks for the background history.

    (Coincidentally I’m (re)reading Benny Morris’ Righteous Victims: History of the Zionist-Arab Conflict and covering similar territory).

  • Benny Morris is well worth reading. His 1948 is first rate.

    http://www.amazon.com/1948-History-First-Arab-Israeli-War/dp/0300126964/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1231384700&sr=8-1

    Starting out as a historian of the Left, Morris has developed into a very objective historian. Here is his take on Gaza:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/30/opinion/30morris.html?pagewanted=1&_r=2&ref=opinion&adxnnlx=1230648024-PpvQR0cg9ySWyd4MjvUvcg

  • Darwin. I’m afraid I might agree with you.

    Donald,

    I’m just being nit-picky and jokingly so. But if a person starts out on the Right, but doesn’t remain there, can they too qualify to be a “a very objective historian?”

  • Eric,

    since objective truth is a principle of the right, and anathema to the left, the answer is “by definition” he would no longer be objective.

    God Bless,

    Matt

  • Thanks for the informative post Darwin.

  • Actually Eric yes! In past times I can think of historians who started on the right in their analysis and then adopted what I lovingly refer to as the “Jack Webb, “Just the facts, Ma’am”” school of history. Interpretation will always be influenced by a historian’s world view, but the best historians work against their own biases. However most historians, in this country and abroad, start out firmly on the Left at the beginning of their careers, due to the strong Leftist sympathies of most academics post World War II.

    We also now have a large divide in this country between academic historians, often writing in a deconstructionist\post-modernist gibberish who are usually unread, and popular historians, like Victor Davis Hanson, often academically trained themselves, but who produce histories that eschew both the fashionable Leftism, the jargon, and the subject matter, “Patriarchy, Feminism and Peruvian garbage collection 1765-1767” would be a typical title for an academic historian of today, and whose books are often very widely read, at least in comparison to the histories of academia which tend to “fall still-born from the press”.

  • Eric,

    With some of the Israeli “New Historians” in particular, I think the change that has taken place in their writing over the last 15 years is pretty much a “mugged by reality” one. One of the main tenets they started with was that if only Israel would make some effort to engage with the Arab community peacefully, the Arabs would be glad of it and be eager to work with them. (Though I’m probably simplifying unfairly here.) Following the progress in the peace process under Clinton, and the loss of nearly all of that progress afterwards, I think they’ve mostly backed off to a more realistic view — retaining their understanding of how things came to this pass, but with less of a political sense that it could all be fixed easily.

    Generally, I’d say that any time you have people starting with a narrative and applying that to events in order to understand them, you often end up with poor history. Because so many of the academic trends in the last 50 years have been of the left in some sense, most of these can be pinned on “leftist” history, but I can think of right-leaning historians who have fallen into the same traps with their own narratives.

    At the risk of kicking off controversy, I think Paul Johnson falls into this a bit when he writes about communism in his histories, and I’ve been a bit concerned at some of Victor Davis Hanson’s more recent writing (although I really, really like some of his earlier stuff) in that I think he’s slipping into a bit of a “titanic struggle between East and West” narratives which does not do full justice to either the past or the present.

  • Matt,

    I think over reaching generalizations like that are really unfair and unfounded. People hardly fit into the rigid ideologies of “left” and “right” and what some say certainly don’t speak for the whole, and perhaps, not even the majority.

    I’m not sure relativism isn’t a problem on the right. It simply wears a different mask, namely as consequentialism and utilitarianism — not the natural law.

    I surely would not voluntarily place myself on the “right.” I would and do place myself on the “left” and I am very much interested in objective truth.

    Moreover, I think the nit-picky classification of things as either “left” or “right” is really unrealistic seeing as to how these two schemes really don’t exhaust the fullness of reality and are both majorly lacking.

    Here’s a fact, the objective truth is the principle of the Catholic Church and people of good will who can be found on both the left and the right. Thank you. God bless.

  • A great leftist historian: Eugene Genovese. Genovese’s “Roll, Jordan, Roll: The World the Slaves Made” is an excellent account of slave life in the antebellum South which relies heavily on interviews conducted in the 1930’s with elderly ex-slaves. Genovese was a Marxist in the late ’60’s when “Roll, Jordan, Roll ” was published, but he was quite balanced in his treatment of Southern slaveowners. “Roll, Jordan, Roll” recognizes the evil of slavery, but recognizes the complexities of the humans, black and white, who were emeshed in “the peculiar institution.”

    BTW, Genovese did not remain a Marxist. Several years ago, both he and his wife, Elizabeth Fox-Genovese, converted to Catholicism.

  • Eric,

    I’m making generalizations precisely because I know that not everyone on the right is objective, but that objectivity is a “principle” of the right. Subjectivity is a principle of the left (that doesn’t mean nobody on the left is incapable of objective reasoning), would you not agree?

    Utilitarianism and consequentialsm are much more asso
    ciated with the left. These philosophies are not typical of the right at all. What might be confusing you is the distinction between what government must do, and what we as Christians must do for others and what people must do for themselves. Christianity opposes socialism, it demands charity.

  • Matt,

    I don’t think that it is necessarily a principle of the right, just as I don’t think that subjectivity is a principle of the left. I don’t think it’s so clear-cut. Though, I would agree that liberalism more manifestly embraces modernism.

    I think utilitarianism and consequentialism more describe the moral ethics of many conservatives I’ve ever encountered and debated. Even among evangelical conservatives, it is not as common as we’d like to think — at least from my experience — to find natural law thinking. But by and large, I’ve heard arguments more from the right in justification of evils such as torture on the basis that the ends justify the means or as I believe, cloaking preemptive war behind the “just war” doctrine and the natural law when it really is consequentialism, imperialism, militarism, nationalism, and many other “-isms” of modernity. Does the left make such errors? Sure. You’ll find hyper-liberal environmentalists supporting abortion as a means of human population control to protect nature’s resources as if population growth is really the issue.

    In all charity, I think the politicization of the Christian faith into a ready political view that is largely and predominantly conservative is profoundly mistaken. For one matter, I don’t believe that liberalism and socialism are synonymous nor do I believe that the alleged alternative — conservatism — is the only solution.

    I’ll agree with you on one point: Christianity demands charity, so in good charity, I respectfully disagree. Thank you for your dialogue.

  • Eric,

    I don’t think that it is necessarily a principle of the right, just as I don’t think that subjectivity is a principle of the left. I don’t think it’s so clear-cut.

    Ok then, what are the principles of the left?

    I would use this list as the principles of the right as described by Edmond Burke.


    1. “Belief in a transcendent order, or body of natural law, which rules society as well as conscience.”
    2. “Affection for the proliferating variety and mystery of human existence, as opposed to the narrowing uniformity, egalitarianism, and utilitarian aims of most radical systems;”
    3. “Persuasion that freedom and property are closely linked: separate property from private possession, and the Leviathan becomes master of all.”
    4. “Faith in prescription and distrust of ‘sophisters, calculators, and economists’ who would reconstruct society upon abstract designs.”
    5. “Recognition that change may not be salutary reform: hasty innovation may be a devouring conflagration, rather than a torch of progress.”

    What are the principles of the left? I can’t seem to find a good reference, perhaps you could provide one.

    Though, I would agree that liberalism more manifestly embraces modernism.

    like a hand in a glove.

    I think utilitarianism and consequentialism more describe the moral ethics of many conservatives I’ve ever encountered and debated. Even among evangelical conservatives, it is not as common as we’d like to think — at least from my experience — to find natural law thinking. But by and large, I’ve heard arguments more from the right in justification of evils such as torture on the basis that the ends justify the means or as I believe, cloaking preemptive war behind the “just war” doctrine and the natural law when it really is consequentialism, imperialism, militarism, nationalism, and many other “-isms” of modernity.

    So, based on your unfounded belief that splashing water on a person’s face is torture, or your belief that enforcing a truce agreement designed to protect the neighbors of a past aggressor is a “pre-emptive” war violating just war doctrine you impute these errors to conservatism?

