## 3-sentence summary of what’s happening in Israel and Gaza

Hamas is trying to kill as many civilians as it can.

Israel is trying to kill as few civilians as it can.

Neither is succeeding very well.

Update (July 28): Please check out a superb essay by Sam Harris on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.  While, as Harris says, the essay contains “something to offend everyone”—even me—it also brilliantly articulates many of the points I’ve been trying to make in this comment thread.

### 507 Responses to “3-sentence summary of what’s happening in Israel and Gaza”

More broadly, and speaking as someone who most certainly supports Israel’s right to exist, the thing that makes it hard to fully support Israel is their insistence on expanding their settlements in Palestinian areas. I don’t think it would make an iota of difference to Hamas if they stopped – nothing short of Israel’s destruction is going to cut it for Hamas – but to me that’s where the blood on Israel’s hands comes from.

2. JD Says:

Didn’t it occur to you that a good way to kill fewer civilians is not to bomb them?
Your second sentence is so outrageously incorrect, false, and wrong…

3. James Babcock Says:

Based on my cursory Internet research on the subject, if half the allegations are true, then you are giving Israel too much credit.

JD, I think it’s pretty obvious that Hamas is using civilians as human shields. What is Israel supposed to do if they need to conduct military operations in order to prevent rocket attacks? They have two choices: either do nothing and let attacks against them continue without a response, or do what they’re doing: conduct the operations while taking reasonable steps to minimize civilian casualties. Even good wars lead to innocent noncombatants dying, but sometimes you still have to fight.

5. Scott Says:

JD #2: Sorry, I meant “trying to kill as few civilians as it can consistent with eliminating the rocket launchers that are currently being heavily and indiscriminately used against its population centers, and that are embedded in civilian areas.” Regardless of what one thinks about the broader political issues (settlements, blockade, etc.), it’s hard to think of any alternative to doing that, that would be acceptable to any fired-upon population anywhere on earth.

6. JD Says:

#3: Ok, this makes the second sentence less incorrect. I agree that the evilness of the Hamas is way larger than the evilness of the Israeli government (the latter being nonzero, and pernicious).
You write “regardless…”, but it is very hard to disregard the wider context. Of course, Hamas should be eliminated, but to what extent was it reinforced by the Israeli government (for instance, by weakening Abbas)? Also, treat people like animals, they will behave like animals…
To come back to the point at hand, the Israeli government and IDF tell us that they make their maximum to reduce civilian deaths, and they surely do “some” efforts, but I wouldn’t take the words of *any* government and military in the world for granted.

7. Alyssa Vance Says:

I don’t think the Israeli military wants lots of civilians to die. It doesn’t accomplish anything, and makes Israel look bad.

But Hamas is reported to have offered a truce on what seem like reasonable terms (http://www.jpost.com/Operation-Protective-Edge/What-are-Hamass-conditions-for-a-cease-fire-363011), which (if true) means that Israel bears responsibility for letting the fighting continue rather than making peace.

8. Michael Bacon Says:

Here is a link to a very thoughtful article with which I find myself in strong agreement:

http://www.timesofisrael.com/the-tragic-self-delusion-behind-the-hamas-war/

9. Itai Says:

Israel withdrew from all of the settlements in Gaza strip in 2005 which some of this land was bought (Kfar Darom) , for a small chance for peace , leaving thousands of Jews with no home,work and their old lives.
Immediately after Palestinians burned to the ground all greenhouses and synagogue left complete, and used this land instead for training terrorists and shoot missiles.
Since then over 10000 missiles were shot on Israeli civilan population, kidnapped soldier, terror tunnels were dug for every and each settlements inside 67 borders to kill and kidnap civilian population ( recognized by UN ) .
Worst of all they use civilian population as a human shield to protect their missiles and terrorists , using UNRA schools,hospitals and mosques. Using USA,Europe and UN funding to make missiles and terror tunnels instead of houses and improve economy.
They copy Israel project ” computer for every kid” to “grenade for every kid” .
They shut down the air port which is 50 km away from Gaza strip and near Tel Aviv, If Israel would withdraw from settlements near the air port, Hamas can dig tunnel to the airport and sit 2-3 km from the Air port!
This bad experiment in Israeli human lives can not happened again .
The settlements in the borders after 67 are no less legal than 48 ones, some of the settlements was there before 48 and was destroyed in 48 war. and are absolutely necessary to secure the 10 km only area from 48 borders to the sea.

10. Scott Says:

Michael #8: Thanks so much for the link! I agree; that’s one of the best analyses I’ve read of what Hamas could be thinking, that would cause it to do what it’s doing despite how much misery it brings to innocent people in Gaza. For people’s convenience, let me quote some of the most important paragraphs:

The anticolonial strategy depends on its ability to influence the psychology of the colonialist. So it only works if the colonialist believes he is one, if he has a separate “home country” to which he can return, if the only thing being weighed against the violence is the economic benefit of exploiting the occupied territory a little longer.

It is in these features that the strategic error (for the purposes of this argument, let’s momentarily ignore the moral problems) at the root of Hamas’s anticolonial struggle can be discerned. Israel is not the French occupation of Algeria. Again, that’s not a moral judgment, but a sociological fact. Israel’s Jews have a shared sense of national history and identity, a narrative of ancient belonging in the land and a language spoken nowhere else. More prosaically, Israel has eight million citizens, two million of them schoolchildren, living in 76 cities connected by 18,000 kilometers of road. It is no mere political system or settlement; it is a civilization. And, of course, unlike the French in Algeria, Israelis have nowhere else to go.

So we must ask: What happens when the anticolonial strategy of terrorism is employed against an indigenous national identity? Or more bluntly, what happens when you send a suicide bomber to murder the innocent children of a tribe that does not believe it has anywhere else to go? The response to such violence is the very opposite of the colonialist’s: instead of flight, war.

This lesson was bolstered in the wake of the Gaza disengagement of August 2005. The withdrawal from Gaza was carried out to the last centimeter and the last settler. The following year, Ehud Olmert won a national election after expressly promising to deliver a similar unilateral withdrawal from much of the West Bank. But instead of acknowledging and accepting Israel’s keenness to end the occupation, Palestinian “resistance” groups simply insisted that the strategy of the Algerian resistance was paying off. The colonialist was slowly withdrawing in the face of the pain inflicted by Palestinian terror, and so that terror must be increased, must become a permanent feature of Israeli life. That, after all, is the logic of Algeria.

And so Hamas set about turning Gaza into the steppingstone for an expanded anticolonial campaign designed to liberate Jerusalem, Beersheba and Tel Aviv. In its inability to view Israelis except through the lens of its own ideology, Hamas misunderstood the nature of the Gaza withdrawal, the Israeli exhaustion with the dysfunction, violence and ideological ossification of the Palestinian national movement — and failed to realize that Israel’s desire to disentangle itself from the Palestinians did not mean it would no longer defend itself.

Hamas’s leaders and planners are not stupid. They know the strategy isn’t working. They know Israel continues to strengthen and prosper even as the Arab world around it crumbles and their own fiefdom in Gaza collapses. They know they have been able to deliver only minuscule tactical successes while Israel continues to emerge overwhelmingly triumphant.

But Hamas cannot relent. To surrender their anti-colonial campaign, to move from a strategy of violence that cannot possibly liberate Palestine to one of compromise that might liberate at least part of Palestine, Hamas must surrender a basic fixture of its ideology and identity – the assumption that the Jews are rootless foreigners in this land, or at least that the Jews can be expected to behave as foreigners when confronted with terrorism. If either of those assumptions are wrong, then the strategy’s very premise is undermined, and Hamas’s endless war is doomed to ignominious failure.

And so Gaza is locked into a war of fruitless aggression, battling an enemy that only really exists in the Palestinian imagination, and doing so with an arsenal of tactics that only serve to strengthen the resolve and cohesion of the actual opponent it is facing in the real world.

Itai,

Ahh, but then they’ll need new settlements to protect the existing settlements, and this can continue recursively. If they want to protect things like the airport, they can have a militarily enforced buffer zone, but having people move into an area and displace the area’s existing residents reeks of land grab.

Rolling back settlements is hard, especially after they’ve been there for a while. I find the idea of someone no longer being allowed in the place where they were born to be abhorrent (as someone who was born in a country where I no longer have citizenship, Ukraine, it’s even a little personal), but at least, Israel needs to stop expanding NOW.

Of course, Israel can do whatever they want and they’ll still have the moral high ground against Hamas, but the bar shouldn’t be that low. The very well-justified need for Israel to defend themselves shouldn’t give them carte blanche when it comes to settlements.

12. Boaz Barak Says:

Some situations cannot be summarized in 3 sentences, and I also don’t particularly like the article by Haviv Gur, though I agree there is a lot of self delusion on both sides of this conflict.

It’s your blog of course, but in a lifetime of following news etc.. I have yet to see a thoughtful discussion on this topic in any blog/news-site/forum comment section. I am afraid this will not be the exception.

13. Alex Says:

You’ve just made an extremely controversial statement here. I’m not sure such glossing over the intricacies and details of the current conflict is appropriate or edifying.

14. Itai Says:

Israel is not a colonialist and claim rights only for land that belongs to them over 3800 years, for land which is smaller than Los angeles city.
some of the settelments as you call them was there legally even before 48 war , places like old city of Jerusalem and Hebron. Gush Etzion and Kfar Darom.
in 48 war and before jews were murdered and expelled from there.
Jordan valley is and Golan heights are absolutely neccesery to defend the narrow borders of 48 from possible invasion of IsIs terrrorists or Iranian army after they will concure syria and Jordan, which can happend very soon as Syria and Iraq seems doomed.
DMZ will not help as UN did not help in Sinai lebanon and Golan heights , wheb they have a threat they will flee and will not protect anyone.

15. Michael Bacon Says:

“I have yet to see a thoughtful discussion on this topic in any blog/news-site/forum comment section. I am afraid this will not be the exception.”

“I’m not sure such glossing over the intricacies and details of the current conflict is appropriate or edifying.”

I view Scott’s three line summary as an invitation for a thoughtful discussion that at least touches on the intricacies and details of the conflict. I honestly would like those who think that they can help explain this situation to please do so. It’s important to all of us.

16. Scott Says:

Boaz #12: On reflection, you’re right. This minor brain-firing about the symmetry and asymmetry of the current conflict wasn’t worth a blog post (even though, as it happens, I learned a few new things from the comments above). At best, it was a tweet, except that I don’t have a Twitter account. In order not to compound the error, I’ll participate in the comments as little as possible.

17. Chris Roberts Says:

A good summary, but with it comes a tragic irony: fewer Israelis (and far fewer Palestinians) would have died had Israel not attacked. Hamas’ rocket attacks have killed a grand total of one person. Last update I saw, Israel’s move against Hamas has so far cost 39 Israeli lives and some 620 Palestinians, mostly civilians.

I think the arguments for Israeli action are reasonable, and I think Hamas bears most of the responsibility for civilian casualties due to their use of human shields. Even so, that’s 700 people who would be alive today if Israel had not moved in.

But what’s the alternative? Hamas rocket attacks must end, but Hamas has consistently launched attacks no matter what Israel does – open borders, closed borders, more autonomy, less autonomy, more settlements, fewer settlements – it makes no difference to Hamas.

18. Jay Says:

Palestinian extremists push Israel to kill palestinians.

Israeli extremists push Palestine to kill israelis.

Both are succeeding very well.

19. Michael Bacon Says:

Jay@18 said: “Israeli extremists push Palestine to kill israelis.”

I think this is basically incorrect, or at least only correct at the margins. I do not believe that Hamas and others on the Palestinian side are motivated primarily by the desire to respond to the actions of Israeli extremists. I take Hamas at its word — their primary desire is to eliminate the state of Israel. I have no good reason to believe otherwise.

20. Itai Says:

Chris
Was it be best to leave things the way they were?
leaving Hamas huge stock of 20000 rockets and tunnels aimed towards Iarael? Which surely someday be fired as they wish and teach kids to destroy Israel.
Let hamas execute the tunnels operation in hebrew new year -Rosh Hashaba in 2 months as he planned all along and kill hundreds of Kibutz and Moshav people near Gaza?

Every day something like 400 civilians are killed in Syria , same in Iraq. The UN does not open investigations about that, and Obama slides it as long chemical weaponds are not involved.

Hezbula has over 100000 rockets and more tunnels also and a plan to conquer the Galil , build from 2006 despite 1707 UN decision.
When this will blow up again? At least not in a double attack that is timed by Iran now.

It was a very dissapointing status from you. Israel is certainly not trying to minimize the civilian casualties.A well-known Israeli politician and parliament member has branded Palestinians as terrorists, saying mothers of all Palestinians should also be killed. Another Person who held same kind of views was Adlof Hitler.

22. Rahul Says:

“Trying” is one part of the story.

What are the actual “achieved” civilian casualties in this current conflict, anyone know?

What’s the score to date?

23. Rahul Says:

@Boaz:

but in a lifetime of following news etc.. I have yet to see a thoughtful discussion on this topic in any blog/news-site/forum comment section.

As opposed to where? Where do you see a thoughtful discussion on this topic, in your opinion?

University seminars? Primetime TV? Hillel debates? Congress?

24. Clif Says:

Vadim, I think you were misled. Israel does not “expand” settlements, and certainly not in “Palestinian areas”.

First, there are no “Palestinian areas”. Only disputed areas (i.e., the West Bank); you seem to rule a priori that these are Palestinian lands.

Second, there is no geographical expansion of settlements. Only, the construction of few additional houses within the existing settlements. I think this is not only legitimate, but essentially has no real significance.

Third, Palestinians expand their hold on the disputed lands of the West Bank, and so you should also see this action as “illegitimate”.

Fourth, there’s no connection between what Hamas is doing to the settlements (Hamas say this themselves: they want all of Israel). So your point is quite irrelevant.

25. Scott Says:

Adam #21: FWIW, I found the comments of Ayelet Shaked to be reprehensible—no better than what Hamas has in its charter, and what its entire leadership believes. She deserves to lose her seat in the Knesset for them.

26. Michael Bacon Says:

“Israel is certainly not trying to minimize the civilian casualties”

This is clearly contradicted by the facts. Even Hamas admits that the IDF has provided some warnings (telephone calls, text messages, dropping leaflets, roof-knocking, etc). Hamas has, of course, complained that too often the steps are not as effective as they could be because warning is provided too late (which I am certain is in some cases true), but at the same time Hamas has encouraged civilians to remain in harms way. All of this is indisputable, and no one except those with some kind of ideological ax to grind disagree. Now, I don’t doubt that there are Israeli politicians and others who would like to see a great deal more death and hardship visited on the Palestinians, but that does not diminish the real steps that the IDF has taken to try and reduce civilian causalities.

Since it always seems to come up, I have one thought about “proportionality” or, as Raul puts it, the “score”. The only reason things are not more in proportion and the “score” more even, it that Hamas has not been as successful as they hoped and tried to be in killing Israelis. There are various reasons for this, but it’s not for lack of trying — just ask Hamas.

27. Clif Says:

Boaz Barak, I disagree with your claims.
In a lifetime of following news, etc. I’ve seen many discussions that touched in a comprehensive and successful way upon the main points concerning the Israeli-Arab conflict. I believe this post will not be different.

The Israeli-Arab conflict is quite old (100 years), but in fact it is simple and insignificant comparing to other conflicts going on around the world, and specifically in the Mideast (e.g. Iraq, Syria, Egypt all are in turmoil much greater than what happens in Israel/Gaza now).

28. Itai Says:

If israel not trying to minimize cevilian casualties, i do not know how it is possible to minimie it less.
Israel call the house of the terrorists before bombing, drop small bomb before the big one to warn, send in every way possible warrnings to evacuate, prefer risking its own soldiers and citizents than palestenians which causes much dead soldiers now.
soldiers go out with a loyer and a camera , pilots video every bombing only to give evidence for the next hypocrated UN report.

And see official IDF videos abd proofs before you say such a thing!

I think its more true to say Israel is not enough humaneterian to its own citizents!

29. domenico Says:

I am thinking that in a very slow process, that can last decades, an Arab Community that could include Israel like happen for the European Economic Community after the Worl War II: in Europe we have different language, histories, ethnicity, historical hostilities but the free movement of peoples and goods have solved many old problem; it could start with the free movement of the Palestinian people with economic interests, or the best minds, in the Arab world (the bad men always have the option to bypass any restriction, at least we facilitate the good ones), finance Palestinian cooperatives where the corruption is more difficult (the desperate are the best fighters).

30. Clif Says:

When making such grand accusations, you should be careful. What you say is simply not true. Ayelet Shaked only cited a write-wing journalist in her facebook posting. The cite also did not contain a demand or wish to kill all Palestinian mothers.

31. anon Says:

This is unfortunately behind a paywall, but it was a nice reading
“Say what you will about Hamas’ rocket fire, at least they managed to scratch the surface of Israel’s faith in the normalcy of its domination of another people.”

32. Scott Says:

domenico #29: It’s a wonderful thought that the Middle East could someday become like the EU—wonderful precisely because of how farfetched it seems to us now. The crucial prerequisite, I think, would be a Middle-Eastern secular Enlightenment. (Hopefully two additional world wars won’t be a prerequisite.)

33. Clif Says:

Rahul. the “score” is about 700 Palestinians dead and 40 Israelis dead. I believe that, although every death of an uninvolved innocent person is tragic, the proportion between the threat and the innocent casualties are not only moral, but far better than what the Americans and the British (and others) (justifiably IMO) are doing in places like Iraq and Afghanistan (in which many thousands of innocent people are killed by the allies forces, as far as I know from seemingly reliable press outlets).

34. John Sidles Says:

Sobering news  Non-partisan ecumenical accompaniers report no shortage of dehumanizing behaviors and politicized abuse on either side of the Israel/Palestine conflict.

Encouraging news (1 of 4)  Our Ukrainian daughter — just returned from a summer visit to her birth-village — has no appetite for war (she is studying medicine).

Encouraging news (2 of 4)  Our son — returned from five combat tours as a Marine in Iraq and Afghanistan — has no appetite for war (he is studying law).

Encouraging news (3 of 4)  Our daughter’s boyfriend — also a multiple-tour Marine veteran — has no appetite for war (he is a historian and writer).

Encouraging news (4 of 4)  Our niece — who holds dual Israeli-American citizenship and was yesterday in-the-air flying toward Tel Aviv — has no appetite for war (she’s been living with us in Seattle, seeking the peace and hope-for-the-future that our family’s other young people are finding).

How Does This End?  By now our niece has heard the sirens, and has placed her faith in the tenuous technological protection that Iron Dome affords. That she has no stronger foundation for her faith-in-the-future is distressing for our family to contemplate.

Conclusions  (1) Given any more hopeful alternative, young people overwhelmingly reject the behaviors, slogans, and institutions that sustain warfare. (2) The ecumenical accompaniers — among whom the Irish and English are prominent — appreciate from their own national history, and demonstrate by their personal commitment, that multi-generation cycles of violence can be broken … yet not easily or quickly. (3) Individual testimonies for peace, respectfully and persistently asserted, can in the long-run triumph over politicized slogan-shouting and the warfare justified by it.

35. Clif Says:

Anon #31, Israel does not “dominate” any people. They withdrew from Gaza completely in 2005, and there is a self-ruling Arab dictatorship in the West-Bank (i.e., the Palestinian Authority).

Clif,

I do a priori consider disputed areas in which a majority of residents are Palestinian to be Palestinian. Everyone deserves the right of self-determination, and it’s ludicrous to think that Israel’s rule represents the will of the people living in those areas.

Increasing the number of Israeli residents in these disputed areas is most certainly significant. First, it makes it harder to undo the settlement in the future. It also serves to dilute the voice of the majority population of the area. Eventually they won’t be Palestinian areas any longer. Israel is trying to boil the frog slowly.

And yes, in my very first post I conceded that a change in Israeli policy on settlement expansion wouldn’t make a bit of difference to Hamas. Nevertheless, the current policy is, in my view, flawed and immoral.

37. Michael Bacon Says:

“Say what you will about Hamas’ rocket fire, at least they managed to scratch the surface of Israel’s faith in the normalcy of its domination of another people.”

Well, I suppose that’s right, but will the outcome of such an awakening be what Hamas wants and expected? Only time will tell.

“The crucial prerequisite, I think, would be a Middle-Eastern secular Enlightenment.”

This is exactly right. Absent this, it’s hard to see how there will be any reconciliation.

38. Clif Says:

@Scott, I think you’re quite brave to speak out your mind in such a decisive way about political matters. Not everyone is willing to take the hits like you do.

39. Ankit Says:

Israel just killed 15 at U.N school who where seeking shelter there. Please tell us more 3-sentence summaries.

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/israeli-fire-hits-compound-housing-u-n-school-in-gaza-killing-15/

40. Clif Says:

Vadim, I repeat what I think is a small piece of data you seem not to grasp: there is no meaningful geographical expansion of settlements. The total size of the settlements is about %2 of the West Bank. This is not an “obstacle to peace” as you say.

In addition, most settlements do not sit on lands in which “majority of residents are Palestinian”. Please look carefully at the maps (unless you also view Tel Aviv, Haifa, Jerusalem etc., as “lands in which majority of residents are Palestinian”).

41. Scott Says:

Vadim #36: Completely agreed. Were it up to me, I’d unilaterally uproot many West Bank settlements (all those that couldn’t be land-swapped into Israel in a plausible future peace deal), and freeze expansion of the rest—not because it would deter Hamas (it wouldn’t), but because it’s the moral and prudent thing to do.

42. Michael Bacon Says:

“Given any more hopeful alternative, young people overwhelmingly reject the behaviors, slogans, and institutions that sustain warfare.”

John, I agree with this. I think, however, you left out one important word. Before the word “alternative” you need to insert the word “realistic” or “reasonable”. Otherwise, there is no real choice — and the unhappy fact is that sometimes fighting and defending yourself is necessary and morally justified.

43. Michael Bacon Says:

“I’d unilaterally uproot many West Bank settlements (all those that couldn’t be land-swapped into Israel in a plausible future peace deal), and freeze expansion of the rest—not because it would deter Hamas (it wouldn’t), but because it’s the moral and prudent thing to do.”

I disagree Scott. I would not do this unilaterally unless there was a strong (not indirect or attenuated) military security rationale. I would do it as part of broader agreements (like return of the Sinai and Gaza), even if the results of any such agreement turned out (like Gaza) to be less than what was hoped for.

44. Amir Says:

As an Israeli, there is a lot that baffles me about this war. The usual state of affairs between Hamas and Israel is that they shoot a few rockets into Israel every week, and Israel returns fire to the launch locations.

Israel has a sophisticated missile defense system, which Hamas hasn’t, and their rockets can’t carry large warheads, so there are few Israeli casualities from this mutual bombing, but some palestinians in Gaza die each week from the Israeli attacks.

This month the mutual bombings escalated, culminating in the current ground offensive. As the Israeli army is incomparably more powerful, all fighting goes on inside enemy territory (from my POV), which is a densely populated urban area. This leads to dozens of civilian casualities each day, which is tragic beyond words.

Of course – the solution is to end the war. There were no clear reasons given to the escalation, by either side, or by Israel to justify the invasion. However, every few days some party (usually Egypt) tries to broker a ceasefire, at least for a limited time. In this month, Israel agreed to all these proposals and Hamas rejected all of them.

It seems that neither side values the lives of the other side’s civilians. But I believe that Hamas is actively trying to do as much harm as it can, while Israel is killing civilians in a misguided attempt at self-defense.

45. Clif Says:

@Scott, I disagree that is moral in any sense to obliterate Jewish settlements in the West Bank. It was possibly “moral” 70 years ago, before the Arabs in Israel (i.e. Palestinians) has rejected the UN resolution to build an Arab state, and before they have seek to destroy Israel in 1967 war. But as of now, it is not a moral step to build another small Arab country in the middle-east (a country which will probably destroy itself not long after its establishment, just like semi-fictitious entities such as Syria, Iraq etc.)

That said, although a Palestinian state is not a moral thing (neither immoral), I support its establishment if it brings peace to the area. (And it’s unlikely that it will).

46. Itai Says:

Scott
I am sad that you have fallen in Erdogan propaganda.
Ayelet only quoted someone who said that a citizents of a people who his heroes are cold blood child killers and write on their flag to kill you should be trearted approperly .
https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=596290730489357&id=237683826350051Erdogan said she is hitler, when he himself look and loves hitler!
And indeed this is the situation ,besided hamas even Abu mazen and Fatah calls for the destruction of Israel in arabic, Abu mazen did a phd in holocaust denial, responsible for the massecure in maalot of school kids.
He pay cash from USA for every prisoners that killed jews, the more the better,celebrate their success by calling streets.
Fatah symbol is a map of all of israel and guns

Palestenian 30-48 leader Husseini was in the SS ans had plans to kill all the Jews in Palestine

So the sad truth is that all the leaders the palestinian have are Nazis or even worse, doesnt it say something about them?
Did USA and GB had mersy on Berlin , Drezden , Hiroshima and Nagasaki?

47. Clif Says:

@Ankit, how the hell you have concluded that the people killed in the UN school were [innocent people] who were merely “seeking shelter there”?
It seems you have no knowledge about the UN compounds in Gaza serving (voluntarily) as Hamas terrorists posts. This was documented only recently.

48. Michael Bacon Says:

“. . . Israel is killing civilians in a misguided attempt at self-defense.”

Amir, I assume you that don’t mean that self defense itself is “misguided”, but rather that specific actions being taken by Israel are misguided. That may be the case, and as someone who has better knowledge of this than me, I’d be curious to get a sense of what you have in mind in this regard. Thanks.

49. Rahul Says:

This fact combined with Scott’s 3 sentence summary makes me ask the old question:

Do intentions matter more or consequences?

Should it matter more in a moral judgement that Israel has tried to kill as few or should it matter more that they’ve managed to kill very many?

50. Michael P Says:

Hamas, a terrorist organization, which is terrorizing not only Israelis but its own people as well, managed to get the upper hand in propaganda war. Here’s a lighter look about that:

51. Itai Says:

Ankit
The UN school was attacked by hammas rocket, over 30% of their rockets fail and falls in their own land.
they also damaged the free electricity lines israel give them.

52. Ankit Says:

@Clif, I thought this small piece of data is easy to grasp. But let me explain. Militants don’t seek shelter in a school yard. Because they become trivial target for missiles.

53. Michael Bacon Says:

“Should it matter more in a moral judgement that Israel has tried to kill as few or should it matter more that they’ve managed to kill very many?”

This is the type of question that is asked by someone not being shot at.

54. Rahul Says:

Scott says:

“Were it up to me, I’d unilaterally uproot many West Bank settlements (all those that couldn’t be land-swapped into Israel in a plausible future peace deal), and freeze expansion of the rest—not because it would deter Hamas (it wouldn’t), but because it’s the moral and prudent thing to do.”

Bravo!

But the fact that this does not happen makes me (and probably others too) apportion some more of their sympathy to the Palestinians.

OTOH, if a few of these decisions were taken unilaterally my sympathy would entirely lie with Israel.

55. anon Says:

Clif #35: I strongly disagree. Israel controls water, passports, movement, finances and justice in the West Bank. People from Gaza have to ask Israel to go to West Bank, and they are usually denied.
The Palestinian National Authority receives it’s funding via the Israeli government. Israel has used this as a way of opposing certain elections outcomes – elections that were considered by international observers to be clean and fair.

Meanwhile, the settlements in the West Bank have almost separated Jerusalem from the rest of the Bank.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/West_Bank#mediaviewer/File:Westbankjan06.jpg

To me this is occupation. You can believe that this has anything to do with what is happening in Gaza right now. You can say that the mass arrests in the West Bank previous to the start of the war have nothing to see with the current situation. But denial has never helped in constructing stable agreement and peace.

56. Michael Bacon Says:

“OTOH, if a few of these decisions were taken unilaterally my sympathy would entirely lie with Israel.”

But Rahul, Israel’s main goal isn’t to gain your sympathy, nor should it be. That’s a secondary goal — world opinion does matter, but the immediate military situation matters much more. Sure, you can say that without world support eventually Israel must fail — perhaps that’s right . . . in the long run, but there are more pressing concerns. In any event, my take is that support for Israel (or at least lack of support for Hamas) is clearer now than in recent past conflicts. At least I’m clearer about it

57. Ankit Says:

58. Rahul Says:

@Michael Bacon:

I agree to some extent. The crux is how much they care or need to care about outside opinion.

Really, if they were confident they are capable of dealing with any eventuality on their own & also confident that their conscience could live with it all, any strategy they deem fit is fine: Kill as many, as often, of whatever ages and however you want.

59. Itai Says:

Ankit
This is what idf spokespman said, remember what i said and wait for proofs.
I am very sad that you better believe hamas than IDF.
IDF has integrety to tell if the school was a target, and would not be bombed with no warrnings.
Also remeber UN himself said rockets were found multiply times in UNRA schools, UNRA gave it back to hammas when he fount that.
Someone who sleeps with snakes should not be suprised when he gets a bite.

60. Rahul Says:

This is the type of question that is asked by someone not being shot at.

Indeed! Hardly surprising I should think.

Doesn’t mean that a safe observer cannot or should not have an opinion or make a value judgement about which of the guys being shot at have the moral upper ground.

The referee of a boxing match isn’t the one getting a bloody nose.

61. Rahul Says:

“It seems that neither side values the lives of the other side’s civilians.”

I think both sides care about civilian casualties mostly to the extent that they indirectly affect their strategic advantages.

In this respect, I think Israel ought to be more sensitive to killed Palestinians because the marginal damage every such death does to international opinion about Israel is fairly high.

For Palestine OTOH the civilian casualties it can inflict even if it tried hard seem constrained by the limits of its technological abilities.

e.g. If tonight Israel wanted to kill 1000 Palestinians in one air raid it easily could. OTOH if the Palestinians wanted to kill a 1000 Israelis I doubt they could pull that off even if they wanted to.

62. Jay Says:

Michael Bacon #19

No contradiction with what you said. Let me put that differently: if you were born blue and had to experience what the blues use to live because of some of the reds, you would likely want to destruct reds’ organisation -either in the hope it will stop, or because you feel retaliation has some moral value by itself.

63. Amir Says:

Michael #48: Thanks for the correction, my English is not as good as I would have liked. Indeed, I meant that Israel tries to defend itself, but its actions only cause suffering and cannot bring any sort of relief, even to the Israelies.

As for my ideas, I’m not sure how a country should conduct itself. But as others have said before, even in the most extreme case, if Israel didn’t respond at all go Hamas’ fire, all their thousands of rockets wouldn’t claim as many Israeli lives as this war had. Therefore Israel has the advantage of concerning itself almost only with long-range plans.

After Israel removed the settlers from Gaza 9 years ago and Hamas won the elections a few months later, Israel considered Gaza as a terrorist’s nest.
Since then, the Gaza strip has been under almost total blockage and frequent bombings, and Israel is never willing to negotiate with Hamas, unless they have some sort of precieved military victory, like taking POWs.

If we (Israel) only listen to violence, it comes as no surprise that the only relations we have with our neighbour Gaza are war and hatred.

It does not help either that the palestinians in the Gaza strip live under a fundamentalist, non-democratic regime. But this regime is the one that resists effectively. The Fatah party with largely cooperates with Israel, and controls the West Bank, does not get any concessions. Israel did not agree to negotiate with the Palestinian unity government either.

So my answer is: I have no clue what to do right now. But in a few weeks, after this war ends, Israel should let Gaza practice its independence, should negotiate with the elected Palestinian government, should gradually built trust with its enemies, and in particular dismantle the remaining settlements (in the West Bank).

64. Ankit Says:

@Itai #59: IDF is “investigating” the case. By the way, this is similar to the investigation conducted after 4 children were killed by Israeli bombs on beach, and after which IDF formal comment was: “tragic outcome”. I told you they answer smarter…

[http://abcnews.go.com/International/israeli-strike-kills-boys-playing-gaza-beach/story?id=24583817]

Also, hiding missiles by militants in schools and civilians seeking shelter in schools are two completely different things.

65. Michael Bacon Says:

“I think both sides care about civilian casualties mostly to the extent that they indirectly affect their strategic advantages.”

This is the crux of the matter. I do not believe that there is the type of “moral equivalence” you posit. I believe the institutions and cultural of Israel and in the West generally do care more about these types of things. We didn’t always, but we do now. Sure, we have many crimes on our hands, we’re deeply flawed and have only just begun to climb out of the historical darkness, but we have started the climb and with any luck we can continue it.

That is why, as was said, some, including me, believe that it will take a secular Middle-East “enlightenment” similar to what occurred in the West, before any true reconciliation becomes possible.

Honestly, look at the entire region and the current state of affairs. I know it’s fashionable to blame the US, or the West or past colonial wrongs for the deterioration, but that argument can only take you so far. Is it too soon to say that at some point one has to look at the very pillars of the culture itself? Personally, I think that look is long overdue.

66. domotorp Says:

Wow, it seems in popularity quantum complexity theory does not stand a chance against politics…

67. fred Says:

No wonder the previous topic “How Might Quantum Information Transform Our Future?” went silent…

68. Michael Bacon Says:

Amir,

Thanks for your thoughtful response. As an outsider, I’m hesitant to disagree with you, but I think I’m less optimistic (if you can be said to be optimistic) that the actions you recommend will lead to peace. However, one thing your comments make clear is that the point I previously made about the culture of Israel and the West caring about things like civilian deaths, unneeded suffering, peaceful reconciliation and the like is certainly true in your case. Thanks for your comment.

69. Jenna Gor Says:

All nations have a right of self-defense, including Israel. But that right may be exercised lawfully only in limited circumstances. Israel cannot validly claim self-defense in its recent onslaught against Gaza for two main reasons:

First, despite its 2005 withdrawal of ground forces and settlers from Gaza, Israel still exercises effective control over the region by controlling its airspace, coast and territorial waters, land borders (with Egypt), electromagnetic fields, electricity and fuel supply. Accordingly, Israel remains an occupying power under international law, bound to protect the occupied civilian population. Israel can use force to defend itself, but no more than is necessary to quell disturbances. Hence this is not a war – rather, it is a top military power unleashing massive firepower against a penned and occupied Palestinian population.

Second, self-defense cannot be claimed by a state that initiates violence, as Israel did in its crackdown on Hamas in the West Bank, arresting more than 400, searching 2,200 homes and other sites, and killing at least nine Palestinians. There is no evidence that the terrible murders of three Israeli youths that Israel claimed as justification for the crackdown were anything other than private criminal acts that do not trigger a nation’s right of self-defense (were an American citizen, or even a Drug Enforcement Administration agent killed by drug traffickers on our border with Mexico, that would not entitle us to bomb Mexico City)

70. Michael Bacon Says:

domotorp@66,

Just wait until the first quantum complexity war, then you see real disagreements.

71. Itai Says:

Ankit
if the school was a target Idf would say so.
the incident at the beach was probably human shield behind a target as you see in this video

Rocket from a shopping cart

Here pilots stop attack because of kids? Did you see any army in the world so it?

The kids in gaza are taught in educational TV that they should kill every jew, and say themelf they will suicide and be shaids.

So what do you think those kids will do when they reach 16?

72. Ofer Says:

Vadim #1 – Thank you very much for supporting my rights to exist. What would I have done without your support? By the way, have you ever encountered the Bible? Palestinian territories? where is this place?

JD #2 Your comment is so outrageously incorrect, false, and wrong… We *do not* bomb children – it is Hamas who put its children where we must bomb in order to keep ourselves alive. Hamas kills his own children in order to make people like you comment the way you did. In a sense, you fully cooperate.

Chris Roberts #17 Simply nonsense. It is expected from the readers of this blog to be a bit more intelligent than the average Arab mob. However, If you are interested with an explanation, I’ll provide it for you.

Jay #18 Deceptive and misguiding: what you call “Palestinian extremists” is the majority of Palestinians, and yes, their culture cherish death and despise the livings (hard to believe but correct). Hatred for Jews is taught from infancy in a process of brainwashing. Although there are Israeli extremists, their fraction is almost negligibly small and contrary to Arab extremists, they never seek for Israelis death (they do, however, seek for Arabs death).

Adam #21 You are most certainly brainwashed or deeply (auto?) Antisemitic.

Scote #25 Your comment ASTONISHES me. What she did say is that mothers of suicide fanatic Islamists who praise and glorify the actions of their sons are enemy just like their suns, and so does all those who support these suicide bombers, morally or operational. It is indeed pity that you take for granted missquotes of psycho-antisemitic or Arabic politicians. Shaked identified and defined very well the enemy, and believe me, had you lived here under the threat of extreme Islam (which is in fact mainstream) surrounding you, you would have agree as well with her definition and her identifications.

***We, Jews do not have to apologize to anyone for defending ourselves. The times when Jews had to beg for their lives is over. For the first time in two thousands years we do have an army to protect us from the cruelty of this crazy world, and no doubt the most justified and blessed of all armies. ***

73. Anonymous Says:

Scott, your three sentences are true statements, but they make for a very biased “summary” because they neglect to mention other true statements:

The people of Gaza face human rights abuses at Israeli hands.

http://www.amnesty.org/en/region/israel-occupied-palestinian-territories/report-2012

Hamas has offered terms for a 10-year truce, which Israel has ignored.

http://mondoweiss.net/2014/07/report-israel-conditions.html

Also, Israel’s attempt to kill as few civilians as it can has failed so miserably that both sides would probably have had less casualties if Israel had just ignored the rockets (and let them continue).

74. James Gallagher Says:

I’d use one sentence for the whole problem.

The absurdly rich muslim states in the middle east could make life for all their palestinian brothers and sisters comfortable for a small proportion of their wealth but they don’t want to.

75. fred Says:

Although the Gaza/Israel situation is sad, it’s not exactly surprising (I don’t see it getting solved any time soon).
What’s maybe more puzzling and scarier is the situation in Iraq and the region between the Shia and the Sunni.

76. Scott Says:

Rahul: Unless I’m mistaken, there’s an extremely specific reason for the low casualty count on the Israeli side—namely, that Hamas doesn’t yet have guided missiles. As soon as they can aim, the whole calculus will change; not even Iron Dome will be able to prevent serious destruction.

77. Rahul Says:

@James Gallagher

That’s as relevant as saying if only all rich Americans wanted to give away a small portion of their wealth all the extreme poverty in America could vanish within a month. But they don’t want to.

78. Itai Says:

Scott
you are right, in the next big conflict hamas would probably get from Iran guided missiles and chemical weaponds that Iron Dome would have no effect on it.
today it calculates the missile direction at the end of the free fall time when it is the slowest and most predictive.

79. Rahul Says:

Scott:

You are probably right about the guided missiles. OTOH, guided missiles have existed for decades now.

Any reason to suspect Hamas will acquire them sometime soon? After all they couldn’t for so long.

I’m not even sure Hamas would want to use them. It’d give Israel the motivation & excuse to strike against Palestiniance with lethality they may not have experienced before.

Depends how smart / rational Hamas leaders are.

80. Rahul Says:

We, Jews do not have to apologize to anyone for defending ourselves. The times when Jews had to beg for their lives is over. For the first time in two thousands years we do have an army to protect us from the cruelty of this crazy world, and no doubt the most justified and blessed of all armies.

Indeed. But it’s a peculiar privilege because perhaps for the first time in history you have the ability to do so much harm if you wield the power wrongly.

It requires a lot of self-discipline to not let power corrupt oneself. Let not the arrogance creep into you that characterized so many of the very regimes that oppressed the Jews in the past.

Do centuries of oppression automatically inoculate you against oppressing others? I don’t know but I’m wishing that is true & we’ll never get to that point.

81. James Gallagher Says:

@Rahul

You can’t solve the complex issue of economic inequality in capitalism by giving away money – you’d just have a (very) short-term impact and cause unwanted instability.

But you could provide massive humanitarian aid and land to the Palestinians with good results.

It should be clear to anyone slightly rational that the oil-rich muslim states don’t want a peaceful solution to the palestinian-israeli conflict.

They WANT a war.

Ofer,

Your attempt to conflate Israel-the-state with Judaism-the-religion is silly. Criticizing an aspect of Israeli military policy, like Adam did, is not tantamount to opposing Judaism. It’s so obvious that I can only conclude that you’re being intentionally disingenuous in trying to muddle the two. Unfortunately both sides do that when it serves them: anti-Semites for the sake of using Israeli policy as an excuse for their anti-Semitism, and Israeli partisans for the sake of shutting down debate about their country’s flaws (Israel’s a wonderful country, but it has its flaws, and they’re obvious to anyone who isn’t hiding from them).

Despite you not needing my support (though you probably like the aid that your country gets from mine), I do support Israel’s right to exist. But being that plenty (the majority of) Jews live outside of Israel, are not protected by the Israeli army, and don’t feel like their only choice is between supporting immoral acts by their country and being wiped out, don’t expect us all to turn a blind eye to Israeli atrocities in the name of Jews not having to “beg for their lives”. As a Jew, I’m offended by your misuse of our common religion to score points in what’s essentially a political discussion. It’s not wise to cry wolf.

And Palestinian territories are any area where a majority of people today consider themselves to be Palestinian. Since the Bible isn’t constantly being updated (I believe they stopped after the 2nd edition), I’m going to decline using it as a source, just as I wouldn’t turn to the book of Genesis if I needed instructions for building a boat.

83. Ofer Says:

Let us put things in proportion: here are few ***facts***:

1) The width of Israel central without the west bank is something like between twenty to thirty kilometers. The majority of the population, the country’s entire economical infrastructure, most of its high-tech industry, and its international airport are situated in this narrow strip.

2) Israel is surrounded by more or less 300 million Arabs of which many many are religious extremists. This includes the so-called ‘Palestinian People’.

3) These Islamic extremists consider Israel as an Islamic territory in which non-Muslims are considered most inferior. The existence of a Jewish state on such an Islamic territory is intolerable and certainly non-negotiable.

4) The *Palestinian people* phrase is a 50-70 years-old invention. Prior to this invention, there were Arab immigrants in the so called Palestina-Eretz-Israel. *Palestina* is a Roman name given to the land of the Hebrews. This new entity was invented only for political reasons by the surrounding enemies of Israel in order to prevent the Israeli Arabs becoming loyal to the Jewish state. Please recall that prior to the 67 war, non of the Arab states ever consider to establish a new Arab state in these territories.

5) Although the west bank is the homeland of the Hebrews for thousands of years (this is most of the biblical holy land), and despite the fact that the territory is extremely important for the security and surviving of the state, the Israelis were willing to give it up in exchange of true peace. However, the Palestinians and many of their suportes in the Arab world never agreed to accept the gesture, nor did they ever appreciated it. For them, justice is done only when the state of Israel is dismantled.

6) Arab spring: look at what happen to Arabs when they dislike each other. Such cruelty is beyond imagination and cannot be described in a civilized language. Should we, Israeli Jews, may expect a better treatment while laying down our weapons? Exhibiting weakness?

Perhaps some of you should look at the following short clip for fixing some misconceptions:

84. fred Says:

Rahul #77
There’s maybe some of that, and then there’s probably the fact that the situation as it is is “convenient” for a lot of people.
China is pretty much doing the same with North Korea.

If you want to keep your neighbor on his toes and off your lawn, keep your dog hungry and scared. But watch out, one day it may bite your hand or run amok.

85. Ofer Says:

Terror in school

86. fred Says:

Ofer #82
It’s not a problem of “Arabs disliking one another”, it’s a problem with the human nature in general and religion, extremism, ideology, poverty.

87. Scott Says:

Michael #50 and Ofer #84: I’ve wondered for a long time whether, alongside the more obvious things (like being Arab, Jewish, or neither, or position on the political spectrum), an important predictor of a person’s views about the Israel/Palestinian conflict is the specific character of that person’s experiences with being bullied in elementary school.

88. Michael Bacon Says:

I don’t think these issues can or should necessarily be settled by quoting legal precedent. Nevertheless, before one accepts Jenna Gor’s summary of law of self defense, I would encourage reading the following. It deals not only with the issue of self defense, but with all of the various legal issues surrounding the conflict. Of course, a good lawyer can make case regardless of the issue, but if you have an interest, I guaranty it will be enlightening.

http://jcpa.org/article/hamas-israel-confrontation-legal-points/

89. Michael P Says:

Ofer #82: I would agree with your comment, except the item #4 that, regardless of its veracity, should not be a part of such a discussion.

