PALESTINE, DAY 1 BILLION…or so it seems

Palestine is in the news: Bush’s speech sets the U.S. in opposition to the currently constituted P.A.
I’ve owed Demosthenes a response, and this gives a great frame for it, and both Lean Left and Max Speaks have recent comments I need to respond to.
Here’s Demosthenes’ point: (btw, I’ve gotta spend more time reading him…)

So, how to stop (or at least reduce) the bombings? Well, you need to disrupt one of these three elements: either disrupt access to the explosives, the target, or the bomber. The former is practically impossible; anybody who’s watched Fight Club knows that explosives are pathetically easy to make with the right knowledge, and trying to keep that knowledge under wraps is impossible. Trying to disrupt access to the target is, of course, why Israel is building their wall, has all their checkpoints, and are currently invading and occupying sections of the territories… an arrested or dead terrorist loses access to all three, but principally the target. (After all, he could simply become the bomber). The measures that attempt to prevent access to the target, though, are creating more and more possible bombers, and with that are increasing the accessibility of the third element: a bomber.
This is, of course, the element that those that are calling for either a Palestinian State or at least less repression are trying to disrupt. If you remove that sense of desperation and hopelessness, then fewer bombers become available. If you create the impression that there are other ways of changing your environment and your situation, you remove yet more bombers. If you reinforce the idea that terrorist bombing is wrong and that vengeance will only create more vengeance, then you remove yet more potential bombers from the pool. Yes, you’ll still have the hardcore extremists, but those are far simpler to track and predict than a random teenager who has lost their fiance… and they may be dissuaded as well by others that don’t want to deal either with the repercussions or the loss of that person. (Secular interests can outweigh religious ones). Besides, there would be more people who, like Ms. Ahmed, morally object to the bombings, not having had their own personal grievances outweigh their moral qualms.

Lean Left has interesting posts on this, including one dated June 23 (note that his permalinks are broken), in which he says a few nice things about me and then goes on:

have come down on the side of laying the culpability at the feet of the Palestinians, all the Palestinians, and only the Palestinians. Everything they say is true – suicide bombing is a horrible evil, statehood will not stop groups like Hamas, there are some Palestinians who want to do nothing but kill Jews. All of that is true, but acting solely on those truths (whether because of the one percent rule, or for some other reason) will solve nothing. The problem with a Sharon like plan is that it is only temporary. I can think of no insurgency that has ever been stropped by outside force alone.

[Note: Hmmm. I need to go over my military history on that one.]
Their points are good; they speak to the fact that in terrorism, like in crime, the ultimate answer is to stop growing terrorists (as the answer to crime is to stop growing criminals). But it begs a simple problem: who will bell the cat? Exactly who is it that Israel can offer peace to? Who will help create the culture which stops growing terrorists?
The problem is that for a variety of reasons, either a temporary aberration or a deeper cultural dynamic (in my darker moments, I side with Eric Raymond, in believing that this is a characteristic of Islamist culture; in my better ones I realize that temporary insanity has been a characteristic of human societies for a long time, and hope that that’s the case here), the current ruling culture in Palestine and much of the Arab world, is more interested in growing terrorists than in gaining what we would consider to be rational political ends.
Now Raymond and others would argue that this breakdown is inherent in the modern Muslim culture/religion/worldview. Someone like Bernard Lewis would agree with him (I still remember reading his article ‘The Roots of Muslim rage’ in the Atlantic what, ten years ago?), others like Edward Said, would not. Now while I think Said is an idiot, I will say that I don’t yet know enough to have a hard opinion yet, and that we need to be very careful here. If Lewis is right, we are facing Huntington’s ‘Clash of Cultures’, and it’s gonna be messy and probably radioactive before we’re all done. If not, then the answer is to find the voices in the Palestinian community who do want to engage us on terms that we consider rational
That’s my hope, my path through this mess. And that’s the gauntlet, I believe Bush has just laid down.
My overall criticism of the Muslim (note that I don’t say ‘Islamist’) world in response to 9/11 and the terrorist war in Israel has been to the moral and political silence of the ‘mainstream’ Muslim community, who has responded consistently with “Yes, but…”
Hint: That’s not good enough. If we are to take Demosthenes’ path, there has to be someone standing there to meet us, and right now the onus is on the Palestinian/Arab community to put forward that person. This is the window.
It’s a waste of time to negotiate with Hamas, with Arafat, and with the others who have created their personal and cultural identities around Islamist aggression. It’s time for there to be someone else.
And the challenge is for the U.S. and Israel (I don’t see anyone else in the West as a player at this point) to hold open opportunities for that ‘someone else’, for the Arab world to step up and support them, and for the Palestinians themselves both to be that ‘someone else’ and to keep the people who would kill that ‘someone else’ from doing so.
Mo’ Moral Equivalence
Max Sawicky, in MaxSpeaks, lists a litany of IDF ‘crimes’, and raises a challenge:

MORAL CLARITY WEEK, DAY TWO. I regret to report that in my admittedly limited investigations, our jingoistic warbloggers (JWs) have not yet seen fit to acknowledge the three stories I cited yesterday. I am certain this oversight will be swiftly rectified, since the possibility that the JWs do not value Palestinian lives as much as Jewish ones is almost too painful to contemplate.

