Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Does criticism of Israel equate to support for Hamas?

In 1943 the German Army discovered a mass grave of Polish officers, executed by the Soviet NKVD (forerunner of the KGB) after the partition of Poland in 1939.

Sensing a gigantic propaganda opportunity, the Nazis invited in the international press, to say, Look, what a mass-murdering bastard Stalin is!

Of course, by that time, 80% of all the Jews who would die in the Holocaust were already dead.

Did the fact that the Third Reich had committed genocide absolve the Soviet Union of mass murder?

Another case: during the final round of the Seminole Wars in the early 1830s, the United States Army managed to defeat the elusive Seminoles under Tecumsah by simply burning their crops and continuing operations through the summer in order to prevent them from planting any more. As Seminole children began starving, the leaders--including Tecumsah--found themselves forced to parley. Tecumsah was eventually executed by the US Army in a bizarre set of circumstances.

Our justification for tactics that starved Seminole children? The Seminoles had been allowing runaway African slaves to join their bands, and had raided southern Georgia plantations for food, weapons, and tools. The Seminoles also sometimes tortured captives to death.

Was the tactic of starvation of civilians justified by the actions of the Seminole leaders and warriors?

One more case: during William T. (for Tecumsah--how ironic) Sherman's March to the Sea, from Atlanta to Savannah in late 1864, he learned that the far outnumbered Confederate defenders had mined some major roads to discourage their use by advancing Union columns. Outraged, Sherman sent for captured Confederate soldiers and made them walk at the head of his columns, to set off any mines. At about the same time, in the Shenandoah Valley, Phillip Sheridan responded to Rebels blowing up railroad tracks to disrupt his supplies by tying Southern civilians to the front end of the trains, so that they would die first.

Is retaliation that targets a civilian population--even a complicit civilian population--moral, even in wartime?

Since the European religious wars of the 15th and 16th Centuries, scholars and soldiers have been attempting to codify laws of war. It seems most often like a paradoxical enterprise, especially when you are fighting an enemy who doesn't play by the same rules. Most often the response--particularly of those with a national, emotional, or personal stake in a given conflict--is that once our enemies have violated the rules of war, then all bets are off, or else its close-cousin corollary: war is meant to be fought to victory by whatever means necessary.

This is insanity, especially for a nation--here you may select either the United States, Great Britain, or Israel--that has repeatedly sullied the reputations of its overwhelmingly honorable soldiers by covering up, excusing, or ignoring the misdeeds that inevitably occur in any given war.

Hamas is a sub-national, religiously-oriented, nationalistic organization that routinely employs terror tactics.

I do not subscribe to, nor approve of, terror tactics--by anyone.

The people who argue--from either side--that peace can never be achieved until side X is destroyed have fallen prey to the unfortunate thinking referenced in a quotation attributed to HG Wells: The first man to pick up a stick to hit his neighbor was the first man to run out of ideas.

The Middle East today is a place almost completely devoid of both ideas and imagination, in any positive sense, and on all sides.

The current insistence of those who consider criticism of Israel for its current campaign in Gaza (or previous campaigns in Lebanon) that to condemn a tactic used by the Israelis is to support Hamas terror is an emotional and not an intellectual response.

There will, of course, be pragmatic rejoinders to this opinion, people who say, After all these years of continuing Arab emnity and threats to its existence, what do you expect Israel to do?

I'm not sure--how's that as honesty?

But I do expect the inheritors of one of the great religious and cultural traditions on Earth--albeit one that in its most radical interpretations seems based on a mythical history of Deity-approved genocide--to display more imagination than it is currently displaying.


Anonymous said...

If Hamas would act more like ghandi they would have achieved most of their goals. Once you have terrorism then your legitmate issues get lost and you have the current situation with two sides and no resolution in sight. Israel is a democracy if its leaders don't act they will be thrown out of office for someone who will. Palastinians demands for a return of refugees will never happen but is a sacred to most palastinians. They also have multiple organizations that can sabatoge any effort for peace. Therefore you have the tit for tat and the current band aid solutions like sir strikes and walls etc

I can't criticize Israeli tactics unless there are alternative and superior methods to resolving the crisis.

I don't really see a good solution for the problem and it's unlikely to be resolved.

Anonymous said...

"I can't criticize Israeli tactics unless there are alternative and superior methods to resolving the crisis. "

You are trying to say, that unless someone offers an alternative way, the killing of innocents is justified in your eyes?

If some terrorists is hiding in your house, then the police is justified to bomb you and your family? Is that your opinion?