In addition to that, there are videos available on youtube of Palestinians using UN ambulances as military vehicles to transport well-armed terrorists, which makes them military combat vehicles, despite medical insignia; there are videos of terrorists using schools and mosques and residential houses to launch attacks; there are recordings of Hamas leaders urging Palestinians to stay at the location which Israel has warned to be bombed, etc. Hamas does everything it could to maximize civilian casualties, both in Israel and in Gaza. For Hamas the suffering in the Middle East is their bread and butter: they know Palestinians would kick them out of power when and if the region becomes peaceful, and they are doing everything to prevent that.

Israel, on the other hand, is doing everything it can to minimize casualties, often at expense of their own lives. I am not aware of any other army on Earth that warns the opposite force of the precise location and timing of the next attack. Technically it’s very easy for IDF to destroy outright all the tunnels; I think it has not been done only because of the possibility that non-combatant Palestinians may wonder into the tunnels. No other army has ever went such length to protect the people who support its enemy.

90. James Babcock Says:

There is a general tendency that, when there are wars, the secondary effects (famine and disease) kill far more people than the fighting itself does. In this case, there are credible accusations that the Israeli blockade is responsible for shortages of food, fuel, medicine, clean water, and housing. The whole political situation is complicated and there’ve been plenty of evil acts on both sides. But I take the utilitarian calculus view, and from that perspective, Israel is pretty clearly in the wrong.

(Although the direct death toll is pretty high by modern standards: 750 deaths is 41 per 100,000, as compared to a US automobile accident death rate of 11 per 100,000 per year.)

91. Israel 2.0 Says:

Peace in 2 steps:

1. Create a new state of Israel, Israel 2.0, somewhere (the Andinia plan wasn’t bad, but too late I guess, maybe a good choice would be close to the Northpole). Grant automatic Israel 2.0 citizenship to all current citizens of Israel.

2. Progressively abandon this land of horrible killings in middle-east to hatred and religious extremists, and demonstrate again how a flourishing state, Israel 2.0., can be built in one generation.

==> Israel, you’re surrounded by arabic countries. They declared war to you the very next day (30/11/1947) that NATO voted you a nation. What made you think it was a good idea to establish your people precisely there ?

92. Israel 2.0 Says:

(sorry for repost, of course I meant the United Nations, not NATO)

93. Scott Says:

Israel 2.0: Close to the North Pole? Seriously? Well, in another century or two, after the Arctic has become a temperate zone, maybe it will be possible to start an Israel 2.0 there. As it is, I don’t know of any offer of remote land on which to found a new country with millions of Jewish refugees. Certainly there was no such offer in the 1930s, when it was needed far more than now.

94. Michael P Says:

Israel 2.0:

Notice that bullying is not limited to Israel. Would you suggest sending citizens of India to India 2.0 somewhere because of troubles coming from Pakistan? Would you suggest relocating French to France 2.0 because of the increasing violence at the hands of North African immigrants there? Would you suggest sending off Shiite muslims because of the violence coming from Sunni muslims and relocating Sunni muslims because of violence coming from Shiite muslims?

Or perhaps the perpetrators of permanent violence across the globe need to back off and let others live peacefully?

95. Israel 2.0 Says:

Scott, do you have a better alternative that could credibly achieve peace?

96. Ofer Says:

1) Don’t patronize me.

2) Israel was established as a state which is supposed to provide shelter for *Jews* after centuries of awful persecutions. This is the very definition of the state of Israel, before any other romantic cause such as returning to its historical roots or whatever.

3) It is a common trend these days to hide severe antisemitism (especially auto-antisemitism) behind “legitimate political criticism”. We respect the Jews, it is only the state of Israel and its political system and leaders which is the source of all troubles on earth.

4) It is really arrogant and immoral to criticize those who struggle for survival in the face of tangible treats – for those who sit in utter comfort and secure, rescuing nothing more than their precious time.

5) Israel has flaws like any other country in the modern world (but orders of magnitude less than the countries and ‘autorities’ surrounding it). However, as oppose to most of the western world Israel is facing a concrete existential treat. This is not a theoretical treat, it is very real, and many wonderful Israelis pay with their lives in order to stand the treat.

6) Immoral acts are extremely rare in IDF compared to other armies. Take a good look at this:

This should come with no surprise. Although you disregard and underestimate the old book, it is this wonderful book in which the best moral values are written, and it is this moral heritage which is still with us today. Not the stories of wars three thousands years ago. The moral values!

7) Last but not least. You wrote: “And Palestinian territories are any area where a majority of people today consider themselves to be Palestinian”.
This is very difficult to accept because this is just what the 300 millions Arab say: we are 300 million people living in the middle east and therefore the middle east (the whole of it) is ours, its Arabic. The Jews only fill few scattered cities, two percents of the population on less than one percent of the area. This is a disgrace to say that they deserve to establish a “state”.

But let us accept for a moment your statement. What if the word “Palestinian” also necessarily comes with your own extinction, will you still accept living inside or by the side of Palestinian territories? After-all, the Palestinians claim for the whole of Israel, standing on their rights to bring-in millions of “Palestinians” that were expelled off the land. Or is it only the lives of others that you are so willingly agree to jeopardise?

97. Ofer Says:

Michael #89, #94,

Thanks.

98. Israel 2.0 Says:

Michael P: you’re missing the critical point that Israel was created by vote of the United Nation just 67 years ago, on what had been ottoman empire ground for 4 centuries, and a land surrounded by enemies from the very start. Your comparison with India, France and Irak is moot, as it lacks any historical base.

99. wolfgang Says:

Scott,

very well summarized.
I agree completely.

But I would add a 4th observation:
Confused people on the internet blame Israel for everything, because for some strange reason it makes them feel better.

100. Scott Says:

James Babcock #90:

The whole political situation is complicated and there’ve been plenty of evil acts on both sides. But I take the utilitarian calculus view, and from that perspective, Israel is pretty clearly in the wrong.

Humor me while I try out a thought experiment. Suppose that Norway, let’s say, kidnapped 50 innocent Swedes and was planning to kill them. And suppose they’d rigged the building so that Sweden could rescue its countrymen, but if it did so, then 1000 innocent Norwegians would die. And suppose Sweden chose to rescue the Swedes anyway. On the utilitarian calculus view, would it then be Sweden that was much more in the wrong than Norway, since Norway had “offered an outcome” where only 50 innocents died, but Sweden instead chose the outcome where 1000 died? Isn’t there also a utilitarian value in deterring Norway, and others, from trying anything similar in the future?

101. Michael P Says:

Israel 2.0: I am not missing the point. Israel and Palestine were BOTH created as STATES in that vote. I find the claims that Palestinians and Israelis didn’t exist before that vote equally inappropriate: both peoples lived there for centuries, albeit without self-government, and both have the right to co-exist there piecefully.

The problem is not in that two peoples live on the same land. The problem is in that some very vocal and violent groups are trying (successfully, I’m afraid) to prevent their pieceful co-existence. The most prominent of these groups is Hamas, a terrorist organization that murdered numerous innocent people, including both israeli and palestinians. Hamas is spreading hate among palestinian children, Hamas kidnaps israeli children, Hamas shoots rocket that fall sometimes in Israel and sometimes in Gaza, and Hamas turns civilian buildings into military bases, thus inviting return fire.

And then millions of Arabs blame the whole thing on Israel! There were nearly 1000 times more civilians killed in Syria than in Gaza, and yet all the rallys that violently protest Middle East violence turn against Israel and also Jews who live outside Israel and never been to Middle East, as in recent violence in France. Gaza is not the bloodiest conflict in Middle East, and the fault on the conflict is 100% on Hamas, and yet the most vocal among Arabs blame Israel. The ones who correctly judge the situation are afraid to speak up in fear of Hamas. In fact, there were a few violent deaths of Palestinian who dared to speak up against Hamas.

102. Anonymous Says:

Scott 100:
“Humor me while I try out a thought experiment. Suppose that Norway, let’s say, kidnapped 50 innocent Swedes and was planning to kill them. And suppose they’d rigged the building so that Sweden could rescue its countrymen, but if it did so, then 1000 innocent Norwegians would die. And suppose Sweden chose to rescue the Swedes anyway. On the utilitarian calculus view, would it then be Sweden that was much more in the wrong than Norway, since Norway had “offered an outcome” where only 50 innocents died, but Sweden instead chose the outcome where 1000 died? Isn’t there also a utilitarian value in deterring Norway, and others, from trying anything similar in the future?”

Great thought experiment! It’s definitely a difficult dilemma – but the fact that it’s difficult goes both ways: it shouldn’t be obvious that Israel is “within its rights” to attack Hamas while killing hundreds of civilians.

A few comments about the dilemma. First, the numbers matter. If the 50 was 1 and the 1000 was “all of Norway”, I hope everyone would agree that it’s immoral to rescue the Swede.

Second, if the kidnapping agent was not Norway but instead a terrorist group within Norway, and if the 1000 Norwegians were not complicit with this setup in any way (and in fact the terrorist group had no reason to care about their lives), then it seems to me like it’s surely immoral to rescue the Swedes – there is no deterrent in this scenario.

How does this apply to Israel/Palestine? I don’t think there’s an obvious answer. But my feeling is that Israel is guilty of simply not caring enough about the “Norwegians” in this case. It’s true that they try to prevent needless civilian deaths in general… but in my opinion, they’re not trying hard enough. (Can anyone explain those 4 children on the beach, for example? What was that about?)

I just want to clarify that my post #82 shouldn’t be at all taken to imply that Jewish Israeli citizens, unlike Jews living outside of Israel, have to or do turn a blind eye to Israel’s behavior. There’s obviously a very wide range of opinions among Israeli Jews as to what the proper course for their country is, just like in any place with a democracy and freedom of conscience. What I reject is the anointment of Israel as some kind of Defender of the Faith for the Jewish people. Issues related to Israel and the Middle East are purely geopolitical, like problems in so many other parts of the world. Of course, Israel is a Jewish state, and while I think that secular government is the right ideal to strive for, I can certainly stand behind Israel remaining a Jewish for the foreseeable future state given the challenges in their part of the world. At the same time, I’m going to be cognizant that various people – Jewish, Muslim, Christian, areligious, and others – have lived in the area that’s now Israel for a long, long time, and Israel can’t use the persecution that have Jews suffered throughout history to itself persecute people that don’t fit into the “vision of Israel”. I don’t think Israel’s actually been terrible in this regard, but they can do better while still protecting their right to exist.

104. John Sidles Says:

Boaz Barak remarks [#12] “I have yet to see a thoughtful discussion on this topic in any blog/news-site/forum comment section. I am afraid this will not be the exception.”

Perhaps a scholarly reference will help avert the apprehended outcome. Cuz *THIS* solution is derived by mathematicians!.
 @article{Title = {Principles for Implementing a Potential Solution to the Middle East Conflict}, Author = {Saaty, Thomas L. and Zoffer, H. J.}, Journal = {Notices of the American Mathematical Society}, Number = {10}, Pages = {1300--1322},Volume = {60},Year = {2013}} 
By a lengthy mathematical computation — shades of Leibniz! — Saaty and Zoffer obtain the following principled solution:

—————
Israeli-Palestinian
Pittsburgh Declaration of Principles

Principle 1  A Two-State Solution on the borders of the 4th of June 1967, with mutually agreed upon land swaps.

Principle 2  Israel must respect the integrity of the West Bank and Gaza by allowing free and safe passage between the two areas, and the Palestinian State must guarantee that any agreement reached with Israel will be accepted and supported by the majority of the Palestinian people both in Gaza and the West Bank

Principle 3  East Jerusalem will be the capital of the Palestinian State. The parties will maintain the Status Quo of the Holy places in Jerusalem

Principle 4  Acknowledge Israel’s Existence as a Jewish State without jeopardizing the rights of its minority Israeli citizens

Principle 5  Evacuation of Israeli settlers from the Palestinian territories that are not included in the landswaps

Principle 6  Palestinian full control of the borders of the Palestinian State and its outlets, and deployment of a temporary agreed upon multinational military monitoring system in the Jordan Valley

Principle 7  Solve the Palestinian refugee problem in a just and agreed upon manner

Principle 8  A demilitarized Palestinian state

Principle 9  Agreed upon international monitoring mechanism and agreed upon binding international arbitration mechanisms

Principle 10  The full implementation of these principles concludes the end of the conflict and the claims of the two parties
—————

A number of objections can be raised in regard to these principles, among which is the cogent and over-arching objection (paraphrased from multiple sources)

“The maximum that any politically viable government of Israel can offer the Palestinians, is less — much less — than the minimum that any politically viable Palestinian government can accept.”

Supposing that the default alternative to finding a principled path forward for Israel and Palestine is to recapitulate in the 21st century the unhappy narrative of Dinah and Shechem (Genesis 34), then can Shtetl Optimized readers conceive of one (or more) viable path(s) forward?

The world wonders!

——
PS  Boaz Barak, your book with Sanjeev Arora, Computational Complexity: a Modern Approach, is a much-appreciated gem; thank you for it, and it is a pleasure to recommend it.

105. B. Says:

To Ofer:

1) You claim that many people critizing Israel are actually antisemits, and in the same time you claim that most Muslims are extremists. I think racism is much more equilibrated between two parts than what your are claiming. My conviction comes among other things from your own frightening comments.

2) As a French citizen, what you say about the rise of violence in France from north-african immigrants (that by the way were mostly born in France, as well as their parents and even their grand-parents for a quite large part of them) is SIMPLY NOT TRUE. I know that some extreme right-wings politicians in France claim that, by this is still false. I am not saying that there is no violence at all, but not that much nor more than before.

106. Itai Says:

@Scott 87
I think you are right,
I am not trying to be racist but from what i see all the time ,most of the extreme left wings jews that calls IDF murderers are Ashkenazi Jews who live in the center of Israel that was immune to the rocket threat for years unlike the north and south, most of them seemed to be bullied in school , and those opinion also come from the family which was in and sent them to Hashomer Hatzair , and always buy Haaretz News paper.
Now, after month of bombing and cirens in Tel Aviv some of those people bubble may explode, and they will see the reality.

107. Ofer Says:

Small correction to my previous comment: treat —> threat

Israel 2:0: You will find it very difficult to motivate Jews abandoning their geographical roots. These roots are deeply connected with their history and the bible. Eventually only a small fraction of the secular Jews will accept the invitation. By the way, this has already been tried by the Russians in Birobidzhan and failed. A second point is that when the first Israelis migrated to Palestine the place was almost completely deserted. Many of the ancestors of the so-called ‘Palestinian people’ immigrated to Palestine afterwards following the prosperity and welfare brought by the Jewish settlers.

108. Clif Says:

James Babcock: the Israeli blockade is responsible for shortages of food, fuel, medicine, clean water, and housing.

This is incorrect. There is no Israeli blockade of Gaza. In fact, Gaza’s southern border is with Egypt, another Islamic and Arab country. The Hamas and Egypt have full control over this southern border.

Also, there is no shortage of medicine in the West Bank or Gaza. On the contrary, the Palestinians have probably one of the best medical systems in the Arab world nowadays. That’s one reason why their birth rate is well above the average within the Arab world.

109. Ofer Says:

I quote:

“At the same time, I’m going to be cognizant that various people – Jewish, Muslim, Christian, areligious, and others – have lived in the area that’s now Israel for a long, long time, and Israel can’t use the persecution that have Jews suffered throughout history to itself persecute people that don’t fit into the “vision of Israel”.”

End of quotation.

WRONG, DECEPTIVE, WICKED.

First, it is a *fact* that the land of Palestine was almost totally deserted until the mid of the 19-th century. The few that were living here were small communities of Jews who adhere to the holy land, migrating tribes of Bedouin, and Ottoman administration. It was the first waves of Jewish immigrants that brought prosperity to this land of swamps and deserts, and this became a magnet for poor Arabs from all over the Middle east, looking for opportunity to earn their living.

Second: Israel do not persecute! this is a false accusation, almost a blood libel. Israel treats its enemies in a most respectable manner, perhaps better than any other country in the history of human beings. To call self defense “persecution” is simply vicious. And even more wicked is the comparison between the persecutions of Jews in the diaspora, to the suffering of Arabs due to their aggressiveness and death admiration.

Third: the vision of Israel is Harmony and freedom to all communities. The Arab citizens of Israel enjoy all the rights that every Jew enjoys, although they do not share all the obligations Jews carry. For instance, they do not have to give three years of their lives to army service. Israel is the most plural country in the world permitting representatives of their enemies sitting in its own parliament. Show me another country ever allowed that!

110. Eli Says:

I very much understand the urge to defend Israel on the part of many people here.

However, I was in Israeli army in the end of the eighties. I have seen THEN the soldiers of the Golani brigade (not that those of the brigade where I was were much better). I have seen the contempt and at best, indifference, towards human lives when it came to palestianian (or lebanese) civilians, so please do not try to convince me of the opposite. I know personally of one circumstance when a soldier from my platoon killed a palestinian woman who, if I recall correctly, was putting laundry on trhe balcony, and got away with it in the martial court. And all this happened when Israel was still a relatively normal country, with the High Court tending very much to the left (even may be too much).

Israel has since become what Amos Shoken has called a few days ago (Haaretz) a country with “fashist caracteristics”. The readers comments on the news on the site of ynet (Yedioth Ahronot, a leading Israeli newspaper) are full of expressions of joy for the killing of palestinian civilians and wishes that there may be more of this killing (go with google translator on the site of ynet for a proof). These expressions of “joy” and calls to kill civilians are not getting censored in any way. The recent verdicts of the High Court also show quite clearly, in my opinion, where the wind blows.
The soldiers grew all in this atmosphere, which became even worse after the “Oferet Yetsuka” operation.

The percentage of civilians killed during “Oferet Yetsuka” and the present war differ much “in favor” of the present. So I have a clear feeling that Israel army DOES NOT try very much to minimize the number of civilian casualties. I just hope it is not thought of as “Hartaa”; but I am not sure.

111. fred Says:

Is it correct that, because of birth rates, sooner or later the Hasidic (Ultra-Orthodox) Jewish population will be the majority in Israel?
What would be the impact of this on the Palestinian situation?

112. ramsey Says:

I disagree that inflicting civilian casualties is a primary goal of Hamas’ current operations (though it’s a bonus!). I think the primary goals of the rocket attacks are (1) provocation and (2) symbolic resistance.

In this they have been quite successful — they have provoked a large Israeli response that has earned them a great deal of sympathy around the world, and they have greatly increased their popularity among Palestinians, while discrediting their political opponents (i.e. Abbas and the PA).

So I would amend Scott’s three points to read:

(1) Hamas is trying to induce Israel to kill as many civilians as it can.

(2) Israel is trying to kill as few civilians as it can.

(3) One side is succeeding very well.

113. Scott Says:

Itai #106: Actually, my thinking was basically the opposite of what you say. If you never had the experience of being relentlessly bullied in elementary school or summer camp, and then getting singled out for punishment when you finally decided to defend yourself, because you (unlike the bullies) ought to have known better, it might seem implausible to you that that sort of moral inversion would ever happen outside fiction.

114. fred Says:

What’s worrying is the escalation over the years.

I remember as a teenager when the “intifada” was all over the news in the late 80s:

“Over six years the Israeli Defense Forces killed an estimated 1,162-1,204 Palestinians while Palestinians killed 100 Israeli civilians and 60 Israeli security forces personnel and injured more than 1,400 Israeli civilians and 1,700 soldiers”

But now, we’re almost reaching those numbers within a couple of weeks only:

http://www.latimes.com/world/middleeast/la-fg-palestinians-day-of-rage-kerry-pushes-ceasefire-20140725-story.html

“As the Israeli offensive against the militant group Hamas entered its 18th day, the Palestinian death toll reached 815 people, most of them civilians, Palestinian officials said. Thirty-two Israeli soldiers have been killed, along with three civilians on the Israeli side, one of them a foreign worker from Thailand.”

So it’s more a spiral of violence than a cycle.

115. Faibsz Says:

“Were it up to me, I’d unilaterally uproot many West Bank settlements (all those that couldn’t be land-swapped into Israel in a plausible future peace deal), and freeze expansion of the rest—not because it would deter Hamas (it wouldn’t), but because it’s the moral and prudent thing to do.”

Don’t understand how Scott defined ‘settlements’ and what’s ‘moral and prudent’ about throwing people out of there homes

Ofer,

According to a study by Sergio DellaPergola, the population of Palestine in 1890 was 532,000 (432K Muslims, 57K Christians, and 43K Jews). In 1914, three years before the British arrived, the population was 689,000. That’s hardly just some dust.

As far as my “blood libel”, I almost had to laugh, but then I realized you’re probably serious. The extent to which Israel’s actions meet the definition of persecution is the whole crux of the debate! Calling it blood libel is like trying to with the debate by shouting down the other side.

117. Sandro Says:

This is a touchy subject, so I’m just going to make two points:

“What is Israel supposed to do if they need to conduct military operations in order to prevent rocket attacks?”

Presumably, the primary goal of preventing rocket attacks is to eliminate Israeli casualties. Last I checked, Hamas’s rocket attacks resulted in precisely 0 Israeli casualties in this latest exchange. Thus, human life cannot justify the current military action.

One can also justify military action based on protecting property and infrastructure, but it’s not at all clear that the current Palestinian death toll is proportional given this goal. The infrastructure Hamas has actually destroyed is trivial, while the Palestinian death toll is fast approaching 1,000, and Israeli attacks have severely damaged critical infrastructure that Palestinian hospitals use.

Consider whether it would be fine if the U.S. killed 1,000 mexicans, many of them civilians, because some mexican drug runners were destroying some unimportant U.S. property. Even if the Mexican government were merely a puppet of these drug runners, I’d be hard-pressed to justify a response with so many civilian casualties.

@Scott
“If you never had the experience of being relentlessly bullied in elementary school or summer camp, and then getting singled out for punishment when you finally decided to defend yourself, because you (unlike the bullies) ought to have known better […]”

This common sentiment isn’t a faithful analogy. Punching a bully in the face might seem morally justified when opponents are almost evenly matched, but Hamas is a paraplegic compared to Israel. Is it still ok to punch a paraplegic bully in the face? How much harm can a paraplegic bully really cause?

Your “moral inversion” follows from the inversion of the usual power imbalance between bully and victim. No fiction need apply.

118. Itai Says:

Scott #114
Well, most of the people of Israel aee the arabs as the bullies who cry to the world every time they try to destroy it and loose in war.
See this remarkable video that explain it well

119. Itai Says:

Scott #114
Infact as someone who was bullied in school, and served IDF , it uses what you see as this moral invertion by sending me and others to Military Police who kind of supouse to bully other soldiers by giving them ticket for sloppy appearence or behaviour , and then can bully them in arrest and jail.
I didnt want this.
Luckily , In the end I found job there in the computer and communication department.

120. Ofer Says:

Eli #110

You gave us your personal experience, but many of us have totally different experience. Nobody said that each and every soldier is an angel. As in any random group of people (and more or less such is a Golani brigade), there are also bad ones and sometimes (but rarely) even very bad. However, *On average* the Israeli army is exceptionally on the positive side.

Amos Shoken is part of a very special group of Jews (in Israel and abroad) with the following characteristics: Relatively educated, extremely arrogant, enlightened in their own eyes, their ego is usually inverse proportional to their intellectual depth and moral values, extremely anti-Jewish regarding tradition as well as religion, usually post-Zionists, in many cases anti-Zionists.

This very special character dates back to the old days of Judea Iskaria (Yehuda Ish Krayot). They have always been a fuel for antisemitic feelings, and in the new age of “enlightenment” and “modernity”, they hide behind the mask of “political legitimate criticism. In fact, many of them are simply ‘useful idiots’ in the service of extreme violent ideologies.

Shoken did what he knows the best: spread poison and doubts. “A country with “ fascist characteristics”? why? because one hundred racist talkbacks shout loudly? If Shoken and his fellow milieu would have dare looking at the mirror they would have seen a sight so shoking they wouldn’t be able to tolerate. The racist rude talkbacks – although disgusting – are less harmful than Shoken and his fellows.

121. Faibsz Says:

And this is the rationale for Israel’s gound offensive and high casualities among Gaza civilians:

122. lewikee Says:

@Sandro 117

Keep in mind you’re comparing missiles lobbed into population centers that haven’t yet found their civilian targets to mexican drug runners destroying unimportant U.S. property. Surely there must exist better analogies.

123. Anonymous Says:

Scott, if you were born in Gaza, I think your anti-bully mentality might have caused you to support Hamas.

After all, it’s clear that Palestinians feel bullied by Israel: for example, they are routinely humiliated at Israeli checkpoints (where they are often made to wait for hours). And of course, there’s the blockade of Gaza, the bombings of civilians, and the unfair trials.

It seems to me like if you lived in Gaza, you would want revenge on Israel – and the only access to revenge the people of Gaza have is to support Hamas.

124. Itai Says:

Sandro
You may have not see this in your media, but the rockets are a life risk and causes much physical and mental damage,over 10000 rockets were fired from gaza since it is free from settlements in 2005 , killing in total hundres if people, causing millions to have 15 seconds from siren to enter shelters for 10 years.
Iron dome that came sinxes 2012 do not take all he rockets, rockets remain causes damage wheb they fall.
Also rockets and mortars in range less than 5km are not affected by Iron dome at all , and people live there are used to have shelters every several meters.
In this operation alone 4 people only died from rockets, due to awarness, sirens, a must have shelter in every new house , Iron dome and luck.
what would you do if your home was bombed in missiles for 10 years? Do you still think this operation was not a must?
Worst of all hamas vuild sinxe 2005 hundreds of terror tunnels for every citizents big area near the border to have a massive kidnapt and murder of thousends of people in 2 month jewish new year.
This opwration saved those thousends of civilian life, do you still think it is not a must?

125. Clif Says:

@anonymous #123, your data is not true.

I repeat what I wrote before, for your sake:

There is no Israeli blockade of Gaza. In fact, Gaza’s southern border is with Egypt, another Islamic and Arab country. The Hamas and Egypt have full control over this southern border.

Further, Palestinians are not “routinely humiliated at Israeli checkpoints” (at least not much more than any of us is, e.g., “routinely humiliated” by airport security checks: “Take off your belt, sir!!”, “Pull your laptop!”, waiting for hours in lines due to potential terror threats, that were in fact invented by the Palestinians themselves; you know that flight hijacking was the brilliant invention of Mr. Yasser Arafat, right?)

126. Anonymous Says:

Itai #124, since 2001, only 30 people in Israel died from Palestinian rockets, not hundreds:

http://mondoweiss.net/2014/07/rocket-deaths-israel.html

I don’t think any reasonable person can claim that “This opwration saved those thousends of civilian life” [sic].

127. Clif Says:

@Sandro 117,
Hamas attacks are not something local that can be reduced to assessing total property damage incurred by their rockets. It is a long term strategic plan to annihilate Israel (and from their charter, Jews altogether) from the Mideast.
It is a part of a larger picture within the Muslim Brotherhood, and within the Arab and Islamic world. It is also a part of the 100 year war between Palestinian-Arabs and Jews.

Looking from this perspective, the death, suffering and casualties of the Jews in Israel caused by the Arabs is enormous, and cannot be justified morally IMO.

128. Anonymous Says:

Cliff #125:

Palestinians ARE routinely humiliated at checkpoints. Here’s wikipedia:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Israeli_checkpoint#Criticism

“Israel Defense Forces’ Judge Advocate General, Maj. Gen. Dr. Menachem Finkelstein, states that “there were many—too many—complaints that soldiers manning checkpoints abuse and humiliate Palestinians and that the large number of complaints ‘lit a red light’ for him” ”

“We Watchers … have witnessed the daily humiliation and abuse, the despair and impotence of Palestinians at checkpoints”

“Between 2000 and 2006 at least 68 women gave birth at checkpoints of whom 35 miscarried and five died in childbirth.”

———-

I don’t think the TSA makes women give birth at airports.

As for the blockade on Gaza, it seems Amnesty International disagrees with you.

http://www.amnesty.org/en/region/israel-occupied-palestinian-territories/report-2012

129. Eli Says:

Ofer #120

I suggest that you go and read the comments on ynet once again – you do understand, I hope, that these comments are representative and not just “one hundred racist talkbacks which shout loudly”. Think why these comments are not getting filtered. Think why lately in Israel there had been violent attacks by jews not only on palestinians, but also on African refugees, people of other faith, and people from the left. Think of the sense of impunity that permits people like Ayelet Shaked and the rabbi Dov Lior to make the statements they make. And, about the army, leaving apart my personal experiences which you claim are subjective, think about the words the Givati commander addressed to his soldiers before entering Gaza, you should know what I am talking about.

Tha fashism in Israel is not an invention of Shoken, whether he is an arrogant ashkenazi, or antisemite, or antizionist. It is, very unfortunately, a reality.

130. Itai Says:

Simple video that explain the simple truth in clear english

131. Itai Says:

Annonymus
Check your resourses according to wikpedia 44 died from gaza rockets, that includes foreign workers , arabs and gaza citizents, the realtively small numbers of jews killed is only due to all those defence and care for human lives, sheltets and iron dome.
Hamas wanted many more dead Jews , you quoted me about what i said that hammas had planned all along with those terror tunnels
In second lebanon war in 2006 almost 100 citizents and soldiers killed only from rockets, that what can happend in 1 month with not enough preperation and defence systems.

132. Scott Says:

Eli #110, #129: Thank you for sharing your experiences. But are you sure you want to use the comment sections on news websites to help make your case? (I may never have served in any military, but comment sections I know a thing or two about… ) For every vile comment cheering the killing of innocent Gazans, do you doubt that 20 or 50 comments could be found to the effect of “die jewz,” “Hitler didn’t finish the job,” etc.? And if people roll their eyes and say, “well, obviously there’s no shortage of that stuff from the other side, but we expect the Israelis to live up to a higher standard,” I would strongly agree with the sentiment, but also consider the basic point conceded.

133. Hanan Cohen Says:

I find that your portrayal of the symmetry of the situation resonates with mine.

Symmetry is helpful because it shows that both sides need to contribute their share in order to end the violence.

A long time ago I have written “death does not justify death” and I still think it is true.

http://info.org.il/mavet/english/

134. Ofer Says:

Eli #129,

I mostly disagree and absolutely do not share your complains.

I do agree that the comments on Ynet are ugly and rude, but unfortunately, such platforms for violent disputes are probably unavoidable in a world of fast media which is available to anyone.

Refugees? not at all. Most of these Africans are Illegal boarder breakers, used as a tool by anti-zionists to achieve the political goal of making Israel multi-national and multi-cultural. Violent attacks on other religious groups? Rare! To the contrary: in the face of the religious wars in the middle east, I am amazed to see how rare are those conflicts!

I live in Jaffa for more than ten years, Arabs live in the same building that I do, and I have never ever encountered disrespect behavior by Jews towards my Arab neighbours. There are however some provocation caused mainly by leftist or Arab politicians, but fortunately rare are the cases where people are influenced by these provocations.

By the way, those who despise religious believers and do not miss an opportunity to orally attack religious Jews on regular basis (but for some reason never religious Muslim!) are mostly extreme leftists.

What do you want from Ayelet Shaked? I do not understand why leftists think that everybody must be an ideological and political clowning of themselves. Why would they wand to live in a monolithic single-minded one-colored society? Why cant they accept that other people, no less smart then they are, no less moral, no less enlightened and civilized have other opinions than their?

135. Scott Says:

One other thing: many people seem to have taken my “3-sentence summary” as proof of how “simplistic,” brutal, and black-and-white my thinking is. Ironically, I had thought that the point was just the opposite: to acknowledge the moral complexity of the current situation, in something close to a maximally compressed form. As far as I can tell, Israel is not doing enough to avoid harming civilians. It should do more. Crucially, it should do more despite the fact that Hamas will continue its tactic of putting as many civilians as possible into the crossfire; despite the fact that Hamas would never in 101000 years return the favor, and indeed celebrates each Israeli civilian killed; despite the fact that doing so might drag out the operation and cost Israeli lives; and despite the fact that most of the world will never appreciate it, and at best will slightly and temporarily moderate its condemnation. And I’m ready for Israeli hawks to attack me, since it’s easy enough to say such things when one isn’t in the line of fire. That’s fine. How’s that for moral complexity?

136. John Sidles Says:

Scott, perhaps increasingly many folks are coming to appreciate the greater efficacy of irenic discourse relative to ironic discourse? Like John Stewart, for one.

137. fred Says:

Ofer #134
“a tool by anti-zionists to achieve the political goal of making Israel multi-national and multi-cultural”

What’s wrong with being multi-national and multi-cultural?

138. fred Says:

Scott #135
“Crucially, it should do more despite the fact that Hamas will continue its tactic of putting as many civilians as possible into the crossfire”

I guess, regardless of tactics and what’s done on purpose or not, it’s worth noting that the Gaza strip is really tiny and packed. It’s about 4 times the size of Manhattan, with the same population.
It’s difficult to wage a war on such a tiny territory amidst a population that has nowhere to go…

139. Alex Says:

I have to furthermore agree with Jay’s comment (#18) here, as an improved summary. In any case there are far too many extremists (or at least, fanatics) on both side. Indeed, “zealots” seems like an etymologically and historically apt word. The sad truth is, too many of these fanatics are in positions of power, authority, and at least outward legitimacy on both sides. The hypocrisy reaches farcical levels at some times.

I don’t particularly wish to get any more involved in this hugely contentious debate, but let’s consider this: we currently have two sides which when international intervention is absent (even temporarily), seek retribution on each other at even the slightest provocation. Such a feedback loop, if it continues in its recent trend, will only lead to the destruction of Israel and much of the Levant as a habitable land, which would be a tragedy under anyone’s reckoning. Possibly worse. Are leaders and statesmen on both sides so myopic and bigoted as to let this dire path take its course?

I would strongly urge anyone interested in the present Middle-East conflicts to read the views of great intellectuals of the past on the issue. In many ways, especially those in the larger ethical, ideological, and pragmatic frames, little has changed since the early or mid 20th century, and thus the thoughts of giants such as Bertrand Russell and Isaac Asimov are still of great relevance. For a more contemporary and still largely balanced view, that perhaps more Jews will be inclined to respect, see the writings and speeches of Noam Chomsky.

140. Scott Says:

Alex #139: The fundamental problem your comment doesn’t address is, who gets to decide which position is the “moderate” one—the one such that those on either side of it are the “fanatics”? This problem is illustrated, in an extreme way, by your earnest recommendation of Noam Chomsky (!) as a “largely balanced” source for interested folks to check out, which made me laugh.

Here’s the thing: I consider myself moderate, or left-of-center actually, on the Israeli/Palestinian issue. Certainly I’d be a “leftist” in Israel right now. I strongly support a two-state solution, unilateral withdrawal from settlements, and pragmatic compromises rather than Biblical certitudes. Yet none of that would matter to Chomsky: he’d consider me a bloodthirsty right-winger, because I balk at his preferred “one-state solution.” That solution, if you don’t know, probably amounts in practice (if not in academic fantasy) to a Final Solution. It means ending Israel’s existence as a Jewish state entirely, thereby placing its former inhabitants at the mercy of the folks whose 1988 charter says things like:

The time will not come until Muslims will fight the Jews (and kill them); until the Jews hide behind rocks and trees, which will cry: O Muslim! there is a Jew hiding behind me, come on and kill him!

For my part, I consider Chomsky way out on the lunatic fringe, not even part of the legitimate conversation about these difficult issues. So again, why does his view get to be called the “balanced” one, rather than, let’s say, mine (one that’s shared by many Palestinians, is mainstream or leftist by American standards, and certainly leftist by Israeli standards)?

141. John Sidles Says:

Alex commends [#139] “the works of giants such as Bertrand Russell and Isaac Asimov [and] Noam Chomsky.”

As yes. The giants! (in their own minds, perhaps).

—————
Seriously (and again with due regard for Boraz Barak’s comment #12) the attention of Shtetl Optimized readers is directed towards Geoffrey Cantor’s magisterial survey:

@book{Cantor:2005, Title = {Quakers, Jews, and Science: Religious Responses to Modernity and the Sciences in Britain, 1650--1900}, Author = {Cantor, Geoffrey N.}, Publisher = {OUP Oxford}, Series = {Cambridge studies in nineteenth-century literature and culture}, Year = {2005}}

Cantor’s history of Quakerism and Judaism is so scrupulously non-partisan that Shtetl Optimized readers may find themselves pondering “What is this book even about?

Well that’s the point of good scholarship, isn’t it?

One thought-provoking way to read Cantor’s book (as it seems to me) is as an in-depth account of the struggle — often mortal — between state power, religious power, and the power of individual conscience. In this reading, the most interesting characters of Cantor’s history — then as now — are the heretics and freethinkers, who (then as now) were frequently condemned, banned, fined, jailed, exiled, murdered, or judicially executed.

Because Cantor is scrupulously dispassionate regarding the moral and political validity of heresy and freethinking, the following explicitly partisan references are commended also:

@book{Israel:2009aa, Author = {Jonathan Israel}, Publisher = {Princeton University Press}, Title = {A Revolution of the Mind: Radical Enlightenment and the Intellectual Origins of Modern Democracy}, Year = {2009}}

 

@article{Morgan:2012aa, Author = {John H. Morgan}, Title = {The Free Quakers: Reaffirming the Legacy of Conscience and Liberty (The Spiritual Journey of a Solitary People)}, Journal = {Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies}, Number = {32}, Pages = {288-305}, Volume = {11}, Year = {2012}}

Here are three Scott-style simple lessons that we may draw in regard to these heretics and freethinkers:

Every era perceives mortal threats  The heretical freethinking views of Quakers and Jews were viewed as mortal threats to the British Monarchy and the Church of England.

Mortal threats are oft-times realized  Following three centuries of adversity (and more), these heretical freethinking ideas triumphantly became the law of the land.

And oft-times that’s cool  The British Monarchy and the Church of England are doing just fine, thank you very much.

Nowadays folks cherish (rather than fear) the British Royal Family and the Church of England … so perhaps one less is that, the long run, it’s wise to be cherished more and feared less.

Lesson-Learned  For peace, security, and prosperity to triumph in the Middle East, it is necessary only for Israelis and Palestinians to following the example of the English, Scots, and Irish, by honoring their home-grown heretics and freethinkers, and by ceding power to heretically freethinking ideas.

Because those ideas aren’t going away, are they? In Israel and Palestine, any more than in Scotland, Ireland, and England.

———
Note  Many Shtetl Optimized readers will find Cantor’s Quakers, Jews, and Science in their university’s library … but inconveniently, MIT folks will have to send out to Harvard, Princeton, or Yale!

142. fred Says:

#141
Right, the Brits, i.e. the very guys responsible for carving out a fine mess in that region – Palestine, Iraq, Pakistan/India,…and then ran for cover. LOL.

143. Clif Says:

Anon #128, Indeed “Amnesty” may disagree about the so-called blockade, but how does this contradict the fact that the southern border of Gaza is with Egypt, and under full control of Egypt and Hamas? I don’t see how you can contradict this simple fact. Hence, there is no “Israeli” blockade of Gaza.

About “regular humiliation”, what you’ve shown us were just substantial claims of “humiliation”, which we all know exist. I felt many times humiliated for security checks in airports. I had to wait for hours sometimes. I, and all of us, have to go to the airport hours before our flights, also because of fear of (mainly) Islamic terrorists. This is a very severe harassment incurred on all of us. Does this give me an excuse to fire missiles at civilians?

144. Clif Says:

@Eli,
Pointing out “racist” anonymous and non-anonymous comments on Israeli news outlets does not prove anything, except the existence of “racist” comments.

What you need to prove in your argument is that the amount, extent, and influence of these comments are way beyond any other country, or at least beyond the norm.

145. Itai Says:

@Scott #136
What you do not understand is how this operation is seen in the public because you are not here as you say.
Well, this operation seem to be the biggest existential threat to Israel since Yom Kipur war in 73, every Israeli City is in the line of fire.
When it is about your life or the enemy life , would you kill yourself for your enemy family to live ? Is this a moral thing to do ?
What people start to understand it is the current method of the operation is NOT MORAL, not because we still kill some enemy civilians( and no we can’t do anything better than this, no country in the world would do this, have any suggestions ? ) , it is because our best soldiers die INSTEAD of enemy civilians.
This operation could have ended with heavy bombs by the Air Force on every single rocket source we see, but instead we sent our soldiers to fight terrorists that use civilians as human shield , something the “moral” Geneva laws did not take into account.
Hamas is much worse that the Nazis,
although they were psycho mass killers, at least they did not use their own population to protect themselves, and had value for their people life.
It is the first war that most of the lefties begin to see reality and having their small bubble in Tel Aviv/ Center of Israel shuttered.
They understand now that every land we give to the Arabs will be used against us, the conflict is not about land, it is about Islam Religion that will never accept the presence of Jews or Christians as rulers in the heart of their “Halifa” that spreads from Indonesia to Morocco.
When Israel is dead , the next in line is Europe, then USA, it is not a conspiracy it is the truth, you need to see what is happening now as European Citizens do Intifada there, and sent their kids to fight in Iraq and Syria and do massive killings and then come back like nothing ( Sweden now start to be concerned about it )

146. Simon D Says:

How is using flechette shells consistent with killing as few civilians as possible?

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jul/20/israel-using-flechette-shells-in-gaza

147. Israel 2.0 Says:

Ofer #107:

“You will find it very difficult to motivate Jews abandoning their geographical roots. ”

Much less difficult than to find peace in Middle-East, don’t you think? The kind of horror we’re witnessing now is unlikely to settle down. Of two evils choose the least: pull back now from a mistake that is only 67 years old.

“These roots are deeply connected with their history and the bible.”

Right, and I trust that after seven decades of chronic war and terror, many Israelites may be receptive to stop taking the Torah literally (f they ever did) and to quit polarizing on some specific squared kilometers of land, however gorgeous and emotional they are, on this vast earth. If an alternative land existed that was not surrounded by enemies on all sides, I think you would be surprised how many people would be willing to try the adventure and quit this madness.

“Eventually only a small fraction of the secular Jews will accept the invitation. By the way, this has already been tried by the Russians in Birobidzhan and failed.”

Thanks for the reference. Looks to me like the autonomous oblast is not doing too bad?
But even if it was, try again! What is there to loose?

“A second point is that when the first Israelis migrated to Palestine the place was almost completely deserted. Many of the ancestors of the so-called ‘Palestinian people’ immigrated to Palestine afterwards following the prosperity and welfare brought by the Jewish settlers.”

Yes, there were less than 200 000 palestinians when Israel was created 67 years ago. So I guess that was never really the problem.. The problem is not so much the people that were there, than the people who were and are around, who immediately declared war to Israel. Iran or Irak would wipe out israel tomorrow if they could.

Let’s face it: creating the state of Israel: excellent idea, terrible execution. Sionism was a tragedy. Of all places, not there.

148. Itai Says:

@ Israel 2.0
If we follow your method, you should advise Ukraine to Evacuate because of Russia, South Korea because of North Korea .
Spain was concurred by Muslims in the past , so instead of the reqonquista they should have moved to other place in Europe.
When muslem Arab Immigrants will start to hurt the Europeans ( they already started that by rapes,violence and some killings especially on Jews ), maybe Europeans should move to the North Pole or Siberia also?
All of them can have other place in the world where they can rebuild their country ? I very much doubt.

149. Alex Says:

Scott #140: I think labelling Chomsky as a “lunatic” is a bold claim to say the least, and not one shared by many, within or without the academic world. Needless to say, he is one of the most revered and respect academics alive in the world today, and for good reason one would think. Do you wish apply similar terms to Russell and Asimov? Or perhaps even Einstein, whom most would agree had very moderate views on Israel – he was at the very least sceptical of the foundation of Israel and the mass (highly illegal) immigration that preceded and followed it. (Einstein has always been respected for his political and social commentary, so good luck finding people who will call him a “lunatic”.) The ultras of Israel, who have long had substantial influence on Israeli policy (and are only growing in power) happily brand any Jew or Gentile who expresses even mildly sceptical views about Zionsm as anti-Semitic and far worse. Jolly nice strategy that; denigrating some of the greatest Jews of the 20th century.