Here’s his litany:

* An Israeli tank shelled a Palestinian marketplace, killing three children and a 60-year old man. (Link)
* Following a funeral for an Israeli mother and three children murdered by a Palestinian infiltrator, a group of Jewish mourners went on a rampage in a Palestinian village, burning a house and cars, and murdering a Palestinian. (link)
* In Jenin, the IDF wrecked a hospital. (link)

Max, I’m the last guy in the world to tell you or anyone else how to make your arguments. We’re all grown-ups here. But please know that the mode of discourse you’re taking on here is exactly the one that has alienated me from many of my friends on the Left and from the current corporatist-Leftist media coverage of the war. Any error on one side is immediatly prima fasciae evidence of bad behavior. The perfect is, quite literally, the enemy of the good.
Let’s get two things straight:
1) In any activity…including blogging, firefighting, police work, combat, anything like or between those…there is a level of bad behavior, carelessness, imprecision, error, and just plain old bad goddam luck that happens. On my planet, Earth, friendly fire kills combatants. Innocent people are shot or beaten. Noncombatants are killed. Buildings are destroyed. From the comfort of our desks, it’s relatively easy for you and I to condemn, because ‘it shouldn’t have happened’ and in our imaginations, we could have done it better. Well, guess what, it does. There is no perfectly executed human activity, and it just amazes me that academic or journalistic critic seize on every innocent victim of war as a justification for not waging war. Do you know how many innocent civilians died in World War II? Are you suggesting that to save them it should not have been fought?
2) The test is both the ‘level of error’ of the organization we are critiquing and how they respond to it. If, every time any squad of IDF soldiers went on a mission, they made it a point to kill innocents or wantonly destroy property, that would be one thing. Make a case, Max, that this is happening hundreds of times aday, as there are probably thousands of IDF actions daily. You can’t, because I’m willing to bet, there aren’t. There are bad, negligent, stupid, careless, tragic actions. You don’t need war or racism for that to happen; soldiers die in training here in the US every week. But I’ll ask you Max, what’s the acceptable level of error? How many errors do you make in the course of your day, and how often do you have to do things under the kind of immediate pressures the soldiers you so freely criticize face? Show me some concrete evidence that this is policy and come talk to me about this. Show me that the tanker who negligently fired on the marketplace crowd was promoted, and his picture run in the front pages of the Israeli press as a hero, and you’ll have a point.
Well, Max, here’s your response.

6 thoughts on “PALESTINE, DAY 1 BILLION…or so it seems”

  1. Date: 06/26/2002 00:00:00 AM
    I agree that you also have to consider proportionality – especially with regard to actions that are taken pursuant to policy decisions. However, the proportionality analysis does not apply very well to the situation mentioned above in which Israeli citizens murdered a Palestinian after a funeral, and will (presumably) be arrested and punished for their crime. Yes the murderers’ actions were unjustified and evil ? and dispropotionate – but Israel will have responded properly to them. For the most part, I think that Israel has responded proportionally to the attacks it has suffered. Israel has moved in incremental steps as the terrorism increased, and its actions have been more restrained than those you would see from any other country that faced daily terrorist assaults (which, of course, are but a chapter in the Arabs’ 50 year struggle to destroy the state). Of course, there is no proportionality when Palestinian terrorists murder innocent civilians because of the “frustation and hopelessness” they feel. I would not give the Israelis a green light to commit genocide, nor would I say that Israel should be free from criticism, because its suffers terrorist attacks. But, I would not look at the three incidents cited in the post and argue that there was some kind of moral equivalence between the two sides, or that our attention should be primarily focused on ending Israeli “attorcities,” either.

  2. Date: 06/26/2002 00:00:00 AM
    Contextualizing is important, but I think the example of the “one percent rule” is important here. There is no doubt that Israel should do what is necessary to protect itself… but if it goes farther than that (out of a desire for vengeance, paranoia, thoughtlessness, or whatever) then it deserves to be called to account for its actions, even as the circumstances that led to those actions are weighed against the severity of the crimes. For example, arresting a terrorist who has been outfitting suicide bombers with their poisoned dart jackets is acceptable. So is assassination, perhaps, if arrest is impossible or close enough to be considered so. If Israel decided to blow up a city block (or even, say, a tenement) in order to get this one guy, however, then the question arises about whether the response was proportional to the crime. Without consideration of proportionality, after all, you go down some really, really, really dark paths.

  3. Date: 06/26/2002 00:00:00 AM
    I haven’t yet had the time to read Eric Raymond’s series on Islam, but I intend to, probably right after I post this. But based on your summary here, I would say, based on my own studies, Raymond is right. Militant Jihad, Islamic world domination and lack of respect for freedom are part and parcel of historic Islam. That doesn’t mean there isn’t a possibility of a Western-style Islam.

  4. Date: 06/25/2002 00:00:00 AM
    Your response is just about dead-on. I would only ad that the Israeli government will most likely arrest the person/people responsible for killing the Palestinian (just like they arrested the Israeli Jews who were planning a terrorist attack against Palestinians).The point is not whether one side is perfect – neither side is.The point is that one side has deliberately adopted a policy of of killing innocent civilians. The other side has not. Pointing to the bad acts and mistakes of both sides, without placing those acts in the context of the parties’ policies and usual behavior, distorts the picture.

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