    You can mischaracterize any argument you want, but it doesn’t make it reality.

    Does the left make such errors? Sure. You’ll find hyper-liberal environmentalists supporting abortion as a means of human population control to protect nature’s resources as if population growth is really the issue.

    abortion is the sacrament of the left, it’s not just found on it’s fringes… surely you’re aware of this?

    In all charity, I think the politicization of the Christian faith into a ready political view that is largely and predominantly conservative is profoundly mistaken.

    So opposing moral evils such as abortion is politicizing the Christian faith? What really happened is the Christian faith re-asserted itself in the political spectrum. Remember how this happened when the left completely abandoned it’s own Christian roots, and attempted to shift the nation deeply to the left, first in economic policy, then later in morality.

    For one matter, I don’t believe that liberalism and socialism are synonymous nor do I believe that the alleged alternative — conservatism — is the only solution.

    They aren’t synonymous, but they are inter-related. What is your solution? I never said conservatism is the “only” solution, just that (as a principle for government) it most complies with the teaching of the Church on the role of government.

    It may be that what you oppose is not conservatism at all but a lefty-mischaracterization of conservatism?

    God Bless,

    Matt

  • Matt,

    While I myself would be interested to hear Eric’s formulation of liberal principles (not because I don’t think liberalism has principles, but because “liberalism” has meant a number of different things over the last 200 years and I’d be curious to hear how Eric approaches the matter) I’d like to encourage you to maintain a less aggressive tone.

    Though it’s sadly rare to see a liberal/progressive approach to economics and politics paired with traditional Christian morality these days, that doesn’t necessarily mean that such a pairing is impossible — and I think if you’ll look back at Eric’s post during the election you’ll see that he takes the moral issues very seriously. Indeed he came out strongly against Obama despite agreeing with him on many economic issues.

    There are many aspects of modern progressivism that I do not agree with, but one should disagree with them on their own, not dismiss them by tying them to false moral beliefs and practices which in this case Eric doesn’t hold with anyway.

  • Matt,

    The virtue of charity would be appreciated. I can understand that debate can easily impact emotions, but the condescending nature of your arguing really isn’t appreciated.

    Admittedly, I profoundly disagree with many points you made particularly in regard to torture. I wouldn’t call my belief unfounded nor that of many Catholics, who call themselves conservative, who oppose it just as ardently as I do.

    I don’t think the Christian faith is exhaustively conservative. These stringent labels hardly have any meaning given their constant evolution.

    Nevertheless, at this time, I don’t see it best to continue trying to present my point because it seems to be taken, from my perspective, as an absurd attempt to argue to frame the so-called inherently evil “liberalism” as consonant with Catholic beliefs. I think your view is misguided just as you surely think the same of me.

    I’m not going to answer you point by point because this is my last response on the matter. But it seems self-evident that the loud minority on both sides of the political spectrum do not even speak for the majority on that side because people tend not to be as monolithic as political idealogues make us out to be. There are probably as many “conservatisms” as there are “liberalisms.” Many aspects of both side speak to our Christian belief and many tendencies are incompatible with Christian belief; this is hardly surprising. In regard to one comment you made, being Christian does not mean only opposing abortion nor does opposition of abortion indicate a Christian political party. I think the Christian faith cannot be exhaustively be politically translated nor is it confined to express itself on one side of the political spectrum.

    I am a believing Catholic and I also frequently refer to myself as a “liberal” or “progressive” because I politically identify with Democrats moreso than Republicans; my subjective convictions in regard to such matters makes no statement on what other believing Catholics should do aside from abide by Catholic moral teaching.

    I believe as a “liberal” that society has a committment to protecting the weakest and most vulnerable among us. In the past election, my assessment was that the Democratic Party continued to ignore its historical committment to this fundamental principle in regard to the poorest of the poor — unborn children — and I voted against Barack Obama. My vote for John McCain was really a vote against Barack Obama because Sen. McCain and I had very few agreements on both policy and political philosophy.

    I fervently believe — rightly or wrongly — that the Republican Party under the label of ‘conservatism’ employs Christian moral themes in its rhetoric and panders to Christians as a whole because we are an active, powerful voting bloc. This is not to say that there are no sincere and authentic Christian conservatives. But I do believe much of the talk about traditional moral values and building a “Culture of Life” occurs during an election cycle and not as much in governance. This comment won’t be popular, but Ronald Reagan loved dearly by the religious right never went to church nor did he help the pro-life cause by appointing Kennedy and O’Connor to the Court. Seven of the sitting nine Justices post-Roe have been appointed by conservatives yet only four of them are pro-life. It does not take an appointment of a whole court to get a 5-4 majority. It s makes suspicious of whether the GOP really takes its rhetoric seriously. It’s one reason I’m not a “conservative.” If we’re going to end abortion, I think we would be better positioned to get principled Christians on all sides of the political spectrum. That’s my two cents.

  • Darwin and Eric,

    I meant no offense, I’m just trying to get resolution on Eric’s retort to my original statement “objective truth is a principle of the right, and anathema to the left”.

    Eric suggested that objective truth is not a principle of the right I responded with my best understanding of conservative values. Eric introduced a number of attempts to divert the conversation by alluding vaguely to some anecdotal arguments about torture without making distinctions on what torture is.

    In charity here are 4 expressions from Eric’s first response:
    “over reaching generalizations”
    “really unfair and unfounded”
    “nit-picky classification”
    “unrealistic”

    I don’t think it’s fair to accuse me of being overly aggressive in light of this.

    Matt said: unfounded belief that splashing water on a person’s face is torture

    Eric said:
    I profoundly disagree with many points you made particularly in regard to torture.

    Well support your point then. There is no basis in Catholic teaching for declaring the practice of “water-boarding” for the purpose of extracting intelligence from a known terrorist to be torture. Prove me wrong.

    Here’s a handy reference from the Catechism:
    Torture which uses physical or moral violence to extract confessions, punish the guilty, frighten opponents, or satisfy hatred is contrary to respect for the person and for human dignity.

    Gathering intelligence does not fall under any of these categories. And by intelligence we mean information which can lead to the prevention of future attacks that have been planned or participated in by the subject, or to locate the names and whereabouts of his accomplices who are likely to be preparing such attacks.

    God Bless,

    Matt

  • Matt,

    I’m sure you didn’t intend to cause offense, but I saw a danger of things going down hill fast when hitting a committed Catholic who is politically progressive on some issues with statements like “abortion is the sacrament of the left”. Certainly, a lot of people who are leftist treat abortion in that way, but I don’t think that one could turn around and say that political leftism must necessarily do so. (To my knowledge the various Christian Democrat parties in Europe do not make this pairing, though they trend at least as far left on economic issues as the Democratic Party in America does.) It strikes me that making that statement in this particular context could be just as antagonistic as when someone like Mark Shea starts shouting at us conservatives that torture is a sacrament of the GOP.

    I’m just trying to get resolution on Eric’s retort to my original statement “objective truth is a principle of the right, and anathema to the left”.

    Eric suggested that objective truth is not a principle of the right I responded with my best understanding of conservative values.

    Well, I’m not a progressive, but I’ll give it a shot in the interests of intellectual fairness. It seems to me that one of the most basic principles of progressivism is that communal action should be taken to change existing political and social norms in order to right injustices and improve the overall lot of society. As such, progressives are often quick to see the evils of the existing social and political order, and demand change immediately in order to right perceived wrongs.

    This can be a source for good in society, when progressives have a proper understanding of what “the good” is. The abolitionist movement, which I tend to think of positively for obvious reasons, was a highly progressive movement in its outlook and rhetoric. Early campaigns for better working conditions and an end to child labor, universal education, etc. were also progressive movements.