As to your “leftist” label of yourself, what insight can possibly come there? A simple one-dimensional projection of someone’s political views is misleading at best, fallacious at worst; surely we both know that. In any case, what Americans (or indeed Israelis) consider “leftist” is widely considered all just a small subset of the “right” in much of the rest of the world, notably Europe. We look at the Democrats and Republics and by and large see “right-wing” and “very right-wing”, or indeed “pro-Israel” and “extremely pro-Israel”. And this is coming from a Brit, who has read and experienced first-hand a great deal of public opinion on US and Israeli politics and foreign policy.

In any case, I had hopes and educated and intelligent Jew such as yourself would see this issue from a slightly less biased viewpoint (despite your upbringing and cultural milieu presumably influencing you otherwise). Hopefully some of the atrocities committed by the Israeli military will open your eyes to the situation more, over time. But let’s turn briefly to the practicality of the issue. Anyone now deceiving himself must concede that Israel was a state founded and still operating on religious ideology and justification; any pretences otherwise are risible. Democracy and secularism are antithetical to the very way the state was founded! And yet Israelis and Zionists expect the Jewish state to persist indefinitely, in a sea of overwhelming censure, and surrounded by Arab, predominantly Muslim states, who are strongly in support of Palestinian rights and self-determination. And yet Israel expects to endear the international community to its cause by its actions? It takes no great sociologist or political theorist to realise that Israel in its current form is doomed, and cannot hope to hold out against ever-mounting international pressure, diplomatic and military.

150. Scott Says:

Alex #149: Firstly, please don’t patronize me with this “educated and intelligent Jew” nonsense. If you want to talk, you’ll need to acknowledge the possibility that I hold my views because I think they’re right, and that the important exercise of trying to correct for the biases of my upbringing is one that I already engaged in, before I arrived at the moderate-to-liberal views that I hold. Otherwise, the discussion will need to turn to an examination of your upbringing, and why you were too blinkered to see past the anti-Israel influences in your cultural milieu.

Chomsky did important work in formal linguistics in the 50s and 60s, and writes lucidly on a number of topics. But yes, his political views most certainly shade into lunatic (we’ve been over this ground in much more detail before on this blog). The combination of lucidity on some topics with lunacy on others is actually not at all uncommon.

I’ll need a source for the claim that Einstein was “skeptical” about Jewish immigration to Israel. Einstein was one of history’s most illustrious Zionists, and was notable for being a Zionist despite extremely left-wing and internationalist views. It was anti-Semitism in Europe (which Einstein himself had experienced), culminating in the Holocaust, that ultimately convinced Einstein that a Jewish state able to defend itself was a practical necessity. Einstein was on friendly terms with David Ben-Gurion, and when he turned down Israel’s offer of the presidency (a ceremonial position), it wasn’t because he opposed Israel’s existence (!), but simply because he thought he couldn’t fulfill the responsibilities of the office.

Bertrand Russell is one of my lifelong heroes, and for many reasons, from math and logic to human rights to his use of the English language. But he was far from perfect, and in the waning years of his life (when he made anti-Israel comments), he also became increasingly unhinged on many issues having nothing to do with Israel—e.g., announcing his support for murderous tinpot tyrants all over the world, just so long as they were anti-American. According to his biographer Ray Monk, a major cause was that Russell, then in his nineties, “outsourced” most of his thinking and writing to his secretary Ralph Schoenman, a firebrand with none of the reflectiveness of the early Russell. (Near the very end of his life, Russell repudiated his relationship with Schoenman.)

I was a huge fan of Isaac Asimov’s robot books when I was 11 years old, and did not know that he opposed the founding of Israel. I suppose it disappoints me, although not that much. After all, against your list, I could make a list of famous and respected Israel supporters: Martin Luther King Jr., Steven Weinberg, Freeman Dyson, David Deutsch … would it prove more than your list proves? Not really.

Finally, when people use the rhetoric of annihilation, as you have—saying that “Israel in its current form is doomed,” that it can’t “persist indefinitely,” etc.—do you understand what Israelis hear? “Don’t even try to make peace or pursue a two-state solution. Just fight for your lives, since the other side won’t be satisfied with anything less than your destruction.” Is that actually the message you want to be sending—a message that emboldens the most far-right elements within Israel, that confirms everything they’ve been saying, while undercutting the liberals? Think about it.

151. Itai Says:

For those who want to understand how non religious people see Israel and why they love or hate it.
Kinda explain antisemetisem in many countries.
This video was made by non Jewish american and explain it very well.

152. William Hird Says:

I’m interested in what Noam Chomsky has to say about all this, he has been an astute observer of this conflict for a long time. Maybe Scott can get Noam to comment , they are MIT neighbors

153. Scott Says:

William #152: You mean you can’t predict what Chomsky would say? Maybe I can help:

Obviously, this is yet another act of unprovoked Israeli aggression against the gentle and peace-loving Hamas, aided and abetted by the imperialist United States under the militant right-wing rule of Barack Obama. Despite dozens of UN resolutions, and the opinions of billions of people around the world who agree with me, Israel openly and brazenly continues to commit the war crime of existing, and now even uses its so-called “Iron Dome” to commit rocketcide against the innocent projectiles coasting through its skies…

Chomsky’s response to a given international event is one of the most predictable phenomena I can think of—even the comets and the tides throw more curveballs. One could easily replace him with a chatbot.

154. wolfgang Says:

“While Israle has a right to defend itself, it has no right to defend itself by force” etc.

155. Itai Says:

If I am already talking in scientific blog,
I think that political views should be based on something like a scientific base, similar to physical theory.
Every person who hold political view, should be asking themselves what will be the “experiment” that will make me change my mind.
Too bad that this experiment are sometimes very dangerous and cost human life’s.
If your predictions are true , then it will make you be more sure about your political view.

For example , Benjamin Netnayau said that land for peace formula is not working.
He said that the disengagement from Gaza in Oslo will bring missiles to Israel.
Everybody in the left wing laughed : Rabin,Perres etc’

Then in the final disengagement from Gaza in 2005 he said that missiles would enter freely from the border with Egypt with no IDF holding, and will go deep into Israel.

Again, all the disengagement laughed, and said it will strength the security of Israel, Gaza will be Singapore etc’.

Every round with Gaza Hammas missiles went more deeply to Israel and they had more missiles.

Same thing happened with Barak and disengagement from Lebanon, 3 soldiers were kidnapped, in 2006 it happened again and hizballa shoot 4000 missiles and had ground braking effect on IDF.

Same thing with Oslo west bank disengagement , about 1500 citizens killed in suicide bombing form west bank .

So obviously, as Einstein said that only a fool try something again and again that fails.

Why the theory of land for peace is not rejected ?
How many more failed experiment are needed ?

Peace is based on mutual interest ,friendship, economy,recognizing each other history, and certainly can only be achieved when there is no side that wants other one’s death, and it recognize it’s right to exist in it’s own homeland .
Unfortunately this is not the situation, and hard to believe will ever be.

156. Rahul Says:

Scott says:

“Humor me while I try out a thought experiment. Suppose that Norway, let’s say, kidnapped 50 innocent Swedes and was planning to kill them. And suppose they’d rigged the building so that Sweden could rescue its countrymen, but if it did so, then 1000 innocent Norwegians would die. And suppose Sweden chose to rescue the Swedes anyway. On the utilitarian calculus view, would it then be Sweden that was much more in the wrong”

Suppose that the story starts by the Swedes occupying parts of Norway offered as a gift by the Brits who back then owned all of Norway (by force, of course). Over time Swedes become well off & the Norwegians turn abjectly poor. For decades the Swedes impose an embargo on Norway making life very hard for Norwegians. Further they start occupying Norwegian homes & bossing them around. Lots of Norwegians have been killed by the Swedes. No one knows how many exactly but a lot more than Swedes killed by Norwegians.

Under this background some extremist Norwagians kidnap 5 innocent Swedes & keep them such that any attempt to rescue them will lead to 100 Norwegian collateral casualties. There’s good reason to believe (though no guarantee) that if the Swedes offer concessions like pulling out of Norwegian homes, these at least 3 of the 5 kidnapped Swedes might be released unilaterally. ( It is true that other Norwegians periodically try to kidnap more Swedes but they rarely succeed because Norwegians still use swords whereas the Swedes travel around in Abrams tanks. )

Yet the Swedes rush in & decide to rescue their citizens under the rationale that any Swedish life is invaluable. 100 very innocent Norwegians are killed as a result.

How’s the utilitarian calculus now?

157. Scott Says:

Rahul #156: Except, you forgot the three wars that the Norwegians (aided by the Finns, the Danes, and the Icelanders) launched against the Swedes, with the stated goal of wiping all Swedes off the face of the earth. And the fact that the occupied territory came about as a result of the Swedes’ unlikely victories in two of those wars, together with the fact that the Finns, Danes, and Icelanders (from whom they’d captured the territory) no longer wanted it back.

Are you sure you want to flesh the thought experiment out further?

158. Rahul Says:

Are you sure you want to flesh the thought experiment out further?

Sure! This game sounds fun

Yes, the Norwegians were always a little stupid like that. They should have realized they were provoking fights they couldn’t win back then. And their visceral hatred of the Swedes is pretty silly. The Finns, Danes, and Icelanders were opportunistic bastards (and terrible warriors); many Norwegians realized that too late. OTOH, lots of Swedes hate Norwegians too & lots of everyone else hates these Swedes, so it’s a pretty wacky situation overall.

The immediate history prior to the Swedes getting this land gift from the Brits is quite interesting. Innocent Swedes were butchered by an evil emperor who the world killed eventually. Everyone felt bad for those poor Swedes (and rightly so too!) but funnily no one wanted to accept them in their own houses. Instead the righteous nations decided to rather dump them into Norway which was expected not to mind; or in case it minded to not be able to do much about it.

Really, the story keeps changing character depending on how far back in time you decide to look. Horizons are everything!

159. the reader from Istanbul Says:

Just read this post. I completely disagree with the second sentence. It seems to me that if Israel was governed by saner people (I know there are many of those in Israel, just not in government), the civilian loss would indeed be much, much lower. It is quite clear that the unfortunate blindness to anything bad that anybody from Israel can do that is represented in sad clarity by Scott’s post is making things worse, and adding to the number of dead.

160. fred Says:

I witnessed 9-11 first hand.
Till this day I’m convinced that sooner or later some “portable” nuke is going to fall in the wrong hands and they’re gonna use it.
It’s a matter of time.

161. James Gallagher Says:

@Rahul #157 #159

In your fantasy, you need to factor in that the “Norwegians” are fanatically guided by religion, and the “Swedes” are guided by more sensible ideas. Which mostly explains why the “Norwegians” are poor and struggling and the “Swedes” are rich and prosperous.

And your anti-british rhetoric is tiring, the ottmans “owned” the region before the brits arrived (Lawrence of Arabia and all that) – BUT the brits hugely helped the arabs develop their infrastructure and basically modernise.

You are promoting a cartoon bad-guy/good-guy interpretation of things, like 99% on these type of threads.

162. Peter Says:

Scott,

you lecture Israeli soldiers to do more to protect Gaza civilians. How many more young Israelis could be killed and maimed for Tzahal to live up to your moral standards?

163. Alex Says:

It’s rather amusing that Sweden and Norway are now the topic of discussion. Maybe Scott should investigate their contemporary political systems and social policies. These nations are what most of the West considers “liberal” – not Zionism and his pseudo-liberal views, which could not be further from it in most respects.

164. Scott Says:

Peter #162: I know your question was meant rhetorically, but if someone put me in front of dials that controlled the various gut-wrenching tradeoffs of the conflict—the expected number of civilian casualties, the risk of death that Tzahal soldiers assume, the number of tunnels and missile launchers destroyed, etc.— and told me to set them, then for want of a better policy, I’d probably keep adjusting until all the various factions who comment on this blog were about equally enraged with me.

165. Alex Says:

I’m surprised at the way otherwise intelligent people are buying the Israeli propaganda without any critical thinking whatsoever. The Israeli government is making 2 blatantly contradictory statements

1) That the flow of rockets out of Gaza is so immediately life threatening that the only way to prevent further loss of life requires the unfortunate death of hundreds of innocent Palestinian civilians (including many children).

2) Due to the efficiency of the iron dome system, it is still safe enough for international flights to travel to Israel. And the early detection and warning system is also so efficient that ‘s it’s made into a phone app.

The Israeli government would have us believe that the entire Israeli population is cowering in shelters in fear of the next incoming missile. In fact CNN showed footage the other day of Israeli civilians on a hill overlooking Gaza cheering the bombardment like it was some sort of 4th of July display. The Journalist who showed and commented on the footage was reassigned to Moscow the next day.

166. Scott Says:

Alex #163: All else equal, I’d like to maximize the total amount of liberalism in the world. But the fundamental paradox, which most liberals fail to understand, is that if you inject too much liberalism into a single society, you get a society that’s no longer able to defend itself against conquest by the world’s least liberal forces, and therefore achieve the exact opposite of what you wanted. (Or at the least, you get a society that can only survive under the defensive umbrella of somewhat less liberal societies—for which, of course, the ultraliberal societies can be expected to be collosally ungrateful.)

Think of an Iterated Prisoners Dilemma tournament: all-cooperate sounds like a great idea, until you realize that it’s a sitting duck for all-defect, and can only survive under the protective umbrella of something like TIT-FOR-TAT.

167. Scott Says:

Reader from Istanbul #159: It’s true that the word “trying” is imprecise. A country might “try” to limit civilian casualties while carrying out a necessary and justified military operation, but exactly how hard is it trying? As I said in comment #135 (and I’ve taken flak for this), it seems clear to me that right now Israel isn’t trying hard enough. It needs to try harder.

But then let’s look at the other side. How hard is Hamas trying to limit civilian casualties? The question is laughable: on the rare (for now) occasions when Hamas manages to kill a civilian, it celebrates. This fact is considered so obvious that, in almost every discussion I’ve seen, it isn’t even mentioned—but that seems to me like a tremendous mistake. It’s as if, by their silence on this matter, the kindly liberals are saying: “well, obviously those Palestinians are going to murder all the innocent people they can. What else did you expect from them?” Which is an attitude that I find condescending, demeaning, and even racist against Palestinians.

At the end of the day, I keep coming back to the “dial test,” which (if you recall) was also the crux of the matter in the bin Laden thread that you participated in a few years ago. The stark clarity of the dial test has tremendous appeal to me, including for moral questions that have nothing whatsoever to do with the ones we’re talking about.

Give the current Israeli cabinet a magic dial that lets them adjust up or down the number of Gazan civilians killed, consistent with Israel achieving its defense objectives, and despite being sorry excuses for leaders in any number of ways, we all know that they’ll set the dial to zero. Yet give Hamas the same magic dial, and they’ll turn it to “kill every Jewish Israeli man, woman, and child”—and possibly every Jew everywhere on earth (taking their own pronouncements at face value). The difference in technological capability between the two sides, which impresses people so much, is also a sort of moral distorting lens, obscuring the truth about what each side would do if given the opportunity.

No matter how many people tell me that it’s illegitimate to base moral conclusions on the dial test, I expect I’ll continue till the day I die to think the test captures something extremely important. If that’s a character flaw, then I’m not sure that it’s one I want to fix.

168. Shmi Nux Says:

Scott, just wanted to thank you for your bravery in carefully wading into what is easily the most controversial political issue in the world. It looks like your “equal enragement” test shows that your point of view is very close to sensible. Unfortunately, it also tends to minimize the number of your supporters.

169. Rahul Says:

I’m not sure why we focus so hard on the “trying” bit. Intentions may matter but surely in the end consequences are as important if not more?

Look at actual casualty figures, I say.

170. quax Says:

If the whole thing wasn’t so sad, it’d be quite funny that you manage to get flak from all sides.

I remember vividly when I first heard that Rabin was shot and killed. Too bad we don’t live in a part of the multiverse where he lived. My first thought back then was that this one death will cause so many more. One of those times when I really hate to be right.

171. Rahul Says:

And your anti-british rhetoric is tiring, the ottmans “owned” the region before the brits arrived (Lawrence of Arabia and all that) – BUT the brits hugely helped the arabs develop their infrastructure and basically modernise.

Sorry, I didn’t mean it to be anti-British per se. Feel free to mentally swap in ummm “Finns” for the Brits.

All I’m saying is someone (Ottomans, Brits whatever) ruling over an area decided it fair game to grant ownership to a third party without real consensus or agreement from the extant natives.

Is that fair?

172. Anonymous Says:

Scott, your dial test is in my opinion too course-grained. It is very easy to turn the dial to zero if there’s nothing on the line. Even Hamas may turn the dial to zero: if you give them all of Israel, with the Jews moved to Madagascar or something, would they really still opt for genocide? Maybe Hamas’s current pronouncements say so, but I’d bet the majority of Palestinians supporting Hamas would turn the dial to zero given that scenario.

So when you say that Israel would prefer not to harm the people in Gaza so long as it’s “consistent with Israel achieving its defense objectives”, I can reply that most Palestinians would prefer not to harm the people of Israel so long as it’s “consistent with Gaza achieving it’s liberation/conquest-of-Israel objectives”.

I could be wrong about this, but I believe that most Palestinians would actually turn the dial to zero in any situation where they get decent living conditions.

———

Now I have an exercise for Israel-supporters. Suppose you were given near-complete control of Gaza and Hamas (to make it interesting, let’s suppose that some small portion of the population of Gaza will always be extremists that are not under your control). How would you use this? Surely you’d dismantle Hamas and stop the rockets, but what then? Is there anything you could do to improve the humanitarian situation in Gaza? Is there a way to convince Israel to lift the blockade? (After all, Israel may claim the blockade is still necessary due to the extremists that are not under your control).

173. David Says:

Scott,

Have you heard of the doctrine of double effect (DDE)?

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/double-effect/

It’s a principle, originally due to Aquinas, that proposes an ethical difference between bringing about something as a foreseen harmful side effect and bringing it about intentionally. The DDE’s been used to explain everything from the permissibility of self-defense (you intend only to save yourself, not to kill the attacker) to the ethical differences between different trolley problems or the difference between tactical bombing near civilian targets and terrorism.

Something in the vicinity of the DDE has seemed important to you in many posts, and your dial thought experiment seems to come especially close to it. But one differences between the edicts of the dial test and the DDE is that formulations of the DDE usually also stipulate that bringing about something as a means to an end counts as bringing it about intentionally.

So, DDE formulated in this way would always rule out terrorism (or, rather, would always fail to justify terrorism). Because, even if a terrorist would prefer not killing civilians if they could achieve their ends otherwise, they still require the civilians to die as a means to their goal. The dial test, on the other hand, requires especially sadistic terrorists, as you yourself indicate. To fail the test they must desire the death of all Jews in Israel (and perhaps the world) as an end in itself.

But surely more pragmatic terrorists are possible who care only about the hoped for political consequences of their terrorism. These terrorists would set the dial to 0 if they could accomplish their political objectives in doing so. Your test gives a vastly different result for such actors, even if outwardly they behave just like Hamas. Do you accept this consequence?

And though the means-to-an-end stipulation in the DDE avoids this potential difficulty, it does so at the cost of preventing it from explaining some of the intuitive moral examples that were supposed to justify the DDE in the first place, such as the permissibility of self-defense.

174. Clif Says:

Alex, I find it a bit surprising that a seemingly intelligent and educated person like yourself truly believes that Chomsky is a trust worthy and even “revered” intellectual authority on anything.

It is well recognized both inside and outside intellectual circles that Chomsky is a radical ideologist. More importantly, he is not acknowledged as a serious political thinker. His political writings are of a mere journalistic importance, as far as I’m aware of.

175. Clif Says:

I’m also surprised at the way otherwise intelligent people are buying the *Palestinian* propaganda without any critical thinking whatsoever.

On the one hand, the Hamas, which represents truly the Palestinian people, as it was democratically voted to power (what happened afterward is of course not a democracy), declares openly that their aim is genocide against Jews and or/Jewish-Israelis. Its charter is of a clear Hitleristic characteristics, and no moral or human-rights considerations are put into their ideology or practice for decades; only fanatic religious one.

On the other hand, the same organization and the nation who voted them in power, is whining day and night about supposed “violations of human rights”, and about “bombing innocent civilians” and so forth; while they never showed any respect neither to basic human rights nor avoiding attacking uninvolved civilians.

I find this contradiction not only amazingly obvious, but reveling the true nature and extent to which people can live in a complete cognitive dissonance (and by that I mean predominantly Western criticizers of Israel).

176. Orr Shalit Says:

The situation is very complicated. As an Israeli I can tell you that we don’t think everything our government has ever done is right, and we do not think that all palestinians are animals. I see people who blindly accept the narrative of one side – especially if these people do not live here – as rather childish, if not worse (even if they support my side).

I have some important comments to make on Scott’s second sentence, on Israel trying very hard to not kill civilians. I am relying on my own experience and some very close and reliable sources (and not on Israeli spokesman or media). I will say only things I know for certain. As a comment on a blog, one might choose not to believe what I write, indeed many claims are made in many comments. However, since it is comment on THIS blog, please accept that there is a probability that what I write is true.

The efforts that Israel is making to reduce civilian casualties (on the Palestinian side) are far greater than what the press shows, far greater than what even supporters of Israel imagine. I am very proud of this, and many Israelis are. In light of these efforts the accusations of “genocide” are truly ridiculous. There may have been a handful of events in the last decade where a soldier has deliberately shot at a person who is not risking him (and such soldiers are usually prosecuted), but a case in which a rocket or bomb is fired at innocents deliberately is really unheard of.

Israeli soldiers take small chances with their own lives and well being on a day to day basis not only to prevent civilian casualties but also to allow Palestinians to go to work, a funeral, get to the hospital, or even just to treat a person in a minimally respectful manner (given the occupation in the west bank, which I am not discussing). Even opening the border and letting humanitarian aid enter the Gaza strip is something that puts the soldiers life at risk, and nobody dreams of not doing it. In war the risk for the soldiers is much higher, and naturally they will not put their neck out in order that civilians be able to lead their normal lives, but still much care is taken not to hurt civilians, and this mode of operation has taken cost in lives of Israeli soldiers, not to mention armed targets “getting away”.

Before a ground invasion, a neighbourhood will get usually many notifications to evacuate. Not everybody evacuates. The army then tries to “map” the neighbourhood, and see where there are civilians who are obviously not involved (like small children, old people, women) trying to stick to their lives, and where there are armed people. I know this from my own experience: the army wants to know where there are civilians so that the pre-invasion shelling of the neighbourhood will be aimed either at empty houses or at houses where armed people were spotted. Even when under fire, entering a very crowded neighbourhood, the army will avoid shooting innocents. Even when double checking can cost a soldier their life.

Before air attacks pilots spend a significant amount of time discussing how to avoid civilian casualties. Before attacking a house, a phone call is made to tell the people to evacuate. A small bomb may be dropped close by to scare these people off the roof and out of the house (I’ve heard that sometimes more than one is used). This “small bomb” is in fact scary and people do usually get off the roof and leave the house. A drone flying above the house then COUNTS the people who have left. Say there are sixteen people living in the house, but only fourteen evacuated. The pilot gets orders to wait. After everyone has left the house, a bomb is dropped. It takes time for the bomb to reach the target. Sometimes, an idiot remembers that he forgot something and runs back into the house. Sometimes there is time left and the bomb is deflected!!! (and sometimes it is too late, and then there are discussions between the pilots, how could have we saved this person, what should we do different next time. Seriously! I am sure any non-Israeli army person would think this is a joke, but it is not).

How can there be so many civilian casualties on the Palestinian side if the Israeli army is so careful? The Israeli spokes-people stress the “human shield” scenario. Here is one scenario that is not discussed much. If an Israeli battalion enters a tough neighbourhood (of course after warning civilians to leave), and some vehicles are hit, and many soldiers are killed or injured and cannot be rescued because they are under heavy fire, then very heavy shelling and air-force aid is given to rescue the forces, without double checking or making phone calls, etc. Nobody is very careful when their friends are torn to shreds. This results in a massacre of the poor civilians that did not leave the neighbourhood, as happened in Shujiya, and perhaps elsewhere.

I do not know what happened in the UN school. It is unthinkable that innocent refugees were deliberately targeted. This might have been a mistake of the Israeli army, no doubt these things can happen, but there are other scenarios as well.

177. Peter Says:

Scott @164 I still don’t understand why in your opinion Tzahal is not trying ‘hard enough’. Compared to whom? US Marines in Afghanistan? Russian paratroopers in Georgia? Swedish policemen in Stockholm?
The (Palestinian) statistics of Gaza dead already show that majority are men of fighting age and bombing missions are routinely called off when pilots fear civilian casualties.

178. Orr Shalit Says:

My comment above addresses comments #2 and #3, claiming that Scott’s 2nd sentence is false.

179. Rahul Says:

the west bank is the homeland of the Hebrews for thousands of years (this is most of the biblical holy land)

I have a historical, factual question: What has been the demographic history of West Bank over, say, the last 1000 years. Similarly for the entire territory that is considered modern day Israel.

What has been, roughly, the Jewish fraction of the population in these parts, say, 100, 150 & 200 years ago even. Prior to the first Aliah / the birth of Zionism were there always a large number of Jews in these parts?

Anyone know a good online summary?

180. Scott Says:

David #173:

But surely more pragmatic terrorists are possible who care only about the hoped for political consequences of their terrorism. These terrorists would set the dial to 0 if they could accomplish their political objectives in doing so. Your test gives a vastly different result for such actors, even if outwardly they behave just like Hamas. Do you accept this consequence?

That’s an extremely interesting question. You might say that Hamas “makes things too easy for me,” by openly calling for the killing of all Jews while also acting in accordance with that belief.

But suppose, hypothetically, that the Hamas charter hadn’t existed. Suppose we even removed the religious elements, the 72 virgins for martyrs and all that. Suppose Hamas still carried out terrorism and deliberately targeted civilians, but now it said consistently that its terrorism had a purely practical motive. “We’re just trying to pressure Israel into improving living conditions in Gaza.”

In such a case, I think I’d still say that the terrorism was inherently evil, and that Israel needed to defend itself against it. But I’d no longer agree with the decision of Israel (and the US for that matter) never to negotiate directly with Hamas. I’d want Israel to treat Hamas a little more like it treats the PA: an adversary, sure, but one with whom a deal might (or might not) be reachable.

181. Scott Says:

Shmi Nux #168:

Scott, just wanted to thank you for your bravery in carefully wading into what is easily the most controversial political issue in the world. It looks like your “equal enragement” test shows that your point of view is very close to sensible. Unfortunately, it also tends to minimize the number of your supporters.

182. Scott Says:

quax #170:

I remember vividly when I first heard that Rabin was shot and killed. Too bad we don’t live in a part of the multiverse where he lived. My first thought back then was that this one death will cause so many more. One of those times when I really hate to be right.

I was having the same thought myself the last few days. Ehud Barak did try pretty hard to finish what Rabin started (and Arafat’s the one who balked at the last moment), but it’s conceivable that Rabin’s personal charisma or Arafat’s trust of him would’ve made the difference.

183. Scott Says:

Peter #177: Israel, as long as it exists, will always be held to a higher standard in these matters than any other country on earth. “Jews, who consider themselves oh-so-righteous, kill civilians” makes for a much better story than “Russian or Syrian or Chinese military operation kills civilians yet again.” Yet, while one can and should call attention to this fact, at the same time there’s nothing to do except try to live up to the higher standard.

184. Scott Says:

Alex #165: I think you’ve put your finger on a tension at the heart of Israeli society. “Yes, we really are under grave threat, but at the same time, we insist on living our lives as if we weren’t.” I don’t blame the airlines for wanting to cancel flights to and from Ben-Gurion, and I also don’t blame the Israeli government for trying to convince them not to. (After all, anyone who flies in or out of Ben-Gurion at this time does so with knowledge of the risk.)

185. fred Says:

cliff #175

“On the one hand, the Hamas, which represents truly the Palestinian people, as it was democratically voted to power (what happened afterward is of course not a democracy)”

I doubt that freedom to vote is that useful if pretty much all other basic freedoms have been stripped away.
It’s impossible to be a healthy democracy with no freedom of movement, blockades, no working economy or infrastructure, no employment, etc.

Democratic elections didn’t do bloodless 1930 Germany much good either.
The lesson there at the end of WW2 was to not repeat the mistakes that were made at the end of WW1. It’s no coincidence that Germany and Japan are leading economical powers.

186. fred Says:

Scott #183
“Israel, as long as it exists, will always be held to a higher standard in these matters than any other country on earth.”

Right, that whole “we are the chosen people” thing.

187. Rahul Says:

After all, anyone who flies in or out of Ben-Gurion at this time does so with knowledge of the risk.

Yet the bookings / stock / goodwill will crash precipitously for whichever airline gets its plane shot down in this conflict. Not just on these routes but globally.

Hence it is understandable why they cancel flights. Public perception isn’t rational. Just ask Malaysian airlines.

188. Rahul Says:

Israel, as long as it exists, will always be held to a higher standard in these matters than any other country on earth. “Jews, who consider themselves oh-so-righteous, kill civilians” makes for a much better story than “Russian or Syrian or Chinese military operation kills civilians yet again.”

I’m not sure if Jew’s are being singled out here. Say, if you are an American, your tax dollars have been significantly supporting the Israel enterprise for a long time. But I don’t think we are funding the Syrians nor Chinese (hopefully).

Ergo it seems rational to demand a higher degree of scrupulousness.

189. Peter Says:

Scott 183: Of course Israel is judged by different standards: it’s the very essence of the anti-Zionist variety of anti-Semitism of much of the Western intelligentsia, including self-proclaimed ‘friends’ of Israel. Never mind Syrians or Russians – US and UK forces operate with freedom and understanding IDF can only dream of. As long as anti-Semites motivated mostly by hatred of Jews rather than sympathy for Palestinians, apply their standards to Israeli, and no other army, Tzahal has no chance, however hard it tries.

190. fred Says:

Let me clarify on my #186.
Every damn conflict can always be traced back to some “we are the chosen people” mentality.
The Jews may have it written down in some sacred book, but the thing is that every single nation, people, religious group, sect, football/soccer club, internet blog poster think the very same thing about themselves!
Even if some people claim “we’re not that special, nobody is special” (more of a Buddhism claim), in the back of their mind they actually think that this believe makes them special over people who claim explicitly to be special.

It goes back to “the first dull number” paradox.

191. quax Says:

“It’s conceivable that Rabin’s personal charisma or Arafat’s trust of him would’ve made the difference.”

We of course will never know but I think it would have made the difference, the way I remember the non-verbal cues it appeared to me that Arafat considered Barak a light-weight in comparison.

192. quax Says:

Fred #185, let’s not forget that the idea for this pre-mature vote was yet another brain child of the geniuses who already liberated Iraq to spread democracy some more. And when they didn’t like the results they doubled-down to exacerbate the situation.

Nobody did blowback more masterfully than the Bush Jr. administration.

193. Scott Says:

fred #190:

Even if some people claim “we’re not that special, nobody is special” (more of a Buddhism claim), in the back of their mind they actually think that this believe makes them special over people who claim explicitly to be special.

I now think Boaz Barak #12 was mistaken: this entire thread has been worthwhile, if for no other reason than the pearl of wisdom above.

Here is a wilfully naive suggestion: could we look at the Israeli/Palestinian conflict systemically, and see what steps would (and ideally could) be taken towards its solution? Or, at least consider ways to think about this type of problem that could lead towards solutions?

Like in most conflicts, I think this one can’t be understood looking only at who is fighting. As many people have pointed out, it is embedded in international politics, surrounded by cultural challenges, and compounded by environmental and economic problems and competition for resources (such as water).

Internally, the antagonists are far from monolithic. If we want to see how peace can be arrived at, we need to look at what supports peace-destroying actions and actors on both sides, and how that support can be attenuated.

Warriors are made powerful by the presence of enemies. More aggressive elements in Israel are supported by Hamas’s rocket attacks; Hamas is supported by Israeli occupation, settlements and checkpoints; anti-American and religious extremist factions throughout the Middle East are supported by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and US support for Israel; and military hawks in the US are supported by the threat of terrorism. I’m not trying to draw moral parallels, but I think it’s important to see that it’s possible to have a positive feedback loop of aggression that is a exacerbated by inherent conflicts of interest between different elements within groups that are party to a conflict.

Any effect — say, a rocket coming from somewhere in the Gaza strip, or settlement being built in the West Bank — is a node on a network of causation. If we want to stop the rocket, then we have to find the places in that network where change can be most efficiently applied so that rockets-flying-out-of-gaza nodes no longer exist in the network.

I would be very curious to hear other people’s thoughts about what the tractable but fundamental causes of the conflict are, and what could be done about them. This could be broken into three questions:

What’s the problem — what makes the Israeli/Palestinian conflict persist?

What’s the solution in principle — with infinite resources at your disposal, what would you do to solve it?

What are the solutions in practice — how, with the least change, could we move towards the solution(s) from question 2?

195. wolfgang Says:

>> with infinite resources
I guess every problem can be solved with infinite resources, e.g. by giving each person its own planet or something similar.

>> solutions in practice
Solutions have been tried many times (1947, late 1990s etc.) and failed.

Just one example illustrates why this is close to an unsolvable problem (with finite resources):

i) The stated goal of Hamas is to remove Israel from the map.
ii) A large number of Palestinians (and probably the majority) supports Hamas.
iii) Israel will not accept being removed from the map.

The only “solution” to this puzzle so far is to isolate Gaza but of course this only perpetuates the problem…

196. Clif Says:

@Fred:
I doubt that freedom to vote is that useful if pretty much all other basic freedoms have been stripped away.
It’s impossible to be a healthy democracy with no freedom of movement, blockades, no working economy or infrastructure, no employment, etc.

I disagree.

1. How does having no infrastructure, freedom of movement, etc. disturb in any way the freedom to vote? I treat Arab-Palestinians with full respect: they voted for Hamas, they support Hamas’ ideology and they are fully aware of its meaning.

2. The “basic freedoms [of Palestinians] have been stripped away”. This is incorrect AFAIK. Some of their political interests have been striped away. But certainly not their basic freedom. As I explained before, we are all “restricted” in our movements (even Adi Shamir’s movements are “restricted” by the US government–see Scott’s recent post).

197. the reader from Istanbul Says:

Dear Scott #167,

I did miss most of the discussion, but how do we all know that the current Israeli cabinet would set that dial to zero? I doubt that. Why should they do that, (or bother rethinking about whether there’s something wrong in their “defense objectives”) when they are given so much undeserved credit by the very people who should be telling them that what they are doing is morally wrong?

198. ScentOfViolets Says:

The problem for Israel is that they are the modern equivalent of 19th century Usians expanding into Indian territories. It’s frowned upon these days to do that sort of thing. And yes, the equivalence is very close. Also, spare me the rhetoric certain zionist types spout about their enemies wanting the ‘destruction of Israel'; since they somehow fail to add ‘ . . . as a Jewish State'; I think we can say they’re acting in bad faith and any further statements of theirs should be discounted with extreme prejudice.

IOW, no Scott, the blame is not equal, nowhere near. And this has been recognized in the UN time and again. Sorry, but facts need to be acknowledged as facts, and ‘facts’ that are really one side’s self-interested interpretation of the facts need to be called out as such.

199. Corey Says:

Haven’t heard much from Northern Ireland these past fifteen-or-so years…

In the ’70s the Provisional IRA started by killing loyalists in Northern Ireland; by the ’90s they were setting off bombs that caused massive economic damage in financial centers in Great Britain with minimal loss of non-combatant lives. I’ll say this for them: they had their eyes on the prize.

200. Dan Riley Says:

Scott,

I don’t think either of your statements identify the real priorities of the participants (both could do a lot “better” if those were their priorities).

Israel’s priority is to strike at Hamas military targets; the IDF does try to minimize civilian casualties as a secondary goal, but it isn’t their first priority.

Hamas, I believe, understands that they have no hope of a military victory over the IDF, and that Israel has highly effective defenses against their missiles. If Hamas wanted to cause more civilian casualties, I believe they could find the means to do so. Therefore, I’d posit that their goal is to provoke a response from Israel that reduces Israel’s international support–Hamas uses missile attacks because they are ineffective and relatively easily traced, and they use civilian shields to provoke international outrage.

From that perspective, Hamas does seem to be having some success at advancing their goals. OTOH, it isn’t at all clear to me that Israel’s tactics are doing anything to advance its interests.

-dan

201. fred Says:

