Posts tagged Israel

Against National Relativism

It’s not every term in meta-ethical theory that gets taken up into burning public-policy debates. But due to a complex series of cultural events, the term moral relativism has. The problem is that nearly every use of the term moral relativism in common political debate has more or less nothing actually to do with the subject of moral relativism. Here’s some notes from a recent Glenn Greenwald column on u.s.-American responses to the Israeli government’s bombing of urban targets in Syria:

. . . [T]he claim is being hauled out that Israel’s actions are justified by the “principle” that it has the right to defend itself from foreign weapons in the hands of hostile forces. But is that really a “principle” that anyone would apply consistently, as opposed to a typically concocted ad hoc claim to justify whatever the US and Israel do? Let’s apply this “principle” to other cases, as several commentators on Twitter have done over the last 24 hours . . .:

Imagine if, say, Iran had unilaterally launched a strike on Salafi Syrian rebels overnight? Would we all be okay with that? #lawofthejungle — Mehdi Hasan (@mehdirhasan)

. . . As soon as Hasan tweeted his question, he was instantly attacked by a writer for the Times of Israel and the Atlantic, dutifully re-tweeted by Jeffrey Goldberg, on this ground:

Israel’s strike on Syria has been a revealing moment. Some, for example, seem to view Israel as equivalent to Iran —Liam Hoare (@lahoare)

One could say quite reasonably that this is the pure expression of the crux of US political discourse on such matters: they must abide by rules from which we’re immune, because we’re superior. . . . The ultimate irony is that those who advocate for the universal application of principles to all nations are usually tarred with the trite accusatory slogan of moral relativism. But the real moral relativists are those who believe that the morality of an act is determined not by its content but by the identity of those who commit them: namely, whether it’s themselves or someone else doing it. . . . Today’s version of that is: Israel and the US (and its dictatorial allies in Riyadh and Doha) have the absolute right to bomb other countries or arm rebels in those countries if they perceive doing so is necessary to stop a threat but Iran and Syria (and other countries disobedient to US dictates) do not. This whole debate would be much more tolerable if it were at least honestly acknowledged that what is driving the discussion are tribalistic notions of entitlement and nothing more noble.

— Glenn Greenwald, Israeli bombing of Syria and moral relativism
The Guardian (May 6, 2013)

The view that moral relativism is actually supposed to signify is, roughly, the position that one and the same action, taken in the same context, can be both right and wrong at the same time; that is, the position that questions of morality can rightly be answered only relative to a frame of reference[1] which can change from one judgment to the next. (So, for example, some people have believed — wrongly — that whether an action is right or wrong depends on whether the person making the moral judgment has a feeling of approval or disapproval towards it; other people have believed — also wrongly — that whether an action is right or wrong depends on whether the person making the judgment lives in a society in which the action is generally praised, generally tolerated, or generally condemned. For an excellent discussion of, and critical reply to, actual moral relativism, see the third chapter of G. E. Moore’s Ethics [1912].)

Now it is no sin not to know meta-ethical theory. It’s a branch of technical philosophy, and not the least recondite of the branches you could study. But if you’re going to use the terms, you ought at least to know what they mean. Moral relativism is a real thing; and even kind of a common personal stance or cultural phenomenon (it’s common enough for people, when challenged to justify their actions or to ground their moral pronouncements, to retreat into a sort of relativism, whether with a seemingly sophisticated philosophical defense or with a dull Well, you know, that’s just, like, your opinion, man.). And it’s something that’s worth pointing out; I think that the retreat to relativism is not only a cognitive or intellectual mistake, but really itself a kind of ethical lapse. But in public political debates, when the word moral relativism is thrown against a position, it is rarely being thrown at a position that’s actually relativist. In fact, because the word has become a watch-word of the cultural Right — and because u.s.-American militarism draws so much of its intellectual basis from the watch-words of the cultural Right[2]relativism has come to be very frequently used in order to defend the crassest sorts of exceptionalism and militarism in foreign policy debates. But when moral relativism is used polemically this way in debates about war and foreign policy, the word is almost always being used to attack positions that are exactly the opposite of relativist — it used to attack views precisely because they insist on principled ethical judgments being applied across the board, and demand that moral actors be held to the same ethical standards regardless of who they are, regardless of their politics or the government they are part of or the nationality they claim to represent. When someone condemns the Israeli government for taking exactly the same actions that would have been condemned from the government of Iran, the person condemning those actions (whether they are right or wrong to do so) is explicitly demanding a universal standard of moral judgment, and thus rejecting the sort of national relativism that tolerates behavior from our government while condemning it in others, simply because they are on the other side of a political boundary.

When moral relativism is used polemically in foreign-policy debates, the position being attacked is almost always being attacked because it makes a moral argument which is actually the exact opposite of moral relativism. And that’s too bad, because words mean things. Or at least they ought to.

