A Bloody, Horrible Mess

I’ve wanted to blog on Gaza, but it’s impossible to know where to begin. I have sympathies on both sides: I don’t expect Israel to just absorb missiles without responding, but I don’t expect Palestinians to blithely accept being starved, either. It’s one of those tragedies with no clear right or wrong, no spotless heroes, no irredeemable villains.

I’m going to let Phoenix Woman take over from here:

As we hear that the IDF is bombing universities and killing United Nations personnel in addition to the hundreds of Gazans already dead in the three days of the Israeli attack on Gaza, we will hear the inevitable cry “but Hamas has been lobbing rockets at Israelis for years from Gaza!”

Juan Cole tells us about these rockets, and provides some perspective:

Israel blames Hamas for primitive homemade rocket attacks on the nearby Israeli city of Sederot. In 2001-2008, these rockets killed about 15 Israelis and injured 433, and they have damaged property. In the same period, Gazan mortar attacks on Israel have killed 8 Israelis.

Since the Second Intifada broke out in 2000, Israelis have killed nearly 5000 Palestinians, nearly a thousand of them minors. Since fall of 2007, Israel has kept the 1.5 million Gazans under a blockade, interdicting food, fuel and medical supplies to one degree or another. Wreaking collective punishment on civilian populations such as hospital patients denied needed electricity is a crime of war.

The Israelis on Saturday killed 5% of all the Palestinians they have killed since the beginning of 2001! 230 people were slaughtered in a day, over 70 of them innocent civilians. In contrast, from the ceasefire Hamas announced in June, 2008 until Saturday, no Israelis had been killed by Hamas. The infliction of this sort of death toll is known in the law of war as a disproportionate response, and it is a war crime.

But of course you won’t see this on your evening news, not unless you live outside of the US. You’re more likely to know about this if you live in Tel Aviv than if you live in Milwaukee.

There’s more in that article that might be helpful in conversations with those who love to proclaim that Israel can do no wrong.

It’s hard to find good in so many people dead. But it seems that Israel has taken things just one step too far. The carte blanche is being written on a rapidly-emptying bank account. And we can finally talk about Israel in more than simple black-and-white terms.

This was never that simple. It’s a good thing we’re no longer pretending it is.

J-Street has a petition ready to go (h/t):

At this moment of extreme crisis, J Street wants to demonstrate that, among those who care about Israel and its security, there is a constituency for sanity and moderation. There are many who recognize elements of truth on both sides of this gaping divide and who know that closing it requires strong American engagement and leadership. Click Here

I support immediate and strong U.S.-led diplomatic efforts to urgently reinstate a meaningful ceasefire that ends all military operations, stops the rockets aimed at Israel and lifts the blockade of Gaza. This is in the best interests of Israel, the Palestinian people and the United States.

I’m going to leave you with what Hilzoy said yesterday, because she sums up my feelings on this rather better than I can:

One of the many things that makes the Israeli/Palestinian conflict so utterly dispiriting is that it’s impossible to think of anything good coming of any of this. Worse than that, it’s hard to imagine that even the people involved think anything good will come of it.

What, exactly, do the Palestinians lobbing rockets into Sderot think they will accomplish? That the Israelis will look about them and say: Holy Moly, I had no idea this place was so dangerous!, and leave? Do the Israelis think: even though we’ve bombed the Palestinians a whole lot, and it’s never done much good before, maybe this time it will be different! Maybe Hamas will say: heavens, this is a pretty serious round of attacks; maybe we should just sue for peace — ? Or what?

I imagine what people on both sides are thinking is something more like: do you expect us to just sit here and take it? Do you expect us to do nothing? To which my answer is: no, I expect you to try to figure out what has some prospect of actually making things better. Killing people out of anger, frustration, and the sense that you have to do something is just wrong. For both sides.


A Bloody, Horrible Mess

7 thoughts on “A Bloody, Horrible Mess

  1. 1

    I’m coming to the conclusion that these things are almost always caused by powermongers, and that the vast majority of people on both sides want peace. The powermongers may be primarily on one side or both, but they are the ones who will take whatever action is necessary to prevent a peaceful resolution.I haven’t had time to study the Gaza situation much yet but from what I have read, it looks like Israel’s got a nasty infestation of powermongers (who also have a major outpost in Washington, preventing top-level criticism of their actions and making sure we keep funneling them money). Those are the people who need to be removed from power in order for a settlement to take place (and no, I don’t know specifically who they are).If anyone thinks I’m reading this wrong, please point me at some reading material.

  2. 2

    Both sides are going to have to give up stuff, but neither is willing. As for Jerusalem, I wish we could just put it under the protection of an international UN force and declare it and international city and take it off the table.

  3. 3

    No progress will be made in this situation until both sides quit arguing about who is right and do the right thing instead.Is “disproportionate response” a war crime? No, at least according to Luis Moreno-Orampo (Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court). One could argue that it is a moral crime or should be, but isn’t, a war crime. International law does not require Israel to calibrate it’s use of force according to it’s enemies abilities.International law does prohibit the intentional targeting of civilians. I have not seen anything that leads me to believe Israel, as a matter of practice, does so. Hamas does nothing BUT target civilians.I think Israel’s attack on Gaza is as bad a decision as going into Lebanon after Hezbollah in ’06 was. It’s doomed to failure and is not in the long term interests of anyone. However, as Woozle pointed out, there are other factors at work. Namely, Israel is holding elections in a couple weeks. I have a sinking feeling that this election is what is driving Israel’s behavior in Gaza.

  4. 4

    Israel used cluster bombs against civilians targets during their invasion of Lebanon last year. That’s just a case I can remember. They have done this since. They are not innocent even by your rather restrictive definition.Avaaz also has an online petition. It asks world leaders to help end the crisis, and does not take sides.

  5. 5

    Cujo359, could you document your cluster bomb accusation please?I’m not clear what “restrictive definition” you’re referring to. Of war crimes? That’s not my definition. That’s the position of Moreno-Orampo whose opinion on what officially constitutes war crimes I am obliged to defer to given his job. Thank you for the link to the petition. I signed it.

  6. 6

    Here’s an article that mentions both the current use, and the ban Congress imposed in 1982 of sale of cluster munitions to Israel due to their use of cluster munitions against civilians.There is also a a Human Rights Watch report on alleged Israeli war crimes during the Lebanon offensive.Neither of these was difficult to find.Here is a rather long discussion of how the Geneva Conventions and other international law apply to the Israel-Palestine conflict. Israel has engaged in many war crimes, according to the experts they interviewed. “Disproportionate response”, and deliberately targeting civilian areas as punishment are both mentioned as crimes prohibited by the Fourth Geneva Convention, to which Israel is a signatory.

  7. 7

    Thank you Cujo359 for providing the links. I’m sure it’s going to provide interesting reading.Regardless of how easy these were to find I think it’s important to remember that it’s not my responsibility to find documentation supporting your argument.

Comments are closed.