I wonder (I truly don’t mean to offend anyone with this unrealistic thought experiment), say that for every day when there hasn’t been a single missile launched against it, Israel would send a plane over Gaza, and drop about a million dollar worth in food, goods, and 20$bills. In a way that it reaches mostly the general population. In the long run, wouldn’t this be more beneficial by enticing the population to get rid of the extremists themselves and hopefully break the cycle of violence? 202. Scott Says: ScentOfViolets #198: Also, spare me the rhetoric certain zionist types spout about their enemies wanting the ‘destruction of Israel’; since they somehow fail to add ‘ . . . as a Jewish State’; I think we can say they’re acting in bad faith and any further statements of theirs should be discounted with extreme prejudice. I’d strongly encourage anyone who wants to know the facts, to spend some time reading the statements by Hamas’s leaders themselves on this subject (which mirror statements by the PLO while it existed). To eliminate the appearance of bias, I won’t provide links; you can find them yourself by googling. In my own reading of Hamas statements, I’ve been able to find roughly the following spectrum of opinions: 1. All Jews everywhere should be killed. 2. All Jews currently residing in Israel/Palestine should be killed; those elsewhere could be suffered to live. 3. All Jews currently residing in Israel/Palestine should be expelled on pain of death. (Of course, if no other country were ready to accept millions of Jewish refugees, this would entail their being killed, which is exactly what happened to the Jews of Europe.) 4. All Jews who came to Israel/Palestine after 1917 (and their descendants) should be expelled on pain of death; those who were there earlier can stay, provided they pay a dhimmi tax as required by Islamic law. View #4, I suppose, represents the “liberal” extreme of Hamas opinion about what exactly it would mean to “destroy Israel as a Jewish state.” As I said in comment #150, I’d strongly encourage anyone who considers this an acceptable outcome, to think hard about whether you really want to prove the truth of everything Israel’s far-right hawks have been saying about the other side’s ultimate goals, while undercutting what Israel’s peaceniks have been saying. 203. Scott Says: fred #201: According to an article in ynet today, Israel offered blood donations and millions of shekels worth of medical equipment to treat the injured in the Gaza strip, but the PA declined it. 204. ScentOfViolets Says: Scott, the ‘enemies of Israel’ are not just Hamas.[1] Please, give your readers some credit. Also, it would behoove you to admit that at least some pro-Israel extremists actually say this. To echo what you just said about bias, I won’t bother to post the links. But if you’re truly not aware of this, I’d say that you’re the one that needs to educate themselves as to the true state of affairs. In any event, my original point is unaffected by your observation — that anyone who uses the generic ‘enemies of Israel’ construction without also noting that what is often meant is ‘ . . . as a Jewish state’ is not to be taken seriously. Even with regards to the goals of Hamas. I don’t trust liars, for all that they may be telling the truth. That sucks maybe, but they shouldn’t have lied (or used overblown rhetoric) in the first place if they want to be taken seriously. Fair enough? [1]Yes, I am quite aware of Hamas platform; I’m also aware that — just as in the U.S. — voting for a party does not mean that you support their entire platform. 205. ScentOfViolets Says: BTW, it would be nice Scott, to have you explicitly acknowledge my observation that Israel has been behaving very, very badly for years, in fact, before Hamas was elected (and why else do you think they were)? As I said, Israel is in the position of 19th century USA and the Palestinians are the modern equivalent of 19th century American Indians. You haven’t addressed this — my main point — at all. 206. Adam M Says: Wolfgang #195: “Infinite resources” was a poor formulation on my part — the ultimate goal is the practical reduction of suffering and wasted human lives, so proposals that defy the laws of physics are not particularly interesting. Perhaps to be very clear and limit this to the realm of hypothetical reality, let me refine the second question like so: with the full military, financial, and human resources of the Western industrialized nations at your disposal, what would you do to solve it? Or, if that is too limited, within the finite resources of the planet, using current technology. Or define your own set of constraints, but aim for a solution that requires the minimum possible number of physical and political miracles. 207. Cynthia Says: Given that the Palestinians are losing ground so quickly and so easily without so much as a minor show of force, other than the occasional Palestinian teen throwing hand-held rocks at Israeli police or firing homemade bottle rockets into Israeli territory, I’m beginning to think that Hamas is working for Israel. Lately this same sort of thing can often be scene happening in so-called unionized workplaces across the US. Despite having the backing of a union and all the advantages that go along with it, workers are losing their pay, pensions and benefits at an alarming rate. My theory is that Hamas leadership has sold out to Israel, just as union bosses have sold out to Corporate America. The increasing lopsidedness of this conflict in the Middle East, as though it has been manufactured from the top on both sides, deserves an explanation, and such a theory of mine, far-fetched though it is, may indeed lead to some sort of explanation for this. It’s well worth a look, IMO. 208. William Says: Scott #164: Well, your criteria could probably be satisfied- and the conflict solved!- by the complete annihilation of everyone in Israel and Palestine. Perhaps you should, at least, stipulate that you want the stable point minimizing the loss of life. More seriously, thank you Orr Shalit for sharing your experience (and Eli as well, from the opposite perspective). On the individual level, I certainly think putting yourselves in danger to minimize injuries to people who will never thank you for the effort is quite noble. I think the fundamental disconnect you have with critics of this action is that the criticism is not so much coming from its tactical specifics as the broader policies and mindset that have led to it. To be sure, you are hearing a lot about the latest body count and bombing of the UN schools and disproportionate response, but I think the fundamental assumption behind these criticisms is that the invasion will do absolutely nothing to move towards a lasting settlement. And with good reason- is there anybody out there who really thinks we won’t see another Gaza bombing or invasion by 2020 (and plausibly several)? What is the long-term strategy, besides ‘wait for Hamas to change their minds or go away’? If the effect of this military action is only to set the stage for the next one, then any number of lives lost (on either side) is intolerable. If it seems like nothing could satisfy the critics of the IDF, this is the reason. Although the cycle of rockets and bombings continues as ever, one thing does appear to be changing. From the perspective of an American Jew, it seems that Israeli society’s formerly admirable tolerance for dissenting opinions is fading (for a leftist Israeli perspective on this see http://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/israels-other-war ). This shift, much more than the current conflict itself, leaves me pessimistic for the long-term security of Israel. 209. Corey Says: Scott, I assume you know that if the PA is seen to be accepting charitable aid from Israel, it will take a political hit. I mean, sure, accepting the aid is obviously the moral thing to do, but these are party apparatchiks of a dictatorial regime we’re talking about here. I also assume you know that as marginal extremists become more mainstream, their positions become more moderate. I referenced Northern Ireland above — think of Gerry Adams’s trajectory. Heck, think of Yitzhak Shamir and Menachem Begin. 210. Scott Says: William #208: I basically agree that all the operation could plausibly accomplish, is a few years for Israelis to live their lives without missiles indiscriminately raining down on them. After that, either something will have changed (for example: new elections held in Gaza, deposing Hamas), or else the cycle will be repeated. And if you think stopping the missiles for a few years is an unworthy strategic goal … well, that’s the privilege of people who don’t have missiles raining down on them. More fundamentally, I don’t agree with you that “just waiting it out and surviving until the other side changes its mind” is inherently a bad strategy. That strategy, it seems to me, worked with Egypt, with Jordan, and to some extent, even with the PLO. All it would take for it to work with Hamas, is a single Gazan Anwar Sadat or King Hussein. 211. Adam M Says: Scott (#166) wrote: (Or at the least, you get a society that can only survive under the defensive umbrella of somewhat less liberal societies—for which, of course, the ultraliberal societies can be expected to be collosally ungrateful.) Oooh. Are you referring to Canada? Think of an Iterated Prisoners Dilemma tournament: all-cooperate sounds like a great idea, until you realize that it’s a sitting duck for all-defect, and can only survive under the protective umbrella of something like TIT-FOR-TAT. This is an interesting point. For its simplicity, the IPD seems to parallel human behaviour to a pretty astonishing degree, but it is limited by the lack of communication among players other than through transactions. It’s a sort of Wild West version of human society in which punishment or reward can only be dished out one-on-one, based on very limited information. I think there’s a way out of the Prisoner’s Dilemma dilemma you’ve mentioned if a modified IPD allowed you to see how a player had behaved towards other players. This is closer to how human societies actually function, and allows the development of judicial systems that make deterring punishment more efficient and accurate. I don’t have to carry around an arsenal to protect myself or punish someone who attacks me, because that job has been assigned to a judicial system that can do it much more efficiently than I could. As a result, the probability of being attacked is quite low, I can be extremely liberal (by Wild West standards) regarding self defence, and I can have economic transactions with a relative degree of reliability with complete strangers, to mutual benefit. The problem in the case of Israel/Palestine (or any other inter-state or state/non-state conflict), is that there is no effective international judicial system. The UN was apparently intended to serve this function, but it is not very good at it, for many reasons. If an effective international judicial system existed, a TIT-FOR-TAT military strategy wouldn’t be necessary. (Then Canadians, for example, could get on with what they are good at like playing hockey and building cool robot arms rather than trying to become a military power by buying overpriced half-built fighter jets and second-hand submarines that burn up while being delivered 212. wolfgang Says: @Adam #206 The last thing this conflict needs is even more advice from uninformed people … with this in mind, here are my 2c i) Give back control over Gaza to Egypt, so that the economic isolation of Palestinians living there ends. This would be with the understanding nd agreements that Egypt demilitarizes Gaza. ii) The next step would be an agreement about the West Bank and an Israel border along the lines of the agreements of the 1990s. The West Bank would formally become an independent state, but prohibited from obtaining a wide range of weapons systems. (Just like Austria was prohibited from obtaining rockets after becoming independent in 1955 or Japan was demilitarized.) I have no idea if something like this is realistic and if Israel, Egypt etc. would agree to something like this. The main question is if a majority of Palestinians wants such an arrangement and I have real doubts about that. In the near future an important question will be if IS (the Islamic State formerly known as al-Quaida) will take over Jordan and how the Palestinians would react to that. 213. fred Says: Scott #203 I proposed to directly reach the general population and bypass any political organization/militia. 214. Scott Says: ScentOfViolets #204, #205: So, let me see if I understand correctly. It’s not all “enemies of Israel” who desire the physical annihilation of the Jews—only those enemies who would very likely assume power over Israel’s Jewish population, were Israel-as-a-Jewish-state to cease its existence. And also, there might be individual Hamas members who don’t subscribe to the kill-all-Jews part of their party’s platform, just as there were individual Nazis who likewise quietly dissented. This is all very reassuring. Now, regarding your “main point,” about Israel = 19th century US and Palestinians = Native Americans: If the US had been the ancestral homeland of white Americans, in which they’d maintained a continuous presence and which they’d never given up; if the white people had been nearly exterminated (something the native Americans cheered while it was happening), and many survivors had nowhere else but the US to go; if the natives then launched three wars against Boston, New York, and Philadelphia with the goal of wiping the remaining whites out of existence; if the whites had acquired western territory as a result not of expansionist plans, but of winning those wars of survival; if they’d then offered from the beginning to give the territories back to the natives, if the latter would only agree to a two-state solution; if the native chiefs had gone right to the brink of accepting the offer, but then reneged at the last moment, because they couldn’t bear the thought of giving up the whole enchilada—then there might start to be symmetry between the two situations. 215. Dan Riley Says: Scott #209, I don’t really buy the “great person” theory that all it would take is one leader. Egypt and Jordan were led to the peace table, largely by US aid and guarantees. What Israel needs (and I realize this an arrogant thing to say) is a US foreign policy that looks to Israel’s long term interests even when Israel is forced to focus on the short term. Unfortunately, I don’t see anyone left on the PA side capable of constructive engagement. So maybe what is needed is some “single Gazan” Sadat or Hussein, but we need to figure out how to lay the groundwork to make that possible. -dan 216. ScentOfViolets Says: And if you think stopping the missiles for a few years is an unworthy strategic goal … well, that’s the privilege of people who don’t have missiles raining down on them. ‘Missiles raining down on them’ . . . right. Now tell us what the odds are of being killed by one of these missiles if you live in Israel. Something on the order of being struck by lightning, right? Scott, it’s pretty obvious that you’re not going to acknowledge that Israel has been gobbling up land and resources for literally decades before Hamas was ever elected. You’re behaving as if Federal and/or U.S. citizen land grabs has no bearing on the discussion of the latest Indian atrocities. Since you’re not going to acknowledge this — and surely you knew that you never would should it come up — why did you bother to post on so inflammatory a topic? You’re usually much better than this. In fact, to the best of my knowledge, this is the first time you’ve posted something so poorly thought out. 217. ScentOfViolets Says: And Scott — the U.N. agrees with me. BTW, no, you’re factually wrong about Settlement expansion. It was going on last year, and the year before that, and the year before that. I was not aware of any wars going on at the time. Nor can you dismiss the U.S. circa 19th century analogy. Notice that the Indian populations didn’t kick at the presence of Europeans until they decided to colonize en masse and start gobbling up territory. Like it or not, those are the facts on the ground. Insisting otherwise isn’t going to persuade others that you’re being anything but unbiased. 218. Scott Says: ScentOfViolets: Surely I don’t have to remind you that the ’48 and ’67 wars were launched before Israel latter had “gobbled up” any of the territory that you’re talking about—unless the territory you’re talking about is Tel Aviv and Haifa and West Jerusalem, in which case I can only thank you for your honesty. For that reason, while (as I said) Israel should absolutely relinquish the remaining territories and abandon the settlements—and like many on both sides, I fervently hope that will happen, whether unilaterally or as part of a peace deal—the territories’ existence fails miserably as an explanation for why Israel’s enemies have been trying to wipe it out. But since you knew all that, and had no plans to acknowledge it, why did you even bother to post your comments? 219. fred Says: The death toll in Gaza today reached 1,030 people. Scaled to the US population that would be 181,000 deaths, or the equivalent of 60 September 11 attacks. 220. ScentOfViolets Says: So, we’re making progress. Now — was Hamas the head of the Palestinian government before the settlement expansion began or after? Be careful how you answer; you could end up accidentally agreeing with me and the U.N. Let me guess . . . the U.N. is anti-Israel, amiright? 221. John Sidles Says: Good on yah, Ben Kedar The following article by Gil Kalai’s colleague Ben Kedar is commended to Shtetl Optimized readers interested in the role of medicine in the world’s millennial quest for Middle East peace. @incollection{Kedar:2007, Author = {Benjamin Z. Kedar}, Title = {A Note on {J}erusalem's {B}\={i}m\={a}rist\={a}n and Jerusalem's hospital}, Booktitle = {The Hospitallers, the Mediterranean and Europe: Festschrift for Anthony Luttrell}, Editor = {Luttrell, A. and Borchardt, K. and Jaspert, N. and Nicholson, H. J.}, Pages = {7--14}, Publisher = {Ashgate}, Year = {2007}} Lessons-Learned in England, Ireland, and Scotland (1) In regard to physician licensing, the restriction of governmental licensing authority strictly to determinations of professional competence — similarly at the Scottish University of Edinburgh and in Israel-Palestine — is helpful to the causes of healing and peace. (2) In regard to prisoner hunger strikes, the weight of medical ethics and tradition — both during the Irish Troubles and in Israel-Palestine — affirms that physicians are obligated to respect hunger strikes even unto death. In recent months Israel’s judiciary and physician-associations have acted to affirm these principles (these affirmations seem good to me). One family’s testimony Much-discussed among my relatives is the recent (this month) emigration, from the USA to a small town near Jerusalem, of a married couple and their preschool-age children, from among our numbers. A universal hope (?) Perhaps a near approach to a universal hope, is that when these children grow up, in the event they require medical care, it won’t fundamentally matter — in Jerusalem someday as in Belfast today — what school of medicine certified their training, or what ancient scriptures (if any) their physicians regard as holy. And if the medical community can achieve this, in the present century as in many previous centuries, why not everybody? 222. ScentOfViolets Says: My my: Based on the principles of Islamism gaining momentum throughout the Arab world in the 1980s, Hamas was founded in 1987 (during the First Intifada) as an offshoot of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood.[3][4] Founded in 1987, you say? Well after the 1967 war? And well after settlement expansion began? Say it ain’t so! Maybe the wiki is anti-Israel too 223. Scott Says: ScentOfViolets: Yes, Hamas was founded in 1987, meaning that its charter calling for the murder of all Jews everywhere is of remarkably recent origin. But before Hamas, you had the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, the leader of the Palestinians in the 30s and 40s—as it happens, an enthusiastic supporter of the Holocaust, who met with Adolf Eichmann to offer his assistance—and also the early PLO, both of whom shared Hamas’s ideology in its essentials. From this, it follows that settlement expansion can’t possibly be the correct explanation for that eliminationist ideology, which I thought was the question at hand. And yes, infamously, despite its role in founding Israel, since the 1970s the UN has spent more time on condemning Israel than it has on condemning North Korea, Sudan, Syria, etc. for real crimes against humanity, or on other issues affecting orders of magnitude more people. That’s the result of an orchestrated campaign by the UN’s Arab member states, and is recognized by most decent people as a shameful black mark on the UN itself. Even then, though, I don’t actually know which “finding” by the UN is relevant to this discussion, or contradicts anything that I said. Yes, the UN has said repeatedly that the settlements need to go, and I agree with them. But the settlements would have gone, in the peace process implementing UN Resolution 242 that Yasser Arafat chose to end. And the UN doesn’t exactly give a green light either to indiscriminate rocket fire against civilians. So I’m left wondering how exactly the UN figures into your argument, other than “I don’t like Israel, and the UN doesn’t either, so na-na-na.” Finally, let me mention one territory whose ownership is not in dispute: this comments section. You’re welcome to make whatever arguments you want, but either drop the nasty attitude and the accusations of bad faith on my part, or else go post somewhere else. 224. Anonymous Says: Scott, I think I realized why this conversation has been so frustrating: your usual blog posts are so insightful, so thought-out, so responsive to counter-arguments, that we simply hold you to a higher “non-biased-ness” standard than most other people. If you’ll pardon the analogy, I think you’ve become the Israel of this debate – your position is more-or-less reasonable, but for some reason we demand more of you than we do of others (and you should aspire to meet that demand) In order to encourage you to respond more, let me mentioned that you’ve legitimately caused me to change my mind (at least a bit): I now believe Hamas is more evil than I believed previous to debating on this blog. With that in mind, let me post two more comments, to which I really hope you’ll respond – not so much because I’m hoping to change your mind, but because I’m trying to test my own opinions, and you’re one of the most rational people around. I promise I am completely open to changing my beliefs. My first opinion has to do with the dial test. Consider a modified version: in this version, one must choose whether to kill X children on the enemy’s side in order to save 1 civilian on one’s own side. What value of X makes this choice even? I believe that Israel would set X > 100. I find this extremely immoral, and this is a large part of the reason why I think Israel is bad (although Hamas is admittedly much much worse). My second opinion is that regardless of the current conflict, I find the blockade on Gaza to be extremely immoral, and I agree with Amnesty International that it should be lifted. Am I wrong to believe this? Does someone want to defend the concept of “keeping Gaza living in poor conditions until they stop hating Israel”? It seems almost a catch-22 in its absurdity. 225. Scott Says: Anonymous #224: Thanks so much for your comment! I’m humbled that you consider me the “Israel” of blog-debating, and will endeavor to meet your high standards. I strongly agree with you that, if Israel were valuing 100 Gazan children’s lives as worth less than a single Israeli, or were blockading Gaza with the goal of keeping its people in poverty, that would be morally disgusting. But I’m not sure that the facts support either of those claims. So far, 43 Israelis have been killed (mostly young soldiers, though if the rocket launchers and tunnels were left in place, many more civilians would be killed), and about 150 Gazan children, which works out to a ratio of 3.5 to 1: more than 1, but a lot less than 100. Also, the reason for “sealing off” Gaza, to the extent that it is sealed off, is not to punish the residents for electing Hamas, but simply to try to prevent Hamas from getting weapons. Civilian supplies are allowed through (though not as quickly as they should be), even though again and again Hamas has repurposed civilian supplies for military use against Israel. And in any case, as Clif and Itai pointed out, Gaza’s southern border is controlled by Egypt, not by Israel. In the past, cooperation with Israel brought huge economic benefits to the West Bank and Gaza, and Israel’s isolating itself from them in response to terror attacks was disastrous for their economies. Along with many people, I fervently hope that economic cooperation will be one pathway to a broader peace. 226. quax Says: Rahul #179, odd that nobody picked up your question, it’s a very good one. The only censuses I am aware of have been conducted by the British in 1922 and 1931. Would be interesting to have earlier data points, especially as it is sometimes claimed that Palestinians are the ancestors of the original Jewish population who over time converted to Christianity and Islam. 227. Sandro Says: @Clif #127 & #175, the moral justification of any alleged “Arab” actions isn’t the sole consideration in the moral justification of Israel’s actions. A police officer is not justified in killing a physically disabled person who has little chance at inflicting actual harm, simply because this person has expressed an *intent* to murder the police officer if given the chance, nor even if said person has attempted some feeble swipes at the officer. Justifying violence is a balance of intent with ability. This is not “Palestinian propaganda”, this is basic ethics. Israel clearly has military dominance over the region. The power imbalance is so one-sided it’s comical, and the death toll reflects that. As the entity in a position of power, Israel has a responsibility to not abuse that power, as we would ethically expect of everyone position of power, ie. teachers, police officers, presidents, etc. That Hamas merely intends Israel harm, but cannot manifest any meaningful action towards that goal, cannot alone justify the present military action anymore than the U.S. can justify nuking North Korea due to the latter’s threats. Certainly Hamas presents a threat, but I’m not convinced we’re seeing a proportional response to that threat. @lewikee #122, I’m sure a better analogy exists, but the harm Hamas has inflicted thus far has essentially amounted to largely unimportant property damage. @Itai #124, no one’s denying that Hamas’ actions cause hardships in Israel, and that casualties have occurred in the past. But we’re talking about justifying actions since the end of the ceasfire. Even if Israel were simply responding to Hamas breaking the ceasefire, a proportional response is warranted. The disagreement is whether what we’re seeing is proportional response. @Scott #183, it’s an interesting question whether Israel is *unjustifiably* scrutinized. It’s possible, but it seems to me that this additional scrutiny stems again from the huge power imbalance between the opposing forces. I can’t think of another conflicted geographic region where one side has nuclear weapons (allegedly), and the other side doesn’t have anything more sophisticated than crude artillery. That power imbalance creates a unique responsibility, so I don’t think this scrutiny is simply because it’s a Jewish nation. I know you didn’t say the latter, but that’s usually what’s implied by calling attention to the intense scrutiny. But if you know of a counterexample, please let me know! Of course, actual *war* results in such casualties, like the Iraq war. But the U.S. received quite a bit of condemnation for its actions there. 228. Scott Says: Sandro #227: For another “wildly lopsided” conflict, where one side has thermonuclear weapons and the other side only has crude artillery, how about, say, the US in Afghanistan? As usual in such conflicts, the fact that one side has nuclear weapons is basically irrelevant, because it can’t use them, even if the other side would gladly use nuclear weapons if it had them. (Just like in your analogy of the policeman and the disabled person.) Instead, it needs to put boots on the ground, and once they’re there, the soldiers (being human) will inevitably fire back if fired at. Of course, one difference between the two cases is that the US “homeland” wasn’t in any direct danger in Afghanistan (only, arguably, in indirect danger, through a possible repeat of 9/11). Incidentally, in your analogy, we should add that the disabled man is surrounded by fellow, non-disabled gang members with pistols, which they’ve kept trained at the lone police officer for the last hour, three times actually firing at him but missing. These gang members haven’t dared to fire in the last 15 minutes, because the policeman took out a semiautomatic rifle. But they keep trying to surreptitiously pass their pistols to the disabled man, so that he can kill the police officer, and then the gang members can claim that it wasn’t their fault. (In this city, the courts will probably side with the gang members if there’s the slightest doubt.) Meanwhile, the disabled man is stabbing the police officer with a knife. In these circumstances, it’s true that the police officer has used excessive force, striking the disabled man with a club. 229. Clif Says: @SentofViolets:”Also, spare me the rhetoric certain zionist types spout about their enemies wanting the ‘destruction of Israel’;” What are you talking about? This fact is not even debatable: e.g. the Hamas has a quasi-Nazi antisemitic ideology. It is written quite clearly in their charter. It’s not about “a Jewish state”, it’s against Jews. The enemies of Israel do not even acknowledge Israel’s existence (see Iran, Iraq). I also don’t see the difference between saying that “destroying Israel” and “destroy Israel as a Jewish state”. It’s like saying that there’s a difference between: “destroying all triangles” vs. “destroying all triangles whose total degrees are 180″. It’s equivalent by definition. 230. Clif Says: @Dan #200: ” If Hamas wanted to cause more civilian casualties, I believe they could find the means to do so.” This is completely false. Hamas does want to kill as many civilians as possible. It’s their ideological and political goal. They spent much of their efforts in recent years just for that purpose: building missiles and tunnel infrastructure. The only military success they can achieve is killing civilians. And, yes, together with the Palestinian Authority, Hamas succeeded quite well in the 2000’s: they killed about 1200 Israeli civilians between 2000 and 2004. 231. Oliver Says: Of these three sentences only the last seems to me to be unquestionably true. The other two are, to put it mildly, tendentious. The problem is that everyone wants to leap into this debate to assert judgement on what is going on in Gaza, but very few people want to take the time to understand it. The English-language news media certainly doesn’t help much in this regard. Watching television news coverage of this story or reading the daily papers you could be forgiven for thinking that the conflict began when Hamas started firing rockets at Israel this month, rather than being the continuation of a long ongoing saga that began in 2005 (and, less directly, since 1967). Both sides in this conflict have rational aims that don’t (primarily) include killing civilians. Israel wants to destroy the network of tunnels connecting Gaza to southern Israel to inhibit Hamas’ capacity to create weapons and – perhaps even more – it wants to wreck any chances of Hamas and Fatah forging a united front in Palestine. It also wants to send a message to Gazans about supporting Hamas, but only cautiously because the Israelis are well aware that there are other much nastier forces that could step into the vacuum left by the moderate Islamists. I think it’s fair to say that Israel has found itself dragged into this conflict much further than it ever intended or wanted. A nice, short, popular war with relatively few messy bodies was probably the most that Netanyahu envisaged. That is not to say that the IDF has conducted itself well. Hamas, by contrast, primarily wants to wring concessions from Israel regarding the relaxation of the Gaza blockade. The situation in Gaza has grown increasingly desperate over the last 12 months, and the rocket offensive is essentially Hamas’ way of trying to win the right to dictate terms for peace. In fairness to Hamas, it has had very little success in trying to relax the Gaza blockade by other means. I certainly do not agree with you that Israel has demonstrated a willingness to engage with Gaza when there has been no rocket-fire against Israel. On the contrary, Israel’s attitude towards Gaza has been generally punitive since disengagement and especially since Hamas came to power in 2006: barring a few short weeks after the end of the 2008-09 Gaza War, the Israeli military has retained its draconian restrictions on the ability of Gazans to farm, fish, trade, and travel. It also wants to send a message to the people of Gaza – that it is the natural leader of the resistance to the occupation. Whether this effort will revive its flagging popularity in the Gaza Strip will probably depend on how successful it is in prompting Israel to loosen its stranglehold on the Gazan economy. The tragedy of the situation is that both sides have rational aims, even reasonable ones. Both sides think they are resorting to the only measures possible to achieve their goals, and both sides in fact would benefit from a negotiated settlement which ended the shadowy trade of consumer goods and weapons into Gaza and instead opened crossings on the Israeli and Egyptian borders. And both sides, as you observe, are failing in their goals – far from ending the conflict on favourable terms, it appears more entrenched every day. But the pain is not equally shared, and voluntary restraint most becomes the side with the overwhelmingly superior power. I am not convinced that Israel has demonstrated the kind of commendable restraint that you seem to think they have shown in the face of enormous civilian suffering. Rather than brief ceasefires and protestations of self-righteousness, Israel needs to show a willingness to offer real and lasting concessions to the people of Gaza and to talk openly with Hamas as the only representative of the Gazan people there is. Like you I hope economic cooperation will be one route to a lasting peace, but it cannot emerge independent of a road to a political settlement. And – perhaps most importantly – there is a need for a cultural shift that allows Israelis and Palestinians to live trustingly as neighbours and not as enemies. But as the conflict deepens existing rifts and piles unimaginable suffering on already-desperate Gazan civilians, this goal now seems impossibly far away. That’s probably the greatest failure of both sides. 232. Clif Says: Sandro, “Israel clearly has military dominance over the region. The power imbalance is so one-sided it’s comical, and the death toll reflects that.” I believe you are wrong factually. The death toll *in the current round* reflects that. But as I said above, about 1200 Israeli civilians were murdered by Palestinians between 2000 to 2004. And with no real justification. And the count still goes on. IMO, this shows that the Palestinians are not only morally corrupt with their intentions, but also with their actual actions, in contrast to what you’ve said. Again, building your all PR strategy as a fight against “human rights violations”, when you don’t have the slightest respect for human rights and while you continue killing and hurting innocent civilians (even in the midst of peace talks) show that your PR is merely a propaganda. 233. Rahul Says: quax Says: Comment #226 “odd that nobody picked up your question, it’s a very good one.” Perhaps it is an uncomfortable question? The answer may not fit in nicely into the usual narratives? 234. Faibsz Says: Scott#223: “Yes, the UN has said repeatedly that the settlements need to go, and I agree with them”. Are you sure it’s ‘the settlements’, not ‘settlements’? 235. Clif Says: @Sandro, another clarification is needed about the term “proportional”. When the international law for instance talks about “proportional actions” it does not mean that the counter action should be “proportional” to the action or threat at hand (similar to the way you use it). It refers to the action being proportional to the *intentional goal* of the action. Example: if the goal is to eliminate a Hamas or Al-Quaida terrorist hiding within a civilian neighborhood, then it’s not proportional to throw a nuclear bomb there. But it IS proportional, by the international law at least, to kill 30 uninvolved civilians while attempting to assassinate the terrorist. It seems that in contrast to the UK and the US, Israel is well within the acceptable proportions. 236. Clif Says: @scentofviolets was kind enough to give us a link to his sources. Here is the first paragraph from the website “if only American knew”: “Historically, the land of Palestine was populated by a people known as the Palestinians. Palestinians have always been religiously diverse, with the Muslim majority maintaining friendly relations with their Christian, Jewish, and Druze brethren.” The is already quite an hilarious non-truth. Well, I think the case is closed! 237. ramsey Says: Even though I dislike Hamas and generally support Israel, I don’t understand Israel’s insistence that they cannot negotiate with Hamas and must blockade Gaza simply because Hamas is a “terrorist organization”. There are many precedents for a terrorist organization becoming the legitimate government of some people or territory (PLO, IRA). Hamas was legitimately elected (whatever has happened since), and sanctions and the blockade was instituted almost immediately. At the time, it struck me as punishing the Gazans for electing the “wrong” people, rather than accepting their choice and trying to deal with Hamas. 238. John Sidles Says: Boaz Barak (comment #12) posted “In a lifetime of following news etc.. I have yet to see a thoughtful discussion on this topic [Israel-Palestine] in any blog/news-site/forum comment section. I am afraid this [Shtetl Optimized] will not be the exception.” It is perhaps worth noting that Barak’s colleague Oded Goldreich has posted similar sentiments, in an essay “Why I refuse to take part in internet discussions”, that is hosted on Goldreich’s (excellent!) web-site Essays and Opinions: “While I cherish an open dialogue and exchange of opinions, my clear impression is that this is not what takes place in internet discussions, which tend to be pure verbal fights in which each part tries to trick the other and the goal of seeking truth and/or understanding is totally absent.” “In the few cases I felt forced to participate in such “discussions”, I tried in vain to channel the discussion into clear statement of basic positions and a search of the roots of disagreement.” With a view toward confounding these dystopian expectations, and inspired by Scott Aaronson’s analysis of parallels between US/Afghanistan and Israel/Palestine, the attention of Stetl Optimized readers is directed toward two carefully reasoned and well-explained analyses: @book{Petraeus:2006aa, Author = {David H. Petraeus and James F. Amos}, Publisher = {Department of the Army (USA)}, Title = {FM 3-24 Counterinsurgency}, Year = {2006}}   @techreport{Luntz:2009aa, Author = {Frank Luntz}, Institution = {The Israel Project}, Title = {The Israel Project's 2009 Global Language Dictionary}, Note = {Marked property of \emph{The Israel Project}. Not for distribution or publication.''} Year = {2009}} FM 3-24 is available worldwide, free-as-in-freedom, as translated into multiple Middle-East languages. In striking contrast The Israel Project’s 2009 Global Language Dictionary is marked “not for distribution or publication” … even though multiple posts here on Shtetl Optimized quote substantially (and even directly) from it, and indeed Israeli students are financially subsidized to do so on on-line forums. A Modest Proposal The Israel Project would be well-advised to follow the example of FM 3-24 — and thereby address the concerns that Boaz Barak and Oded Goldreich are voicing — by broadening and deepening the historical and moral exposition of its Global Language Dictionary, and most important of all, opening its analysis freely, fully, and openly to public discourse and refinement. Because no soldier should be asked to fight for principles that are designated “Not for distribution or publication.” A Personal Note Our own son served in USMC General James Mattis’ office during the writing of FM 3-24, while recovering from significant combat injuries, and during this time he was commonly dispatched to the US Library of Congress (e.g., to research the Lieber Instructions of 1863 against torture). Following this duty with General Mattis, he declined disability-related retirement, and voluntarily returned to four further combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. 239. fred Says: Scott #225 ” So far, 43 Israelis have been killed (mostly young soldiers, though if the rocket launchers and tunnels were left in place, many more civilians would be killed), and about 150 Gazan children, which works out to a ratio of 3.5 to 1″ Yesterday the BBC reported “More than 1,030 Palestinians, mostly civilians, and 43 Israeli soldiers and two Israeli civilians have been killed. A Thai national in Israel has also died.” Anonymous originally said “one must choose whether to kill X children on the enemy’s side in order to save 1 civilian on one’s own side.” I know that pretty much everyone in Israel is ready for military duty, but he mentioned civilians, not Israeli soldiers, who are warriors killed in action while carrying military grade weapons in “enemy” territory. I’ve heard this morning from the BBC that about 1 in 5 Gaza civilian victims is a child. That would be 200 children. Against those 2 Israeli civilian victims, it would indeed be a ratio much closer to 1/100. 240. fred Says: On the Israeli side, 43 soldiers have lost their lives. Scaled to the US population this would represent a loss of 2,238 soldiers, i.e. almost half the number of American soldiers killed in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan in the last 11 years. 241. Scott Says: fred #239: As I mentioned, it’s hard to quantify this, since while only two Israeli civilians actually died, that’s because of Israel’s actions. Without the ground invasion with its ~40 Israeli casualties so far—or else a bombing campaign that would’ve inflicted a much greater number of Gazan casualties—Hamas would be able to send suicide bombers through its tunnel network (as it’s in fact tried to do), or keep firing missiles indefinitely until one got past the Iron Dome and hit a population center, and thereby inflict many more civilian casualties. 242. Itai Says: Ramsey So why didnt USA negotiated with ben laden and Al Qaida after 9.11 ? 243. wolfgang Says: @fred #239 You seem to attribute every single civilian death (as reported by Palestinian authorities) to Israeli fire (as seems to be the standard in most media outlets so far). But Hamas is not fighting the IDF in Gaza with rubber bullets. How many of their anti-tank missiles missed their target and hit a civilian home? 244. Anonymous Says: Scott, thanks for your response! Here are my thoughts. First of all, comparing the number of dead Israelis to the dead Gazan children is of course the wrong comparison. We should compare the dead children to the number of prevented deaths in Israel. In that calculus, it is possible that the ground invasion was actually quite moral on Israel’s part, because blocking those tunnels (through which Hamas was trying to sneak suicide bombers) could have prevented a very large number of Israeli deaths. On the other hand, Israel did more than just the ground invasion. I think Israel’s bombing campaign actually killed more children than the ground invasion (someone please correct me if I’m wrong). How many deaths did the bombing campaign prevent? Well, assuming the ground invasion took out the tunnels, Israel’s bombs could only have taken out some of Hamas’s rockets. We know these rockets aren’t very effective though. So my estimate is that the bombing campaign prevented (say) 5 Israeli deaths. It also killed ~100 children. So on the face of it, that’s a 20:1 ratio. And that’s only a lower bound on X (the number of Gazan children Israel will sacrifice to save one Israeli citizen). To get an estimate rather than a lower bound, we could adopt the following model. Suppose bombing targets show up at Israel’s military headquarters, labeled with their “X-factor”. Israel then decides whether to bomb those targets. If we assume that the X-factors have a uniform distribution in [0,100], and given that we observe the average X-factor for Israel’s actions to be 20, we can estimate that the maximum X-factor on which Israel will act is 40 (okay, the math is a bit fudgy here, but it’s only an estimate). Alright, so 40 is not 100 – my estimate in the last post was exaggerated. And maybe my analysis is wrong, and the real number is even lower – say 10. But even sacrificing 10 children to save 1 civilian is morally reprehensible, no? On the topic of the blockade, I never meant to accuse Israel of trying to make Palestinians’ lives worse. Of course the purpose is self-defense, and the worsening of lives is a side-effect. My question is, in practice, when the blockade will ever be lifted. It seems that Israel is content in letting it stay forever – as generation after generation of Gazans are born in poverty and learn to hate Israel. Is that the plan? Doesn’t this seem wrong to anyone else? As for the Egypt border, I confess that I’m confused. Does anyone know why Egypt is keeping it’s border blocked? Is it simply pressure from Israel or the US? Regardless, let me put it on record that I condemn Egypt as well. 245. Rahul Says: In the hindsight, I wonder, weren’t there any better locales to establish a Jewish state other than a spot surrounded by Arabs / Muslims who have hated the Jews for a long time? I know it’s idle speculation but wouldn’t some other spot in the dying British empire have worked out better? e.g. something in the Indian subcontinent, or Burma, or some other part of South East Asia? At least these demographics (Hindus, Buddhists, Confuscians, Sikhs etc.) did not have as much of prior hatred of Jews. Just curious as to how important was it that the Jewish state come up near the ancient sites such as Jerusalem? Was the symbology critical to the success of the state? PS. Treat this as an aside, I am not trying to rewrite history here or blame the current conflict on Israel. Just trying to understand the historical context. 246. John Sidles Says: Itai wonders “Why didnt USA negotiated with ben laden and Al Qaida after 9.11?” US political leaders implemented an ideology-driven strategy which they regarded as so self-evidently correct as to render public discourse an irrelevant and potentially dangerous distraction. The resulting harsh lessons — catastrophically costly lessons — are still being assimilated. 247. quax Says: Cliff #236, may I suggest you return the favor in kind and link to something that elucidates your assertions about why the quoted paragraph is wrong? Many here may not know why it strikes you as hilariously incorrect. 248. Michael P Says: Scott #228: excellent analogy! 249. Alex Says: @Cliff #174 My source for those facts are CNN and the BBC, not some radical leftist talk forum. @Scott #184 Let’s imagine the following scenario: A bunch of convicted ruthless gangsters have barricaded themselves in an apartment and have taken a bunch of children as hostages. They are loaded with automatic weapons and are shooting constantly out of the windows and doors of the apartment. They have already killed another tenant in the building. Do the local law enforcement officials: a) Storm the apartment and try to disarm the gangsters using as much force as necessary, regardless of how many hostages are killed in the process? Their main priority being the safety of the other tenants of the building and allowing them to resume their normal lives as soon as possible? b) Evacuate the floor which the apartment is on and trying to disable the gangsters while doing the utmost to insure the safety of the hostages. Using negotiations, a SWAT team, sleeping gas in the apartment,…whatever means necessary that would guarantee the safety of the children? I truly believe that the Israeli government and the IDF have other options besides the large scale shelling and bombing of the Gaza strip to insure their own civilians’ safety. Hamas rockets are not that effective (very few Israeli civilians have died so far) and Israel has advanced bomb shelters and the Iron Dome system. Locations in immediate danger could be evacuated. There would be significant disruption to the everyday lives of Israelis, but in the grand scheme of things that is a much lower price to pay then the thousands of Palestinian civilian lives the reoccurring attacks on Gaza have cost so far. If Israel were to follow a less violent approach to Gaza, they would achieve the same tactical result in terms of insuring their civilian’s safety, while also coming out as the clear moral victors of the conflict. Instead, the current approach is directly contradicting Israeli politicians’ statements about how “Israelis value life while hamas values death”, and adding a lot fuel to the conflict and to extremism in general in the long term. 250. Itai Says: Scott #214 Liked your post, The more correct thing to compare is Jewish = Indians Palestinians = Americans. You forgot to say that most of The Arabs that now call themselves Palestinians which comes from the word Palestine (the name the Romans gave to “Eretz Israel” after the fall of second temple ) can not even pronounce it with “P” even so they say “Balestine” or “Falestine” ,came to mandatory Palestine because the Jews, British, and Ottoman had made that land better, offered jobs , build trains and facilities, agriculture and economy flourished. Most of Gaza people came from Egypt , lots of common last names are Egyptian name, mainly Al Masri (Even Hamas spokesman have that family name )that means “The Egyptian” in Arabic, they also speak Arabic in Egyptian accent. Here even Hamas said it : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9-umTdeh_bQ&noredirect=1 The Palestinians in the north/ west bank came from Syria and Iraq , and speak with Syrian accent, and have Syrian/Iraqi last names. Bedouins came from Saudi Arabia and speak in Bedouin’s Accent. @Anonymous Egypt closed the border because Hamas is part of the “Muslim Brotherhood” that is a terror organization in Egypt now, USA president Obama supported them instead of the non- religious Egyptian Army side. Muslim Brotherhood and other terror organization taken over before on Sinai peninsula,got rich in weapons because of Hamas, and the Hamas smuggling, killed many soldiers and civilian and killed Sinai Economy and Tourism . @ Raul The Jewish country can not be in any other place, as this is our historical homeland, as I said this land was only in control of great empires after The Jews lost to the Roman Empire, and no people based their homeland in this country. After the Jewish started to come back, the ” Palestinian People ” was invented by the Arab league as long with PLO , to succeed more in destroying the Jewish state. The Palestinians are just a bunch of Arabs, with common history and believe that is – oppose the Jewish state . (Even Historians said it ) 251. Michael Bacon Says: Quax, Here is the first paragraph of the first citation that came up on my Google search. I have not done any other research whatsoever. Exercise for the day, compare and contrast with the first paragraph of Scent’s link. Which one sounds plausible to you? http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/History/palname.html “Although the definite origins of the word “Palestine” have been debated for years and are still not known for sure, the name is believed to be derived from the Egyptian and Hebrew word peleshet. Roughly translated to mean “rolling” or “migratory,” the term was used to describe the inhabitants of the land to the northeast of Egypt – the Philistines. The Philistines were an Aegean people – more closely related to the Greeks and with no connection ethnically, linguisticly or historically with Arabia – who conquered in the 12th Century BCE the Mediterranean coastal plain that is now Israel and Gaza.” 252. Scott Says: Anonymous #244: I completely agree with you that a better solution needs to be found for getting supplies into Gaza, and thereby alleviating the misery there, while still making it difficult for Hamas to rearm. The status quo is terrible. I read that Kerry is right now trying to broker a ceasefire, with these the main issues on the table. Maybe some good will come of it (we can hope). Regarding Egypt: now that Mohammad Morsi is out of power and the military is back in, Egypt regards Hamas as an enemy. (During Morsi’s reign, there was pretty much a weapons-smuggling free-for-all.) So, while the current Egyptian government isn’t exactly BFF’s with Israel, they do have something in common. Personally, I agree with the previous commenter who said that one of the best solutions to this whole mess would simply be if Egypt could take Gaza back, and become responsible both for its people’s welfare and for disarming Hamas. Unfortunately, Egypt doesn’t want it. 253. ScentOfViolets Says: At #223: I thought we were talking about those intransigent Palestinians as represented by their elected representatives Hamas. But since we’re not . . . I give you those murderous terrorists, the Stern gang. Like it or not, Scott, the fact is Israel has grabbed a lot of other people’s land. And like it or not, the fact is that people tend to be highly resentful when you take their stuff. You really don’t have to have some sort arcane theorization along the lines of ‘they hate us for our freedoms’ to explain why one group might have an extremely poor opinion of another. But I’ll bite; if not for taking their land, water, and other resources, why do you think the Palestinians despise Israel so? 254. Clif Says: Ramsey: “Even though I dislike Hamas and generally support Israel, I don’t understand Israel’s insistence that they cannot negotiate with Hamas and must blockade Gaza simply because Hamas is a “terrorist organization””. Just a comment, I repeated before: Israel does not hold a “blockade” of Gaza. The Egyptians are blocking the south border of Gaza. The Egyptians also pointed the finger at Hamas for being responsible for the current Israel’s attack. 255. Clif Says: @quax, Comment #248: “may I suggest you return the favor in kind and link to something that elucidates your assertions about why the quoted paragraph is wrong? Many here may not know why it strikes you as hilariously incorrect.” Well, the text opens with “Historically, the land of Palestine was populated by a people known as the Palestinians.” But historically, there was no “land of Palestine” and certainly there were no such people as “Palestinians”. The latter term is a very modern invention. 256. Clif Says: @ScentofVilates: “why do you think the Palestinians despise Israel so?” Who says they despise Israel “so”? They hate (don’t “despise”) Israel just like the Syrian fractions hate each other (see 170,000 dead as of now), just like Iraqi fractions hate each other (hundreds of thousands AFAIK), just like Egyptian fraction hate each others, just like most countries in the middle east are in some sort of an extreme violent conflict. That’s the nature of the region. It has nothing to do with Israel. 257. Itai Says: @ Michael Bacon I do not think the origin of Palestine פלשתין is debated , as you said it comes from the word philistim פלישתים that were the Arch-enemy(besides the come and go empires ) of The Jews/Israeli in biblical time, their land was only something like Gaza strip + a bit north , Had no connections to arabs, they were redheaded sea warriors from Greece (like Goliath ) When The Romans destroyed the second temple, as i said before, they called Jerusalem by other name, and the land by the small part that was historically of the philistim , to “Syria Palestina ” to have no memory of the Jewish control of the land. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aelia_Capitolina 258. ScentOfViolets Says: Let’s have a quote from Lehi: Neither Jewish ethics nor Jewish tradition can disqualify terrorism as a means of combat. We are very far from having any moral qualms as far as our national war goes. We have before us the command of the Torah, whose morality surpasses that of any other body of laws in the world: “Ye shall blot them out to the last man.” But first and foremost, terrorism is for us a part of the political battle being conducted under the present circumstances, and it has a great part to play: speaking in a clear voice to the whole world, as well as to our wretched brethren outside this land, it proclaims our war against the occupier. We are particularly far from this sort of hesitation in regard to an enemy whose moral perversion is admitted by all Sound familar? The biggest differencec I can see is that Lehi came first, and that their land-grab was successful. 259. Scott Says: ScentOfViolets #253: But I’ll bite; if not for taking their land, water, and other resources, why do you think the Palestinians despise Israel so? I reminded you that the Palestinian leaders “despised Israel so,” in fact as much as they do now, even back when Israel (and the pre-Israel Yishuv) didn’t control any of the resources that we’re now talking about, unless the resources you have in mind include (e.g.) the ground underneath Tel Aviv. Rather than answering that point, you’ve basically just repeated your main contention: that it’s nutty to imagine anyone would hate Israel so much unless they had a really good reason to. So then, let me ask you a few questions: Why did the Spanish Inquisitors hate the Jews so much? Did they, too, have a really good reason? What about the Russians who carried out the pogroms? Also purely a “land, water, resource” issue? What about the Nazis? Justifiable response to the Jews grabbing too much of Germany’s wealth? If (as I hope) your answers are “no”, then what is it that distinguishes the cases? In other words: why are you able to infer from (a) the existence of deep, otherwise seemingly-inexplicable anti-Jewish hatred, to (b) the conclusion that there must be a just and moral economic motive for that hatred, in the case of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, but not in any of the other cases throughout history? 260. Clif Says: @Rahul: “In the hindsight, I wonder, weren’t there any better locales to establish a Jewish state other than a spot surrounded by Arabs / Muslims who have hated the Jews for a long time?” This is an excellent point, which explains the relative insignificance of the Israeli-Arab conflict (something that has been completely missed by the Western viewpoint, probably due to the West intensive social-emotional-historical interest in Jews): even if you dislocate Israel entirely from the Middle East, Arabs would still be fighting each other, and killing each other by the masses. Just like 170,000 Syrians have been killed recently. Israel is neither the cause nor the solution to the Middle East. 261. ScentOfViolets Says: Scott, I’m not going to comment on this until we nail down the fact that land was grabbed . . . and that this expropriation goes all the way back to Lehi. Will you please acknowledge the fact that this was the case? 262. Michael Bacon Says: Scott, Here is an article by Ayaan Hirsi Ali that discusses in personal terms the source of the irrational hate. http://www.csmonitor.com/Commentary/Global-Viewpoint/2013/0124/Why-Middle-East-Muslims-are-taught-to-hate-Jews 263. yme Says: ScentOfViolets, what would the Israeli government, and Israelis in general, need to do now in order for you to consider them blameless, at least from this point forward? 264. Itai Says: @ Scott #260 Nice Answer, Somehow you are the second one to compare Hamas to the Nazis here after me . Most of the people do not gasp the deep Nazi connection with Palestinians leaders , as I mentioned in one of my first posts. Also, it is hardly mentioned in the media. 265. Question? Says: “But I’ll bite; if not for taking their land, water, and other resources, why do you think the Palestinians despise Israel so?” “Scott, I’m not going to comment on this until we nail down the fact that land was grabbed . . . and that this expropriation goes all the way back to Lehi. Will you please acknowledge the fact that this was the case?” Don’t you love it when people argue like this? 266. Michael Bacon Says: Scott, Excellent article by Sam Harris — thanks for posting. 267. Scott Says: ScentOfViolets #261: So you’re saying that all I need to do to get you to stop commenting, is fail to “acknowledge” your tendentious readings of history? If so, then consider it done. Since you like the UN so much, the Israelis are the ones who agreed to the UN Partition Plan. The Arab countries (and the parents and grandparents of today’s Palestinians) are the ones who rejected it, and who launched a war to conquer the tiny territory that the Jews had been allotted. So then why aren’t the Palestinians the ones guilty of an attempted “land grab”? As for the Lehi, they were certainly terrorists. Even then, they had no policy of massacring civilians (much less explicitly genocidal aims like Hamas); and when they did massacre civilians at Deir Yassin, David Ben-Gurion and the other Zionist leaders denounced them. In other words, it seems to me that the very worst terrorism Israelis have ever committed, still isn’t as bad as today’s Hamas. 268. Anonymous Says: I just read Harris’s essay. I agree with most of the things he says, but I still think he’s making the same mistake that other Israel-supporters often make: they imagine that Israel’s motivations are better than they really are. This is actually exactly symmetric to the mistake the critics of Israel often make: they imagine that the Palestinians and Hamas are innocent lambs that Israel slaughters, when in reality Hamas is very evil. I maintain that Israel, while not being nearly as evil as Hamas, is still worse than most of its supporters believe. For example, if the world stopped watching Israel tomorrow, do you doubt that Israel’s settlement rate would triple? Do you doubt that they’d keep Gaza under siege forever? (Yes, Egypt is culpable as well). If Netanyahu was given the choice to save an Israeli soldier at the price of the lives of 10 Palestinian children, do you doubt that he would do it? If you do, I say you are being naive. So my main problem with Israel is not so much its actions (which are still bad), but rather the whole attitude, which to me shows deep apathy towards the plight of the Palestinians. 269. johnqpublic Says: I think a relationship based on hate can be modeled as a positive feedback loop with a loop gain greater than one. It sustains itself without foundation. It feeds on itself. In engineering, you can stop the loop by turning off the power. In this case, it would mean moving the adversaries away from each other long enough for their offspring to forget they hate each other. Of course this is not practical, but it might work. 270. johnqpublic Says: I think moral arguments usually come down to when we start the clock of victimization. Everyone needs to be a victim if they want to win a morality argument. Do I start the analysis 50 years ago, 500 years ago, 2,000 years ago, 5,000 years ago, etc.? Each side picks a point in time which is convenient for them. The same issues exist in many conflicts between countries. I think that all of us have ancestors who have committed horrible atrocities at some point … or we wouldn’t be here. We have no record going back 10,000, years, 100,000 years, etc. so we don’t know who we are supposed to hate. Time and inability to keep records break the feedback loop of hateful emotions. 271. fred Says: Clif #256 “They hate (don’t “despise”) Israel just like the Syrian fractions hate each other, just like Iraqi fractions hate each other, just like Egyptian fraction hate each others, just like most countries in the middle east are in some sort of an extreme violent conflict. That’s the nature of the region. It has nothing to do with Israel.” By “it’s the nature of the region”, do you really mean “it’s the nature of the Arabs/Muslims”? But you can’t have it both way by saying it’s got nothing to do with Israel. Jews are both part of the region history. And the Christians too for that matter (Jesus, the Crusades, etc). And if you go far back, all those religions share the same roots… don’t the Muslims see Moses as a prophet? Wasn’t Jesus a Jew? From my point of view – as an agnostic – the distinction between Muslims, Jews and Christians on the basis of religion is irrelevant. It’s just different faces of the same tragedy. The Jew/Muslim violence (Gaza), the Jew/Christian violence (persecution of Jews throughout the ages in Europe, Holocaust), the Christian/Muslim violence (Crusades, AlQaeda), the Christian/Christian violence (Catholics vs Protestants), the Sunni/Shia violence… it’s all rooted in the same problem, it’s all the same freaking mess. 272. johnqpublic Says: But what do I know? 273. Alex Says: @Anonymous Comment #268 Well put. I will add that 90% of the Israelis I’ve talked with sincerely believe that the best solution to the conflict would be the mass relocation of all Palestinians (including Arab citizens of Israel) to other Arab countries – with Jordan as the most realistic destination – if only that didn’t have to deal with the pesky political correctness of the rest of the developed world. Not as genocidal as hamas, but still squarely in the ethnic cleansing category. Trail of tears anyone? 274. johnqpublic Says: Generally we don’t apologize unless we have to. Those in power rarely apologize. They will if they think they are in danger of being over thrown. I haven’t seen any research, but I suspect would find a correlation between power and apology/responsibility avoidance. As an example: History is written by the winners. When has any country ever concluded, “You know what? Even though we won the war, having analyzed our situation, we now believe we were morally wrong. We have decided to give up all our power to our adversary and let them govern us?” I just don’t believe that the moral side always wins. If anything, nice guys finish last. I am not complaining. I think this is who we are as a species. We do whatever we can get away with, and then later make up a story about why it was the right thing to do. 275. Michael Bacon Says: Fred, I understand the attraction of not wanting (or even feeling that it’s important) to make any real distinctions between various religious and cultural views and traditions, and then when faced with such undifferentiated agglomeration, to throw up your hands and say a pox on all of your houses because it’s all part of the same ugly mess. And it certainly is part of the same ugly mess, that’s for sure. However, distinctions can and must be made. Extreme cultural relativism, even when well intentioned or when you may (incorrectly?) feel there are no meaningful choices or distinctions to be made, is hardly ever the correct way to understand what’s really a happening in the world. I think that was the central point of the article by Sam Harris. I would urge you to reconsider. 276. johnqpublic Says: That’s how Johnnyq rolls. 277. James Gallagher Says: I agree with all of Sam Harris’ arguments in the link you posted in your update , and I can’t imagine any reasonable person could disagree strongly with any his arguments. It’s what I would say if I was thoughtful and reasonable rather that simplistic and emotional. 278. ScentOfViolets Says: # 263: What I think is immaterial; your question would be more appropriate when asked of the hypothetical Palestinian man-in-the-street. My completely speculative guess is that such an individual would be satisfied with a return to the pre-67 borders, abandoning the settlements, and for Israel to stop hogging the water. As for what I think: Judaism is not special. Jews are not special. And Israel is not special. All three should be judged no more — and no less — harshly than any other actor in history. As for Israel being ‘held to higher standards’, well, I’ve got a few relatives who are determined to have their way come Hell or high water, and they are not shy about employing morally suspect tactics in doing so. Here’s the difference: some of these women (yes, by a statistical fluke, they all happen to be female) make no bones about it. They are what they are. Then there are the ladies who are totally cutthroat, but are determined that they always be thought of as the good guys. Guess which group gets judged more harshly for their actions? 279. Scott Says: Alex #273: 90% of the Israelis I’ve talked with sincerely believe that the best solution to the conflict would be the mass relocation of all Palestinians… Who are these Israelis and where are you meeting them? I don’t doubt they exist, even in significant numbers, but most of the Israelis I know range from moderate to liberal to militantly anti-Zionist. (That is, among the ones who don’t immediately change the subject.) 280. ScentOfViolets Says: The Arab countries (and the parents and grandparents of today’s Palestinians) are the ones who rejected it, and who launched a war to conquer the tiny territory that the Jews had been allotted. So then why aren’t the Palestinians the ones guilty of an attempted “land grab”? Sigh. Did I say they weren’t?[1] You seem to think I’m picking sides. I’m not. But can you finally at long last say that yes, Israel has successfully grabbed land? This is not a difficult question. [1]To say that other sources have a – shall we say – more nuanced version of events is putting it mildly. 281. ScentOfViolets Says: Btw the way, this doesn’t help: ScentOfViolets #261: So you’re saying that all I need to do to get you to stop commenting, is fail to “acknowledge” your tendentious readings of history? If so, then consider it done. When I say something about your reading of history, I call it your reading of history. I don’t insert gratuitous words like ‘tendentious’ and I don’t make snarky comments with smileys attached to them. How could I, since you have deemed such behaviour off-limits and it is, as you say, your blog? Is it too much to ask that you refrain from doing the same? 282. fred Says: Michael #275 I hear you, as I said I witnessed 9-11 first hand. But as scary as AlQaeda/ISIS are, I just don’t see how the current tragedy in Gaza is helping. Maybe it’s helping the Israel state in the short term, but unfortunately all that tragedy it’s going to make things worse in the long term for everyone on both sides. Just like the US knee jerk reaction to go fight into Afghanistan and Iraq didn’t solve shit after 11 years. We have more extremism, civil wars all over the place. I believe that we won’t make progress until the middle east economies are more stable, until the new generations there have jobs and a future. 283. ScentOfViolets Says: # 273 I’ve seen polls to that effect, but since I can’t find any in a thirty-second google search, I’ll link to this one instead. I’ll let other people decide for themselves how ‘serious’ Israel and the typical Israeli citizen with regards to the peace process and just how much land and other resources figure into the current intransigence of both sides. 284. Scott Says: ScentOfViolets #279, #280: Please accept my apologies; I don’t know what could’ve caused me to think you were “picking sides”! I also apologize for any unintended snark-bombs from my side: they were surely a disproportionate response to the sneers that you lobbed at me in comments 198, 204, 216, 217, 220, 222, 253, 258, and 261, putting me in violation of the UN conventions on blog-war. No, I wouldn’t quite say that Israel “successfully grabbed land.” The land of the settlements could justly be called “grabbed,” but since I (like many others) expect that land to be returned in a peace settlement, I don’t consider the grab “successful”: it’s a failure, from everyone‘s standpoint. As for the land of Israel proper, I’d say that Israel successfully defended the land that the UN (which, in earlier comments, you regarded as the wellspring of legitimacy) partitioned to it in 1947, along with some additional land that it came by as the result of winning wars of survival started by the other side. 285. Alex Says: @Scott #278 I’ve met most of them overseas in Australia and Japan. Most were of North African/French origin, except for one guy whose grandparents came from Poland. All of them were liberal to a hilt until we brought up the Palestinian issue, and then they would turn in to hardcore nationalists. The one exception (the ~10%) of my statement, is a dual American Israeli citizen living in Cambridge, MA. He was on the complete opposite side of the ideological spectrum. I wonder if any of that is relevant. 286. ScentOfViolets Says: # 283 Really? See, even supposing for the sake of argument that your characterization of those posts is correct[1] . . . I stopped doing that when you kept deleting them. You started up again for no reason. That’s in the record. Also, you have an odd notion of ‘picking sides’. If one of my kids hits the other one, taking the appropriate corrective action is not ‘picking sides’. Picking sides would be taking the appropriate corrective action when kid A hits kid B but not when kid B hits kid A. Picking sides, in short, is what you seem to be doing — and in fact we can see the accuracy of my assessments by noting that I agreed with you above that the Palestinians were also not above a little land-grabbing of their own. This isn’t a hard concept. [1]And they most assuredly are not. You also use snark like bombs ‘raining down’, instead of bombs dropping, etc., in response to comments that were most decidedly not authored by me. Please stop and desist. 287. ScentOfViolets Says: # 223: The land of the settlements could justly be called “grabbed,” but since I (like many others) expect that land to be returned in a peace settlement, I don’t consider the grab “successful” As I’ve already pointed out, that’s simply not true. Oh, I’ll concede that you and ‘many others’ may expect that. But you’re nowhere near a majority. 288. Itai Says: @Alex Most of North African/French origin knows the Muslim/Arab mentality ( well I’m actually half Ashkenazi and half Tunisian so I have my own opinion ). Their family lived in Arab countries in the past , some moved to France and suffered from Arabs there. I even remember my grandmother that knows not to trust Arabs, Deception is deep in their mentality and religion . So they are very very skeptical about ever getting peace agreement. Have you heard about Hudaybiyyah agreement? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treaty_of_Hudaybiyyah Arafat said in closed conversation in Arabic that Oslo agreement is like Hudaybiyyah . 289. Scott Says: Itai #287: Please avoid offensive generalizations, like about “deception running deep” in Arab mentality. 290. Scott Says: ScentOfViolets #285: I see, so you’re a neutral arbiter, like the UN. Out of curiosity, could you tell me about a time when you took the “pro-Israel side” in an argument? (Myself, I’ve had plenty of arguments with hard-right Zionists, with me taking the “liberal” side. But since anti-Zionists greatly outnumber hard-right Zionists, both in the world at large and, probably, among the readers of this blog, the former is the group that I wanted to address more.) Incidentally, I found only a single comment of yours that wasn’t moderated to appear, and it was purely an oversight on my part. The comment is up now (#277). 291. John Sidles Says: Please let me join in Shtetl Optimize’s general praise of Sam Harris’ essay Why Don’t I Criticize Israel? No criticism of Sam Harris is intended, in suggesting that in at least one respect, his essay could have been even better. Postponing until later a list of references (appended), Harris’ improvable passage is: Sam Harris asserts “Whatever terrible things the Israelis have done, it is also true to say that they have used more restraint in their fighting against the Palestinians than we — the Americans, or Western Europeans — have used in any of our wars.” A Personal Testimony On being deployed to Anbar Province in March of 2004, USMC Gen. Mattis issed to the Marines under his command a letter, setting forth his commander’s guidance, which included a strikingly anhistorical directive: LETTER TO ALL HANDS The enemy will try to manipulate you into hating all Iraqis. Do not allow the enemy that victory. [… to that end] I have added, “First, Do No Harm” to our passwords of “No Better Friend, No Worse Enemy.” The foresight of Mattis’ guidance was a very considerable comfort to the Marines under Mattis’ command … and to their families. During the subsequent decade, extending to the present time, the Coalition Forces (of many nations!) have embraced Mattis’ doctrine to the utmost extent practicable, appreciating moreover that the doctrine applies equally to societal externalities (hospitals, schools, housing, transportation) and to human internalities (trust, respect, hope) … “If you break it, you own it.” Essential to Mattis’ doctrine is the fundamental principle that “There is only one color of Marine: green”. Which is to say, considerations of race and religion do not enter into the qualifications that make a Marine. All Marines appreciate — because they are universally and rigorously TRAINED to appreciate — the fragility of the doctrine of secular and racial equality, and the sustained commitment that is required to achieve an approximation of it (per the references Matterhorn and First to Fight, both appended). In this regard (as it seems to me) the IDF has adopted policies of exclusion — specifically, the de facto demographic exclusion of Israeli Muslims from IDF combat forces — that are politically expedient year-by-year, and militarily expedient battle-by-battle, yet have proved to be morally and socially corrosive generation-by-generation. To the extent that Muslim Israelis are untrusted and/or unwilling to participate in the ground assault against Gaza, perhaps Israel’s moral foundations for that assault are shaky. At the very least, a vital check-and-balance is missing … a check-and-balance that the USMC works diligently to respect scrupulously. Regrettably, there is (as far as I know) no public IDF syllabus that is comparable to the USMC’s Professional Reading program, in which all Marines are required to participate, and from which all US citizens are encouraged to learn. For a nation whose millennia-old traditions honor learning, this lack is regrettable. Perhaps this is why so many comments here on Shtetl Optimized amount to stale slogan-shouting. A celebrated maxim of Arthur Wichmann applies all-too-aptly to all-too-many of the Middle East’s ideology-driven governments “Successive explorers Middle East governments commit the same ephemeral stupidities: unwarranted pride in overstated accomplishments, refusal to acknowledge disastrous oversights, ignoring the accomplishments of previous explorers Middle East governments, consequent repetition of previous errors, hence a long history of unnecessary sufferings and deaths. Future explorers Middle East governments will continue to repeat the same errors.” “Nothing has been learned, and everything forgotten!” Entdeckungsgeschichte von Neu-Guinea, 1828-1902. The USMC’s syllabus aims — pretty successfully as it seems to me — to avert Wichman’s sad ignorance-driven outcome.  @misc{Mattis-MajGen:2004os, Author = {James N. Mattis}, Month = {March~23}, Title = {Letter to {A}ll {H}ands}, Year = {2004}} % % the following appear in: % REVISION OF THE COMMANDANT'S % PROFESSIONAL READING LIST % ALMARS Active Number: 001/13 % @book{Krulak:1999fk, Address = {Annapolis, Md.}, Author = {Krulak, Victor H.}, Publisher = {Naval Institute Press}, Title = {First to {F}ight: an inside view of the {U.S}. {M}arine {C}orps}, Year = {1999}} % @book{Marlantes:2010fk, Address = {New York}, Author = {Marlantes, Karl}, Publisher = {Atlantic Monthly Press : Distributed by Publishers Group West}, Title = {Matterhorn: a novel of the Vietnam War}, Year = {2010}}  292. Alex Says: @Itai #286 Nice to meet you. I’m half Tunisian myself. I’m surprised you say that about you Grandmother. The older generation from my Tunisian side, my grandparents, my older uncles and cousins, speak fondly of the Tunisian Jews and regret their leaving. My father is friends with a couple (of the rare few) who remained. It is usually members of the younger generation, born after independence, with no personal experience dealing with Jews and who get all of their information from TV and the Internet, which typically spews violent anti-semitism and bigotry. I agree with you about the hudaybiyyah comment. Most Palestinians and Arabs view peace as a tactical objective, desirable only because of the current position of weakness. They still consider the long term objective to be a total “re-conquering” of Palestine. I happen to disagree with that point of view for several reasons. But that is my American half speaking. 293. ScentOfViolets Says: Scott #289: As a matter of fact, I used to be very pro-Israel. I didn’t know anyone who wasn’t back in the mid-70’s (Munich, remember?), and I’d read all the usual pro-Israel stuff like Michener’s The Source. But let’s just say that evidence accumulated in the intervening decades, culminating in a re-evaluation around 2007. The intertubes, right? That’s when I first took a detailed look at groups like Lehi and how Israel really came into being, how I found out that contrary to the ‘They Hate Us for our Freedoms’ bushwah, the Muslims of that region lived more or less peaceably with their neighbors of other faiths. And that it wasn’t until Jews started arriving en masse that they got bent out of shape and muttering — rightly as it turned out — that they were going to take all the land and water. Yes, I rather do think that the evidence is massively on my side as to why there is so much resentment towards Israel on the part of the palestinians who have been residing in that part of the world since time out of mind. In sum, I used to be pretty pro-Israel. And it took a lot of effort on the part of that country to squander all of the good will it had earned (rightly or wrongly) with me. Now I’m just disgusted and give them no more — and no less — slack for their actions than any other nation. You on the other hand . . . I don’t think I’m being anything but scrupulously fair here. Most assuredly I’m not being snarky, so don’t go there. 294. James Gallagher Says: ScentOfViolets is like people who say, I’m not racist, but… 295. Darrell Burgan Says: My$0.02 worth is that it no longer matters who started it. Both sides have killed too many on the other. There is no military solution. A peace deal is the only way out, for anyone. This pointless bloodshed accomplishes nothing.