    The danger, of course, is that since progressives are eager to boldly go in new directions in order to improve society, they are often in danger of causing new problems because they aren’t aware of all the possible side effects of their actions. And if their ideas of what “the good” is, we get all sorts of trouble. So especially in a time in which much of society is highly confused in its ideas of what is good, I think conservatism is a much safer philosophy.

    However, since progressivism is directional (trying to improve society) I’d tend to argue that it at least implies in its overall model some sort of objective good — though as Christopher Dawson argues, in modern secular versions of progressivism this direction is really a vestige of a religious sense now continuing without justification.

    Well support your point then. There is no basis in Catholic teaching for declaring the practice of “water-boarding” for the purpose of extracting intelligence from a known terrorist to be torture. Prove me wrong.

    Here’s a handy reference from the Catechism:
    Torture which uses physical or moral violence to extract confessions, punish the guilty, frighten opponents, or satisfy hatred is contrary to respect for the person and for human dignity.

    Gathering intelligence does not fall under any of these categories. And by intelligence we mean information which can lead to the prevention of future attacks that have been planned or participated in by the subject, or to locate the names and whereabouts of his accomplices who are likely to be preparing such attacks.

    I’m not sure what moral difference you’re positing between “gather intelligence” and “extract confessions”. I’d tend to see the two as interchangeable. But if it’s the fact that we’re gathering intelligence rather than “to extract confessions, punish the guilty, frighten opponents, or satisfy hatred” that makes waterboarding acceptable, then by the same argument wouldn’t it be okay to “gather intelligence” by ripping out fingernails or branding with hot irons or cutting off thumbs or what have you?

    And if the reason why gathering intelligence by any of those means would be wrong is that they inflict severe pain, damage and humiliation contrary to human dignity on the person being interrogated, then I think that if someone concluded that waterboarding did they would be justified in saying that waterboarding was torture.

    Myself, I’m not one of those who freaks out that we’ve become a “torture state” or some such. I don’t think it’s necessarily surprising in our history of the history of nations that we did what we did to a dozen or so people in Guantanamo in an effort to protect our nation. But while it doesn’t necessarily strike me as shocking or surprising, it does seem to me at this point that it caused us more harm than good. And while I think the administration acted in good faith, I’d prefer others to be more hesitant in the future.

A Suggestion for Israel

Wednesday, January 7, AD 2009

Over at Human Events, Ben Shapiro has an article about how Israel will lose the conflict in Gaza again.  His initial premise states that we keep seeing an essentially endless cycle repeated: Hamas strikes Israel, Israel retaliates, the world comes down hard on Israel, Israel retreats and gives Hamas another chance to strike Israel. Elsewhere, the debate about how justified Israel is in its current cycle of retaliations continues heatedly and almost unanimously denounces Israel’s actions.

As a personal opinion, I believe that Hamas, despite claims to the contrary, is directly responsible for its strikes into Israel.  I believe that Hamas deliberately hides behind civilian shields in order to protect themselves from retaliation and to milk the public for sympathy when Israeli attacks kill those civilian shields.  I believe that Hamas is single-mindedly dedicated to the destruction of Israel, and that Israel is justified in trying to defend herself against Hamas’ attacks.

Continue reading...

11 Responses to A Suggestion for Israel

  • Interesting take

  • It isn’t about money or economic development Ryan. It is all about the fact that the vast majority of arabs in Gaza and the West Bank are ashamed that they were beaten militarily by Jews and that Jews rule in arab lands. The Israelis and the rest of the world could provide a terrestrial paradise for the Arabs, and it would not diminish one iota the desire of almost all Arabs in Gaza and the West Bank to drive the Israelis into the sea. The US and the West have sent tens of billions of dollars to the arabs in Gaza and the West Bank in the form of humanitarian aid, monetary grants, development funds, etc. It has made no difference at all.

  • A very well-written and thought out point, and it makes a lot of sense.
    However, I just don’t know that it would appeal to a country that has to “sit still and take it,” so to speak, while at the same time providing aid to the perceived enemy. No doubt while Israel would attempt to pour money and resources and good will into Gaza, Hamas would still be attacking.

    I know this is an imperfect analogy, but if Mexico were firing into Texas, do you think the American public would accept a similar course of action?

  • Ryan,

    One must understand hatred and recognize the fallen nature of man. Many Palestinians hate Jews, not because of any wrong the Jews have committed against them, but because they are taught that by their religion, by their parents and by LIBERALS.

    Bribing them with goodies will do nothing but allow them to use all of their other means to build up and attack Israel again. Besides, Iran already pours massive amounts of money into the Gaza and we know what they spend it on.

    The only reasonable course of action in the interest of Israel, the innocent Palestinians and peace in the Middle East is for Israel to complete the destruction of Hamas and deny Iran it’s satellite regime.

    God Bless,

    Matt

  • This past Friday, the Hamas television show Pioneers of Tomorrow (a child-indoctrination version of “Sesame Street”) depicted the bunny Assoud dying in a Gaza hospital after an Israeli attack. Assaud the Jew-eating Bunny was introduced to Gazan children in February 2008:

    The Pioneers of Tomorrow children’s series produced by Palestinian group Hamas and made famous by a Mickey Mouse-looking character declaring jihad on Israel and the US, introduced Assud the Bunny.Assud – who said in his first episode that he would “get rid of the Jews, Allah willing, and… will eat them up” – replaced his brother, Nahoul the Bee, according to the translation from the Middle East Media Research Institute.

    […]

    In an interview with the program’s host, a young girl purportedly named Saraa Barhoum, Assud talked about becoming martyrdom.

    “We are all martyrdom-seekers, are we not, Saraa?” Assud said on the show.

    Saraa said: “Of course we are. We are all ready to sacrifice ourselves for the sake of our homeland. We will sacrifice our souls and everything we own for the homeland.”

    Assoud will join Farfour, Hamas’ copycat version of Mickey Mouse, in Paradise. (
    Farfour was “martyred” by an Israeli on May 11, 2007).

    Yes, I wish I was joking.

    I’d bet you can plumb the channels of Israeli television and wouldn’t be able to find an equivalent of Hamas’ television show — not even in the town of Sderot, subject to over 3,000 rocket attacks this year alone.

    Ravishing Gazans with economic luxuries won’t change their minds — not while infants are raised from birth in this kind of hatred.

  • Even if one did this, how would one get the truth to the Palestinian people. Many, (most), Palestinians are illiterate. Who’s to say the aide comes in and Hamas tells the people that it was their work?

    As you point out, in this conflict propaganda is important and perhaps decisive. It could also be so in the scenario you propose.

  • Just to clear the record, I am well aware of the militant hatred that a vast swath of Muslims, not just in the Gaza, have for Israel. I am well aware that that hatred is difficult, bordering on impossible, to sway. I also understand the vast propaganda campaign going on (thanks Chris for the heads-up on the despicable TV show) to keep the regular populace both ignorant and seething. I also don’t believe you can ask a nation to sit quietly and accept thousands of rockets being fired across the border, especially when the self-appointed authorities not only will not do anything to help that nation, but also blatantly cheers the aggressors on.

    I would cheer on military aggression against Hamas (and now Hezbollah) except for one thing: Israel isn’t going to wage a campaign for victory. And if there is no reasonable expectation of success (and I suppose we could argue that there could be, I would disagree from recent trend lines), then the war cannot be just.

    But I disagree with Donald and others who claim that making the Gaza an economic paradise won’t change anything. Citing the billions that have been poured into Gaza won’t sway my opinion on this, either, because those billions obviously have been redirected to, oh, rockets and whatnot, not to fixing Gaza. Frankly, I think if Israelis are willing (and this either cold of me to say, or just insane, take your pick) to risk their lives to come into Gaza and build schools and power plants and waste management systems and power lines and so on, and hire on many Gazans to aid the construction, then at least Israelis will be visibly helping the Gazan communities. That has a chance of swaying your average Muslim. So I guess talking about spending money on Gaza isn’t the key, but spending money wisely and effectively is the key.