Also.

  1. [1] Depending on the version of relativism in question, the frame of reference might be the frame of reference of the person acting; or it might be the frame of reference of the person evaluating the action and responding with praise or blame.
  2. [2] Both in terms of the people who advocate militarism, and also in terms of the conceptual framework that even liberal hawks routinely make use of.

Wednesday Lazy Linking

The Police Beat

  1. Common ground. Chicago, Illinois; London, England; Tehran, Iran; and Ramat Gan, Israel. It turns out there’s one thing the governments in Iran, Israel, the U.K., and the U.S.A. can all agree on: massive police brutality against political protesters.

  2. Lausanne, Switzerland. World Radio Switzerland (2009-06-09): Perjury claim reopens police brutality case. A cop in the Swiss city of Lausanne stopped a 16 year old Eritrean immigrant twice on New Year’s eve; the second time, they decided to douse him with pepper spray and leave him out in the woods. He tried to lodge a complaint, but the local police wouldn’t accept the complaint. When the case finally got investigated and went to trial, the cop was acquitted in court because his gang-brothers lied for him on the stand. The case is back in the news because it’s been re-opened after a former cop accused them of perjuring themselves in order to cover up police brutality.

  3. Sergeant Naofumi Nomura. Okayama, Japan. A 75 year old woman recently got Served and Protected by Police Sergeant Naofumi Nomura when he stole her purse and about 10,000 yen inside it. He was arrested after two high school boys chased him down on their bicycles. (Via Reason Daily Brickbats.)

  4. Northern Territory police. Darwin, Australia. Tara Ravens, Brisbane Times (2009-06-10): Coroner slams NT police over man’s death. Northern Territory police pulled a former journalist named Greg Plasto off the street and forced him into the hospital for a mental health assessment because they thought he was acting strangely, in their arbitrary judgment, which apparently is good enough to put you in a psychoprison these days; after he had been forced to wait nearly two hours in an ambulance, he got up and said he wanted to go outside. Rather than asking him why he wanted to go outside, or just letting him get up and walk around, a gang of up to six cops tackled Plasto, who, again, had not been accused of any crime at all, then wrestled him to the ground, smashed his head into the ground, and held him down on the ground for four minutes while he turned blue and smothered to death. The coroner who reviewed the case says that the problem is that police need better training.

  5. Officer Joseph J. Rios III. Passaic, New Jersey. (Cont’d.) I previously mentioned the case of Officer Joseph J. Rios III, who was videotaped beating the hell out of a defenseless black man, over and over again, for not having zipped up his jacket on command. (Rios, formerly a counter-insurgency soldier in occupied Iraq, remained on active patrol duty while the incident was being Internally Investigated, right up until after the video evidence was released to the public, at which point the city government’s police department let him keep his job, but put him on a desk job. Then, in response to public protest, Mayor Alex Blanco had the city government’s police department give Rios a [paid vacation](http://www.northjersey.com/breakingnews/Officeraccusedofexcessiveforce_suspended.html instead. Later, in response to ongoing protests, he had it changed to an unpaid vacation.

    Officer Joseph J. Rios III has since come out with a public statement for the press, insisting that he stands by his actions; saying (through his lawyer) that There were communications by Mr. Holloway and the officer as well as an earlier encounter during the day between the men that wasn’t on the tape (apparently thinking that verbal communications might somehow — how? — justify this relentless beat-down); he asserts that he did what was proper and (what he wrongly believes to be the same thing) he did what I was trained to do. Supposing that’s true, what does that tell you about the training?

  6. Well, if you say so …. Botched SWAT raid. Prince George’s County Sheriff’s Department. Prince George’s County, Maryland. Radley Balko, Hit & Run (2009-06-20): Prince George’s County Sheriff’s Department Declares Itself Blame-Free in Cheye Calvo Raid In which the Prince George’s County Sheriff’s Department issues a report in which it is reported that the Prince George’s County Sheriff’s Department did nothing wrong in the no-knock, no-evidence SWAT raid on Cheye Calvo’s family home. (This is more or less what passes for investigation when cops commit violence against mere civilians.) Sheriff Michael Jackson says the Internal Investigation’s results are consistent with what I’ve felt all along: My deputies did their job to the fullest extent of their abilities. No doubt.

  7. Oops. Our bad. (Cont’d.) Botched SWAT raid. Mustang, Oklahoma. Six heavily-armed strangers in black bullet-proof vests stormed Terry Speck’s house back in March and, without telling her who the hell they were or what they were doing in her house, told her they were looking for her 20-year-old nephew, Cory Davis. Terrified, she tried to tell them he was in prison. They didn’t believe her, so they ransacked her house for 20 minutes before they left, without ever identifying themselves. The Specks were later able to figure out that they were police by reviewing the tapes from their home security cameras. Cory Davis had in fact been in state prison since November, but apparently when an arrest warrant on new charges was issued, none of the narcs bothered to check where he was, instead of storming first and asking questions later. Of course, for being terrorized at the hands of six heavily-armed strangers for absolutely no reason, Terry Speck got an Oops, our bad from the state. (Via Reason Daily Brickbats 2009-06-14.)