296. Michael P Says:

IMHO this short video is the most telling about the reason there are so many seemingly civilian casualties in Gaza:

http://www.israelvideonetwork.com/this-is-what-is-really-going-on-in-gaza-right-now

297. Scott Says:

ScentOfViolets #293: I see; thanks. Let me raise the possibility that behind your change of heart about Israel, there lies an extremely interesting misconception about economics.

Your comment suggests to me that you think of the Palestine region as a fixed pie of resources. There’s only so much land and water, so if Jewish settlers arrive en masse, they’ll have no choice but to take everything away from the Arabs. Well, sometimes that’s how it works, but often not.

Where do you think Israel’s current (relative) wealth came from? From abundant natural resources? Israel doesn’t have abundant natural resources. It has some land for growing oranges and pomegranates and raising livestock, and Dead Sea salt that can be used to make specialty soap, and apparently some underseas oil (but that was only discovered a few years ago). Some of the wealth came from overseas donations, and some from religious tourism. But by far the greatest part was created. It came from pharmaceuticals and microchips and car parts and other stuff that wasn’t there for anybody when the settlers arrived. As for water, it’s still scarce, but Wikipedia says that “in an average year, Israel relies for about half of its water supply on unconventional water resources, including reclaimed water and desalination.” And the same land now supports ~17 times the population that it did in 1920, including ~10 times as many Arabs.

So put yourself in the shoes of the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem around the 1920s. What do you think about the waves of Jewish settlers arriving on your shores? If you’re a rational opportunist, then you should think: “This could be the best thing economically that’s ever happened to my people. Better yet, unlike with the whites settling the Americas, these people won’t kill us with smallpox, for the simple reason that we now have a modern understanding of disease. And they seem much more interested in hiring us than in killing us. If they do turn violent, we’ll raise a stink with the British, who are terrified of an Arab uprising for oil reasons. But in the meantime, we’d better take advantage of this golden opportunity before it passes, by partnering with the settlers and diverting as much wealth as we can to ourselves. Later, after we’ve done that, maybe we can have an anti-colonial uprising to kill the settlers or kick them out. But that’s for later. For now let’s focus on getting rich.”

Of course, despite everything, there were Arabs in the area who adopted some variant of the above attitude and who did pretty well. But suppose the Grand Mufti had encouraged this as the general policy, rather than genocide. Would the Palestinians have then become as well-off as the Israelis? Maybe or maybe not; I don’t know. But just by being in the right place at the right time, the Palestinians could certainly have become richer than any other Muslim society in the Middle East, except the oil fiefdoms.

If I’m right, then the story of the Palestinians is, in part, a story of the triumph of religious fundamentalism and resentment over economic self-interest, with tragic results for everyone (not least for the Palestinians themselves). And while this slow-motion tragedy had many different causes—one of which, yes, was criminal actions by Jewish extremists—I wonder whether a huge part of it boiled down to the all-too-common misconception that the pie is fixed.

298. Jay Says:

> there are millions (…) for whom Judaism is very important, and yet they are atheists. (…) it’s a total non sequitur in Islam or Christianity.

That remembers me of a small anecdote, when a nurse came home after we had our first child. She was filling some administrativia, and among other things asked our religion.

My wife: Catholics.
Me, in shock: Pardon me? We’re what?
MW, blushing: Shut up darling, here it’s a cultural question. We are culturally catholic, even if not at all religious.

Duh… so he even offended the *atheist christians*. Thanks the Non-Existent we won’t feel that offended.

299. John Sidles Says:

Accompaniment  Croppies Lie Down (1798)

A British narrative  “The story of the Irish and English is, in part, a story of the triumph of enlightened secular governance and broad economic prosperity, with beneficent results for everyone.”
—–
Scott’s narrative  “The story of the [Zionists and] Palestinians is, in part, a story of the triumph of religious fundamentalism and resentment over economic self-interest, with tragic results for everyone.”

Two hundred years ago, many among my ancestors were singing Croppies Lie Down; many others were throwing stones at those who sang it.

Three devastating famines and two world-wars later, young people whose English-Irish ancestors fought to the death now happily intermarry … and think little of it.

Did Irish culture fo extinct? English culture? The Crown? Did any of the religions concerned go extinct?

Nope. All prospered.

And we got the Beatles!

That is why, in the great tradition of the Enlightenment, we may reasonably hope for a similarly enlightened outcome in Israel-Gaza.

If we are *REALLY* optimistic, we may hope that this leavening won’t take two centuries!

300. Clif Says:

@Anonymous #269:

“For example, if the world stopped watching Israel tomorrow, do you doubt that Israel’s settlement rate would triple?”

Why is it bad/immoral? The settlements do not harm by themselves the Palestinians nor anyone. Aren’t there a lot of Arab cities in Israel?

“Do you doubt that they’d keep Gaza under siege forever? (Yes, Egypt is culpable as well).”

For sure, I doubt this. Why would Israel want to spend its energy and resources to keep Gaza under siege, if Gaza doesn’t throw missiles at Israel nor sends terrorists to kill its citizens?
Near history indeed teaches us that Israel would not keep Gaza under siege. (Of course, also now there is no “Israeli siege”, because Egypt controls Gaza’s southern border.)

“If Netanyahu was given the choice to save an Israeli soldier at the price of the lives of 10 Palestinian children, do you doubt that he would do it? If you do, I say you are being naive.”

Obviously, he would chose the Israeli soldier, and most moral and ethical systems would support his choice; as well as the international law by itself, subject to the fact that there is a legitimate military target the soldier is trying to locate.
I already explained that AFAIK the international law says that it is “legal\proportional” to kill (non-deliberately) 30 uninvolved citizens when targeting a terrorist hiding in a civilian neighborhood. Are you suggesting that soldiers sent to war should commit suicide if their enemy surrounds himself with kids?

301. Michael P Says:

LOL, Jay #298. You are right, of course: there is a lot more to a religion with centuries of history than just religion: it permeated the whole culture.

And before the recent advent of eigenmorality religion served at the initial basis for evaluating morality.

302. Rahul Says:

@Itai says:

The Jewish country can not be in any other place, as this is our historical homeland, as I said this land was only in control of great empires after The Jews lost to the Roman Empire, and no people based their homeland in this country.

That’s an interesting point. What exactly do you mean by “can not be”?

Do you mean it wouldn’t have worked out in any other location? e.g. If 150 years ago the Aliah’s would have started to some designated pocket, in say, Mongolia would Jews have not responded, you think?

How much is the fact relevant to success, that you are basing a modern settlement in some Biblical location that hasn’t been actively your homeland for 2000+ years since the fall of the Roman Empire?

Or does your “can not be” imply a legal claim in the sense: Since we originally inhabited this region 2000 years ago we have the right to it now & so we must exercise it?

Just to be sure: There wasn’t a Jewish majority in these regions in the intervening 2000 years after the fall of the ancient empires, was there?

303. Clif Says:

And meanwhile, while we are debating how and why Israel should be blamed for its misconducts, 1700 Syrian were killed last week in their tribal war.
I guess the point is that the Israeli-Arab conflict is really not a real problem: had Israel not existed, the death toll in the region would probably be even higher.

304. Rahul Says:

ScentOfViolets says:

As a matter of fact, I used to be very pro-Israel. I didn’t know anyone who wasn’t back in the mid-70′s (Munich, remember?), and I’d read all the usual pro-Israel stuff like Michener’s The Source.

I think, in general, if I’d been around in the 1950’s, 1960’s etc. I’d be far more sympathetic of Israel than I can be today (and I still am by no means anti-Israel! I think it’s a fine nation overall)

A part of this is the underdog effect I think. It really was a rugged, struggling nation back then, with pioneers who had migrated from thousands of miles away just for an idea. Many were actual holocaust survivors. Their planes were getting hijacked. Athletes slaughtered.

Life was harder. Scarcity was rife. It wasn’t the prosperous nation with an advanced Missile Defense Shield we see today.

I think gradually Israel, intentionally or otherwise, has made it harder for rational third parties to sympathize with it as strongly as they used to.

305. quax Says:

Great essays in the updated link.

Always astounds me to no end why people seem to have this irrational need to pick sides in such a protracted conflict.

I.e. for me it’s quite naturally to regard Hamas with about the same degree of sympathy that I have for the pathological killer gang formerly know as ISIS. Yet, at the same time I harbor a deep suspicion that Netanyahu simply latched onto the opportunity for war that the death of the kidnapped teenagers gave him. I think he may act mostly out of political expedience (it shores up his base and rallies the electorate around the PM).

Now, be this as it may, this blog is mostly populated with scientists, so shouldn’t this at least help in establishing what to regard as facts when it come to this conflict?

For instance, what was the demographic development of this part of the world since the Roman empire? How much of this can be factually inferred? The use of the term ‘Palestine’ is apparently quite recent, so how many of the people who count themselves as Palestinians are legitimately descendants of people who originally lived in this area before there was Israel?

Another question that one should be able to settle objectively is the following: Is there a defacto blockade of Gaza by Israel? Cliff points out that the borders are not controlled by Israel, but what about the coastal access?

Then of course there are the big questions that will be almost impossible to decide objectively, what role does Antisemitism play? And why the heck has it seemingly been going on forever?

Is it simply because scapegoating a minority has always been a very useful tool to ruthless rulers? Throughout the millennia Jews were certainly an especially easy target as they had no country of their own (and the dominant religion made it easy to denounce them).

Yet, it took Hitler and a ‘modern’ pseudo-scientific ideology to take it to an unprecedented genocidal level.

On the other hand Jews had been relatively save in Europe under Muslim rule, and even now there is a sizable Jewish minority in Iran that seems to be able to mostly go about their business without systematic discrimination. Even the, less than subtle thinkers, at breitbart.com caught on to the fact that Iran’s Supreme Leader makes a distinction between Israel and Jews.

We may lump all these attitudes together into the term Antisemitism, but it seems to me there are at least three major strains to distinguish.

1) Classical Christian (‘Jesus killers blah blah’)
2) Social-Darwinism racism
3) Contemporary Muslim
[3a] Genocidal (e.g. Hamas) [3b] Anti-Israel (e.g. Iran)

306. Faibsz Says:

Scott #289:
try and put your political correctness through a test by reading ‘The Arab Mind’ by the late Columbia University anthropologist Raphael Patai.

307. Faibsz Says:

Scott #284:
as the devil is in the detail, can you please explain the difference between ‘the settlements’ and ‘Israel proper’.
In other words, has land for Pizgat Zeev and Maale Adumim and the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City been grabbed and will be ‘returned’?

308. fred Says:

quax #305

“what role does Antisemitism play? And why the heck has it seemingly been going on forever?”

Also, from the Harris piece:
“And there are millions of Jews, literally millions among the few million who exist, for whom Judaism is very important, and yet they are atheists. They don’t believe in God at all. This is actually a position you can hold in Judaism, but it’s a total non sequitur in Islam or Christianity.”

So Judaism is more like a very exclusive club based on bloodline than a religion?
Anyone can convert pretty much instantly to Islam and Christianity, regardless of race and background. Those religions have always considered mass conversion as a long term goal – the more, the better.
But (correct me if I’m wrong) my understanding is that unless your mother is Jewish (a recursive definition) you will always be an outsider.
I’ve seen there are ways to “convert” but it seems extremely convoluted and based on trying to discourage the candidate as much as possible… i.e. I doubt you could ask a Rabbi to convert you to be an “atheist Jew”?
In many ways, this is very similar to being Japanese – nearly impossible to get the citizenship, and even so, you will be an outsider no matter what.
I’m guessing that some people resent this or fear it. Added to the fact that the Jewish people are often very resilient and successful, it’s all fertile ground for conspiracy theories.

The irony is that this particularity of Judaism is also what ought to make it easy for non Jews to tolerate it – the population is small and unlikely to grow very fast.

309. fred Says:

#307 – of course, that “the more, the better” of Christianity and Islam is only in first analysis.
Because, fundamentally, everyone wants to feel special deep inside or discrimination always crops up… so eventually factions are created.

310. It's Possible Says:

“i.e. I doubt you could ask a Rabbi to convert you to be an “atheist Jew”?”

I did. My wife wanted this for her children, and although an atheist, I thought of it as a cultural adventure It has been. Anyway, I was very open with the (reform) Rabbi about this and it didn’t seem to be an obstacle. Ironically, since then I’ve had a commercial DNA test and discovered Jewish ancestors on my mother’s side of the family — go figure

311. Scott Says:

fred #308: Yes, you’ve put your finger on one of the causes of antisemitism. And yes, the big irony is that, a priori, you might imagine that Jews not trying to convert the entire world to Judaism might make it easier, rather than harder, for other people to tolerate them.

It’s different from being Japanese, because Japanese is an ethnicity. The best characterization I’ve heard is that Jews are basically an extended family—one with certain beliefs and rituals that have accrued over the generations (but which not all family members care about, and which some vehemently reject), and with certain common genetic traits (but which aren’t universal, since many people came into this family by way of adoption or marriage).

The Orthodox rule is that you’re a Jew if either your mother is Jewish or you underwent a formal process of conversion. And yes, Orthodox conversion is supposed to be difficult, but once it’s finished the rabbis would officially consider you 100% Jewish forever after, even if you became an atheist the next day. And while you might still feel like an “outsider” (especially if you chose to live in a tight-knit Orthodox community), presumably your children would feel less like outsiders, and their children less so, with intermarriage diluting the differences.

Conservative and Reform Judaism still put you through a conversion process, but a less demanding one. In particular, non-Jews who get married to Jews (and in the US, the intermarriage rate is now above 50%) sometimes do a Conservative or Reform conversion. Unfortunately, that conversion isn’t recognized by the Orthodox, which can cause serious contention in Israel, because the Orthodox alone get to decide who’s “Jewish” for purposes of Israeli law.

(Personally, I strongly believe that that aspect of Israeli law should be changed. It was basically a concession that David Ben-Gurion gave to the Orthodox, to get them to support the new state.)

There are two more important points to make.

First, you can immigrate to Israel even if you’re not Jewish and have zero interest in being Jewish (and I know people who have done so, e.g. because of romantic relationships). The difference is just that immigration isn’t automatic; you go through an immigration process similar to that of other Western countries.

Second, while intermarriage (and other interbreeding with non-Jews) used to be much less common than they are now, we know they happened at a non-negligible rate throughout Jewish history. How do we know that? Well, take me for example. Like a good number of Ashkenazim, I have blue eyes and blond hair (OK, at least when I was a kid; now it’s sort of brown). I don’t look like a “Semite,” or for that matter, like Mizrachi or other kinds of Jews. The difference is because my ancestors were interbreeding with the non-Jewish populations in Belarus and Romania and wherever else they were.

312. Faibsz Says:

Fred #308
There is not one but several varieties of Judaism. In Reform (the largest in the US) a Jewish father is enough to be Jewish and conversion in most cases is a rather simple procedure. You would still be ‘an outsider’ among the Orthodox, but so are millions of ‘kosher’ non-Orthodox Jews.

313. Faibsz Says:

Scott #309:
“And yes, Orthodox conversion is supposed to be difficult, but once it’s finished the rabbis would officially consider you 100% Jewish forever after, even if you became an atheist the next day.”
Not correct, at least according to Halakha. And in practice pelnty of conversions have been annulled for that very reason (or even for not keeping the mitzvot)

314. Faibsz Says:

Scott #309:
“And while you might still feel like an “outsider” (especially if you chose to live in a tight-knit Orthodox community), presumably your children would feel less like outsiders, and their children less so, with intermarriage diluting the differences”
Also not correct. Not only gers (converts) but even baalei-t’shuva (Jews who became Orthodox later in life) remain second-class in the Orthodox world, mostly marrying among themselves (or other Jews with ‘defects’) for generations

315. Faibsz Says:

Scott #309:
“Second, while intermarriage (and other interbreeding with non-Jews) used to be much less common than they are now, we know they happened at a non-negligible rate throughout Jewish history. How do we know that?”
Actually, we don’t. The genetic evidence shows the opposite(Ethiopean Jews are different – they are not ‘genetically’ Jewish):
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Jacobs-Legacy-Genetic-Jewish-History/dp/0300125836/ref=pd_sim_b_2?ie=UTF8&refRID=0R2XW9K2644TVW1TK8XA

316. Rahul Says:

Scott #309:

“Yes, you’ve put your finger on one of the causes of antisemitism. And yes, the big irony is that, a priori, you might imagine that Jews not trying to convert to entire world to Judaism might make it easier, rather than harder, for other people to tolerate them.”

I always found striking similarities between Jews & the Parsis of India (Zorastrians): both tiny religions today with a very ancient origin (both in the Middle East), with very smart, influential people that have had a deep impact on the world in science, culture etc. Both religions having a long tradition of business & entrepreneurship.

Also both religions having quite strict marriage rules & conversions being quite hard or non-existant. Just like Jews migrated in search of safety, most recently to Israel the Parsis migrated too: from Iran to India ~1000 years ago.

The only striking difference is this: The Parsi past, at least for the last 500 years seems devoid of persecution or conflict. In spite having had to live in Hindu majorities & Moslem kingdoms the Parsis were always a safe & respected community.

So I guess “not trying to convert the entire world ” must help, at least in the Parsi case, to have the other religions tolerate them.

317. Scott Says:

Faibsz: OK, I’ll defer to people who know more than I do about Orthodox customs (though presumably the issues you mentioned are more serious among the ultra-Orthodox than among modern Orthodox). And OK, Ethiopian Jews might be genetically a separate branch. But I believe the DNA evidence shows that Ashkenazi, Mizrahi, etc. Jews have a mixture of Semitic ancestry, with ancestry from whatever populations their ancestors lived among for the last couple thousand years.

318. Scott Says:

Faibsz #307: I regard the exact boundaries as negotiable—ideally, as something for Israel and the Palestinians to hammer out in a peace deal (but failing that, I also think Israel should pick reasonable boundaries unilaterally). Personally, I’d draw the line so that the Jewish Quarter of the Old City, and settlements like Maale Adumim, went into Israel (with possible land swaps), while further-away settlements were dismantled. Isn’t that exactly what was being discussed at the Camp David and Taba accords that Arafat walked away from? It sounded pretty reasonable to me (or rather: less unreasonable than any alternative), and still does.

319. Rahul Says:

Ali Rizvi writes in the linked article that:

“It is telling that most Muslims around the world support Palestinians, and most Jews support Israel. This, of course, is natural -…It means that this is not about who’s right or wrong as much as which tribe or nation you are loyal to. “

In this context, I wonder, what’s the public perception of this conflict if you ignore the views of respondents who identify themselves as either Jewish or Moslem.

Are there any recent surveys out there? Just curious which side the public sympathy is if you remove opinions of those who have a strong “tribal” investment in the issue.

Opinion polls aside, who are the leading non-Jewish, non-Muslim intellectuals writing about this issue & overall is their opinion more sympathetic of one side than the other?

320. John SIdles Says:

Boaz Barak remarks [#12] “I have yet to see a thoughtful discussion on this topic in any blog/news-site/forum comment section. I am afraid this will not be the exception.”

Continuing the effort to disconfirm Boaz’ expectations, here are further suggested readings.

Insights from Quakerism and Philosophy  As a follow-on to works of Cantor, Israel, and Morgan (referenced in comment #141), the attention of Shtetl Optimized is directed to (philosopher) Reshef Agam-Segal’s Judaic-Quaker Testimony Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, which can be read as a graduate-level extension of the themes of Sam Harris’ essay,

In particular, Morgan’s article (of #141) and Reshef Agam-Segal’s philosophical testimony combine to provide useful antidotes to a notably incorrect assertion in Sam Harris’ essay

Sam Harris asserts [wrongly and without reason or justification] “This [disbelief in G*d] is actually a position you can hold in Judaism, but it’s a total non sequitur in Islam or Christianity.”

Harris’ claim is surprising because Harris’ own father is a Quaker … and so he should know better!

Insights from Orthodox Judaism (a personal testimony)  Recently it was my great pleasure, and a wonderful learning experience, to attend a six-hour Orthodox service here in Seattle. Much of the service was in Hebrew (which I don’t speak), but no problem! It’s an opportunity for scholarship! I was provided with a table-full of scrupulously annotated texts, and help in following the entire service.

The Rabbi’s message was direct yet subtle  the Biblical text was Genesis 34 (Dinah and Schechem); the commentary was the Pirkei Avot (Ethics of the Fathers)

“He [Elazar ben Azaryah] used to say: Anyone whose wisdom exceeds his good deeds, to what can he be compared? To a tree whose branches are numerous but whose roots are few, and the wind comes and uproots it and turns it upside down; as it is stated: And he shall be like a lonely tree in arid land and shall not see when good comes; he shall dwell on parched soil in the wilderness, on salt-land, not inhabitable.'”

“But anyone whose [good] deeds exceed his wisdom, to what can he be compared? To a tree whose branches are few but whose roots are numerous, so that even if all the winds in the world were to come and blow against it, they could not move it from its place; as it is stated: And he shall be like a tree planted by waters, toward the stream spreading its roots, and it shall not feel when the heat comes, and its foliage shall be verdant; in the year of drought it shall not worry, nor shall it cease from yielding fruit.”

The tough questions that the Pirkei Avot naturally raises “Are Israel’s deeds in Gaza wise (in the politically and military senses) but not good (in the moral senses)? What will be the fruits of these actions, when the winds of war subside? What are the long-term effects of this war, upon the unseen roots of Judaism?” were left to the interpretation(s) of the congregation, and to the judgment(s) of history.

Insights from the USMC reading list  Turning to the contentious question “How do Arabs/Muslims think?” — which necessarily entails sobering reflections upon “How do *WE* think?” — the present USMC reading list commends readings that include:
 • "THE GREAT ARAB CONQUESTS" BY H KENNEDY • "UNDERSTANDING ARABS: A CONTEMPORARY GUIDE TO ARAB SOCIETY" BY M NYDELL • "WHAT WENT WRONG?: THE CLASH BETWEEN ISLAM AND MODERNITY IN THE MIDDLE EAST" BY B LEWIS • "ANGRY WIND, THROUGH MUSLIM BLACK AFRICA BY TRUCK, BUS, BOAT AND CAMEL" BY J TAYLER 
as well as less obvious entries
 • "THINKING IN TIME: THE USES OF HISTORY FOR DECISION MAKERS" BY R NEUSTADT AND E MAY • "RETHINKING THE PRINCIPLES OF WAR" BY A MCIVOR • "WHAT IT IS LIKE TO GO TO WAR" BY K MARLANTES • "COURAGE AFTER FIRE: COPING STRATEGIES FOR TROOPS RETURNING FROM IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN AND THEIR FAMILIES" BY K ARMSTRONG, S BEST AND P DOMENICI • "DERELICTION OF DUTY: JOHNSON, MCNAMARA, THE JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF AND THE LIES THAT LED TO VIETNAM" BY H MCMASTER 
and even
 • "THE COPERNICAN REVOLUTION" BY T KUHN 
That the US Marines — in the midst of a long grinding war — view Kuhn’s work as having military relevance is a testimony to the enduring strategic power of the scientific revolution.

Conclusion  Boaz Barak’s lament “I have yet to see a thoughtful discussion on this topic [Israel-Gaza] in any blog/news-site/forum comment section.” reflects very largely a distressing preference, even among scientists, for slogan-shouting grounded in ignorance, as contrasted with broad-based reading-and-learning.

Of Marines, Quakers, Jews, and scientists, the least well-read by far (and so perhaps the least aware of their own ignorance) are … the scientists.

321. Peter Says:

Scott

how about the many blond ‘Semites’ in Syria (majority in some coastal areas) and Judea and Samaria (oops, sorry – occupied West Bank)? Have they also been interbreeding in Belarus and Romania?

322. Boaz Barak Says:

Looking at this thread ~300 comments later, I still feel that such Internet debates are mostly counterproductive. People try to “score points” and “win an argument”, rather than truly learn about what is a very complicated situation, which cannot be explained by oversimplifying to hypothetical “trolley experiments” or by throwing around isolated “facts” without considering the larger context.

I also feel that people that haven’t actually lived in Israel or the territories often choose to demonize one side of this conflict and idealize the other, for reasons that have more to do with their own personal background than with the actual past,present and future of the people in this region. (Of course a great many of the people who do live in the region also demonize the other side and idealize their own; these parallel narratives and inability to see the other side are one of the reasons for this ongoing tragedy.)

The closest approximation to my own feelings (and the reason I’m posting this comment) is David Grossman’s op-ed ( http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/28/opinion/david-grossman-end-the-grindstone-of-israeli-palestinian-violence.html?_r=0 ), though I am not sure I share his optimism that Israel’s society is maturing and in particular understanding the limits of force.

323. wolfgang Says:

Btw if anybody is confused what this conflict is ultimately about, I recommend to look at this tweet of Lebanese tv anchor Christine Habib: “Iran should send its nuclear weapons, if they exist, to Hamas.”

And Mr. Khameini has already told us what needs to be done with his “answer to 9 key questions about elimination of Israel”.

324. Faibsz Says:

Scott #317:

yes, I meant ultra-Orthodox. Haredim (ultra-Orthodox) hate modern Orthodox (National-Religious) more than they hate atheists. A couple of years ago in Israel haredi rabbis annulled thousands of conversions (of mostly immigrants from Russia) by a leading modern Orthodox rabbi.

Genetics show that (mostly Ashkenazi) Jews started interbreeding with the locals within the Jewish communities in the past hundred years. Before that it meant leaving Jewery and Judaism, often against their will (there are studies that show up to a quarter of Spaniards have some Jewish ancestry).

Scott #318:
it sounds reasonable to you because you are a reasonable person. As Hannan Ashrawi has said (and you can’t find a more reasonable Palestinian):’We Palestnians are an all or nothing people’. And with time (and fertility) on their side (as much of the world believes) Palestinians are not in a hurry for a compromise, however reasonable and beneficial to both sides (to talk bubkes, what’s wrong with an EU-like federation for the whole region?)

PS Do you still need proof that the policy of setting unilaterally boundaries a la Sharon’s disengagement from Gaza is dead and buried (no pun intended)?

325. Anonymous Says:

Yesterday (or some time between yesterday and today) nine Israeli soldiers were killed in combat.

These were purely military casualties.

This is Israel’s “civilian casualties minimizing” “response” –

• Gaza Strip’s only power plant ‘hit by shelling’
• Enclave suffers one its heaviest night of bombardment of offensive so far
• House of Gaza’s Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh destroyed; no casualties
• Five hours of strikes as Israel retaliates for death of five Israeli soldiers
• Palestinians mourn killings of eight children and two men at Beach refugee camp
• Israeli army denies refugee camp airstrike; says was hit by misfired Hamas rocket

In Gaza, a health official said at least 100 Palestinians were killed in Israeli airstrikes and tank shelling Tuesday, as Israel escalated its military campaign. The official, Ashraf al-Kidra, said the day’s death toll was expected to rise.

Your claims are at least prima-facie ridiculous, Scott.

326. Scott Says:

Peter #321: That’s an interesting question to which I didn’t know the answer, so I did some googling, gingerly skipping over the white-supremacist links. From what I could find, it seems that, yes, pretty much every population with blond hair and blue eyes (i.e., where those aren’t rare mutations) got them because of interbreeding with Caucasian populations in Europe, where these mutations arose and spread some 8000-10000 years ago. Someone correct me if I’m wrong. (It should go without saying that there’s no possible answer to such questions, from which anything morally significant would follow…)

327. Scott Says:

Faibsz #324: OK, I really don’t know. In Gregory Cochran’s interesting book The 10,000 Year Explosion, he says the genetic evidence suggests that the Ashkenazim were interbreeding with the surrounding populations at about 0.5% per generation throughout their history (whether because of conversion, rape, illegitimate liaisons, etc., the evidence doesn’t say). While that’s a tiny rate by modern standards, over 1000+ years it adds up to something substantial.