    How to actually make sure that Israeli contractors can flood Gaza and start a massive reconstruction campaign, I have no idea. Which is probably why no one has ever tried to implement it. Indeed, the death toll could be just as high on both sides with my idea.

    But I’m willing to believe that even years of indoctrinated hatred can be swayed with a consistent display of charity.

    I know this is an imperfect analogy, but if Mexico were firing into Texas, do you think the American public would accept a similar course of action?

    Let me answer your question with a question. Who did we just elect president this past Nov 4?

  • Ryan,

    I think a deeper analysis would find that the Israeli counter-offensive into Gaza is clearly just, perhaps material for a new thread.

    What you’re suggesting is akin to the US activity in Iraq and Afghanistan… the problem is that such nation-building requires security to be effective. Kind of a chicken-egg situation. Military defeat of Gaza is a necessary precursor to rebuilding it, regardless of who sponsors the rebuilding.

    God Bless,

    Matt

  • Are you still defending the state terrorism of Israel?!!
    Israel kills Palestinians in their homes, in the fields and in mosques. It kills whole families as well as children with their mothers. Arab countries can – if they want – withdraw the Arab Peace Initiative. But they lost the will; therefore, the Israeli war machine keeps on killing Palestinians.
    The Israeli government, gathering the remaining Nazis around the world, is trying to squeeze the last useful drop from the Bush Administration before it departs. Once again, if Arab countries want, they can pressure the US Administration in many available ways. However, they do not. The reason is that they have lost that same will.
    The Palestinians are responsible, before Arabs, for this tragic situation in Gaza Strip. The division weakened them further; the policy of Hamas killed more than 500 Palestinians in nine ominous days.
    Yet I started with our responsibility, so people would not say I am denying it. In the ongoing crime, Israel appears as a Nazi, military, expansionist nation that has no right to exist in the Middle East.
    Tzipi Livni and Ehud Barak are terrorists. She is a terrorist born to two terrorist members of the Argon gang, which imported terrorism to Palestine and the Middle East. She worked in the Mossad to complete her family’s terrorism heritage. Now she is saying that all Israel wants is for Hamas to stop firing rockets. This is also the excuse of Barak, who practiced terrorism as a soldier and is still practicing it as a minister. Both of them say that war on Gaza has nothing to do with next month’s elections. This means that it definitely has something to do with it.
    Then you have the biggest liar in Israel or any other place: “President” Shimon Peres; I heard him say that Israel had the most powerful weapon in the world…Justice.
    Israel is a Nazi state that has no right to exist. The Christian West sought to establish it as a means to repent of its crime at our expense. There was never a Smaller or Greater Israel. The history of the Torah is fiction and not history. The same goes for Peres justice.
    George Bush, who promised a Palestinian State by the end of 2008 and lied or failed, is a full accessory in Israel’s murder. His administration killed a million Muslims in eight years; therefore, it is not hard for him to support the killing of 500 – or even 1000 – Palestinians. He accuses Hamas of terrorism. Yet, with his help, Israel is the terrorist nation. He also said that Hamas did not want the interest of Palestinians. Who wants it then? He or his VP Dick Cheney?
    On a rare occasion, I heard Cheney say the truth. He proclaimed that Israel did not ask for permission from the US Administration to attack Gaza. Why would it ask for permission when the whole administration is under its control and shares its war on Arabs and Muslims? But Cheney, leader of the war gang, cannot stay honest for long: he went on to say that Israel, a UN member state, was attacked by a terrorist organization. The opposite is true. Israel is a terrorist nation that has no right to join any international organization, while Hamas is a national liberation movement. What is also true is that Cheney is a wanted war criminal.
    I would like to add Gordon Brown and Nicolas Sarkozy. They both support a cease-fire, but the British PM eventually supports the US administration. As to the French President, he says one thing and does another. On the eve of the attack on Gaza, Israel was offered EU membership, one which is better than that of the original six countries that started the EEC in Rome. Israel was given all privileges without any financial or any other responsibility towards the EU. Even though the Czech Republic was deliberately held responsible, France was the country that spearheaded the campaign. Sarkozy hands it the EU Presidency then comes to us for mediation.
    After this tour of Israeli terrorism, with US-EU connivance, I go back to the Palestinian and Arab responsibility. We are so weak that we cannot win a military confrontation, not even a media confrontation. Israel has been killing, occupying and destroying for four decades, yet it managed to focus on Hamas rockets, blacking out the Nazi occupation, Hamas’ raison d’être. What does Israel expect after a long occupation? To be welcomed by Palestinians with roses and wedding rice?
    Many Israelis, including Livni, evoke the Transfer (Palestinian displacement). In return, we demand a transfer that would send the Israelis back to the countries they came from. Only original Arab Jews, who were in the lands before the establishment of Israel, would remain.
    What I am trying to say is that extremism breeds extremism. If we see a Palestinian extremism and refusal, it is because the other party’s extremism has undermined the moderates among Palestinians, Arabs and others. It made a peace seeker like me call for the withdrawal of the Arab initiative.

Thoughts on Israel's war with Hamas

Tuesday, December 30, AD 2008

On December 27th, 2008, Israel launched a series of air strikes on Hamas training camps, headquarters, weapons storehouses, underground missile silos and command-and-control centers in Gaza — the start of an open-ended offensive to stem the increasing barrage of rocket-attacks that have plagued Southern Israel in the past months.

Israeli ambassador to the UN Gabriela Shaleb defended the operation:

“Israel is taking the necessary military action in order to protect its citizens from ongoing terrorist attacks originating from the Gaza Strip and carried out by Hamas and other terrorist organizations,” Shalev said, adding that Hamas “holds the sole responsibility for the latest events.”

Israel, she continued, “has exhausted all means and efforts to reach and maintain quiet and to respect the state of calm… Israel’s response is aimed solely against the terrorists and their infrastructures in the Gaza Strip. It is not intended against the civilian population. Israel is committed to prevent a humanitarian crisis.”

Shalev asserted that “No country would allow continuous rocketing of its civilian population without taking the necessary actions to stop it.”

Commenting on the three-day air assault by Israel on Hamas, Deal Hudson states “Bombing Gaza Won’t Make Israel Safer”. It’s a good post and, if anything, certainly jeopardizes Hudson’s standing as a member of the cabal of “Catholic neocons” beholden to Israel and the Republican Party (see Robert Sungenis and other tirades from the fringe-right). That said, I wish to register some thoughts in reaction, both to Hudson and our fellow critics at Vox Nova:

Continue reading...

39 Responses to Thoughts on Israel's war with Hamas

  • The only peace Hamas will ever make with Israel is the peace of the grave. The sad truth is that they are supported in this position by the overwhelming majority of the population of Gaza. Diplomacy is of little use when one side has as its ultimate aim the destruction of the other side.

    From the Charter of Hamas:

    “Article Thirteen: Peaceful Solutions, [Peace] Initiatives and International Conferences
    [Peace] initiatives, the so-called peaceful solutions, and the international conferences to resolve the Palestinian problem, are all contrary to the beliefs of the Islamic Resistance Movement. For renouncing any part of Palestine means renouncing part of the religion; the nationalism of the Islamic Resistance Movement is part of its faith, the movement educates its members to adhere to its principles and to raise the banner of Allah over their homeland as they fight their Jihad: “Allah is the all-powerful, but most people are not aware.” From time to time a clamoring is voiced, to hold an International Conference in search for a solution to the problem. Some accept the idea, others reject it, for one reason or another, demanding the implementation of this or that condition, as a prerequisite for agreeing to convene the Conference or for participating in it. But the Islamic Resistance Movement, which is aware of the [prospective] parties to this conference, and of their past and present positions towards the problems of the Muslims, does not believe that those conferences are capable of responding to demands, or of restoring rights or doing justice to the oppressed. Those conferences are no more than a means to appoint the nonbelievers as arbitrators in the lands of Islam. Since when did the Unbelievers do justice to the Believers? “And the Jews will not be pleased with thee, nor will the Christians, till thou follow their creed. Say: Lo! the guidance of Allah [himself] is the Guidance. And if you should follow their desires after the knowledge which has come unto thee, then you would have from Allah no protecting friend nor helper.” Sura 2 (the Cow), verse 120 There is no solution to the Palestinian problem except by Jihad. The initiatives, proposals and International Conferences are but a waste of time, an exercise in futility. The Palestinian people are too noble to have their future, their right and their destiny submitted to a vain game. As the hadith has it: “The people of Syria are Allah’s whip on this land; He takes revenge by their intermediary from whoever he wished among his worshipers. The Hypocrites among them are forbidden from vanquishing the true believers, and they will die in anxiety and sorrow.” (Told by Tabarani, who is traceable in ascending order of traditionaries to Muhammad, and by Ahmed whose chain of transmission is incomplete. But it is bound to be a true hadith, for both story tellers are reliable. Allah knows best.)”

    http://www.palestinecenter.org/cpap/documents/charter.html

  • This is my own brief take on the conflict:

    Iran fuels Gaza conflict to increase oil prices – http://vivificat1.blogspot.com/2008/12/iran-fuels-gaza-conflict-to-increase.html.