328. Scott Says:

Boaz #322: OK, I’m sorry the discussion wasn’t up to your standards.

Both because it makes for an interesting contrast with your reaction, and because I’m an oversensitive and thin-skinned person, let me paste an email I got last night from a different Israeli friend/colleague, with that person’s permission.

I just finished reading your Israel blog post and the responses (that keep coming…) I’m not a person to comment on blogs (or Facebook, etc) in general, and also not a person to publicly discuss this particular topic (I’m one of those Israelis who would be uncomfortable and change the subject). So I’m not putting a comment there. But I just had to email you, to say that I admire you. Not for the specific details of the opinions you express (although I largely agree), but the way you handle the discussion is amazing — the combination of logic and rational arguments with a good (as in the opposite of evil) attitude, rare clarity, historical knowledge, thoughtful discussion, responding seriously and respectfully to those who deserve it, and sharply and to the point with the one ridiculous commenter who is clearly is not thoughtful and completely deluded (to the point of thinking him/herself not picking sides!). And you clearly have guts (in addition to time and talent!). I can’t believe I read all those comments, but it was thought provoking and I learned some things.
If anyone has a chance to change anyone’s mind on a blog, it’s you (and I think there’s some chance that this is not vacuously true).

Scott, I wholeheartedly agree with that email. I wouldn’t even consider debating this issue (or any other that evokes equally strong feelings and has so much nuance) anywhere else on the internet, but this has been a very enlightening discussion.

330. Boaz Barak Says:

I don’t mean to criticize this discussion more than other discussions on this topic and definitely not to criticize you personally. I generally find your blog a very good read exactly because you are an extremely thoughtful person that usually goes much deeper than the “prevailing wisdom” and can be counted on to give a unique perspective on great many topics.

And I do think that along with the “point scoring” comments, there are some insightful ones. (Especially the personal experiences of Eli and Orr; I also found this article of Sari Nusseibeh http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/israel-peace-conference/1.599063 which I got through one of John Sidles’ links to be a very interesting read, even if I don’t agree with good portions of it.)

My issue with internet debates on this topic is that they seem to draw out the extremists on both sides, and arguing with someone like that often forces you to take a simplistic position in the other direction. Also I guess that I have a fundamental doubt of the applicability of logic and mental experiments or metaphors on trolleys, dials, swedes, or paraplegics, to real-world political and moral dillemas.

I do think this thread contained some good comments and is well above the average for this topic. It is definitely up to my standards, though I would argue that it is perhaps not up to *your* very high standards that you set in your writing on other topics.

331. fred Says:

Boaz #322

I speak only for myself, but I’ve learned a ton of stuff thanks to this thread.
While I still can’t and won’t “pick a side”, the point is that I now understand much better the complexity of the issue.

332. Wiggy Says:

Scott, your original post seems to imply an important distinction between killing civilians and non-civilians. I realise this is also a popular view but I am not sure it is a particularly valid moral distinction. Have you asked yourself why you think it is better to kill a soldier than a civilian?

Israel has a conscripted army, you can’t argue that the soldiers have individually chosen to attack Gaza. You can of course argue they have implicity made this choice by choosing to remain living in Israel but then this applies to the whole jewish Israeli population as well. Furthermore, if we start from the point of view that there is an ongoing war between Gaza and Israel and that both sides would like to “win”, there is no rational way that Gazans can do this by attacking solely Israeli military targets. There is no prospect of their being able to substantially degrade Israeli military might, for example, by firing some rockets over the border. As a result, the only rational decision, if you accept that there should be war at all, is for the Israelis to attack the Gazan military (which is indistinguishable from what they would terrorists) and for Gazans to attack any Israeli they can reach.

This is not to say the whole sorry affair has any morally good actors. It is just to say that unless you believe Gazans should simply surrender (which of course many people do), then one type of killing is really much like any other.

333. Faibsz Says:

Scott 326/327:

If the ‘blond’ mutations appeared some 10,000 years ago, why had your ancestors waited until they got (sometime late in the Middle Ages – 17th century?) to Romania and Belarus?
There were plenty of Arians for Jews to fool around with in Israel/Palestine 2,000 years ago (or earlier) and the rabbis didn’t mind it as much as they do now.

334. Peter Says:

Anonymous 325:

you ‘forgot’ dozens of missiles fired at Israeli population centres by Hamas and a cache of rockets found in an UNWRA school in Gaza today

335. wolfgang Says:

@Anonymous #325

Did you read the 3 sentence blog post?
Hint: There is a 3rd sentence.

336. Scott Says:

Wiggy #332: It’s bizarre to say that there “should” be war—of course there “should” never be! But if there is one, then the distinction I think is morally relevant is between

(a) violence more-or-less directly aimed at preventing other violence—so for example, directed against military installations, or against soldiers who have entered one’s territory (which might, of course, tragically also kill civilians as an unintended consequence), and

(b) violence that’s simply aimed at killing as many people as possible perceived as the “enemy” as they go about their normal lives, and that can only be justified as “aimed at preventing violence” if one construes the word “violence” in a very abstract sense (“the violence of the occupation”).

I completely agree that the deaths of Israeli soldiers are tragedies; these are mostly kids fresh out of high school who didn’t choose to be enlisted. (While it’s possible for males to fulfill their IDF service without becoming combat soldiers, I believe they keep you there for additional years if you do.) On the other hand, I feel that firing indiscriminately at population centers has a different degree of awfulness than firing at soldiers who have entered one’s territory (and I’m hardly alone in this opinion).

One thing I completely disagree with, is that the only options for Palestinians are “surrender,” or else indiscriminate attacks on civilians. For one thing, while it’s true that they don’t have a serious hope right now of degrading the Israeli military, they’re not having great success either at killing civilians! For another, what about civil disobedience, or even sabotage? Had they used those approaches from the beginning, it seems likely that there would now be a peace deal. Pretty much all the Israeli reactions and overreactions—the fences, the checkpoints, the “blockade”—have been motivated by a sadly more-than-justified fear of violence.

337. Scott Says:

Faibsz #333: OK, of course I have no clue exactly what my ancestors were doing what, when, and with whom. But, well … do you have a better explanation for why the descendants of the Jews who settled in Eastern Europe look sort of Eastern European, while the descendants of those who settled in Middle-Eastern lands look sort of Middle-Eastern?

338. ScentOfViolets Says:

#304: I think, in general, if I’d been around in the 1950′s, 1960′s etc. I’d be far more sympathetic of Israel than I can be today (and I still am by no means anti-Israel! I think it’s a fine nation overall)

Yeah, Israel got a lot of positive spin back then that was a lot harder to verify than would be the case. BTW, I’m not anti-Israel, any more than I’m anti-U.S.A.; I’ve just lost a lot of illusions about special and nice they are, just as I’ve lost a lot of illusions about how well-behaved my native country has been.

Start with the pre-WWII; again, the Palestinian Arabs didn’t seem to have little if any problems with their Jewish neighbors (so you scratch any wailing on the part of the latter about irrational hatred.) It was only after WWII when Jewish immigrants arrived en masse — and with heavy outsider finances — that the natives began to kick. That strikes me as highly rational. Doubly so since their fears were realized. Notice that the original Palestinians abided by the original British injunctions and how detrimental that law-abiding behaviour was to their long-term interests. The Israeli’s, of course, did not abide by the original British agreements, and in fact practiced out-and-out terrorism to be free of those strictures. I don’t think even the most Pro-Israel faction can disagree with that. Afterwards, of course, it was too late for the natives; the newcomers had far superior weaponry (the myth of Israel as plucky underdog is just that — a myth)

In short, Israel has behaved just as squalidly, just as opportunistically as any other expansionist country: The United States, Australia, South Africa, etc. Nor, with the hindsight of an additional fifty years, would I have expected otherwise. This is just what expansionist regimes do. Expecting otherwise is like expecting a puppy to housebreak itself; it might happen, but it’s generally not the way to bet.

So in light of what should be undisputed history, let’s talk about evidenciary requirements, which I have been remiss in not making explicit earlier: the onus is on the pro-Israel folks to convince me that Israel has been much better behaved than the historical norm. Nowhere do I have the slightest scintilla of obligation to prove that this is indeed the case. Sorry guys, but that’s just the way science rolls.

339. ScentOfViolets Says:

Sorry for the typos in #338; keyboard kitty and then I had to fix dinner. Anyway, it’s amazing how people have to strain to rationalize Israel’s bad behaviour when the simplest and most obvious explanation does the trick very nicely.

Does anybody doubt that Israel is in extreme violation of the NPT? Why is that, and why don’t so-called ‘rational’ Israel supporters condemn this behaviour in the strongest possible terms? Another fact: most Israel-watchers agree that the Netanyahu government has no intention of reaching a peaceable settlement with the Palestinians. Witness the intransigence when it comes to freezing settlements, for example. That being the case, how come pro-Israel people are still supporting the Likud government and making excuses for them rather than saying in no uncertain terms that the Palestinians have a very legitimate beef in this regard?

No, what happens is a series of elaborate rationalizations, special pleadings, and so on and so forth, with only the loosest connection between each excuse for a particular example of bad behaviour. Anything but the simplest, most powerful explanation: Israel is an expansionist power and is behaving every bit as badly as expansionist powers typically do. Again, let me emphasize: this is not beating up on Israel or claiming it’s behaving worse than usual; this is merely observing that it’s behaviour is about par for the course. Why anyone is still wearing rose-colored glasses — particularly those who claim to be slaves to the scientific method! — is beyond me.

340. Michael Bacon Says:

“Why anyone is still wearing rose-colored glasses — particularly those who claim to be slaves to the scientific method! — is beyond me.”

Yes, it apparently is.

http://fas.org/irp/world/para/docs/880818a.htm

341. ScentOfViolets Says:

#297: I’m sorry, Scott, but this fails for two reasons. First: If they do turn violent, we’ll raise a stink with the British, who are terrified of an Arab uprising for oil reasons. But in the meantime, we’d better take advantage of this golden opportunity before it passes, by partnering with the settlers and diverting as much wealth as we can to ourselves. Later, after we’ve done that, maybe we can have an anti-colonial uprising to kill the settlers or kick them out.

See, this is historically inaccurate. In point of fact, by the time the British left (in part because of Jewish terrorism), it was too late to kill the settlers or kick them out. This is just historical record, an observation of how things played out. Do you disagree that these are the actual facts on the ground?

The second objection goes to your, shall we say, optimistic views on how things are shared in a non-zero-sum scenario. Again, historically, whatever amount of water has been available, Israel has grabbed the lion’s share. Notice that ‘sloppy on the details’ part. I see up above that someone mentioned Israel pulling out of the Gaza strip only to have the Palestinians smash the greenhouses. What they didn’t tell you (I can’t imagine why, given who posted this factoid) is that Israel turned off the water when they gave up control of the Gaza strip, something the Palestinians had no idea was going to happen. Tore up the greenhouses? Quelle surprise.

So yeah, while a non-zero-sum scenario was possible (modulo the actual land, which is, er, hard to manufacture), that’s not how it played out historically. IOW, the Palestinians of the day were right, dead right about how the situation was going to play out. Far from ‘unreasoning hatred’, their fears were perfectly reasonable, their hostility perfectly justifiable.

342. ScentOfViolets Says:

#340: Sigh. What does this have to do with Israel being in massive violation of the NPT or Likud’s refusal to negotiate in good faith? Be specific. I’ll warn you that raw emoting does not an argument make.

343. Scott Says:

ScentofViolets: While I’m losing interest in debating you (and regaining interest in proving some theorems…), two points of information.

First, Israel never signed the NPT, so it’s weird to say that they’re in “violation” of it. More to the point, the reason why they have nuclear weapons is as a deterrent against annihilation, one that history strongly suggests might be needed. The evidence that they don’t plan to use it for anything short of that is that they haven’t used it in the last half-century (despite having some adversaries who’d gladly use nuclear weapons against them if they had any).

Second, as I’ve said, I don’t support the Likud government, and I don’t support the settlement policy either. In fact I strongly oppose both. On the other hand, if you think that a more liberal Israeli government wouldn’t also be responding militarily to the current rocket attacks, then you’re kidding yourself.

344. ScentOfViolets Says:

BTW, Scott, could you throw a snark warning at Michael Bacon for his post #340? His tone is not helping the discussion. And you’ve already registered disapproval when I do it.

345. ScentOfViolets Says:

#343: Duh! you’re right of course about the NPT . . . however hypocritical they are about other country’s nuclear capabilities.

And in case you missed the point about Likud, well, since it’s the Likud government who is refusing to negotiate in good faith, and since you apparently agree, can you at least say out loud the maybe the Palestinians have a legitimate beef with Likud here? That’s all I’m asking, sheesh.

346. Scott Says:

ScentOfViolets #344: On the contrary, it’s your smug tone that I’ve gotten bored with. Thank you for your contributions to this discussion, and have fun debating these issues anywhere else on the Internet.

347. ScentOfViolets Says:

#343: Oh, also, On the other hand, if you think that a more liberal Israeli government wouldn’t also be responding militarily to the current rocket attacks, then you’re kidding yourself. Maybe I’ve forgotten to say so explicitly, but yeah, I think the whole rocket thing is dirty pool. Terrorism is terrorism, no matter who does it or for whatever justification.

348. Alex Says:

@Scott #OP & #167
(I’m curious to hear other Liberal Zionists’ opinions as well)

Your original post and the dial test you mentioned later are both based on the predicate that regardless of current numbers, it matters that Israel’s intentions are better than those of Hamas.

What do you make then of the following recent statements/occurrences by some Israelis and their supporters (Take your time verifying the accuracy – don’t take my word for it)

* In 2009 IDF soldiers were given some very disturbing T-shirts “One, printed for a platoon of Israeli snipers depicts an armed Palestinian pregnant women caught in the crosshairs of a rifle, with the disturbing caption in English: “1 shot 2 kills”.”

* An Israeli academic’s statement that raping the mothers and sisters of hamas militants was the only to convince them to stop their attacks.

* The Israelis shown on the CNN on a hill overlooking Gaza and cheering the bombardment like it was a fireworks display.

* Rabbi David-Seth Kirshner in NY stating that anyone who voted for hamas is technically a combatant and therefore not a civilian casualty (incidentally several of our own esteemed lawmakers were at the same rally).

* Rabbi Dov Lior’s ruling that the whole sale destruction of Gaza, as protection and deterrent, was permitted under Jewish law.

The reason I mention these, is that it seems to me that intentions are equally nefarious on both sides of the fence. This is not a case of one party being in a genocidal rage while the other is desperately trying to defend itself.

349. John Sidles Says:

Further in appreciation of and tribute to Boaz Barak’s comment #12, please allow me to commend to Climate Etc readers a recent essay by Nobelist in Chemistry Martin Karplus, titled “Two States in One Land” (Karplus’ essay is hosted at the Kelman Institute, paywalled at Haaretz).

No claims are asserted by anyone (including me) that Prof. Karplus has found a magic solution. And yet inarguably (as it seems to me) Prof. Karplus *DOES* deserve all of our thanks for showing one path to escaping the alexithymia of “who’s worse” cognition.

Also deserving of our attention — for the same cognition-altering reason — are the world’s many reconciliation sites, including but not limited to:

Parents Circle-Families Forum  (Israel/Palestine)

Forum for Peace and Reconciliation  (Ireland)

Truth and Reconciliation Commission  (South Africa)

National Commission on the Disappearance of Persons   (Argentina)

National Truth and Reconciliation Commission   (Chile)

Especially the Israeli and Palestine parents who have found the courage to publicly share their bereavement, with a view to altering the terms of debate, are richly deserving all of our appreciation and respect (as it seems to me and many).

The Language of Peace Can Be a First Small Step  One small way that scientists, engineers, and mathematicians can show their respect for peacemakers like Karplus, and like the world’s reconciliation organizations, is to consider very carefully the appropriateness of phrases that are innocuous in peacetime, yet become toxic in wartime.

One such phrase in quantum information theory is “Church of the Larger Hilbert Space”, whose use progresses too naturally to violent imagery such as “confident predictions that quantum computers were a fantasy […] are now strewn like corpses across the intellectual landscape” and “We want to rub its [Hilbert space’s] full, linear, unmodified truth in the face of anyone who denies it.”

In a world where sirens wail, and mothers wail too, and sons muster for ground assaults, and corpses *are* strewn across landscapes, and too many people are all-too-eager to rub *their* mortal version of “unmodified truth” … this language has ceased to be appropriate in scientific discourse.

Perhaps like Prof. Kaplan, we scientists, engineers, and mathematicians can help accelerate the world’s fond hopes and fervent prayers for peace, in some small degree, by practicing more scrupulously the language of peace.

“Fake It Till We Feel It”  Marines can be crude and Marines can be violent (needless to say). And yet certain norms of language are scrupulously respected; in particular hate speech in all forms is abjured. As more than one Marine has said to me: “‘Fake it til you feel it’ is Corps policy. And the h*ll of it is, it works.” Students of Judaic literature will have recognized this same sage principle at work in Isaac Singer’s story A Piece of Advice — advice that each of us already is empowered to take.

350. Scott Says:

Alex #348: All the examples you listed make my stomach turn. In fact, the day that any one of these “ideas” becomes an official policy of the Israeli government (like the Hamas charter), or shared by more than a small percentage of Israelis, I’ll concede that there’s ceased to be a morally relevant difference between the two sides.

Fortunately, the barf-inducing ‘research’ that you encouraged me to do, and that I did, confirmed that that day is not upon us. So, to take one example, the disgraceful T-shirts were printed by a few soldiers on their own initiative, and the IDF condemned them when it found out about them. The rape comment (not, you see, that raping their wives and sisters should be done to deter suicide bombers, God forbid, just that it’s the only thing that would deter them) was widely condemned in Israel when it became known, particularly by feminist groups.

To see the asymmetry, all we need to do is imagine the situations reversed. Can you picture Hamas condemning some of its fighters for printing cartoons of hook-nosed Jews? Hamas produces such cartoons, including for 5-year-olds. Or a rape comment getting denounced by Gazan feminist groups? Notwithstanding the recent trend of female suicide bombers, I’m not aware that any such groups exist (googling turned up nothing). There are Israeli feminists who also speak out against the occupation, but neither they nor anyone else seems interested in the treatment of Gazan women by Gazan men. OK, since you gave me lots of good reading assignments, here’s one for you: when Hamas banned women from participating in a marathon (in which they’d ran in previous years), there wasn’t a token protest from any feminist group anywhere in the world, though they’d unleash Armageddon if something similar happened in Israel. Again, this is all so duh-obvious that pointing it out just elicits eye-rolls—but that’s exactly my (and Sam Harris’s) point. Some of the moral asymmetries here are so staggering that we’re liable to see past them, like features of the landscape, unless they’re constantly brought back into view.

351. John Sidles Says:

Someone for Scott to root for:

Sorry, Hamas, I’m Wearing Blue Jeans
A defiant Palestinian feminist from Gaza
reflects on being secular in a religious land.

Mother Jones, 2010

It’s not just clothing that sets this 28-year-old secularist [Palestinian feminist Asma Al-Ghoul] apart. She once publicly chastised a senior Hamas military leader — her uncle — who threatened to kill her, and she continues to publish gutsy articles, read banned books, and defy discriminatory policies.

“Gaza needs all the liberal, secular people to stay here,” she insisted, when I asked why she had declined opportunities to live abroad.

Mechanisms of Denialism  In regard to thorny issues of climate-change, everyone appreciates that when skeptics attack only the weakest science, and scientists respond solely to the weakest skepticism, then public discourse swiftly degenerates into politicized cherry-picking bafflegab. Which for some special interests is a desired outcome.

Ditto for peace processes (and ditto for quantum computing debates, for that matter).

Reason for Hope  Asma Al-Ghoul was still alive, still in Gaza, and still practicing feminist journalism, as of Thursday July 24, 2014.

Good on yah, Asma Al-Ghoul.

Good on yah, *everyone* who strives against the ideological bafflegab that sustains warfare, by striving to discern the best in all parties and the strongest in all arguments.

352. ScentOfViolets Says:

Sigh. So ‘moral asymmetries’ trump factual historical asymmetries of action? Btw, this is how the world sees Israel in one chart. You may that people the world round are honestly disagreeing with you about the situation in Israel, but the fact of the matter is, a lot of them do, in some cases, by substantial majorities. In countries like Canada, Australia, India, Japan, Brazil, and Mexico. None of them notable for their anti-semitism.

353. Itai Says:

@ScentOfViolets
Israel still gave to Gaza free of charge water abd electricity after 2005, I am paying Gaza water and electricity..

354. Itai Says:

@Alex 341
Dr. Mordechai Kider one of the best Islam and middle east researchers here in my opinion ,only said that rape of mother/sister can stop Islam terrorists to continue their killing , he repeatedly said he do not call anyone to commit such a thing.

About CNN and the video , what it was seen is Sderot people watching the fights, after constant missiles attack for 14 years on you , wouldn’t you be happy when the enemy gets what he deserved?
dont you thing USA and GB citizents were happy after the fall of Nazi Germany, bombing of Berlin and Drezden?
Also CNN reporter said nasty things about them and was sent away from Israel.

355. quax Says:

John Sidles #349 using the ‘language of war’ when discussing quantum computing is always first and foremost a joke, although not necessarily one in good taste.

But language is just language, it may hurt but it never kills, which is why there is precious little justification to ever censor free speech.

The world will be a much better place once Hamas and Israel are content to just hurl insults at each other rather than rocks, rockets and shells.

356. Douglas Knight Says:

Greg Cochran has a more recent blog post on genealogy of Ashkenazim. About 50/50 Semitic and Italian. Very little German and Slavic, though he doesn’t quantify that for comparison with his book. His answer in the comments to the question of where the Slavic look comes from is selection, requiring very little gene flow. The blue eyes could even come in trace quantities from the Italians and be amplified to higher levels further north.

357. Rahul Says:

As an arbitrary benchmark of proportion I wonder: Does Hamas hate the Israelis more or less than the Pakistanis are perceived to hate Indians (or vice versa)?

i.e. is the Jew-Muslim historical antipathy similar to the Hindu-Muslim one?

What are the parallels / differences between these two conflicts? Both involve one new nation that was given birth by British overlords roughly around the same era in history. In both situations the new nation was drawn up on religious grounds with original blessings of US / UK etc. In both cases the Arab world sided staunchly with one nation.

In both cases multiple wars have been fought in the last 50 years between the enemies.

I guess one key difference between the two parallels might be the degree of conflict asymmetry?

358. Rahul Says:

Another aside: In the comments thread I see some Israeli commentators, a lot of Jewish sounding names etc. but not really any Arab / Moslem names (maybe sloppy reading) nor anyone claiming personal stories / anecdotal experience of the Palestinian side. Sure there are some relatively anti-Israel commentators but they seem mostly third-parties.

Possibly that is just a statistical phenomenon of relative sizes, education, access etc. of the Israeli side versus the Palestinian. OTOH just like the Jewish diaspora there ought to be a fair number of Palestinian sympathizers outside the war zone. It’d be interesting to have heard their perspectives.

OTOH maybe this is a good example of the tribalism Ali Rizvi refers to. The risk of producing an echo chamber is very real.

359. Rahul Says:

Quoting from Sam Harris’ article:

“[There are] literally millions among the few million who exist, for whom Judaism is very important, and yet they are atheists. They don’t believe in God at all. This is actually a position you can hold in Judaism but it’s a total non sequitur in Islam or Christianity.”

I find that very hard to understand. Assuming we agree that Judaism is a religion, isn’t being an atheist simultaneously an oxymoron? Or is just like saying I was born a Muslim but am no longer a good practicing one?

Can you really declare openly “Hey I don’t believe in any God” & have an orthodox Rabbi declare you as a good Jew?

Who’s the arbiter of Jewishness? And why is it so obvious that such a dual position is impossible in other religions that Sam Harris mentions? Is there a fundamental doctrinal distinction?

360. Peter Says:

Scott #343:
“Second, as I’ve said, I don’t support the Likud government, and I don’t support the settlement policy either”

Are you contradicting yourself, Scott? You explained yesterday that you would keep settlements like the Jewish quarter of the Old City or Maale Adumim, ie whatever is certain to remain in Israel if/when any peace deal is achieved. Which is what Netanyahu’s settlement policy is about: expansion and building in ‘ideological’ isolated communities have been (and will remain) frozen for years. What’s not to like? A new block of flats in Efrat which even Abbas agrees would stay in Israel?

361. Sam Hopkins Says:

The obsession with symmetry here makes no sense. The concept of war crime requires you to believe that there are some acts so terrible that they are impermissible even under extreme threat.

The real asymmetries from my perspective as an American are:
1) My country arms Israel to the tune of billions of dollars a year.
2) Israel claims to be a modern democratic nation-state in the European model. People write books with titles like “In defense of Israel” where no one would write a book with a title like “In defense of Saudi Arabia.”

362. Faibsz Says:

Rahul #357:

hard to measure hate, but Hamas’s hatred of the Jews (not just Israelis) is of a different nature from the Indian-Pakistani spat.
Muslim anti-Semitism is deeply rooted in the Quran, the Hadiths and teaching of many medieval commentators venerated and studied by millions of Madrase students.
It’s very well explained by the pre-eminent scholar of Medieval Islam Jacob Lassner in ‘Jews, Christians, and the abode of Islam':
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Jews-Christians-Abode-Islam-Scholarship/dp/0226471071/ref=sr_1_sc_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1406723748&sr=8-1-spell&keywords=abode+ofislam

363. John Sidles Says:

Further in appreciation of and tribute to Boaz Barak’s comment #12, please allow me to commend to Climate Etc readers the 2009 special issue of Academic Medicine (available free-as-in-freedom) in which editor Steven L. Canter asks “How should academic medicine contribute to peace-building efforts around the world?”

Among many fine Academic Medicine essays, the attention of Shtetl Optimized readers who care about Arab-sounding versus Jewish-sounding names is particularly directed to the fine article “Academic Medicine as a Bridge to Peace: Building Arab and Israeli Cooperation”, by Abi Sriharan, Ziad Abdeen, Dennis Bojrab, Shukri David, Ziad Elnasser, Tim Patterson, Robert Shprintzen, Harvey Skinner, Yehudah Roth, and Arnold Noyek.

Quite the united nations! Good on yah, folks!

Also available free-as-in-freedom is Academic Medicine’s thought-provoking article by Rebecca Herzig and Sarah Lochlann Jain, provocatively titled Commentary: Surviving Terrorist Cells

Herzig and Jain severely question the utility of war metaphors in cancer research.

“When prominent cancer researchers suggest that we need to get smarter about ‘torturing cancer cells and getting them to confess to us which pathways they are dependent on,’ one might start to wonder how to ensure that the disease gets a good lawyer”

These articles focus our attention upon weighty quantum questions:

Q1  How are war metaphors shaping quantum research?

Q2  How should quantum research contribute to peace-building efforts around the world?

To state my own opinions plainly, a reasonable answer to Q1 is “adversely” and a reasonable answer to Q2 is “creatively, practically, abundantly, irresistibly, and transformatively.” Because through coming decades, the quantum community will have the capacity to enduringly advance the cause of peace comparably far as the medical community.

Good on yah, Zorastrians!  Please let me commend too Rahul’s comment #316, in regard to seminal Zorastrian contributions to peace-by-medicine.

Today’s Judaic, Muslim, and Christian cultures alike can (with humility) learn plenty from the Zorastrian culture of Gondishapur during the Sassanid era!

Some day, in Jerusalem …  Regrettably, the past few years have been an utter calamity for academic medicine in Jerusalem for a panoply of reasons that have inspired plenty of partisan bafflegab but not much concrete progress (and which would be tedious to enumerate).

A Medical/Historial Perspective  In the present century as in scores of previous centuries, improving the peaceful culture and practice of medicine is a mighty good way to start doing better as peaceful cultured human beings.

364. fred Says:

Scott #350
“Again, this is all so duh-obvious that pointing it out just elicits eye-rolls—but that’s exactly my (and Sam Harris’s) point. Some of the moral asymmetries here are so staggering that we’re liable to see past them, like features of the landscape, unless they’re constantly brought back into view.”

If there is an asymmetric moral treatment, it could be the result of other blatant asymmetries in the situation – Gaza has no economy, the youth there has nothing to look forward too, no hope, no future, no job. Their entire life is defined by the conflict (unlike people in Israel who can manage to live somewhat normal lives). I bet everyone there directly knows someone who’s been killed in one way or another in this conflict.
There is also obviously an asymmetry in terms of killing hardware (for better name) – Israel could wipe out Gaza instantly if they wanted. I think the public at large has also been used to the US advertizing “surgical” strikes and operations for the last 2 decades (F117 stealth bomber in the first Gulf war, targeted drone attacks, Navy Seals covert operations). I guess many wonder if the best way to take out Hamas targets is to just to shell the area from miles away.
So, from thousands of miles away, people can only focus on those sorts of high level asymmetries (they have no direct experience of what it’s like to live in the Gaza side or to fence off missiles on a daily basis on the Israeli side).

365. John Sidles Says:

Rahul wonders “Why is it so obvious that such a dual position [as questioning God’s existence and/or beneficence] is impossible in other religions that Sam Harris mentions?”

That is an entirely reasonable question.

Further in appreciation of and tribute to Boaz Barak’s comment #12, please let me note that Harris’ anhistorical rhetoric is grounded in an inexplicable ignorance of the crucial creative role that religious and political heresies and freethinking always have played, and continue to play in the present era, equally in Judaism, Islam, Christianity, and many other religions.

Conclusion  Good on yah, Abu Bakr Muhammad ibn Zakariyā Rāzī (Razes), Baruch Spinoza, and nontheist Friends from across the belief-spectrum.

366. Scott Says:

Peter #360: But isn’t Netanyahu also allowing expansion of settlements that couldn’t go to Israel in any plausible peace deal? (It’s not a rhetorical question; I’d like to know.) In general, I strongly oppose any actions on the Israeli side, other than those taken in self-defense, that move us further away from a peace deal. And what I hear from many of my Israeli friends is that they oppose Bibi precisely because they think he’s been taking (or allowing) such actions, thereby sidelining Abbas and indirectly strengthening Hamas (even though obviously, Hamas still bears the moral responsibility for its crimes).

367. Scott Says:

Rahul #359:

Can you really declare openly “Hey I don’t believe in any God” & have an orthodox Rabbi declare you as a good Jew?

You can certainly have an orthodox rabbi declare you a Jew, just maybe not a “good” one (well, if he’s a competent rabbi, he’ll find reasons to praise you as good despite not in believing in God, and thereby try to bring you back into the fold). Meanwhile, a reform rabbi could not only declare you a “good” Jew, but might not believe in God himself or herself. (Or “believe,” but only in an abstract, Spinozan/Einsteinian divine essence—not the kind that can smite anyone.)

I’d say what’s true is this: you can’t simultaneously be an atheist and believe the truth of the main tenets of Judaism (certainly Orthodox Judaism). On the other hand, you can be a Jew without believing some or all of those tenets—and that’s not only true in principle; it describes the majority of today’s Jews.

And you’re right, much of this is not unique to Judaism. Most obviously, there’s Buddhism. Sam Harris, who (when he’s not writing about Israel…) is one of the world’s most famous atheist writers, alongside Dawkins, Dennett, etc., also calls himself a “student of the Buddha” and practices Buddhist meditation. One could argue that Buddhism is the world’s foremost example of an “atheistic religion.” (At least, if we don’t count Marxism and similar ideologies as “religions.”)

Besides that, our wonderful friend Lubos Motl calls himself a “Christian atheist,” by which he means an atheist who identifies with the values of Christian civilization. I’m sure there are plenty of others who feel similarly. Am I mistaken that, in just the same sense, there are millions of “Hindu atheists”? There are probably even “Muslim atheists” in that sense, although for obvious reasons they tend to keep quiet about it.

368. Scott Says:

Rahul #358:

In the comments thread I see some Israeli commentators, a lot of Jewish sounding names etc. but not really any Arab / Moslem names (maybe sloppy reading) nor anyone claiming personal stories / anecdotal experience of the Palestinian side … maybe this is a good example of the tribalism Ali Rizvi refers to. The risk of producing an echo chamber is very real.

We did have a “reader from Istanbul,” if that counts.

Of course, if there are any Palestinian readers of this blog, then I very strongly encourage them to share their experiences.

Even without that, though, and whatever else you say about this thread, I don’t think you can call it an “echo chamber” with everyone repeating the same opinion.

369. fred Says:

Scott #367
“One could argue that Buddhism is the world’s foremost example of an “atheistic religion.”

In pretty much all current versions of Buddhism practiced in Asia there are forms of Gods and lots of superstitions (Buddhism there had influences from local existing religions and they all kinda merged – like Japan with Shinto influences, China with Taoism influences, India with Hinduism, etc).
I think that Westerners more often go back to the original “source”, Buddha’s teachings, which are more of a philosophy than a religion (assuming a religion is always about some sort of superior being, grand architect, intelligent design, etc, as opposed to any more general sorts of beliefs on the meaning of life… believing that N!=NP isn’t a religion either ).
You can do meditation without it being related with Buddhism in any way.
Meditation is really more of a cognitive experience, i.e. focusing on you just “being” in your present surroundings, rather than “doing”, similar to hypnosis, self-hypnosis, autosuggestion (Method Coue), etc. It just happens that Buddhist used those techniques to achieve specific objectives – enlightenment, etc.

370. Peter Says:

Scott#365:
Do you agree that Netanyahu doesn’t have dictatorial powers and operates in a lively political culture (for quite a while now his biggest problems in the cabinet have been coming from Bennett and Liberman, not Livni and Lapid)? Aslo, Israel has an independent (and mostly left-leaning) judiciary that has the final say on all legal matters, often overruling the army and the state, whatever Netanyahu wants.

I don’t claim to be able to read Bibi’s mind or to defend his policies, but I am convinced that he is not as stupid or evil as many think. What if he just has fewer illusions about Abbas and disagrees with you and your friends which actions lead to peace and which don’t (my apologies for getting a bit personal)?
With wishful thinking (if only Tzipi\Ehud I\Ehud II\ Shimon\ Yitzhak\… was still in charge, Abbas would be now singing Hatikva) removed, Bibi looks more of a pragmatist, than an ideologue. That’s why he is now supported by up to 90% of Israeli Jews

371. Scott Says:

Peter #370: I never called Bibi “evil” (as I called Hamas evil—or if I didn’t, I’ll gladly call them that now), nor did I say that he has dictatorial powers. All I said is that I disagree with his policies. (Of course, there are other Israeli politicians whose policies I disagree with even more.)

372. Rahul Says:

Scott says:

“And you’re right, much of this is not unique to Judaism. Most obviously, there’s Buddhism…… Am I mistaken that, in just the same sense, there are millions of “Hindu atheists”?

Exactly. You are right about the atheist Hindus, atheist Buddhists etc.

Basically Sam Harris makes this sound like some unique aspect of Judaism (perhaps to hint how flexible or liberal the religion is?) but I don’t think the fact is in any way special to Judaism.

But you don’t have to go as far as Buddhism or Hinduism. I’d love to know how he can justify saying such dualism is a “non sequitur in Islam or Christianity.”

Deep down there’s always a contradiction in being an atheistic Jew (or Hindu or whatever). What you see is just a pragmatic, functional compromise.

373. Faibsz Says:

Scott #367/Rahul #359:

not only a rabbi can call an atheist a Jew, but he can call him a great Jew. In 1997 the (then) Chief Rabbi of Britain (now) Lord Sacks officiating at Sir Isaiah Berlin’s Orthodox funeral said that the late philosopher, although atheist, was one of the greatest Jews he, Sacks, had known.

374. Peter Says:

Scott #371:
OK – would you prefer ‘Peace Now’ to replace Netanyahu?
Because I really don’t see any tangible difference between Bibi and the centre-left (Kadima and Labour), just as I don’t see any difference between Abbas and Hamas, when it comes to the desired outcome of the Arab-Israeli conflict (the style and the methods are – but not always – different; the goal is the same). Most Israelis know it and are resigned to many years of more of the same – a fortress Israel under siege

375. Rahul Says:

Faibsz says:

“hard to measure hate, but Hamas’s hatred of the Jews (not just Israelis) is of a different nature from the Indian-Pakistani spat. Muslim anti-Semitism is deeply rooted in the Quran, the Hadiths and teaching of many medieval commentators venerated and studied by millions of Madrase students.”

Well, the India-Pak spat had a long history of Hindu-Moslem animosity in India. Massacres & killings were a usual thing for at least 500 odd years (since the Mughal dynasty and maybe even before).

Speaking of ancient / medieval commentators spewing hate about Jews, wasn’t this a feature of a lot of Christian theology too?

Perhaps in the last 100 years the Muslims have sustained the extremism more scrupulously than the Christians?

376. Scott Says:

Rahul #372: Well, I think there are also some important differences.

If you’re a Christian who stops believing in God, and who lives in the US, Canada, Europe, Australia, etc., you can just call yourself non-religious and be done with it—unless, like Lubos, you really want to signal your support for ‘Christian civilization.’ Your Christian neighbors won’t much mind, but if they themselves are serious Christians, then they might not understand why you continue calling yourself “Christian” if you explicitly reject the idea of Jesus saving you from your sins.

A major exception is if you continue to feel attached to the culture of particular kind of Christianity—for example, Catholic or Greek Orthodox—despite living in a place where that culture is a minority. That case really is very closely analogous to non-religious Jews.

Now, if you’re a Muslim who stops believing in God, then depending on where you live, you may face the practical problem that many of your co-religionists will consider you an apostate deserving of death. (See, for example, Ayaan Hirsi Ali.) For any Muslims in this situation, one can only feel sympathy and a desire to help if possible.

Notably, the same thing used to be true in Christianity and Judaism, if you go back in time enough centuries. But between then and now, there was an Enlightenment.

If you’re a Jew who stops believing in God, then in some sense you face the opposite problem. As we said, Jews will continue to accept you as Jewish, but the world’s anti-semites will also continue to regard you as Jewish (certainly the Nazis would have). And for that reason alone, even if not for the long list of others (e.g., culture and history and rituals and holidays and humor and food), you’ll probably continue to think of yourself as Jewish.

377. Scott Says:

Rahul #375:

Perhaps in the last 100 years the Muslims have sustained the extremism more scrupulously than the Christians?

You don’t say so…

378. Rahul Says:

Scott says:

“Meanwhile, a reform rabbi could not only declare you a “good” Jew, but might not believe in God himself or herself.” (Or “believe,” but only in an abstract, Spinozan/Einsteinian divine essence—not the kind that can smite anyone.)

If you don’t believe in the Jewish notion of God, why one might want to become a Rabbi in the first place I do not know. Or at least once one realizes the myth why not change career tracks? Maybe one can retrain as an academic philosopher or crisis counselor or life coach or folk storyteller something.

Isn’t not believing in God & yet staying a Jewish Rabbi (what if only a Reform Rabbi) hypocrisy personified?

379. Halfdan Faber Says:

Scott #297, what is the point you are trying to make with the economic pie theory? Since you are against further settlements, it is apparently not an implicit argument in that direction? Was this merely stated as a viewpoint on the past?

Related to this, if we view the current tragic situation from a game theoretic point of view, what is then the best move for the Palestinian side? Events of the past 5-10 years seem to indicate that behaving well is rewarded with increase of the rate of land and property loss and no improvement in quality of life. So what are they supposed to do?

From the Israeli point of view, it would seem that a sincere pursuit of a peaceful approach to some sort two-state solution would be in their best interest. However, I think no one in their right mind would say that Netanyahu has been pursuing this at all. Any hint of peace talks are usually strongly associated with new settlement announcements coming at the most inconvenient time. The current strategy on the contrary seems to be continued settlements and “moving the lawn” on a frequent as needed basis.

And while the tragedy evolves, both sides are becoming more radicalized and entrenched in their own viewpoints. It is hard to see how there can be a good outcome to this.

At some point, when all 8 million Palestinians are living in a maze of concrete ruble, similar to current refugee camps across the region, posing a constant threat to Israel, perhaps the world community will have to move them all somewhere else with massive funding. Some rough calculations would indicate this could be done at a total cost of approximately USD 2 trillion, substantially less than the US cost for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Considering the grave threat to world stability if nothing is done in the long term, perhaps this is where things are headed?

380. Alex Says:

@Scott #350
I do acknowledge that hamas is horrible. As an Arab-American I have other reasons for despising them as well as their virulent anti-Semitism.
You say ” or shared by more than a small percentage of Israelis, I’ll concede that there’s ceased to be a morally relevant difference between the two sides.”: What percentage is the threshold and how would you go about measuring it?
I contend that the percentage of people sharing those sentiments in Israeli is higher than is being reported in the western media (and higher than American Jews are comfortable with). Far right parties and settler parties, both religious and secular, have been part of ruling coalitions in Israel. Large numbers of people, including active duty military, openly acknowledge kahanist sympathies. Baruch Goldstein had a monument built in his honor. In the case of the soldiers with T-shirts, the IDF condemned it. But if American soldiers had displayed KKK sympathies or worn similar fashion statements, a simple “we condemn this” and “bad soldiers! Please don’t do that again” would definitely not have been considered a strong enough reaction by the American public. Nothing short of a dishonorable discharge would have been considered.
I’ll concede your point about hamas’ attitude towards women is appalling. I’ll add that I am disgusted by the Arab attitude in general towards LGBT people.

You mention a double standard in terms of the moral standard that Israeli society is held to. Arab Americans feel the exact opposite way: A few weeks before the Israeli 3 teenagers were assassinated (the event that supposedly started all this), 2 innocent Palestinian teens were killed by IDF soldiers. The murder was caught on camera. No front page/headline coverage was given of the event (It was only mentioned in the world news>middle east section of CNN.com). Moreover, pro-Israel pundits were allowed to describe how the video footage must have been photoshopped, the bodies at the teens funerals were fake, and all sorts of other crack-pot defenses of the indefensible. Arabs feel that is proof that the double standard swings the other way.

381. Alex Says:

@Scott #368
@Rahul #358
For what it’s worth, I’m Arab American, although Tunisian not Palestinian. I witnessed Operation Wooden Leg first hand when I was 7 years old. Maybe that’s why I consider civilian collateral deaths in an aerial bombardment to be just as evil as civilian deaths as the result of a terrorist operation.

I used to subscribe to the idea (prevalent among all most Arabs) that all of historical Palestine belonged to Arabs, and that Jews should could easily go back to their original countries. It was http://www.scottaaronson.com/blog/?p=247 that convinced me of how absurd that idea was.
I now believe that the only feasible solution is a “federal” solution, a la Switzerland or Canada, with different provinces having separate ethno-linguistic identities but answering to a central government for issues such as defense and natural resource management.

382. ScentOfViolets Says:

Since we’re supposed to believe the Palestinians are irredeemable monsters by way of Hamas, Let’s talk about another elected official and his administration: George W. Bush. This is a man whose government invaded a country for absolutely zero good reasons and who is ultimately responsible for over a million deaths. For, apparently Daddy issues and oil.

So logically, me, thee, and every other American citizen alive at the time are ‘monsters’. Including Scott, of course. So how do any of us have any standing to opine on the Palestine/Israel conflict?

383. ScentOfViolets Says:

#378: Excellent point, Halfdan! This is why I try to distinguish between countries, their governments, and the people ruled by those governments. I got no problem with saying Hamas is a very bad organization. By the same token, so is Bibi’s government. The Palestinians and Israelis subject to those respective governments I hold relatively blameless.

Cynical, that’s me

384. Scott Says:

Alex #380, #381: I find most of what you say extremely reasonable (though I advocate a two-state solution as more realistic than the Swiss canton model). If most of the participants were half as reasonable as you, there would’ve been peace long ago.

In particular, I agree with the following statement:

I contend that the percentage of people sharing those sentiments in Israeli is higher than is being reported in the western media (and higher than American Jews are comfortable with).

I would say: the percentage of Israelis with bloodthirsty sentiments, while lower than the percentage on the other side, is much higher than what I (for one) am comfortable with.

I have no idea what percentage is the “threshold.” But to illustrate what I meant, let’s consider your example, of the shrine built to the mass-murderer Baruch Goldstein. According to Wikipedia, the Knesset responded by passing legislation outlawing monuments to terrorists, after which the IDF came in and dismantled the shrine (leaving the tombstone). Now, you can argue that the very fact that a shrine was built at all is ghastly, and I agree. But again, can you imagine Hamas taking down a monument to a suicide bomber? They send suicide bombers, name streets after them, hold parades for them. They’re the elected government. This is the difference I’m talking about.

385. Rahul Says:

@Alex:

I am really glad that we have at least one Arab ( American ) commenting on this.

Can you provide a link to this video of innocent Palestinians being killed by IDF? I’d be curious to see for myself & especially to judge context.

@Scott:

What’s your feeling on the huge amount of monetary aid that flows from USA to Israel. Are there strong grounds to justify it?

386. Scott Says:

Douglas #356: Yeah, it’s a good point. Particularly if there were centuries of selection to amplify the effect, just a small amount of mixing with the surrounding population could suffice.

387. Rahul Says:

Scott says:

But again, can you imagine Hamas taking down a monument to a suicide bomber? They send suicide bombers, name streets after them, hold parades for them. They’re the elected government. This is the difference I’m talking about.

Indeed. But I think one must view it all in the context of desperation. I’m not trying to make an excuse for Hamas in any way just trying to understand why people would willingly become, say, suicide bombers. Or civilian human bomb shields. Maybe not willingly but why doesn’t a Palestinian being asked to put one in harm’s way provoke a very strong anti-Hamas internal response.

The answer IMO is the context of desperation. There’s no way that Hamas could win a conventional war against Israel in any reasonable time horizon. They lack the resources monetary and otherwise to give any kind of proportionate fight. And then you have kids that grow up in the wasteland of refugee camps and the scarcity of embargoes. What do they look forward to?

Naturally idolizing terrorists or celebrating a mortar attack on Israel is what they do.

My point is, never try to use conventional rational yardsticks to predict what a man pushed to desperation might do. The Palestinian situation is analogous. Irrespective of who’s to blame you now have a mass of people living in quite abject conditions who see no improvement on the horizon and (rightly or wrongly) see an adjacent nation as the culprit for their suffering.

You are going to end up seeing what you do see and there’s no point making moral comparison. This isn’t some war between equals, France & Germany (say) where one side is using tactics grossly more morally reprehensible than the other. This is a highly asymmetric engagement by design and so no wonder you see this assymetricity in the moral aspects too.

388. Scott Says:

Rahul #385: You can see here, for example, for the standard arguments about what the US gets in return for its aid to Israel (which is a little over 1% of Israel’s GDP), and about how it’s actually a small amount compared to what the US spends on NATO and defending Japan and Korea, and most of it goes right back to US defense contractors anyway. In any case, I personally think that Israel could do fine without this aid (or at any rate, no worse than it does now); but as long as it continues, Israel should probably be more grateful than it is.

389. Scott Says:

Rahul #387: The trouble with that argument is that the moral asymmetries seem to have been very similar to today’s, back when Israel was much, much weaker than it is now and its enemies were much, much stronger. This might tie back to your point about how you find yourself more sympathetic to the Israel of the 50s and 60s than to the Israel of today.

390. Rahul Says:

Scott #389:

I think you are right. But that’s why I say that back then I’d surely have sided with Israel.

But now I can at least feel for the other side. Against a grossly stronger enemy, faced with an interminable stalemate and living in abject conditions I cannot bring myself to expect the Palestinians to live up to some high standard of moral righteousness.

Desperation is a strange beast. It doesn’t matter how I think Palestinians ought to behave. But I can believe that a lot of people put under a similarly desperate situation would behave quite similarly to what the Palestinians are behaving right now.

391. Lesley Says:

Scott 366: Netanyahu is ‘allowing’ expansion of (illegal) settlements no more than Obama promotes gun ownership in Texas. Settlements and their champions give Bibi nothing but headaches. If you know how to get rid of them, call Bibi now.

392. Faibsz Says:

Scott 376:
‘But between then and now there was an Enlightenment’

…followed by the Holocaust perpetrated by the most ‘enlightened’ of the nations. The commanders of the Einsatzgruppen SS were highly educated people. Four of them had Ph Ds (mostly in humanities and economics); one was known as ‘Doctor Doctor’ – he had two Ph Ds. In fact, the US scholar Christopher Browning traces the Holocaust to the German variety of the Enlightenment (the Catholic church wanted to preserve the Jews as the proof of misery of rejecting Christ) and there was no shortage of rabid anti-Semites among the leader Enlightenment figures, like Voltaire.
Among Hamas leaders are/were paediatricians, lawyers et al Fat chance they will calm down after a ‘Gender studies’ tutorial

393. Faibsz Says:

Rahul 390:
by your logic, the Sephardi Jews thrown out of their countries of birth where their communities often pre-dated Arabs should have been busy blowing up school buses and cafes in Morocco and Tunisia?
And the Holocaust survivors shooting down a Lufthanza passenger plane over Ben-Gurion airport?

394. Halfdan Faber Says:

#391: Surely you are joking, Lesley? The West Bank settlement population has been growing at an extraordinarily linear 5-6% rate over the past 20+ years. This is a long-term policy, which has had full support from Netanyahu.

395. Alex Says:

@Rahul #385

@Scott #384

I will avoid a larger discussion of why I think the 2 state solution is no longer feasible – outside the scope of the study as academics love to say – and argue with you over one point:

How can Israel withdraw from the West Bank yet avoid a potential Gaza like outcome without maintaining some control of the security situation.

I’ve read of Israelis (sorry time for providing sources) speaking about a demilitarized Palestinian state and maintaining control over border security. The difference between that and what I think is feasible in #381 is more an exercise in semantics than any operational difference.

396. Scott Says:

Faibsz #392: Like Steven Pinker (in his book The Better Angels of Our Nature), I emphatically reject the idea that the Holocaust was in any way an outgrowth of the Enlightenment, German or any other kind. The intellectual origins of the Holocaust lie more in a toxic combination of romanticism, militarism, and nationalism that developed starting in the 19th century as a reaction against the Enlightenment. Yes, Voltaire was an antisemite, but on the whole, the thinkers of the Enlightenment were remarkably … err, enlightened for their time (on that issue and others), and the changes brought about by the Enlightenment resulted in Europe’s first widespread emancipation of the Jews. The tragic part is that civilization seems unable just to stay consistently on the path of Enlightenment; it keeps swerving back into “Endarkenments.”

Also, while people constantly repeat that many of the architects of the Holocaust had PhDs, I’d need some data to convince me that their number was unusually large, or that what PhDs they had were in anything one could respect. From my own reading, most Nazi leaders appear to have been intellectual third-raters; and crucially, their “education” was almost always of the anti-Enlightenment kind, the kind that elevates obscurity over clear thought. (So for example, it doesn’t shock me in the slightest that Heidegger or Paul de Man would be Nazi-lovers; unlike some people, I’ve got no difficult circle to square there.)

Off the top of my head, I can think of exactly three Nazis or Nazi-lovers with intellectual credentials I (grudgingly) respect: Heisenberg, Bieberbach, and Teichmuller. None were involved in setting policy or in implementing the Holocaust.

397. Alex Says:

@Rahul #385

This one has more details.
http://edition.cnn.com/video/?/video/world/2014/05/22/pkg-watson-4a-west-bank-teens-shot.cnn

398. John Sidles Says:

The general ubiquity of shrines in Israel/Palestine, and the discussion of ideological shrines here on Shtetl Optimized, prompted me to investigate Baruch Spinoza’s graveside … which turned out to be appropriately modest.

Fittingly, Spinoza’s enduring memorial is not any kind of shrine, but rather is the Spinoza Research Network (which Google finds), which hosts links to a collegial network of Spinoza Societies, which has member-societies in the Netherlands, Japan, North America, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, and France (which has two). Good on yah, Spinoza!

To my (persona) dismay, it appears the Israel Spinozeon Society, which was active in the 1950s, no longer exists (at least I’ve been unable to find any evidence of its present viability).

Blessedly, the philosopher Isaiah Berlin (of #373) did not live to be distressed by an Israel whose Spinozeon Society is (apparently) defunct, yet whose mass-murder gravesites (per #380 and #384) nowadays attract ever-larger crowds of ever-more-enthusiastic, ever-more-confident, disciples.

For those who seek explanations, Isaiah Berlin’s final essay supplies a lucid analysis (which Googling “Isaiah Berlin on pluralism” finds), and we can honor the world’s philosophers by not flinching from reading it.

399. Itai Says:

@Alex #382
Nice to know that you changed your view a bit at least.
Can you in-light us what is “Historical Palestine” maybe you know a different history ?
I acknowledge that Tunisian Arabs are less Islam extremist, it is the only country that the Arab spring didn’t bring total anarchy and got stable ( well now Egypt also stable ).
I know the Jews there did get along before the Nazi invasion and foundation of Israel, better than in Europe for sure.
However, after the foundation of Israel most of the Jews had to escape for fear of being killed.
Most, including my own family lost much property and land that can not get back until today.
Some was lost due to the Nazi invasion to Tunisia, and some because of the Arabs afterwards .
So when you talk about “Nakba” remember there was “Jewish Nakba” , and Jews form Arab countries can not go back there, and lost their property.
(While in Europe some got compensation from Germany )
Even Israel did not want to give compensation because of the Nazi invasion to Tunisia until 2006.

400. James Gallagher Says:

We really should try to get John Sidles assigned to participate in official UN middle-east negotiations, at the very least he’d have all sides tied up in a state of (peaceful) confusion for years.

401. Itai Says:

@Scott #385
Why go so far to Hamas?
Do you see Fatah not paying salary to killers?
Calling streets and monuments by them, adore them in TV.
See here Abu Mazen celebrate with Amna Muna who was released in Shalit swap, she tempted a young boy in the Internet to go to a car with terrorists who killed him in cold blood.
http://www.israele.net/rilascio-di-detenuti-palestinesi-rieccoci-da-capo

402. fred Says:

Scott #396
Most top Nazis (Goebbels, Himmler, Hitler,…) were anti-intellectuals who experienced some form of severe rejection early on and then compensated with power trips mixed silly fascinations for myths, the occult and military circus.

Lesley, if the settlements are illegal, why doesn’t he enforce the law and have the IDF remove them?

404. Itai Says:

@ Halfdan Faber
If we are already talking about game theory, Nobel Prize winner prof. Robert John (Israel ) Aumann said that the Palestinians use the blackmailer paradox, thus we will not achieve peace in this way.
Academics criticizes is work ,the media also do not give a stage for this, and thinks he entered his own view , I think it is hard for them to accept that peace is not achievable mathematically this way ( so they interfere their mathematical view with their political view ) , they even wanted to take his Nobel Prize.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Aumann#Political_views

405. Harry Says:

Now that you’re including some “super essays” from different people to your main post, would be please add this “super essay” as well as the following “super news” to the main text?

The super essay:
http://arielrubinstein.tau.ac.il/articles/yedioth_072814E.pdf

406. ScentOfViolets Says:

Actions speak louder than words. In times past, I had naive hopes that we all could agree on that.

That being said, it looks like Israel hit civilian targets again . . . after being told several times the location of the U.N. school in question. That’s a link to a print source; according to the story I heard on NPR a few minutes ago, U.N. officials are convinced this is deliberate and part of a pattern that has emerged since the beginning of the latest outbreak.

I don’t expect Zionists of any stripe to modify their stance in the light of these incidents . . . but I will say that this is the sort of thing that convinces me and people like me that Israel’s party line on the subject emphatically does not match its actions. I’d link to the many, many articles that show that the blockade is anything but humanitarian or is designed just to keep weapons capability to a minimum, but why bother? It’s not going to keep people from insisting otherwise. So I’ll just post a quote instead for those who may not have heard of this yet: “Bailey expressed frustration at the ever-changing list of goods Israel allows in. School textbooks, clothes, shoes, toys, lentils, pasta, pumpkin, fruit juice, chocolate, cigarettes, toilet paper, musical instruments and seedlings are amongst the items banned.

407. ScentOfViolets Says:

#405: Ah, I see you beat me to it.

408. quax Says:

Scott #396, you should have Pascual Jordan on your list, unlike Heisenberg he was a real hardcore Nazi. My understanding is that Heisenberg was more a Nationalist than Nazi, don’t think there’s much support that he bought into the ideology or was particular Antisemitic. He certainly lacked a moral compass though. He never joined the Nazi party, yet he still was perfectly fine to work for them.

The leaders of the Nazi movement were certainly intellectual lightweights. Unfortunately this worked in their favor, in the beginning most other political forces did not take them seriously. When Hitler was made Chancelor the Nazis didn’t have a majority. He was appointed with the votes of other conservative parties who were convinced that they installed a weak leader who could be easily manipulated to their advantage.

As to Germany being one of the most enlightened countries at the time, this doesn’t really mean much my contemporary standards. For most of the agrarian population religion was still as important as all the centuries before. Enlightenment was still mostly a phenomenon of the cities and the bourgeoisie, it has started but not really spread into all strata of society, and with regards to Labor, to no small extend it was co-opted by communism.

A high school history teacher of mine put it best, when saying that it’s wrong to think of the Age of Enlightenment as something in the past, it was only a starting point that just scratched the surface. The process is far from over or complete.

409. Rahul Says:

Is it really true that among the banned items there are “School textbooks, clothes, shoes, toys, lentils, pasta, pumpkin, fruit juice, chocolate, cigarettes, toilet paper, musical instruments and seedlings”?

Sounds a bit incredible that stuff like lentils would be on it! What are they going to make? Lentil bombs? Is there an authoritative source to validate the no-go list?

410. Rahul Says:

Fabisz says:

by your logic, the Sephardi Jews thrown out of their countries of birth where their communities often pre-dated Arabs should have been busy blowing up school buses and cafes in Morocco and Tunisia? And the Holocaust survivors shooting down a Lufthanza passenger plane over Ben-Gurion airport?

No, I think we need to modify the analogy. If the Jews while interred within a concentration camp had lobbed Molotov cocktails at German civilian cottages outside the camp walls would I be surprised or outraged by it? Hell, no.

We aren’t talking about an act of planned post facto retribution but a desperate response to an ongoing crisis perpetrated by an enemy grossly more powerful than yourself.

In any case, I think such comparisons are not productive. To be clear, I think Palestinians have it far better than Holocaust Jews so I wouldn’t want to trivialize the Jewish suffering during the Holocaust by any such comparisons. But since you brought it up……

411. Clif Says:

@John Hopkins, you seem to be very concerned with the Gaza conflict and especially with the Arab civilian casualties there because you somehow feel responsible, since your “country arms Israel to the tune of billions of dollars a year”.

I can understand well your concerns of course, but I would like to know, in order to comprehend better the nature of your concerns, if you are also tormented (and as an American citizen, even to a higher degree), by the alleged targeting of hundreds of innocent children your government is responsible for, even as we speak, in places like Pakistan; Or whether your moral concerns are directed solely on what Israel is doing?

“Since 2004, the United States government has attacked hundreds of targets in Northwest Pakistan using unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) controlled by the Central Intelligence Agency’s Special Activities Division.[12] […]

These strikes began during the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush, and have increased substantially under U.S. President Barack Obama.[13] […]
Initially the U.S. government had officially denied the extent of its policy; in May 2013 it acknowledged for the first time that four U.S. citizens had been killed in the strikes.[16] […]

There is a debate regarding the number of civilian and militant casualties. An estimated 286 to 890 civilians have been killed, including 168 to 197 children.[10][11] Amnesty International found that a number of victims were unarmed and that some strikes could amount to war crimes.[18]”
[my emphasis]
(From Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drone_attacks_in_Pakistan)

412. Wiggy Says:

Scott #336

Thank you for the careful reply although I disagree on a number of points.

First, I think you misunderstood my use of the word “should”. This is not normative in this context but simply used as in the sense “If this should happen…”.

Second, your use of “unintended” is misleading, perhaps deliberately so? The criminal law has a useful two part definition of intention which is relevant here. To summarise the topic (google “foresight of a virtual certainty” for more), reasonable foresight of a virtual certainty is sufficient to establish intention for the purposes of criminal prosecution. In this context this means that although the death of civilians is not the desired aim of Israeli action, they can surely reasonably predict that civilian deaths is a virtually certain consequence of their actions.

I do agree that civilian deaths are undesired by the Israelis side and desired by the Gazans. But I would say that they are intended by both.

To carry on disagreeing, I don’t understand your suggestion that the violence against Gazans is in some sense abstract. It is perhaps more useful to just think about death rather than violence. Gazans are dead in exactly the same real and non-abstract sense that Israelis are.

Finally, I note your suggestions for potentially more succesful and potentially less violent strategies the Gazans could use. This nobel aim could surely be applied to both sides in this (or in fact any) conflict.

413. Jon Says:

Israelis won’t like me saying this, but I think the only rational thing for them to do is to move out of the middle east before technology inevitably allows the religious crazies there to kill as many Jews as they like. It’s hard to imagine that the situation isn’t going to lead to mass carnage (probably on all sides) within 200 years or so, and it could come much sooner than that.

If you’re too nice to kill your implacable foe, then at least be smart enough to move out of his neighborhood.

Another thing that Israelis won’t like me saying is that the rest of the world is getting fatigued with the situation. This conflict has been occupying the news for as long as I can remember, and I can’t imagine that someday the Islamic crazies will ever change their ideas unless some extremely tragic and tramatic war kills off about 99% of the people in the region. The Germans and Japanese mostly saw the error in their ways after getting smashed in WWII, but it’s much harder to get someone to give up a religion than an ideology.

414. Wiggy Says:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intention_in_English_law is informative.

The key quote being

“Where the charge is murder and in the rare cases where the simple direction is not enough, the jury should be directed that they are not entitled to find the necessary intention unless they feel sure that death or serious bodily harm was a virtual certainty (barring some unforeseen intervention) as a result of the defendant’s action and that the defendant appreciated that such was the case.”

In the case of the current conflict, it’s clear that the death of civilians is a virtual certainty.

(My explanation of the use of “should” wasn’t great in my previous post. What I really meant was “If you start from the point of view that the presence of armed conflict is a fact.” )

415. Francesca Says:

Meanwhile, as more and more days are passing, and more and more hospitals and schools are bombed, sentence n. 2 reveals itself more and more false…

416. Paul Says:

@franceska, it was explained already that schools and hospitals are used as launching bases for missiles and militants hiding places. So I don’t see how this refutes point 2 in Scott’s post.

417. wolfgang Says:

@Jon #413
>> the only rational thing for them to do is to move out of the middle east

This is of course exactly the message Hamas et al. wants to send.

418. John SIdles Says:

Still with a view to disconfirming Boaz Barack’s dismal prediction (#12), this thread has not yet heard the crucial voice of humane comedy, and in this regard Amos Oz’ personal testimony “The Calm, Composed Fury of a Spinozist” (Google finds it) in regard to arch-Spinozist and Israel-founder David Ben-Gurion supplies the lack.

Oz’ warmly human testimony helped me to appreciate why Israel’s Spinozist Society optimistically flowered in the 1950s, then withered in subsequent decades.

Nowadays Oz’ personal conviction still is rooted in Spinozist philosophy:

“Hamas is not just a terrorist organization. Hamas is an idea, a desperate and fanatical idea that grew out of the desolation and frustration of many Palestinians.”

“No idea has ever been defeated by force… To defeat an idea, you have to offer a better idea, a more attractive and acceptable one.”

“Israel has to sign a peace agreement with President Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah government in the West Bank.”

Support for Oz’ Spinozist perspective (implicit if not explicit), is voiced by Jonathan Israel in his 2010 Benjamin Franklin Medal Lecture, Changing the World: Enlightenment and Basic Human Rights, where at the very end (circa minute 41:50) Israel extemporaneously concludes:

“Here we have a very very big problem. The French revolutionaries were very clear: the whole idea of modern human rights comes from philosophy.

“But we don’t understand that. ‘What the hell does that mean? The whole idea of modern human rights comes from philosophy? Are you kidding?’ For most people, that is absurd and ridiculous.”

“If you read [any] French revoutionary journals from 1789, on almost every page it will say ‘The world is being totally transformed and the main agent of change is philosophy.'”

“And [nowadays] we don’t know what that means, we don’t understand that, and we’ve redefined philosophy: ‘We want to be neutral on important social questions. We want to stay in our corner! We’re philosophers‘”

“And so nowadays we think that’s what philosophy is. Of course, this isn’t the Socratic idea of philosophy; it’s the modern idea of philosophy, that way philosophy was made to be neutral, by governments and states and universities.”

“So we absolutely can’t understand what they’re talking about, when they [the 18th century philosophes] say ‘A new world, modern democracy, basic human rights, comes from philosophy.'”

“I think this is a complete mystery to a culture like ours. Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen, for your attention.”

Jonathan Israel’s Striking Conclusion  Twenty-first century calamities like Israel-Gaza are most fundamentally appreciated not as failures of governance, but as failures of philosophy — specifically as the calamitous consequence of an impotent culture of philosophical neutrality — in which the scholars of present-day universities are no less selfishly and short-sightedly complicit than the world’s selfish short-sighted governments.

Jonathan Israel’s Difficult Question  Of Shtetl Optimized’s academic readers, how many are willing to look in a mirror, and perceive there the infirmity of purpose and incapacity of reason, that contribute so substantially to the great calamities of our generation, and indeed, every generation?

Questions like this aren’t easy to ask ourselves, and are even harder to answer. Perhaps this is why the applause following Jonathan Israel’s Benjamin Franklin Medal Lecture is notably tepic and nervous.

419. Scott Says:

quax #408: Ah, thanks. My sincere posthumous apologies to Pascual Jordan for leaving him out of my all-star list of Nazis.

I completely agree with your high-school teacher about the Enlightenment being a work in progress, even in a fairly early stage (indeed, I once said the same thing on this blog).

420. Peter Says:

Rahul #410
Many Palestinians are overweight and their fertility rates among the highest in the region. Not bad for living in a ‘concentration camp’ (and next time I am in the area, I shall look out for the gas chambers)

421. Lesley Says:

The settlements which are illegal (mostly built by the ‘hill-top youth”) are routinely destroyed by the army.
Most settlements are legal under Israeli law, whether Netanyahu likes it or not

422. Scott Says:

Francesca #415:

sentence n. 2 reveals itself more and more false…

No, I don’t think it does. I would say, rather, that half of sentence 3 reveals tragically itself more and more true.

Every innocent person killed in Gaza by an errant Israeli shell—or for that matter, by an errant Hamas missile—is a tragedy. Yet despite the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air, it seems to me that the logic is still there: if Israel wanted to maximize civilian casualties—like Hamas openly declares it does—every single person in Gaza would be dead by now. Furthermore, even if Israel were merely indifferent to civilian casualties, we’d be seeing WWII levels of carnage, with entire cities carpet-bombed and flattened. As it is, as Sam Harris puts it, even if one wanted to attribute the basest motives to Israel, their incentive is to minimize the number of schools and hospitals hit (even when Hamas is using them to launch missiles), given the international condemnation they receive every time it happens.

Now, there are some people who’d argue that, when confronted with real, actual dead children, it’s irrelevant or even obscene to engage in philosophical thought experiments: “what would things really look like were Israel indifferent to civilian deaths? what would we now be seeing were the situation reversed—if Hamas had nuclear weapons while Israel only had crude missiles?”

I understand and sympathize with this reaction. But in the end, I come down on the side of Richard Dawkins, who recently argued that we need philosophical reflection even, or especially, for emotionally-charged subjects, like abortion, rape, Israel, and pedophilia (his examples, not mine). As you can infer from his article (or from his Twitter feed), Dawkins is not exactly an Israeli apologist: indeed, he even once put his name on an anti-Israel academic boycott (later removing it, after he felt a “nasty taste in his mouth”). But, on this issue as on others, I deeply admire his intellectual honesty, his ability calmly to discuss long past the point where most people simply scream “don’t go there.” He’s our era’s Bertrand Russell.

423. John SIdles Says:

One final lesson-learned in regard to war (proffered yet again in response to #12) is was articulated in a two-person speech, first by President Harry Truman, and immediately following by Gen. George Marshall.

Their voices can be heard in a celebrated radio broadcast of November 26, 1945, which can be found on the website American Voices as the recording titled George C. Marshall Receives the Distinguished Service Medal.”

Today this nation, with good faith and sincerity, I am certain, desires to take the lead in the measures necessary to avoid another world catastrophe such as you [ground assault soldiers] have just ended.

And the world of suffering people looks to us for such leadership. Their thoughts, however, are not concentrated alone on this problem. They have the more immediate and terribly pressing concerns where their next mouthful of food will come from, where they will find shelter tonight, and where they will find warmth from the cold of winter.

Along with the great problem of maintaining the peace, we must solve the problem of the pittance of food, of clothing and coal and homes.

Neither of these problems can be solved alone. They are directly related, one to the other.

Today the voices of Truman and Marshall are well-worth hearing (as it seems to me).

Question  Where are the great Israeli and Palestinian leaders who will solve “the great problem of maintaining the peace”?

For it is the plain lesson of history that the enduring victory of WWII was not consolidated until long after — decades after — the era of devastating ground-assaults had ended. And yet, thanks to foresight, diligence, and luck, that victory was consolidated … fortunately for us all.

424. Faibsz Says:

Scott #396:
Actually, Goebbels was one of the greatest propaganda masterminds ever. So was Walter Schellenberg for military intelligence. But Einsatzgruppen SS commanders with PhDs (from top German universities) were not architects of the Holocaust – they were hunting Jews of all ages in Eastern Europe for extermination. It’s well known that plenty of educated and highly cultured people (Furtwangler, Karayan, Schwartzkopf, Gieseking, Kempff, Richard Strauss, Cortot – to name just a few great musicians) had no problems with Hitler and his policies just like most Soviet scientists had no problem with Stalin and anti-Semitism in Russia.

As for most Enlightenment figures being ‘enlightened’, Jonathan S Israel from Stanford differentiates between the radical enlightenment and the moderate one, which were very different in purpose and their champions attitude to humanity.

425. Scott Says:

Wiggy #412: Obviously there’s nothing the slightest bit abstract about a dead child. My claim is just that it matters a great deal why the child was killed. Were the killers trying to defend themselves against an ongoing attack, when they hit the child by accident? Or were they deliberately targeting the child (or anyone on the enemy side they could get), because of grievances involving land, water, religion, or events that happened to their ancestors? Crucially, even in the second case, the killers are likely to claim that they were just “defending themselves against violence” (e.g., the decades-ago dispossession of land, or insults to their religion), since that really is how they and their supporters perceive it. My point was just that, even if we accept all the killers’ grievances as legitimate, I don’t find it reasonable in the second case to say that they were acting in “self-defense.”

Also, I wish it were true that nonviolent protest could work equally well for both sides in this conflict. Unfortunately, I take the Hamas charter at its word, when it implies that the result of Israel adopting Gandhian techniques would be another Holocaust.

426. Faibsz Says:

Scott #418:

we need philosophical reflection even, or especially, for emotionally-charged subjects, like abortion, rape, Richard Dawkins, and pedophilia (my examples, not his).

427. Peter Says:

Scott #418

Dawkins may not be an Israeli apologist, but he just loves ‘the Jewish lobby':

“When you think about how fantastically successful the Jewish lobby has been, though, in fact, they are less numerous I am told – religious Jews anyway – than atheists and (yet they) more or less monopolize American foreign policy as far as many people can see.” (The Guardian, August 2007)

428. Scott Says:

Peter #427: Yes, but notice that his point is very different from that of most people who mention “the Jewish lobby.” He’s not saying: “those nefarious Jews, daring to lobby for their interests!” (Elsewhere he’s written, correctly, that Christian evangelicals are an even more successful lobby in the US.) Rather he’s saying: “we, atheists, should learn a lesson and do the same thing.”

429. Sam Hopkins Says:

It seems like this latest conflict really is changing attitudes towards Israel, certainly within the world, but also in America and among Jews. These three recent editorials from leading Jewish journalists reflect that point. (Note that none of the article are “anti-Israel”; they just represent a real pessimism about that nation’s future.)

430. Peter Says:

Scott #428:

And yet, I don’t remember anything as crude as ‘the (sic)Jewish lobby’ (aren’t there several Jewish lobbies in the US, often lobbying against each other?) in any of Lord Russell’s books. Russell was a perfect gentleman (with a superb sense of humour); Dawkins, for all his gifts and courage, is too cantankerous for uncle Bertrand’s shoes.

431. fred Says:

Scott #371

“[…] I called Hamas evil—or if I didn’t, I’ll gladly call them that now”

So, if you could push a button and magically send all members of Hamas and their rockets and their tunnels to the moon, then what’s next?

Without any long term plan, all that stuff is bound to repeat…

Watching the news these last couple of days, I’m getting the feeling that the Gaza children are expandable because:
1) they have no future anyway.
2) nobody gives a shit about giving them a future anyway.
3) the previous two points make it very likely that they’ll turn extremists in a few years anyway.

Calling something “evil” means one has to do whatever it takes to rid the earth of it.
E.g. the Nazis, WW2 Japan,… but how did we get rid of those “evils”? It wasn’t just a question of beating the population morale to a pulp (which we did), but also coming up with a plan to fix the situation and rebuild from the ashes – the Marshall Plan, aid to Japan.
Maybe one could argue that in the case of Germany/Japan, there was “something” to rebuild but not in the case of Gaza?
That doesn’t leave many options, does it?

432. ScentOfViolets Says:

#409: Yes, the punitive and spiteful nature of the blockade has been known for a long time. You can easily google on the search terms. Here’s the one I quoted, for example. Check out the goods blocked section of the wikipedia, which appears to have an um, lively edit history. But keep googling; you might want to search on that relief flotilla Israeli forces assaulted on the open seas as well. Like I keep saying, facts are facts. Given their antics, the current Israeli government gives me no reason to accept prima facie anything they say.

433. ScentOfViolets Says:

#411: I can’t speak for John, but I’m certainly both appalled and disgusted by what my government is doing there. What these Zionists don’t seem to get is this is what powerful countries do (sorta like corporations, that way.) Why — other than for purely emotional reasons — they think that Israel is special in this regard is beyond me.

434. Scott Says:

Peter #430:

Russell was a perfect gentleman (with a superb sense of humour); Dawkins, for all his gifts and courage, is too cantankerous for uncle Bertrand’s shoes.

I’m getting bored of discussing Israel and Hamas, but this is a fine replacement topic.

Let me submit to you that Russell was pretty cantankerous too; indeed his cantankerousness was inextricable from his “superb sense of humour.” Nor was he even above some genteel antisemitism. For example, he wrote the following to his mistress Ottoline Morrell:

“I can’t imagine how I survived. In New York I stayed with a philosopher, Kallen, a Jew, whose friends are all Jews. All were kind, but I began to long for the uncircumcised.”

When I read that in Ray Monk’s biography, I confess my reaction was the same as it often was, when Monk unearthed yet another damning quote that was supposed to make me hate Russell. I felt like old Bert was leaping off the page to share a little guffaw with me—despite my being Jewish!—with the biographer not in on the joke.

435. Wiggy Says:

Scott #425

It’s not clear that you have the motivations of either side right. I don’t think the Israelis are attacking Gaza solely to defend themselves against an ongoing attack. They also want to prevent future attacks by “degrading” the Gazan military, while making it abundantly clear that there will be severe consequences were they to attack again (which they surely will nonetheless).

I also don’t think think that Gazans that are firing rockets are solely motivated by grievances involving land, water, religion, or events that happened to their ancestors. Some will have relatives (children, spouses, siblings etc.) that were killed recently by Israelis, others blame the Israelis for the not inconsiderable suffering that they, their friends and relatives suffer today in their daily lives in Gaza, not in some dim and distant past. Some will simply see themselves as liberation fighters trying to free themselves from a powerful oppressor. There will of course also be the motivations in the list you gave but I think you oversimplified the case.

436. ScentOfViolets Says:

#410 again: No, I think we need to modify the analogy. If the Jews while interred within a concentration camp had lobbed Molotov cocktails at German civilian cottages outside the camp walls would I be surprised or outraged by it? Hell, no.

Ironically, a liberal Zionist agrees with you:

Shavit goes further, choosing to include in My Promised Land the account he wrote as a young reservist of his twelve-day stint as a jailer in a Gaza detention camp in 1991, originally published in Haaretz and later in The New York Review. Though the young Shavit writes that he has “always abhorred the analogy,” he quotes a fellow soldier who says “that the place resembles a concentration camp.” He uses the words “Aktion” and “Gestapo.” He says of the camp doctor, “He is no Mengele,” which of course invites a comparison to Mengele.

Palestinians thinking they are facing a slow death at the hands of their jailors and acting accordingly? Say it ain’t so! This quote, of course, won’t change any minds. But it does point out who’s perceptions are privileged and who’s are not in this discussion.

437. ScentOfViolets Says:

More fascinating stuff from the source I just quoted:

The ultimate question leftist opponents of Zionism like to hurl at liberal Zionists, the one the former believe the latter cannot answer, is, to use Finkelstein’s formulation: “How does one excuse ethnic cleansing?” If one is a liberal, committed to human rights, how can one justify the expulsion and dispossession of Palestinians in 1948 as Israel was born?

Shavit’s answer comes in the form of the two chapters that sit at the heart of the book. First comes “Lydda, 1948,” a meticulously assembled account of the three July days when soldiers of the new Israeli army emptied that city of its Palestinian inhabitants and, according to Shavit, killed more than three hundred civilians in cold blood and without discrimination. Piecing together the testimony of those who did the killing, Shavit writes: “Zionism carrie[d] out a massacre.”

Really? Zionists killing more civilians in less than a week than the supposedly bloodthirsty Palestinians (or Hamas) has managed to do in the entire 21st century? Say it ain’t so! This, BTW, is from a fellow Zionist, so saying it’s just propaganda won’t fly. Oh, and the author doesn’t try to sugarcoat what was done either:

Does that mean that Shavit believes the massacre at Lydda was justified? He avoids a direct answer. The question is “too immense to deal with”; it is “a reality I cannot contain.” But he won’t join

the bleeding heart Israeli liberals of later years who condemn what [the Israelis] did in Lydda but enjoy the fruits of their deed…. If need be, I’ll stand by the damned. Because I know that if it wasn’t for them, the State of Israel would not have been born…. They did the dirty, filthy work that enables my people, myself, my daughter, and my sons to live.

He knows exactly what was done, and to whose benefit. Does this mean I think that Israel is uniquely monstrous? Of course not. This is just what powerful entities do: they trample the weak unless there is a countervailing force. So while I’m disgusted with Israel, they don’t get any more opprobrium in my book than the U.S. for it’s actions.

438. Wiggy Says:

Scott #425

It’s not reasonable to describe the death of children in Gaza in the current conflict as an accident. It is an inevitable consequence of Israeli actions. It’s fine to take the view that the Israeli wish it were otherwise ( and I would agree that they do) but to say “accident” implies that somehow it comes as a surprise or that it would have been hard to foresee. This just isn’t the case.

439. Scott Says:

Wiggy #438: A guy is shooting at you and your children, while surrounded by his own many children (a tactic he consciously chose because he knows you don’t want to shoot children, and because their deaths will generate sympathy for him). You shoot back at him, trying to avoid the children, but knowing in advance that, since you’re an imperfect shot, you’ll almost certainly hit one or two of them anyway. As indeed you do.

Then the question before us is this: should we call your killings of the children “accidental,” despite their extremely foreseeable nature?

This is a gut-wrenching question on which well-meaning people could differ. I can only speak for myself: my moral intuition is perfectly comfortable with saying that yes, your killings were “accidental”—and moreover, the children’s father, not you, bears the primary responsibility for their deaths. He’s their de facto murderer.

Furthermore, I’m satisfied that for me, this has nothing to do with Israelis and Palestinians: swap in anyone else, and my intuition remains completely unaffected.

The one thing that does affect my intuition a bit, is if the guy surrounded himself with hostages who had nothing to do with him, and for whom he was never supposed to be a “protector.” In that case, I’d still say you’re justified to shoot back (despite the near-certainty of killing some of the hostages), but less so. I have a hard time explaining exactly why that makes a difference.

440. Scott Says:

Addendum to comment #439: OK, I suppose the best explanation I can come up with is this. My desire to see other people deterred from abusing the father/child relationship in such a monstrous way is so staggeringly enormous, that it counterbalances even my grief at seeing innocent children killed.

You might respond: but what if other deranged fathers aren’t, in fact, deterred by your shooting back? What if your shooting back only encourages other deranged fathers to use their children as shields during shooting sprees? What if the only sort of father who would do such a thing is one who hopes you’ll shoot his children, since he knows that your doing so will generate sympathy for him, or at least anger at you—or, in a cruel irony, will make his naive children love their father more, for “defending” them against you?

In that case, I’d have to say the problem lies with the entire world, for a lack of moral foresight. Yes, an epidemic of fathers shooting at innocent people, while using their own innocent children as shields (and, as a result, getting their own children killed), is a terrible thing to contemplate. But the alternative—namely, fathers able to use this tactic with impunity to kill anyone they don’t like, since they know that others will be deterred by their own consciences from shooting back—is even worse.

441. John Sidles Says:

ScentOfViolets notices  “Whose perceptions are privileged and whose are not in this discussion.”

In regard to the sobering challenge of comedic remediation of Boaz Barak’s comment (#12), Shtetl Optimized may enjoy the advocacy of this point that is presented in the celebrated McSweeney film review, by Jeff Alexander and Tom Bissell, titled “Unused Audio Commentary By Howard Zinn And Noam Chomsky, Recorded Summer 2002 For The Fellowship Of The Ring

Chomsky  The film opens with Galadriel speaking. “The world has changed,” she tells us, “I can feel it in the water.” She’s actually stealing a line from the non-human Treebeard. He says this to Merry and Pippin in The Two Towers, the novel. Already we can see who is going to be privileged by this narrative and who is not.

Zinn  Of course. “The world has changed.” I would argue that the main thing one learns when one watches this film is that the world hasn’t changed. Not at all.

Chomsky  We should examine carefully what’s being established here in the prologue. For one, the point is clearly made that the “master ring,” the so-called “one ring to rule them all,” is actually a rather elaborate justification for preemptive war on Mordor.

Zinn  […] And observe the map device here … how the map is itself completely Gondor-centric. Rohan and Gondor are treated as though they are the literal center of Middle Earth. Obviously this is because they have men living there. What of places such as Anfalas and Forlindon or Near Harad? One never really hears anything about places like that.

Here Alexander and Bissel creatively honor (as it seems to me) the transgressive literary tradition — a culturally vital tradition! — of works like Norman Spinrad’s The Iron Dream, and set the stage for subsequent works like Stan Nicholls’ groundbreaking Orcs trilogy (and its innumerable successors).

A crucial role of these comedic fictions is that they leaven too-binary modes of moral and political cognition, in precisely the way that mathematical luminaries advocate to students:

Bill Thurston  “Mathematics is commonly thought to be the pursuit of universal truths, of patterns that are not anchored to any single fixed concept. But on a deeper level the goal of mathematics is to develop enhanced ways for humans to see and think about the world. Mathematics is a transforming journey, and progress in it can better be measured by changes in how we think than by the external truths we discover. [That is why] as I read, I stop and ask ‘What’s the author trying to say? What is the author really thinking?'”

Alexander Grothendieck [honors]  “Cette faculté aussi d’appréhender les grandes choses à travers les choses ‘petites'”

Note  Google can probably do at least as good job of translating Grothendieck as I can.

Conclusion  Good on yah, all whose jokes and stories serve to remind the entire world, that isolated “great truths” to be distilled from the Israel-Gaza calamity (if any), surely are grounded in the grievous “small truths” that the Israel/Gaza civilians and troops learn at a bitterly unsupportable personal cost, with every passing hour that the war endures.

442. Wiggy Says:

Scott #439

I think you have, however, conflated your own feelings as to what is justified with the idea of what is accidental. They are really separate issues.

I do agree that there are extreme situations where you can be justified in defending yourself even when you know your actions will harm others who may be innocent. However, you can’t, as a blanket rule, call this undesirable harm accidental. It may just be an undesirable but inevitable and foreseeable consequence of something you felt (perhaps justifiably) compelled to do.

Bringing it back to the specific, I fear that using the term “accidental” implies inaccurately that the Israelis don’t know when they plan what to do that children will almost certainly die as a result of their actions. They do know. They just don’t see any other option. The bald truth is that they are taking a fully informed decision to kill Gazans, including children, to protect themselves and their nation. Of course if someone gave them the option of defending their nation without killing children they would take that but that option doesn’t seem to be on the table.

443. Scott Says:

There’s one clarification that I wanted to add. In my thought experiment, it’s quite important that, even though it might be a “statistical certainty” that your defending yourself from the deranged father will kill one or more of his innocent children, the exact probabilities (and hence, the expected number of children killed) can be adjusted upward or downward somewhat by your actions (e.g., by exactly where you aim), and you take at least some actions that decrease the risk to his children, even though such actions increase the risk to you and your own children. In my moral intuition, that’s a major part of mitigating your blameworthiness here.

If we were just discussing a straightforward trolley problem—where you diverted a trolley that the deranged father set in motion onto a track where it ran over his kids with certainty, thereby keeping it from the track where it would run over your kids—then while I’d still consider your action morally justifiable, I’d join you in no longer calling it “accidental.”

444. fred Says:

Scott #440

“In that case, I’d have to say the problem lies with the entire world, for a lack of moral foresight[…] But the alternative—namely, fathers able to use this tactic with impunity to kill anyone they don’t like, since they know that others will be deterred from shooting back—is even worse.”

Am I getting this right?

1) Hamas is firing missiles at Israel from an isolated, packed ghetto, where people have nowhere to go.

2) if Israel hits back, causing heavy unavoidable civilian casualties in the process, then 1) becomes a viable Hamas tactics because the world gets angry at Israel.

3) If Israel doesn’t hit back, then 1) becomes a viable tactics for Hamas since they get to torment Israel, and sooner or later a breaking point is reached and 2) happens anyway.

Sounds like a losing situation for Israel and a win for Hamas no matter what.

445. Peter Says:

Scott 434:
I think that the context here is important: in the Kallen episode Russell seems to me (mildly) xenophobic rather than anti-Semitic (if I am not mistaken, one of the ‘Jews’ was the fully uncircumcised Kurt Godel – the joke was on his Lordship). You also have to calibrate for social class/non-PC spirit of the 1930s(?), while Dawkins can’t claim such excuses. And writing about ‘the Jewish lobby’ without irony is bad taste

446. Peter Says:

Scott 434:
for the same reason, in the context of his personality and life, I don’t believe that Russell was really a racist even when writing (soon retracted) about Black Americans’ IQ

447. Lev Says:

Even more interesting experiment: let to Hamas adjust the Israeli dial and to Israel the dial of Hamas

448. the reader from Istanbul Says:

Oh, this guy describes this “morality” thing better than both Scott and Sam Harris:

http://972mag.com/blaming-palestinians-for-their-own-deaths/94729/

449. quax Says:

Scott #443 I think one aspect in the deranged father analogy is overlooked. In this particular round the deranged father didn’t start the shooting, but it was his no less deranged 2nd cousin twice removed.

I.e. it has been reported that the killing of the Israeli teenagers that started this bloody mess was not a Hamas operation.

450. Scott Says:

reader from Istanbul #448: OK, but I emphatically don’t “blame Palestinian civilians for their own deaths”—even if they voted for Hamas in 2006, and even if they don’t regret it. Rather, I hold Hamas itself mainly responsible for their deaths. That’s a pretty huge difference!

Regarding the article you linked to: whenever I read a hard-left denunciation of Israel (or the US, for that matter), I apply what you might call the “Instead Test.” The test is this:

Does the author, at any point in the article, touch on the question of what he or she thinks the denounced country ought to be doing instead? For example, should the country just accept a certain number of terrorist attacks or missiles, and not respond at all? That, at least, is a concrete suggestion whose consequences can be explored. Alternatively, does the author go on and on about the country’s moral guilt, without the question of what the country should do or have done seemingly ever crossing his or her mind—without any acknowledgment that that even is a question?