    -Theo

  • Key quote in the Catechism: “The defense of the common good requires that an unjust aggressor be rendered unable to cause harm. For this reason . . . ” This teaching is not about the holiness of killing. It is about the holiness of defending life.

  • Q: Is there any such thing as a “just war”?

    Cardinal Ratzinger: This is a major issue of concern. In the preparation of the Catechism, there were two problems: the death penalty and just war theory were the most debated. The debate has taken on new urgency given the response of the Americans. Or, another example: Poland, which defended itself against Hitler.

    I’d say that we cannot ignore, in the great Christian tradition and in a world marked by sin, any evil aggression that threatens to destroy not only many values, many people, but the image of humanity itself.

    In this case, defending oneself and others is a duty. Let’s say for example that a father who sees his family attacked is duty-bound to defend them in every way possible — even if that means using proportional violence.

    Thus, the just war problem is defined according to these parameters:

    1) Everything must be conscientiously considered, and every alternative explored if there is even just one possibility to save human life and values;

    2) Only the most necessary means of defense should be used and human rights must always be respected; in such a war the enemy must be respected as a human being and all fundamental rights must be respected.

    I think that the Christian tradition on this point has provided answers that must be updated on the basis of new methods of destruction and of new dangers. For example, there may be no way for a population to defend itself from an atomic bomb. So, these must be updated.

    But I’d say that we cannot totally exclude the need, the moral need, to suitably defend people and values against unjust aggressors.

    — Cardinal Ratzinger, Interview with Vatican Radio. November 2001.

    Citing the above is not to defend this or that action taken by the U.S. or Israel as automatically justified or “holy”; but I think there is the clear recognition — even by our current Pope, co-editor of the Catechism — that, in the defense of life against unjust aggressors, “proportional violence” may be an obligation.

    I would also suggest that those charged with the obligation to defend and protect the lives of its charges, in Ratzinger/B16’s example “for example that a father who sees his family attacked is duty-bound to defend them in every way possible”, or to speak of a nation obligated to defend its citizens, that the refusal to employ ‘proportional violence’ [Ratzinger’s words] in the defense of life would constitute a sin.

    Nate Wildermuth, circa April 2008:How could the Pope repeat United States propaganda, and express admiration for US bloodshed? I racked my mind for ways to interpret his words in another way, but I couldn’t. …

    I have so much to learn.

    After a great deal of reflection and prayer, my heart has moved, my neck has bent. I have seen something startling: we live in a society where “defense of life” and “nonviolence” are mostly mutually exclusive, and because the defense of life must take priority over a commitment to nonviolence, most Christians are duty-bound to defend life with the least amount of violence possible.

    Did I just write that? I did. But only after three days of gut-wrenching prayer!

    I am not suggesting that violence is good, or even Christian. I am suggesting, however, that the circumstances of our society require us to choose defense of life over nonviolence. In other words – if the only way I can defend life is to use a gun, then I must use a gun.

    Strikes will not stop robbers from breaking into our homes. Nonviolent communication will not stop those who do not wish to communicate. We have no nonviolent alternatives to police forces or militaries. We have no nonviolent alternatives to courts and prisons. Nonviolent means of defending life are mostly confined to idealistic exhortations to “love your enemy and trust in God’s grace to work miracles.”

    Nonviolent means of defending life must be reasonable, passing the common sense rule, being as readily available as the gun in Target, or a call to 911. To criticize those who use violence to defend life when there are no other ways to defend life is . . . well . . . possibly scandalous.

    I believe we’ve had this conversation before?

  • At the risk of beating a dead horse 😉 I’ll reiterate what I said then as well, responding to your post:

    Just as Catholic tradition makes a distinction between ‘killing’ and ‘homicide’, it seems to me that rather than condemning any and all use of armed force as “violence” [= evil], the Catholic tradition rather evaluates the use of force, judging its worth according to moral criteria.

    The former has often been dubbed the “‘dirty hands’ tradition” (whereby to pick up a gun, even defensively, is to unavoidably involve one’s self in sin), the latter the “just war tradition” of moral-reasoning and a moral evaluation of armed force. (My father examined this in an essay “War and the Eclipse of Moral Reasoning” back in 2002).

    None of this discounts the witness of pacifists — who by their actions and adherence to nonviolence anticipate and manifest in this reality a time where the lion will truly “lay down with the lamb”, where all swords will be “beaten into plowshares.”

    Probably no movie illustrates this ongoing debate between the two traditions than one of my favorite movies, Robert Bolt and Roland Joffé’s 1986 film The Mission.

  • I confess I’ve never understood Pacifism other than non-resistance to martyrdom. How does anyone familiar with a history book object to the idea, for example, that governments have an obligation to defend their citizens or parents a responsibility to protect their children? Granted, this principle can be (and often is!) easily misapplied, which means it is similar to….every other moral principal.

    I think that pacifists perform a valuable service in reminding people of the horrors of conflict, and in balancing out the the tendencies of some people to view military action as the hammer for which every problem is a nail. But I do not understand the position that violence in all situations is immoral.

  • As Warren Carrol says in his wonderful history of Christendom when Jesus drives the money-changers from the temple the first time,

    “Nor did He (Jesus) hesitate to use physical force, thereby establishing once and for all, contrary to modern pacifists, that the use of physical force is not always evil in itself. The teaching of love would come when men were prepared to listen. But first they must know that One had come among them with a power which was God’s.”

  • “The teaching of love would come when men were prepared to listen. But first they must know that One had come among them with a power which was God’s.””

    And how different from worldly power was that “power which was God’s”…

  • I think pacifism at bottom rests on the modernist moral error of thinking (probably subconsciously) that the physical body is the most important (or perhaps the only important) fact about human beings. Hence the one moral absolute is that you can’t do something that hurts someone’s physical body, even by accident, not even for the most pressing of reasons. Pacifism, in this respect, is similar to the modernist tendency to think that spanking your children is morally worse than instilling in them a desire for material success (one that is ultimately devastating to the soul).

  • Pingback: History for Dummies (II) | The Cranky Conservative
  • I sense a Catch-22.

    Hamas needs Israeli attacks to keep its people riled up, but Israel can’t simply let assaults continue unchecked.

    Are the Hamas attackers launching rockets from their own neighborhoods? A true Machiavel would launch attacks from areas where enemy retaliation is likely to kill off his local opposition, and not his friends and family.

  • Proportionality includes not only the methods used but also the consequences of those methods. While I acknowledge the right to self-defense and the use of force in that defense, I question whether it is really possible to ensure that the force used doesn’t produce evils graver than the evil to be eliminated. The structure of the world today, marked by its interconnectedness and interdependency, opens the whole world to the consequences of a local act of violence, and therefore renders the knowledge that one is using proportional violence difficult if not impossible to acquire. Deal Hudson rightly points to likely unintended consequences of Israel’s strikes, but how many other unintended consequences remain beyond our foresight? Too many to speculate accurately, I’d say.

  • “I question whether it is really possible to ensure that the force used doesn’t produce evils graver than the evil to be eliminated.”

    Then proportionality merely becomes an argument for pacificism, something that no nation which wishes to continue to exist in this world will ever embrace. The Jews in Europe in World War 2 were slaughtered like flies because they had no military to fight for them. I cannot blame the Israelis for not wishing to follow their example. Catholics are not quakers and I cannot think of a Catholic nation that ever existed that chose to embrace pacifism rather than to fight for national survival.

  • Kyle,

    Well said. I am in absolute 100% agreement of all that you’ve said. I personally think that a sense of reluctance in this matter has been too easily dismissed as pacifism, when I think that is an oversimplification of the position being presented.

    I, as any good Catholic, believe in the “just war” doctrine of the Church. However, I do think that doctrine, even in the last ten years, has been glossed over casually and the tenets not really examined by those not necessarily opposed to any of the armed conflicts occuring in the Middle East.

    Even if there is such a thing as “Catholic pacifism,” I think it is profoundly different than that of secular pacifism. Dorothy Day comes to mind and her thinking in regard to nonviolence does not necessarily echo the immediate or familiar arguments of modernist secular humanists who really base their convictions on an agnostic metaphysical view of reality.

    I think a Catholic can on good grounds be a pacifist. It does not require others to follow in suit by obligation. I believe, just as Dorothy Day did, that war is the perfect breeding ground for imperialism, militarism, and nationalism. These sociological errors of modern society live off human vices and perpetuate division and in many ways presents barrier to any sort of peace or meaningful dialogue. All these “-isms” symbolize the false gods of modernity that I believe we should be resisting, not appeasing.

    Pope Benedict XVI once said in an interview that “…given the new weapons that make possible destructions that go beyond the combatant groups, today we should be asking ourselves if it is still licit to admit the very existence of a ‘just war’.”

    I think the Holy Father here makes a profound insight into the nature of war. War is sometimes a necessary evil, but it is one that evolves and this evolution has created a horror that was hardly imaginable even over a century ago. War is no longer a matter confined to a battlefield where those in immediate danger are those within confinement of the space in which combat is being engaged in. Modern warfare and military weapons are indiscriminate in whom gets killed.

    But this is not the bulk of my point. Pope John Paul II warned that “humanity should question itself, once more, about the absurd and always unfair phenomenon of war, on whose stage of death and pain only remain standing the negotiating table that could and should have prevented it.” War by its very nature destroys precisely what it intends to create — that is freedom, peace, and reconciliation. War strikes at the very heart of civilization: the family. Regardless of perspective of who is right and wrong in such matters, men die, women die, and children die. Hurt, anger, bitterness, and division is written on a new page of history. I have never read of any war or act of violence that paved the way toward justice and peace, but rather eliminated perhaps one challenge only to give birth to a host of others.

    Gandhi asked mankind, “What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans, and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty and democracy?” It is not merely the fact that innocent people who’s livelihoods, little do they know, might be altered permanently in a matter of moments; it is rather that this violence only more deeply entrenches the hatred and division that the war is trying to, in some ways, heal.

    This is what Kyle was getting at when he talked about the connection of the international community in our modern circumstances — there is much interdependentness. Martin Luther King, Jr. in his day saw this: “Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality.” We cannot be what we ought through the means of violence. I don’t and can’t believe that even remote material cooperation in evil — for war itself is not of the nature of God — will bring humanity where it needs to be.

    I don’t think you must be a “pacifist” to be a Christian. But, I do think (rightly or wrongly) that many Christians quickly gloss over Jesus’ “hard sayings” to love your enemies — they are impratical and senseless — even though the Lord, for some reason, decided to hold us to this standard. Pope Paul VI declared “No more war!” Pope Benedict XVI so beautifully described the vengeance of the God of Israel. “True vengeance” is the healing goodness of God. The definitive explanation is found in the one who died on the cross: in Jesus, the Son of God incarnate. His ‘vengeance’ is the cross: a ‘no’ to violence and a ‘love to the end.’

    Perhaps, this is silly idealism. I’m certainly not arguing that a State does not have the God-given duty to defend the lives of its citizens; however, the manner and strategy of exercising that duty in given circumstances is a matter of prudence. There is an old saying that “in times of war, the laws are silent.” I think for some reason this includes moral laws. Man has found himself capable of terrible things in times of war and I cannot see how war brings no more war. Yes, this is a fallen world, but the Christian call is to transform not get behind the status quo of sin.

    Yes, there is a right to self-defense and yes, there is such a thing in theory as a “just” war; however, I think we oversimplify what it takes to make that call. In all truth, the matters of war do not immediately impact us. We continue our daily lives and in many ways take our countless blessings for granted. It is hardly clear to us what it is we may or may not be saying is morally licit. I’m personally of no position on the matter of this armed conflict, except that my prayers are with all involved and I hope this conflict ends as soon as possible and an all out war is not waged.

    Again, I think Kyle nailed it on the head. I don’t think it is fair to say a reluctance in this matter and/or asking the question of whether this is something that should be engaged in with its potential consequences on many levels is necessarily pacifism; I think it’s taking the “just war” doctrine very seriously. As Catholics, we are called to be in opposition of unjust war and I think the modern reactionary tendency leads more to the latter than the former.

    That’s my two cents.

  • Eric,

    Beautifully said and excellently argued.

    Just an afterthought: even if a potential military action does meet all of the just war criteria in Catholic social thought, this does not mean that the issue is over. The exhausting of all alternative means to dispell conflict are still strongly, strongly advised.

    I hate to say it, but some of your cohorts here seem to have a minor devotion to military violence, and it is rather sad.

    I

  • While I would to an extent share the fear that Israel’s current offensive will do little to make Israeli citizens safer from Hamas’ daily rocket attacks (in that I fear they would have to reduce Gaza to the 1943 condition of Stalingrad or the 1945 condition of Berlin to thoroughly remove Gaza’s ability to operate — and neither they nor the international community have the willingness to allow such a thing to happen) I’m hesitant to condemn Israel loudly as some are going either.

    Eric says:
    Yes, there is a right to self-defense and yes, there is such a thing in theory as a “just” war; however, I think we oversimplify what it takes to make that call. In all truth, the matters of war do not immediately impact us. We continue our daily lives and in many ways take our countless blessings for granted. It is hardly clear to us what it is we may or may not be saying is morally licit. I’m personally of no position on the matter of this armed conflict, except that my prayers are with all involved and I hope this conflict ends as soon as possible and an all out war is not waged.

    I think in some sense I agree, but with the difference that while I fear the unleashing war on Gaza will do little to help Israel, I do not feel that we in the US have the standing to tell Israel: Sure, you’re suffering daily rocket attacks with ever increasing frequency, going farther and farther into your country, targeting civilians. But we’re really not sure if attacking Hamas would resolve that, so you better just grin and bear it.

    I really can’t say what decision I would make if I were the prime minister of Israel (since that is thankfully not my duty) but seeing as Israel has decided to attack Hamas (which is, after all, the duly elected government of Gaza right now) I don’t see it as my place to blame them for the decision at this time.

    Certainly, one does not want to use the just war criteria too casually — yet at the same time, one must recall that the just war criteria are generally used in determining if one may start a war, not whether one may defend oneself against an already ongoing attack. Given that Hamas had already decided to attack Israel via indiscriminate bombardment of civilian areas, it strikes me that Israel’s right to strike back is pretty clear — though its duty to behave proportionally obviously remains.

  • Mark, I would object to your addendum on one minor technicality (so you can brain me if you feel I’m being too nit-picky), but exhausting the alternatives is a criterion for just war. I’d offer instead that even in the cases when all criteria are met, there argument is not over because we can still choose not to go to war.