If an article passes the Instead Test, then I try very hard to think about the proposed alternative on the merits—and sometimes I even agree. (So for example, I’ve been persuaded that, before dropping the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the US should have demonstrated a bomb over the ocean near Tokyo, in hopes that that alone would terrify the Japanese into surrendering—an idea that was, in fact, discussed, but rejected.)

If, on the other hand, an article (like that one in 972mag) fails the Instead Test, then I regard it as essentially contentless: at most, it’s an advertisement by the author of his or her own perceived moral purity and blamelessness.

451. eitan bachmat Says:

I swore not to comment but I cant help myself. The following Hamas produced video has gone absolutely viral in Israel.

If you dont know Hebrew its hard to understand just how funny it is, but believe me it cracks us up every time.

Here is the tourism commercial version

The acoustic version

The romantic heartbreak version

and countless others which are perhaps less tasteful but still hillarious

Regarding Palestinian civilian casualties (not unrelated to the video), I have a major insight that I am still testing statistically. On days in which Hamas agrees to a cease fire, there are many fewer casualties. Also in the West bank where the people are just as Palestinian there are no casualties. I am still trying to accumulate more data to get a good P-value, but I think I am on to something. This is very original work otherwise I cant understand why the death toll is rising.

Peace to us all.

452. Scott Says:

Just an update: Ignoring repeated warnings to moderate his tone, ScentOfViolets posted a long screed about how the Israeli government is secretly planning a “slow genocide” of the Palestinians, but has also adopted a policy of lying about the plan, because they know that’s the only way they can dupe “people like Scott” into going along with it. (Etiquette tip: if you’re planning a genocide, at least have the decency to say so in your founding charter.) However, Scent also admits the possibility that he might be wrong, and that useful idiots like me would still support Israel even if it declared its genocidal intentions openly.

I confess that my patience is finally at an end. Scent is banned from this discussion.

453. Michael Bacon Says:

Fred@444,

“Sounds like a losing situation for Israel and a win for Hamas no matter what.”

The key is your #2. What you say is true, except to the extent Israel grits its teeth and doesn’t stop because the world gets angry, and then is able to legitimately accomplish important strategic objectives. It is a very difficult situation.

454. John Sidles Says:

With reference (yet again) to Boaz Barak’s outstanding comment #12, the videos of Eitan Bachmat’s comment #13 (especially the comments translated by Google) invite comparison to the wartime Why We Fight films of a US chemical engineer … named Frank Capra.

The seventh film of Capra’s series, titled War Comes to America, particularly is commended for its scrupulous adherence to three fundamental principles of wartime propaganda:

(1)  Never dehumanize the enemy,
(2)  Never underestimate the enemy, and
(3)  Prepare to win the peace that must come.

————–
Congratulations are due  Joe Garbini and my student Rico Picone will defend his PhD thesis tomorrow, then immediate assume a tenure-track engineering faculty position at St. Martins.

Quantum-minded Shtetl Optimized readers are invited to Rico’s defense of his thesis, titled “Separatory Magnetic Transport: Theory, Model, and Experiment”, in Mechanical Engineering Building (MEB), room 102, at 8:30 am, on Friday August 1, 2014.

Rico’s thesis is among the first-ever, perhaps *THE* first-ever, doctoral theses explicitly in quantum systems engineering. If the world were to generate a few hundred thousand similarly attractive career tracks, that stood ready for young engineers, scientists, and mathematicians to pursue, perhaps fewer young people would be attracted to thuggery and jihad.

Good on yah, Rico Picone.

————–
Further congratulations are due  USMC veteran, historian, and writer (and cherished friend of the family) JT Howard returned this week from six arduous weeks at astrophysicist / mathematiciant / writer Jeanne Cavello’s prestigious Odyssey Fantasy and Science Fiction Writers Workshop for 2014.

JT’s Reboot Camp cycle (to appear) puts visionary flesh on the engineering bones of Rico Picone’s thesis, in closing the 21st century triptych of science, healing, and peace.

Good on yah, JT Howard.

————–
BREAKING NEWS
October 31, 2014

Peace came to the land of Israel/Palestine this week in an unanticipated form. Speaking from the newly opened Muristan Hospital in the Old City of Jerusalem, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US President Barak Obama told the world a surprising story:

Barak  It was just three months ago that the world’s reconciliation societies (of comment #349) asked Bibi and me to trade places.

Bibi  I thought “why not?” It was clear that I could do better than Barak at welding together US factions in Congress.

Barak  And I was pretty confident in my ability, as a smooth-talking outsider, to bring all parties to the table in the middle east.

Representatives of the Parents Circle-Families Forum  As for extremist Israeli-Palestinian politicians, it was enough for us mothers-of-wounded to visit them personally … and relentlessly … to remind them every hour of the mortal cost of the war. None lasted longer than a week.

The Union of Israeli Economic Think-Tanks  Our recommended policy of life-time rebates of military taxation for all mixed-religion marriages in Israel and Palestine, has already proved to be so overwhelmingly popular among young people, as to guarantee that extremist ideologies can never again hold the balance of electoral power.

And the celebration in Jerusalem (and around the world) lasted for seven days.

455. Rahul Says:

Scott says:

“In that case, I’d have to say the problem lies with the entire world, for a lack of moral foresight. Yes, an epidemic of fathers shooting at innocent people, while using their own innocent children as shields (and, as a result, getting their own children killed), is a terrible thing to contemplate.”

Yes, terrible indeed. But why don’t we move just a bit further upstream towards root causes & contemplate about what sort of desperation leads to an epidemic of fathers willingly getting their own children killed?

We could, if this were an odd case, treat it as an exception. But we have a full blown epidemic here restricted to a tiny geographical area. Pandemic maybe?

One alternative is to assume some inborn pathology of the Palestinian mind? Is that an assumption we are comfortable with?

Historically, do we have precedents to analyse where men killed their own kids willingly?

456. Rahul Says:

Scott says:

“In my thought experiment, it’s quite important that, even though it might be a “statistical certainty” that your defending yourself from the deranged father will kill one or more of his innocent children, the exact probabilities (and hence, the expected number of children killed) can be adjusted upward or downward somewhat by your actions (e.g., by exactly where you aim), and you take at least some actions that decrease the risk to his children, even though such actions increase the risk to you and your own children. In my moral intuition, that’s a major part of mitigating your blameworthiness here.”

I think it should matter how much! Say you had a dial by which you reduced the probablity from 0.9999 to 0.5 ok, I’ll give you some mitigating credits for that.

OTOH if, by some ritual gesture you adjusted 0.9999 down to 0.99 do I mitigate your blameworthiness?

I think that’s a key feature of the current conflict. It doesn’t matter so much whether Israel *tried* to reduce harm but how much *actual* harm reduction occurred (though I’m not sure what my counter-factual should be)

457. quax Says:

John Sidles #454, lovely bit of alternative history fiction

(& kudos to Rico Picone)

458. Sam Hopkins Says:

Scott: the “Instead Test” is not how people think about morality. To see why, consider the following situation: you kidnap someone and tie them up. They manage to break free and come at you with a knife in retaliation or to escape. You shoot them dead. If we apply the Instead Test to the moment you shot the person, then you might say, hey, I was defending myself, it was what anyone who was being attacked with a knife would do. But you bear responsibility for the death in light of previous moral failings that you did have control over. And you are responsible morally not just for this person’s kidnapping, but for their death as well. You put yourself in a situation where you had no good moral options, but that doesn’t absolve yourself of responsibility for the choice you do take. (In fact, luck factors a lot into morality. I guess Thomas Nagel has written about this.)

I’m sure it is not hard to make this example more concrete with respect to the Israel-Palestine conflict.

459. Orr Shalit Says:

Scott #450:
I completely disagree with your “instead test”, at least the way you apply it to the above linked article (it is indeed “hard left”, but I don’t see the main objective as denunciation). The piece is written by an Israeli and – as I see it – is directed at Israelis, saying “let’s stop saying we are beautiful and look in the mirror”. This is a statement which is worth making in itself, and the author makes it sharply, without “balancing”. More fundamental than “what should I do tomorrow?” is the question “what are my values, am I living up to them?”.

I am sure the author has a detailed answer to what he thinks we should do instead, but that’s not the point. If he had written THAT, I would have likely disagreed with him, or had little interest. He is trying to call attention to the fact that Israel is responsible for the situation (for balance I will correct: shares responsibility), and provoke us to think about what *we* think could be done instead (instead of war).

460. Jon Says:

This comic says it all:

https://pbs.twimg.com/media/Bt6tBAZCIAAOcub.jpg:large

461. Demiurg Says:

Funny thing is, that this text, which is probably the closest to being objective is viewed by Palestinian supporters is israeli propaganda.

People simply refuse to think.

462. Faibsz Says:

Scott #327:

Jon Entine estimates ‘gentile’ DNA in Ashkenazim at 40%
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Abrahams-Children-Race-Identity-Chosen/dp/0446580635/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1406882277&sr=8-1&keywords=jon+entine
(which means, we are still genetically ‘closer’ to Moroccan Jews than Romanian gentiles)
I think (but can’t prove) that much of this DNA had been picked up well before Jews got to Belarus and Romania and if you see Ceausescu in the mirror, it’s because you both look like Cicero.

463. Peter Says:

Scott #450:

a consensus is growing among the historians (with more evidence becoming available) that Japan capitulated because of the major Russian offensive and would have fought on despite Hiroshima and Nagasaki. If true, the US nuclear bombs were worse than immoral – they were useless.

464. Peter Says:

Scott #396:
“…their (most Nazi leaders) “education” was almost always of the anti-Enlightenment kind, the kind that elevates obscurity over clear thought. (So for example, it doesn’t shock me in the slightest that Heidegger or Paul de Man would be Nazi-lovers; unlike some people, I’ve got no difficult circle to square there.)”

How would you explain then that plenty of work of the founding fathers of the Enlightenment Kant and Spinoza is extremely ‘obscure’ (I am not suggesting that Spinoza would have joined the SS, but Kant could have taught Heidegger an anti-Semitic trick or two)?

465. Breaking news; bodies of three Israeli boys have been found. - Page 176 Says:

[…] Scott Aaronson summarised the situation in three sentences in probably the best way possible. Originally Posted by Scott Aaronson Hamas is trying to kill as many civilians as it can. Israel is trying to kill as few civilians as it can. Neither is succeeding very well. Sign in or Register Now to reply […]

466. Scott Says:

Peter #464: While it’s true that Kant and Spinoza were dense writers, one can at least read explanations of many of their main arguments by other people (the ones who plodded through…) that seem perfectly sensible and clear, and in some cases like significant advances for their time. (Or in other cases, wrong—but at least clear enough to be wrong.) At least in my experience, the same isn’t true of people like Heidegger and Paul de Man.

467. John Sidles Says:

My wife Constance sends appreciation of Scott’s immediately evocative neologism “Endarkenments”

Scott says  “The tragic part is that civilization seems unable just to stay consistently on the path of Enlightenment; it keeps swerving back into ‘Endarkenments.'”

To the degree that a philosopher can be judged by the works of his/her students (and opponents too), the attraction of “plain” philosophers like Tom Paine and Bertrand Russell to “dense” philosophers like Kant and Spinoza commends the latter to our attention.

Conversely, “dense” philosophies that fail to catalyze “plain” philosophies — or worse, are embraced solely by demagogues for short-sighted “Endarkenment” purposes — in the long run are (literally) of academic interest only. We hope!

468. Scott Says:

Sam Hopkins #458: OK, but I explicitly said, “the question of what the country should do or have done,” in order to make it clear that mentioning a moral alternative that the denounced country could have pursued in the past (and arguing that it would, indeed, have prevented the bad consequence) is also a way to pass the Instead Test.

(Though arguably less helpful, the further back in time the decision-point is. E.g., imagine someone saying “if Americans don’t want to be attacked by terrorists today, then they shouldn’t have stolen a country from the Native Americans—the original sin that destroyed all their moral legitimacy.” Even if true, not terribly useful to someone like me who was born in 1981.)

So in particular, you can find many people who explicitly say that anything that happens to Israel today is just retaliation for the crime of Israel’s founding. That, at least, “formally” passes the Instead Test: the speaker believes that what Israel should’ve done instead is not to have existed. Of course, it still raises the question of what all the Israelis who were born after 1948 (or who were children then) should do now. Should they move? Where?

Or people who don’t want to go quite that far might say that everything follows from “the crime of the occupation.” Then the discussion would have to turn to the 1967 war, and what Israel should’ve done differently there. And the writer would have to deal with the fact that Israel faced very much the same threats before there was any occupation. Or to the peace process, and to the question of what else Ehud Barak should have offered to cause Arafat to accept a deal. Again, this would at least pass the Instead Test.

The type of article I hate is the kind where the writer just wants to proclaim “lo! there is blood on our hands! BLOOD ON OUR HANDS! (but at least less blood on my hands than on yours, since I’m the one screaming about it)”—without ever mentioning any alternatives that could’ve been taken at any point in history, without the question of alternatives ever even arising as a live one.

469. Rahul Says:

Scott #468:

“the speaker believes that what Israel should’ve done instead is not to have existed.”

Well, it might have existed better if they hadn’t plonked it right in the middle of the Arab zone? Seriously, it seems like they chose the one worst spot in the whole world to build the nation. Throwing a random pin on the map might have worked better (ok, it might have landed in the middle of Iran or Pakistan).

Of course this is with the advantage of hindsight but sometimes it makes one wonder, what could everyone have been thinking? Say you were a British / American diplomat back in 1930 or an early Zionist was this patch of land really your best bet? Did they sincerely believe that the Jews & Palestinians (or whatever is the historically correct way to refer to them) would live happily ever after?

470. Clif Says:

@Sam Hopkins #430:
“It seems like this latest conflict really is changing attitudes towards Israel”.

Actually, it seems that you are quite uninformed about the Arab-Israeli conflict, its history, and the amount of hate and opposition Israel has been drawing from the time of its foundation, and before this time.

Israel was never popular.
First, there are the “unidentified” or “developing” countries that probably will always hate Israel, no matter what it does. Then there is Europe, which of course has a very problematic, so to speak, history with Jews, and whose attitude towards Israel will thus always be somewhat perverted and distorted.

Then there is the US, who has the most relative support for Israel, but still a lot of enemies: the Chomskian far-left, the state department that is traditionally quite anti-Israeli, some far right conservative groups who want to minimize the US involvement in foreign affairs and who think that Israel is nothing but a burden to the US. And some dominant minorities and immigrant communities who are traditionally supportive of the Arabs.
Indeed, before 1967 the US was unfriendly to Israel. Only after the ’67 war, and Israel’s land-slide victory, the US has sought the alliance of Israel, due to strategic interests in the region.

Therefore, your observation that there is any “shift in trends against Israel”, which you seem to say in satisfaction as it is aligned with your own opinions, is most probably false.

471. Clif Says:

@ScentOfViolets #434,

“What these Zionists don’t seem to get is this is what powerful countries do (sorta like corporations, that way.) Why — other than for purely emotional reasons — they think that Israel is special in this regard is beyond me.”
[my emphasis]

Although I have no idea what you are actually talking about, I still want to understand what do you mean by “these Zionists”, so that I can grasp better what sorts of ideas I’m fighting here… (BTW, perhaps you’ve unintentionally slipped the term “pigs” after the “Zionists”?)

472. John Sidles Says:

quax says “John Sidles #454, lovely bit of alternative history fiction”

Thank you quax. In regard to your own fine weblog — the quantum-related WaveWatching — please let me mention that I have another alternative history fiction in-progress — this one pretty thoroughly worked-out mathematically — in which Paul Dirac collaborates with his next-door office-mate William Hodge, in authoring a successor to Dirac’s Principles of Quantum Mechanics (1930), titled Principles of Quantum Thermodynamics (1959).

The catalyst for this imagined post-WWII collaboration (and the book’s third coauthor) is Hodge’s great student Michael Atiyah, who is responsible for the book’s celebrated maxim:

Thermodynamics is a piece of 21st century science that fell by accident into the 19th century.

A great pleasure of working through the details of this alternative history is the freedom to conceive — without introducing any new mathematics or physics at all — how the history of the post-WWII 20th century might have turned out differently (and better) for individuals like Alan Turing and Richard Feynman, and even for nations like [too many “Endarkened” nations to mention].

Question  Is it realistic to conceive that well-written books can alter the course of history … including Middle East history?

Answer  Yes. Jonathan Israel’s extended meditation upon this topic, A Revolution of the Mind (2011), is commended to Shtetl Optimized readers. To paraphrase Margaret Meade

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed  citizens  books can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

This is true of all books (as it seems to me), and perhaps the world would benefit if more books were written with the Israel/Meade objective expressly in view.

473. Peter Says:

Scott #466:
I don’t know about de Man, but Heidegger was/is regarded by many leading philosophers (including Jewish, like Emmanuel Levinas) the most important thinker of the last century. Perhaps the difficulty of understanding his work is of the same nature as the ‘obscurity’ of much of Alexander Grothendieck’s maths?

474. Clif Says:

@Sam Hopkins, #459,
interesting example; so basically your argument has not much to do with the current war, but boils down to your a priori belief that the main moral offender in the Arab-Israeli conflict is Israel, and not the Arabs (including the Palestinians) who simply refuse, for generations now, to sign a peace treaty with Israel in the belief that Israel is an illegitimate colonial entity that should be uprooted and destroyed.

I’m just trying to understand the rationale behind your critic of Israel.

475. Scott Says:

Peter #473: The trouble is, none of the thinkers who admire Heidegger (Jewish or non-Jewish) are thinkers who I, myself, have ever had reason to admire—with the sole, very partial exception of Hannah Arendt, who’s not exactly a neutral source, as she slept with Heidegger when she was his 18-year-old student. For that reason, I’m forced to assign Heidegger an extremely low “eigen-admiration” score.

By contrast, while I understand only tiny bits of Grothendieck’s math, and while his stratospheric abstraction is not to my taste, Grothendieck is certainly admired by mathematicians who I admire, so while I don’t know enough to admire him myself, I do eigen-admire him.

476. Clif Says:

Again to @Sam Hopkins, #459,

Interestingly, it came to my mind now that your new argument, rejecting the idea that we can isolate the current Gazan war from Israel’s own historical misconducts, is in fact in contradiction to your own initial statement, that there are actions that are simply morally forbidden, no matter what’s the political background that originated these acts or the threat they seem to handle.

See your claim: “The obsession with symmetry here makes no sense. The concept of war crime requires you to believe that there are some acts so terrible that they are impermissible even under extreme threat.

477. fred Says:

Rahul #455

“But why don’t we move just a bit further upstream towards root causes & contemplate about what sort of desperation leads to […]”

Scott brought up the “evil” card regarding Hamas.
Once that’s on the table, there’s really no room at the point for analyses, the assumption is that you just have to do what it takes and rid the world of it – it supposes an urgency to act.
In Lord of the Rings, none of the heroes ever question their own quest to rid the world of the Orc/Goblins and other “monsters”, they just go for it cause it’s clear to everyone it’s either them or the other side (it’s all an allegory, but that’s how people feel like when they fight “evil”).
The allies didn’t brainstorm about what may have brought the Nazis/Japanese militarists to the scene once it was too late (it just so happened that both Germany and Japan economies were ruined). The allied took Europe back, marched onto Berlin, bombed Germany to a smoking pile of rubble, burned and vaporized Japanese cities.
Of course, the notion of “evil” is all relative. To the Nazis, the Jews and the Communists were evil, and they felt it was their mission on earth was to rid the earth of it and save their own civilization.
The Japanese government felt that Asia would be better off if an Asian nation was in charge of it for a change – the Western nations had been abusing Asia for long enough in their point of view.

“Historically, do we have precedents to analyze where men killed their own kids willingly?”

The Japanese certainly expected everyone to either kill themselves or do whatever it takes to kill as many Americans as possible once they ran out of options (Kamikaze, population committing mass suicides in Okinawa).

478. Scott Says:

Rahul #456:

I think it should matter how much! Say you had a dial by which you reduced the probablity from 0.9999 to 0.5 ok, I’ll give you some mitigating credits for that.

OTOH if, by some ritual gesture you adjusted 0.9999 down to 0.99 do I mitigate your blameworthiness?

I would.

While I agree with you that the amount matters—reducing the risk to the madman’s children by a lot is better than reducing it by a little—even a tiny reduction matters to me (if it also increases the risk to you). It shows the jury that the vector of your intentions was pointed mildly in the right direction, whereas the madman’s was pointed massively in the wrong one.

479. Scott Says:

Clif #470: While you’re completely right that widespread international opposition to Israel is not a recent response to “the occupation”—it’s older than Israel itself—I think it’s a mistake to see American support for Israel as purely a matter of “strategic interests.” For one thing, well before ’67, you had Truman overriding his own State Department (and his own antisemitic family past) to become the first leader to recognize Israel, Eisenhower and JFK making strong statements in Israel’s support (even while pressuring it behind the scenes), the Exodus movie in 1960, etc. You also have the evangelical Christians, who supported Israel from the beginning, and probably now support it more than American Jews do.

(Some say this is solely because they see the “ingathering of the Jews” as a prerequisite to the Second Coming, at which time the Jews will either convert or else burn in hell. Personally, I have no real problem with that belief: when that happens, I’ll surely convert! But also, as far as I can tell, Christian support for Israel is much more for general ideological reasons than because of specific belief in that prophecy.)

But I think the truth goes deeper. The early American colonists explicitly compared themselves to Israelites reaching the Promised Land—Salem, for example, is named after Jerusalem. The founding ideals of the US (not, of course, always the reality, but the ideals)—escaping oppression in a new land, being a melting pot for immigrants from around the world, a can-do attitude, entrepreneurship, democracy, the rough frontier, science and technology, unapologetic self-defense—are almost indistinguishable from the founding ideals of Israel. I would guess that these parallels, or Americans’ perception of them, are the single biggest reason why support for Israel is so much higher in the US than elsewhere.

Conversely, it seems hard to despise everything Israel stands for, without also despising everything the US stands for, and this correlation is also borne out in practice (millions of people refer to the US and Israel as the “the Great Satan and the Little Satan”; others, like Chomsky, might as well).

480. Clif Says:

@Scott, #480,

Yes, I completely agree with your excellent description. I have not made an attempt (nor could I) to comprehensively explain the support Israel has in the US; I was just pointing out that the supposed Israel-friendly environment in the US is not shared by many Americans, and even not shared by many politicians (e.g., in the State Department); and that before ’67, Israel was not even an ally to the US.

So there is no substantial “trend of change regarding Israel” as some people are wishfully thinking. Israel survives (and even thrives) in front, and despite, wars and worldwide opposition and hate.

481. Clif Says:

@Rahul #470,
“Say you were a British / American diplomat back in 1930 or an early Zionist was this patch of land really your best bet? Did they sincerely believe that the Jews & Palestinians (or whatever is the historically correct way to refer to them) would live happily ever after?”

Though, generally, I sympathize with your ideas, I still think they are way too naive. Let me ignore the fact that you perceive modern Israel as an entity with no connection to historic Israel (which I believe is a mistake, but nevermind now); the problem in your argument (or question) is that even had Israel been created not in the Middle-East, still the amount of wars, instability and total death toll in the region would be approximately the same and probably even higher.

So the establishment of Israel in the Middle-East is not a mistake, in that respect at least.

482. Clif Says:

@fred, #445

“1) Hamas is firing missiles at Israel from an isolated, packed ghetto, where people have nowhere to go.

This is incorrect. Gaza is not a “ghetto”. And there are a lot of empty territories within Gaza that the Gazan people can go to, AFAIK.

I believe in fact that in the wide perspective, Israel is a Jewish ghetto: a tiny piece of land surrounded by hostile countries from one side and the sea from the other side. No wonder many Israelis feel like they are in a blockade.

483. Sam Hopkins Says:

Clif: I’m not sure those perspectives are contradictory. By considering history, I was arguing against the excuse “I was doing what anyone would’ve done”, which after all is close to the Nuremberg defense of “I was just following orders”, right? One of the principal war crimes is starting a war of aggression, and of course to determine whether this has occurred you need to have a historical perspective. Basically I am not saying that a consideration of history shows Israel deserves all the blame for the current situation; but conversely, we can criticize the actions of a nation irrespective of the bad actions of its enemies. That’s why I find Scott’s assertion that the “hard-left” has no answers and only condemnation so bizarre. I’m sure everyone on the “hard-left” would say, here is what Israel can do: end the siege of Gaza by air, land, and sea; remove all settlements from the West Bank; offer Palestinians a feasible state; or grant full citizenship to everyone west of the Jordan River. You might think that these are overly idealistic responses. But to say they have nothing to do with the current conflict is absurd.

484. Clif Says:

1. (This needs to be repeated every now and then):
Israel cannot end “its siege on Gaza”, because there is no such siege. Egypt and Hamas have full control on Gaza’s southern border.

2. “I was arguing against the excuse “I was doing what anyone would’ve done”, which after all is close to the Nuremberg defense of “I was just following orders”, right? ”

No, not really. The “Nuremberg” defense contended that Eichmann was not legally responsible for his deeds because he was following orders. While the “I was doing what anyone would’ve [acceptably] done” defense means to show that the action themselves are not immoral because they are well accepted and represent common ethics. And indeed, if the US and the UK bomb, at this moment, uninvolved citizens in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and not even as a direct defensive war, and if this is regarded as practically acceptable by the world, since I haven’t seen any special non-stop reports on this matter, nor any recent UN condemnations of this, nor Western media outlets anchors attacking US and UK’s officials, nor massive riots throughout Europe against the US and the UK, nor opinion articles on “how I stopped supporting the UK”, or influential BDS movements who call for complete Boycott of the US, nor Pink-Floyd’s Roger Waters plea to all sorts of artists to stop performing on American soil—it thus can be said that de-facto the actions of the US and the UK in Pakistan and Afghanistan are considered within the acceptable moral norms.
And moreover, that anyone who demands other norms applied on Israel is acting not in good faith.

485. yme Says:

@Sam Hopkins #483

In “offer Palestinians a feasible state”, what does “feasible” mean, practically speaking?

Or, if the Palestinians are given full citizenship in Israel, what do you suppose they are going to do with that citizenship? Whom will they vote for? What sort of laws will be passed by those whom they vote for?

I can’t imagine that things would turn out very well for those who currently have Israeli citizenship, which is probably why they generally don’t like that idea.

486. Rahul Says:

Cliff #481:

“Let me ignore the fact that you perceive modern Israel as an entity with no connection to historic Israel (which I believe is a mistake, but nevermind now); the problem in your argument (or question) is that even had Israel been created not in the Middle-East, still the amount of wars, instability and total death toll in the region would be approximately the same and probably even higher.”

No, but that’s precisely the question that I’m trying to ask: How important was it to the founding fathers, the early migrants or the current citizens that the new Jewish nation be founded on the same spot as the 2000+ year old Jewish nation?

Wasn’t the safety & comfort of the citizens (as dictated by neighbor nation choice) more important? Unless you are thinking that Sikhs or Buddhists or Hindus or Christians would hate and fight the Jews as much as current Palestinians.

I agree with your other point: Arabs would still have fought Arabs. But crucially, I’m trying to see this from a purely Jewish utilitarian metric: Who cares if Arabs kill each other if we are safely settled, say, in the middle of Burma? Think of it as a pragmatic or utilitarian question if you will.

Similarly, to an English or American diplomat in 1930 ( I’m assuming ) that a Jew killed mattered a lot more than an Arab killed. So moving the Jews away from conflict should have mattered no matter what happens to the Middle East.

The root question still remains (for me): How important was it that the modern Jewish state retain a geographic proximity to the ancient kingdom?

487. mbsq Says:

Recent events like the attack on the UN school make the second statement, “Israel is trying to kill as few civilians as it can,” very implausible. The only explanation for such events is negligence, incompetence, or evil.

488. Rahul Says:

Scott says:

“But I think the truth goes deeper. The early American colonists explicitly compared themselves to Israelites reaching the Promised Land—Salem, for example, is named after Jerusalem…. The founding ideals of the US ….are almost indistinguishable from the founding ideals of Israel. “

Yes, but only if we ignore the passage of a few hundred years. It matters.

Back in the day it was considered perfectly fine, almost noble, to butcher a few colored natives in order to colonize a new land. Rough frontier tactics and the quick, brutal justice that were the norm in 1800s would hardly be condoned today. And so on.

It’s like saying Somalian pirates’ resemblance to 1700’s American privateers gives the two peoples some sort of atavistic kinship in today’s world.

I doubt most modern Americans see anything romantic nor particularly desirable in a verbatim repeat of the 300-400 year old actions of their forefathers in today’s milieu.

PS. Is Israel really a “melting pot” for immigrants from around the world in the American sense of the term? What fraction of Israeli immigration happens outside of the Jewish returnees / local Arabs? Genuinely curious.

489. Scott Says:

Rahul #486: What’s interesting is that, if you read Theodor Herzl (the founder of Zionism), he carefully considered the possibility of a Jewish state in Argentina, and a few other options that I forget, although he seemed to favor historical Israel as the best option (not only because of its historical importance and ability to unite Jews, but also because, at that time, it was a piece of land in the Ottoman Empire that hardly anyone else wanted, and he thought the Ottomans might agree to a Jewish settlement there). So yes, multiple options were considered, though Israel gradually emerged as the most popular one, and then (crucially) some of the more adventurous European Jews started voting with their feet and moving there, creating a nucleus that then attracted other Jews who were either escaping persecution or just seeking a new life. This then meant that, after the Holocaust, this was the one place on earth that actually wanted the survivors from Europe, rather than wanting to get rid of them.

(The Jewish community there had also fought bitterly to take in Europe’s Jews before the Holocaust, but the British wouldn’t allow them to emigrate, for fear of angering the Arabs there—putting the lie to your assumption that to an English diplomat in the 1930s, “a Jew killed mattered a lot more than an Arab killed.”)

So, here’s how I would summarize the situation:

If, with dictatorial power over the earth, we were to choose today where to build a new Jewish homeland, the Middle East probably wouldn’t be our first choice.

But if, instead, we look at the actual sequence of historical events that led to Israel’s founding, it seems that at every step the early Zionists made choices that were quite reasonable, given what they knew at the time.

And of course, now that Israel exists, saying that it should never have been located in the Middle East is like saying that maybe the entire nation of Australia should be ended, the Sydney Opera House destroyed, etc., because in retrospect, it probably would’ve been better if the British had established their penal colony somewhere else. I.e., whether you’re right or wrong is now a question for history (or historical fiction), and no longer even particularly relevant to any policy question today.

490. Sam Hopkins Says:

Clif: I agree that “the US gets away with imperialism” is a very reasonable response. But I don’t think you’ll find any inconsistency with respect to, for example, Noam Chomsky’s positions with respect to the US and Israel. I can’t imagine who would be more representative of the “hard-left” commentators Scott mentioned.

491. Scott Says:

Rahul #488:

Is Israel really a “melting pot” for immigrants from around the world in the American sense of the term?

Well, it’s a “melting pot” on a much smaller scale than the US. It brought together Jews from at least 3 continents, including Holocaust survivors or escapees from all over Europe, as well as the million or so Jews who were expelled from Arab and North African countries as soon as Israel was founded. (Something, incidentally, that neither they nor anyone else ever bitterly fought, or for which they demanded a “right of return”!) Some of the new immigrants spoke Yiddish, some German or Polish or Hungarian, some Arabic, etc., and they had different cultures that had been out of contact with each other for hundreds of years. Then, of course, there are the Israeli Arabs, the Bedouins, and the Druze (these have been at peace with the Jewish population since the beginning, and the Bedouins and Druze typically even serve in the IDF).

492. Clif Says:

@Rahul, #487:

“The root question still remains (for me): How important was it that the modern Jewish state retain a geographic proximity to the ancient kingdom?”

I didn’t understand before that this is your question. This is indeed an interesting historical question. I don’t have a very thorough knowledge of this matter, but my understanding is that indeed it was crucially important, for many reasons, that Israel will be established in Israel, and not in, say, Uganda.

493. Rahul Says:

Scott #488:

Yes, but Australia isn’t the one engaged in a bloody conflict with multiple neighbors right since the date it was born.

Anyways, to reiterate, I wasn’t making an argument for relocating Israel. But I don’t see any reason why one may not question the wisdom of past policy. If one may second guess the utility & wisdom of the Hiroshima bombing this matter seems fair game as well.

But thanks for the pointer to Theodre Herzl’s thoughts on this issue. That’s exactly the sort of thing I was looking for.

494. Clif Says:

Sam Hopkins, #491:
“I agree that “the US gets away with imperialism” is a very reasonable response. “

You might have misunderstood my comment. In fact, I made precisely the following opposite statement:

It is not that because the US is doing something [that is morally reprehensible], that Israel should be granted the right to do it as well. On the contrary: the fact that the US and other Western countries (as well as non-Western countries) “get away” with certain actions, teaches us that de facto, these actions are morally acceptable.

Indeed, even the international law itself permits the non-deliberate killing of uninvolved civilians in an attempt to eliminate legitimate military targets.

Now, the whole argument about the current Gaza war seems to be around the legitimacy of Israel’s actions. But since it is almost evident that Israel’s actions are legitimate as a self-defense measure, even in the eyes of the international law, those who seem to be on the automatic pilot of accusing Israel whatever she does, have now turned to a new kind of subjective (and thus practically infallible) “argument”:
“Israel’s actions [in theory] are legitimate, but they are not proportionate“.

495. Scott Says:

Sam Hopkins #483:

I’m sure everyone on the “hard-left” would say, here is what Israel can do:
(1) end the siege of Gaza by air, land, and sea;
(2) remove all settlements from the West Bank;
(3) offer Palestinians a feasible state; or
(4) grant full citizenship to everyone west of the Jordan River.
You might think that these are overly idealistic responses. But to say they have nothing to do with the current conflict is absurd.

(I’ve taken the liberty of numbering your suggestions.)

Out of your four suggestions, I personally think that only (4) is “overly idealistic,” given the reality of openly-expressed genocidal intentions by many in power on the Palestinian side.

(1), (2), and (3) are all wonderful ideas that I hope will be implemented sooner rather than later. However, since you’ve been stressing the importance of historical context, let’s keep in mind a few things:

(1) (the “siege of Gaza”) didn’t exist until 2007, after had Hamas come to power, killed Israeli soldiers at the border crossings between Israel and Gaza, fired rockets, kidnapped Gilad Shalit, etc. So I hold Hamas more to blame for it than Israel. (In an ordinary situation where criminals in country A launch attacks against neighboring country B, country B can ask the government of country A to take care of it. But what if the criminals are the government of country A?) Having said that, I completely agree with you that Israel ought to do much more than it currently does to let supplies into Gaza and exports out. I.e., while some control over Gaza’s borders is completely justified by Hamas’s actions, the amount of control (e.g., letting in hummus, but not hummus with pine nuts) seems to me to go beyond any plausible military rationale. I agree with you there.

As for (2) and (3), they were already offered, but turned down by Yasser Arafat because he also wanted the “right of return” (i.e., the Chomskyan “solution (4)”). If we’re talking about context, I think this is a crucial bit of context that one needs to engage. Having said that, I read in the NYT that Olmert and Abbas again came tantalizingly close to a peace deal in 2007-8. I really hope Israel will make the offer again, and this time, the PA will accept it—just like the Israelis accepted the UN Partition Plan in 1947, despite its being very far from everything they wanted. Sadly, recent events just seem to be moving everyone further and further from the goal.

496. Rahul Says:

Scott #489:

“but the British wouldn’t allow them emigrate, for fear of angering the Arabs there—putting the lie to your assumption that to an English diplomat in the 1930s, “a Jew killed mattered a lot more than an Arab killed.”)

Are you really saying that the sympathies of 1930 Britian were fully in favor of brown-skinned, Moslem, colonial Arabs rather than white, cultured, Western European Jews?

I do realize the prevalent anti-Semitism but it’s interesting to examine what happens when two different prejudices clash. I’d have thought Jews would win over Arabs (though both might be despicable) in the mind of a typical 1930 Englishman but maybe not.

OTOH, even if one were a totally unprejudiced British diplomat one could reasonably think that angering Arabs might mean a bloody riot on your hands (and so there were too). And that wouldn’t just mean dead Arabs but dead Jews as well. So isn’t obvious to me whether alleviating Arab fears (by restricting Jewish immigration) was a purely anti-Semetic move or just pragmatism by a prudent colonial diplomat. Maybe both in parts.

( To give them some benefit of doubt, those Britishmen may not have seen the Holocaust coming. At least not the full extent of its impending horrors. )

Well, at least the Arabs openly hated the Jews so I can understand their antipathy to a massive Jewish influx. But what about the noble Americans whose “founding ideals are almost indistinguishable from the founding ideals of Israel”, where were they when the Jews were fleeing Germany? If any nation had the space, resources and protection to offer a persecuted minority, America was it.

That’s another reason I’m skeptical of your kinship theory of Americans and Israel: you do not close your borders to your kin fleeing a genocide. Somehow history remembers the Brit and Arab role in this disgraceful episode but the Americans get a pass (relatively).

PS. Forget Americans at large, but are you even convinced that American Jews did enough (to get the fleeing Jews safe refuge)? I’m asking because I don’t know.

497. mbsq Says:

@Clif #494:

“But since it is almost evident that Israel’s actions are legitimate as a self-defense measure, even in the eyes of the international law…”

How can you maintain this in light of the condemnation by the US and the UN of the attack on the schools? It cannot be “evident” with such major bodies expressing the opposite opinion.

498. mbsq Says:

@Rahul #489,

I’m not sure your criticism is fair. The US has the 2nd largest Jewish population in the world mostly because so many fled the Nazis by coming to the US. And we’re talking about accommodating millions of refugees- not trivial. But perhaps the US could have done much more.

499. Clif Says:

Some updates on the supposed “Israeli” siege of Gaza:

It turns out that not only the Egyptians are holding a blockade of Gaza, as they effectively block Gaza’s southern border; I’m now hearing that even Palestinians who seek refuge in Egypt are being refused by the Egyptians to pass the Rafiach passage in southern Gaza.

It is interesting to note also that, as far as I’m aware of, there were no serious or continual reports by international news outlets such as CNN, BBC, etc. about the Egyptian blockade of Gaza.

500. Scott Says:

mbsq #498: No, Rahul’s criticism’s is perfectly fair. The vast majority of Jews in the US are descended from people who immigrated before 1924, when the US passed an Immigration Act that virtually cut off Jewish (and other “non-Aryan”) immigration, in an attempt to maintain the US’s “racial balance.” (The immigration law was then reformed in the 1960s.) Because of the 1924 law, the US was essentially closed to Jews trying to escape Hitler (famously, one refugee ship that reached the US coast was actually sent back to Europe, after which many of its passengers were killed in the death camps).

In answer to Rahul’s question, absolutely no one did enough to stop the unfolding Holocaust: not the British, not the Argentinians, not the Canadians or Australians or New Zealanders, and certainly not American Jews. Of course some American Jews tried—held protest marches, wrote letters to Congress, and so on—and of course they were hampered by the immigration law, as well as by their own ignorance or refusal to believe what was happening, which they shared with everyone else. (Famously, the New York Times ran almost no stories about the Holocaust while it was happening, despite having reliable information about it.) And American Jews did eventually succeed in pressuring FDR to set up the War Refugees Board, which is estimated to have saved about 200,000 Jews. But they didn’t do everything that they could, and some of the reasons why they didn’t were extremely bad ones—e.g., a fear of an antisemitic backlash against them if they made too much of a fuss.

(Note that it was in the wake of the Holocaust, and the vows of “never again,” that American Jews adopted a no-holds-barred approach to lobbying for Israel’s security.)

501. Rahul Says:

@mbsq:

“The US has the 2nd largest Jewish population in the world mostly because so many fled the Nazis by coming to the US.”

Are you sure of the reason? Because the percent of Jews in American population in 1950 (3.30%) seems actually lower than in 1930 (3.43%) [source: Wikipedia]. What gives?

Even in absolute numbers, between 1930 and 1950 a mere 700,000 more Jews were added to the US population. That’s a lot less than what any 20 years added between 1880-1930.

The US seems to have cut back on Jewish immigration during the holocaust era and not increased. Not what I’d have expected.

502. Clif Says:

@mbsq #499,
Indeed, my claim was that it is evident that Israel’s actions are legitimate since the Hamas terror organization is continually shooting missiles at innocent Israelis, and calls for the mass murder of Jews, and that any sovereign country has the right to self defense (this was iterated by the US, Germany and many other countries); and in face of this evident situation, those automatic criticizers of Israel, such as the UN (who’s practically obsessed with Israel denunciations), had to come up with a new way to delegitimize Israel’s actions (by inventing the “justified but not proportionate action” argument). Obviously, an alleged Israeli shooting of a school is helpful for this cause.

On the other hand, the US has not condemned Israel, but on the contrary declared that it has the right to self defense; though they indeed issued a condemnation of this specific incidence (which doesn’t mean that the operation as a whole is not evidently justified).

503. Rahul Says:

Regarding the “remove all settlements from the West Bank” bit I wonder if Israel pragmatically maintained the status quo for some more years would we come to the point where a reasonable person might be able to write:

“And of course, now that the settlements exist, saying that they should never have been built is like saying that [insert fave analogy; maybe Australia] I.e., whether you’re right or wrong is now a question for history (or historical fiction), and no longer even particularly relevant to any policy question today.”

In that context, perhaps Israel ought to hold on to them settlements a bit longer. Nothing like the passage of time to give a venture legitimacy.

After all, Possession is nine-tenths of the law…..

504. Scott Says:

mbsq #487:

Recent events like the attack on the UN school make the second statement, “Israel is trying to kill as few civilians as it can,” very implausible. The only explanation for such events is negligence, incompetence, or evil.

Or how about, Hamas adopting a deliberate (and by now longstanding) policy of firing at soldiers and launching missiles from the vicinity of hospitals and schools, in an attempt to goad the IDF into firing back, killing civilians, and thereby giving Hamas PR coups (and, unfortunately, the IDF sometimes obliging them)? Or does that fall into the “evil” category on your list?

505. Scott Says:

Everyone: I apologize, but I’ve decided to close this thread tonight, because I realized that it’s taking too much of my time away from actual work. So, if you want to wrap up any ongoing discussions, please do so, but please don’t start any new ones. Thank you (and thanks for participating)!

506. Clif Says:

Ok, Scott #506, with your permission, here’s my wrap-up of the whole discussion, as I see it:

Several attempts at denouncing Israel have been made in response to this post. All of them basically boil down to:

1. Israel has the right to self defense, but her actions are disproportionate;

2. Israel does not have the right to self defense because she “occupies and oppresses the Palestinians” and “holds a siege over Gaza”.

Both 1 and 2 do not stand any serious scrutiny:

Point 1, is false for many reasons: Israel’s actions are in fact very proportionate to the (justified) cause she intends to achieve: stop Hamas terror attacks on Israeli land. Not only this, but the international law itself states that non deliberate killings of uninvolved citizens is permitted if the military goal is justified. And further, in face of almost similar (justified IMO) actions taken by the US and other countries in places like Afghanistan, with precisely similar effects (i.e., the tragic death of hundreds of uninvolved civilians), and the fact that the international community accepts these latter actions, it is clear that such actions are de facto within the current moral norm, and so Israel cannot be singled out for this.

Point 2 is factually false in my opinion, for many reasons. The simplest one is that there is no occupation of Gaza, Israel deported all Jews from Gaza in 2005 and it has no control on Gaza’s south border (Egypt does); and in any case Hamas is not fighting against any “occupation” but against the existence of Israel.

That’s my wrap-up.

507. Scott Says:

In case anyone is curious, out of 87 comments that I left on this thread (including this one), I counted:

29 that I’d consider to have a “pro-Israel slant”
6 that I’d consider to have a “pro-Palestinian slant”
52 that I’d consider to have “both or neither”

Note that I would’ve left many, many fewer “pro-Israel” comments, had a large number of comments advocating the Palestinian position—larger than the number on the Israeli side—not been challenging me to respond. (In other words, I claim it was legitimate self-defense. )

In summary, while no one would ever accuse me of being neutral, I don’t think I can be charged with holding the truth to be entirely on one side. And I hope no one holds it thus. That seems like a reasonable note on which to end the thread. As Eitan Bachmat #451 wrote, “peace to us all.”