    The problem, I feel, is indeed in judging the consequences of taking military action. Because we cannot know the future, working with the purest utilitarian ideal of whether or not to engage in war is impossible. We cannot know that taking action will indeed make things better or worse, and we cannot know–not with any certainty–that not taking action will make matters better or worse. I think judging the lasting harm of a war is like predicting the weather, only slightly more complicated because now we’re trying to predict over a body of thinking, reasoning beings (I almost said rational, but I think that might draw objections) instead of a highly chaotic, but largely deterministic system. We can predict immediate consequences fairly easily and with a moderate degree of accuracy, but long term is much harder.

    Where does that leave us? The gravity of going to war should always, always, always make us think thrice. There’s no question there. And we certainly shouldn’t be chafing at the bit to go and fight. In that regard, Mark, I would not say that people here have a devotion to military violence. Instead, we may be a little too blase about using military force. But unless you’re truly prepared to state that military force is never justified in any circumstance, i.e. a complete blanket prohibition, then all we’re arguing about is when to go to war.

    Eric, I certainly would not call what you said “silly idealism”. What you’ve said is really where we all need to be starting from when we contemplate the notion of war. However, I think there’s an aspect of war–what justifies us in taking action if we choose to do so–that you’ve glossed over. Perhaps I’m just making this up, and I’m certain that not many will agree with me, but I believe that war can be waged in full love of the enemy, and can be a corrective measure for the enemy as much as a defensive measure for the assailed.

    In the treatment of war, just as with the treatment of law, we have to keep in mind the fallen, sinful nature of man. Just as some are tempted to steal, murder, commit adultery, and commit other crimes, so too are leaders tempted to wage war for one purpose or another. When there is no threat of retaliation, no threat of punishment, then sooner or later someone caves and commits a crime. That’s why we have our laws and our penal system, and that’s why we endeavor to ensure that the criminal is always caught. In the same way, a standing army acts to deter war, but it only works as a deterrent as long as there’s the very real possibility that the army will be called to action. And when someone does choose to unjustly engage in war, calling the army forth to combat the aggressor is not partake in bloodshed, but instead enforce on the aggressor that his actions are wrong and need to be changed. Keep in mind, of course, that this stands as the final safeguard against unwarranted aggression, and that there are other means that can be employed first to prevent war or even de-escalate it once it has started.

    The corrective part of war, blunt as it may be, is showing the aggressor that cost of his aggression far outweighs the benefits. Of course, the biggest problem with this view of war is actually best exemplified in the conflict between Israel and Hamas. The blunt weapon of war may be simply too much, just as a SWAT team is too much for a shoplifter, and a lifetime imprisonment too much a first-time, single count drug offense. But this is exactly what Hamas is counting on, so that they can continue their aggression with impunity.

    So what is Israel to do? I waffle. Some days, I want to say, every citizen in Gaza that condones the actions of Hamas by allowing them to fire rockets from civilian neighborhoods and so on is complicit with evil and has made himself a combatant. Fortunately, I know that such thoughts are a thinly disguised “Kill-em-all-and-let-God-sort-em-out” mentality, which is very, very, very wrong, so I tend to keep that on a tight leash.

    Other days, I think, “only a few dozen have been killed, a fun hundred injured, so that’s not a huge deal. Israel should just stand firm and teach those terrorists that a few thousands rockets each year isn’t going to faze the Israeli people.” But then, I feel strongly that the Hamas terrorists are of the mentality that if they can get away with sending more rockets or worse into Israel, they will do so. And this is where the unforeseen consequences come into play. Who can honestly say what will, indeed, happen? I could speculate that the terrorists will eventually get bored with having little effect and will either a) go home or b) escalate. I could speculate that the Israeli people, seeing their government doing nothing to protect them will a) face martyrdom bravely b) overthrow the current government and install one that will wage war with Hamas or c) take matters into their own hands and start firing rockets into Gaza. So what will it be?

    As a final point, where I think you’re wrong, Eric, is in talking about the negotiating table. Wars are ended at the negotiating table, true, but waging war sometimes is the only thing that forces one side or the other to the negotiating table. Certainly it would be better if nations talked out their differences instead of declaring war, and if you look at the diplomatic measures we engage in today, it should be heartening. We have embassies to and from most of the nations in the world, or at least the ones we deal with regularly. We spend vast amounts of time in diplomacy so that we never come to combat. But when one power is bent and determined to wage war and refuses to sit down to negotiate, then the negotiating table has no power.

  • Ryan,

    I don’t disagree with you. I believe that the State has a right to defend itself and in doing so is delivering justice by means of a remote as possible material cooperation in evil — an evil that the State wishes to end not perpetuate and did not intend in using as a means of bringing justice until compelled to do so.

    As Darwin said, proportionality and the extent to which one can exercise the right of just defense or fighting justly to stop a growing evil before getting carried away is a very fine line. Not to mention, as Pope John Paul II repeatedly reiterated, that war undermines itself; the end one may try to achieve is contrary to the means that are being used and I, rather, emphatically think that reality gets very little attention. I don’t believe much good will come from this, quite the contrary.

    On a tangent, I was watching the FOX news today and there was a black and white video recorded by an Israel aerial target-tracking camera showing men inside of a building loading long tubes or cylinders on a flatbed truck. These were supposedly “terror operatives” loading crude rockets. Nevertheless, the air pilot fired and destroyed the building.

    It turns out that the rockets, in fact, were salvaged oxygen tanks from a welding shop being moved by civilians — in a building next to a building that a previous Israeli airstrike destroyed.

    The group had loaded several oxygen tanks before the missile hit. Eight people were killed and little did many of their families know that their livelihoods were going to change forever. They showed photos of the truck and the charred oxygen tanks. They weren’t rockets — they certainly would have gone off upon impact. This case highlights the complexity of targeting in urban areas.

    On a separate note, Israel has hit more than 400 targets since the airstrikes began. Some 400 Palestinians have been killed and 2,000 wounded and its been estimiated that a quarter are civilians. I’m not sure of the accuracy of these figures, of course, but if they are somewhat accurate I think it’s horrible enough in itself.

    Not to mention, Israeli strikes have targeted mosques because they believed they were storing rockets there. I’m not certain of whether they are or not. But blowing up places of religious worship, especially that of Muslims, in this region, with these circumstances…God help us.

    It is an unfortunate situation and I pray they stop fighting.

  • Israel never seems to learn and time is running short.After a brutal 18 year occupation of South Lebanon in the 1980’s,it was forced to withdraw leaving a more radical Hizbollah foe that did not exist prior to invasion. Israeli forces in lebanon slaughtered over 20,000 Lebanese and Palestinians(most non combattants,Christians and Moslems).Israel’s overwhelming use of US supplied cluster bombs against civillians(a violation of the US Arms export act)resulted in the birth of suicide bombing.It is yet to be seen how long the unwitting US taxpayer will supply Israel with unlimited arms with no strings. Israel’s 2006 war against lebanon saw Israel request millions of dollars in emergency munitions and aviation fuel from the US to enable it to maintain it’s bombing campaign on civilian infrastructure.

  • Hezbollah is sitting this one out. I wonder if they would have done so without the 2006 war?

    http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5g8NBzCeqjOYluefJPYG3U9AliW3w

    Israel isn’t the problem. The problem is the jihadist movement throughout the Islamic world that views us as enemy number one and Israel as a minor threat.

  • Israel is still occupying Gaza and the West Bank, contrary to what some people think or want us to think.
    I am an Iraqi Jew and I know what occupation, siege, starvation and suffering mean.
    So pls. stop blaming the victim and trying to find excuses for the bullying murderers. This is totally immoral and inhuman. If you are not able to say the truth, just keep silent and do not add salt to the wounds of the helpless Palestinians.
    Try to watch TV images from Gaza. Stare in the faces of the Gazan children and women, for you may come out with a clear and just conscience.
    I wish I ll see the day when Palestine is freed from its occupiers and the Palestinian people live in peace and security in their own land.
    May this be achieved either with Hamas or any other Palestinian freedom fighters.
    Thanks.

  • “I wish I ll see the day when Palestine is freed from its occupiers and the Palestinian people live in peace and security in their own land.”

    Hey Rami, I’ll perhaps believe you are actually Jewish when you give a real e-mail address. Until that time I think you are as Jewish as the members of Hamas.

  • “40 years after 1967 and 58 years after 1948, why is the occupation not yet over?
    Because Israel does not want it to end. Because Israel wants the land and the resources without the people. Because you have to eviscerate a culture in order to maintain total control over it. Because the United States says that’s just fine with us, you serve our purpose well. You help make the war on terror convenient. You help fit Iraq into the scheme. You’ll help us with Iran as well. Who the hell cares about a million and a half poverty-stricken Gazans and their dust, their sand, their stinking, crumbling heap of a disaster area homeland?
    What a terrible shame it is that Gazans have not yet attained the status of human in the eyes of the Western powers, for the resistance there will continue to be an enigma until this changes. For now, however, the slaughter will continue unabated.”>>

    The above is just an excerpt from an article on one of the many massacres perpetrated by Israel against Palestinians.
    Try to read the article in full. The writer is professor Jennifer Loewenstein. She is also a Jew, but with a human compassion and clear conscience plus a thoughtful insight into the history of the warfare in the region.
    Read what Jennifer Loewenstein wrote carefully and thoroughly if you want to know the true character of the state you are defending its genocide war.

    How Gaza Offends Us All:
    http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article17050.htm

  • Hi Donald,
    Believe me I am a JEW. And I am proud to be so.
    But, unlike you, I hate injustice, murder and prejudice.
    Being a Jew does not mean that I should ignore or tolerate the suffering of other people just because my coreligionists are the bad guys who have been inflicting misery and suffering on helpless people.
    Our humanity should prevail over our narrow affiliations and inherent prejudice.
    Thanks my dear.

  • Believe me I am a JEW. And I am proud to be so.

    A rude question to ask, I am sure, but out of curious, when’s the last time you attended Sabbath services?

  • Rami,

    the highest reported totals from Israel’s defensive action in Gaza is about 700. 3/4 are military by all accounts. Do you have the foggiest clue how many civilians would be killed if a single F15 where to deliberately attack an occupied civilian target? If Israel wanted to destroy the UN school that Hamas was using to shield it’s rocket attacks, there would have been nothing but a pile of rubble, just on 1000 lb bomb would have killed everyone inside. Clearly that IS not the objective.

    God Bless,

    Matt

  • Still haven’t given me a real e-mail address Rami. Until you do so I think you are a supporter of Hamas flying a false flag.

    “But, unlike you, I hate injustice, murder and prejudice.”

    Coming from the supporter of an organization that specializes in cowardly attacks on civilians, I assume you are attempting to be humorous with that statement.

  • Rami,

    check this video out, and then get back to us:
    Hamas in their own voices

  • Dear Crankycon,
    How are u doing?
    Do u mean I can not be a true Jew without attending Sabath?
    Who say that, my dear?
    It seems this is a new theory on the identity issue. So, if u do not pray you are not a true Jew or Christian!
    Being a Jew goes deeper than ritual things. It is about culture, psyche, self fulfillment and how you look at yourself.
    If I do not attend prayer, that does not necessarily mean I am not a real Jew.
    Thanks my dear.

    Dear Matt,
    There could be no more cowardly than the Israeli soldiers who kill innocent children and women in cold blood. There is no honor or heroism in killing children, I guess. It is pure cowardice. There is no other name befitting their evil and inhumane deeds. The Israeli military establishment has rubbed the honor of their soldiers in the blood of Gaza’s children. But who knows, we may see their leaders at the Hague very soon for the war crimes they are committing in our name.

    Dear Donald,
    Believe me I am not fond of Hamas. I know they are violent sometimes. But they are not more violent than the Israeli soldiers. Whether we like Hamas or not, we can not deny the fact that they are resistance group wanting to liberate their land. Resistance is a legitimate right for all peoples under occupation. Now remember what I am saying: it won’t be long till we see the Israelis and their benefactors, the Americans, indulged in some sort of dialogue or negotiations. Hamas will remain there, believe me. Israel could fight for ten years from now and it will reap the wind. Hamas remains the difficult figure in the equation.
    Thanks.

  • “Believe me I am not fond of Hamas. I know they are violent sometimes. But they are not more violent than the Israeli soldiers. Whether we like Hamas or not, we can not deny the fact that they are resistance group wanting to liberate their land.”

    No rami, the Israeli military attempts to minimize civilian casualties, while the terrorists of Hamas attempt to maximize civilian casualties. Hamas wants to destroy Israel and to make all of Palestine Judenfrei.

  • There could be no more cowardly than the Israeli soldiers who kill innocent children and women in cold blood. There is no honor or heroism in killing children, I guess. It is pure cowardice. There is no other name befitting their evil and inhumane deeds.

    This is all of course true, but it’s a red herring. If this were even marginally frequent then there would be 100’s of thousands of dead Palestinians every year. Instead, the whole history of the conflict (50 years) about 70,000 have died. By contrast more mohammedans than that are killed by their co-religionists every year.

    I notice you failed to answer my question? How many Gazan’s could Israel kill with a single bomb if they wished to annihilate them? You know the answer, it is in the 1000’s, far more than in the number that have been killed in 2 weeks of air attacks against military targets.

    I know they are violent sometimes. But they are not more violent than the Israeli soldiers. Whether we like Hamas or not, we can not deny the fact that they are resistance group wanting to liberate their land.

    Violence is neither good nor evil under Jewish, Christian or Islamic law (which I believe is your actual religion). Violence is only evil when it is directed at the INNOCENT. When Hamas “resists” it is not usually against the IDF, but against innocent men, women and children.

    Did you check the video? They do not deny their approach, why would you?

  • ps. Rami, you should be aware that Hamas seeks to maximize civilian casualties ON BOTH SIDES in order to garner sympathy. In doing so they are responsible for the bloodshed on both sides.

  • Do u mean I can not be a true Jew without attending Sabath ?

    Yes, that is what I am saying. Just as you cannot be a true Catholic without attending Mass. I understand that there is a cultural aspect to Judaism, but to me that is precisely why Judaism is dying. Especially in the US, too many Jews treat the spiritual aspect of their faith as merely a secondary (if at all) aspect to their religion. I’ve even encountered several Jewish friends who think it is not at all a contradiction to be considered an atheist. Ummm, excuse me?

    And unless you’re my wife, please do not call me dear. Thanks.

  • Then again, maybe I’m off and that whole “remember the Sabbath and keep it holy thing” was optional.

  • rami,

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/7816417.stm

    more evidence of Hamas terrorism, violating the ceasefire that Israel permitted to allow humanitarian aid.

  • Absolutely not true. Even the CNN itself said today that Israel, not Hamas, is to blame for braking the ceasefire.

    Anyway, here is another link that will take you to another free Jewish thinker,

    Dr. Norman Finkelstein, who also provides a great insight into what is really happening in Gaza.

    Remember! Dr. Finkelstein is a Jew not a Palestinian or an Arab “a smiling face here!”.
    http://www.normanfinkelstein.com

  • rami,

    CNN? They are the shoddiest news organization in the world (next to the reuters perhaps). Just because a self-hating jew like Finklestein and you want to spew lies doesn’t make them true. Are you going to respond to my earlier posts? Or do you accept that Hamas is responsible of all civilian casualties as I have demonstrated?

  • CNN is almost ludicrously bad in regard to the Gaza story. They had to pull a fake Hamas video about an alleged atrocity by the Israelis.

    http://hotair.com/archives/2009/01/08/cnn-stung-by-fake-atrocity-video/

    Ted Turner’s vanity news network is the last news source I would ever turn to, and that includes the New York Times!