  8. Murderers and batterers on patrol. Officer Jason Thomas Anderson. Big Lake, Minnesota. I’ve remarked before on the connections between paramilitary policing and violent hypermasculinity. So I’ll just mention, here, that it turns out that when Officer Jason Thomas Anderson is not busy shooting teenage Hmong bike-riders in the back (or shooting them five more times in the chest after they’re already bleeding on the ground), he also likes to get himself arrested on domestic violence charges.

  9. Roughing up and arresting an innocent woman for filming the police. Richmond, Virginia. Richmond police were dealing with a lot of drunks down in Shockoe Bottom at 2:00am last September. Joanne Jefferson decided to observe and film how the cops were handling people in the crowd; so the cops responded by ordering her to leave, then grabbing her arm, slamming her into a wall, and then forcing her down onto the ground and arresting her for impeding traffic. The story is now in the news because the Richmond D.A. has decided to drop the charges against Ms. Jefferson. Even though filming the police on public property is not a crime, and even though the D.A. has determined that the police had absolutely no basis for arresting Ms. Jefferson, let alone grabbing her, slamming her into a wall, and forcing her down onto the ground in order to do so, he thinks that the officers did not act with excessive force. If the appropriate level of force is zero, how is this not excessive force? Nevertheless, the D.A. has stated that he sees no evidence that would support a criminal investigation of a police officer.

  10. Arresting an innocent priest for filming the police. Officer David Cari. East Haven, Connecticut. East Haven cop David Cari arrested a Roman Catholic priest, James Manship, for filming police treatment of Latino immigrants in East Haven. The police report claims that he had to be arrested for disorderly conduct and interfering with an officer because he was holding an unknown shiny silver object in his hand (with the obvious intent to suggest that the cop thought it might have been a gun) and struggled with a cop who tried to take it from him. Turns out that the video footage from the camera shows Officer David Cari asking the priest Is there a reason you have a camera on me? Manship replying I’m taking a video of what’s going on here, and Cari approaching Manship and saying, Well, I’ll tell you what I’m going to do with that camera. The police department’s lawyer says You’ve got to conclude that he was out there with a video camera in an attempt, in my view, to provoke the police to do something. (Well, whatever you want; but if cops just can’t help but do something like arrest an innocent man for a non-crime when provoked by the public they allegedly serve trying to record their behavior, then why should such dangerous thugs continue being cops?) (Via Reason Daily Brickbats 2009-06-01: Caught on Tape.)

  11. Roughing up and arresting an innocent woman for raising her voice at a police officer. Officer Bobby Wright and New Mexico State Police. Española, New Mexico. In New Mexico, a couple of State Police, responding to reports of shots fired in the area, rolled up on Dolores Jacquez, a 17 year old pregnant girl, and her boyfriend, who were sitting in a car minding their own business. They pointed automatic rifles at the two of them and ordered them to stand outside the car with their hands in the air. Her boyfriend has only one leg, which made it hard for him to do what they were ordering. Rather than acting like human beings, and in spite of the fact that neither of these kids had committed any crime, the State Police shoved the 17 year old pregnant girl and her one-legged boyfriend down to the ground. During this absolutely pointless manhandling, Jacquez spoke angrily to the officers, raising her voice while talking to them, using profanity at times; for which the State Police decided that she and her boyfriend ought to be arrested. So they shoved her into their patrol car and called up a city government cop, Officer Bobby Wright, to take her to jail. When she asked what would happen to her boyfriend, he replied Shut up, [expletive]. Then he handcuffed her to a bench at the State Police station, making the cuff so tight that it cut into the skin and left a mark on her wrist for days, refused to let her use the bathroom, and threatened to make the cuffs even tighter if she did not shut up. This complaint makes at least the fourth complaint for brutality or unlawful arrests against Officer Bobby Wright. The State Police never bothered to file any charges, because, of course, cussing at cops is not a crime. But while you can beat the rap, you can’t beat the ride, so they arrested the kids anyway, because they could. The State Public Safety Department has settled the separate lawsuit that Jacquez filed against the two State Police cops for terrorizing her, roughing her up and arresting her for speaking angrily; public servants that they are, the State Public Safety Department will be sending the bill for the settlement to a bunch of innocent taxpayers who had nothing to do with the assault or the false arrest.

  12. Four broken ribs for approaching a police officer. Modesto, California. Back in January 2007, Margaret Shepherd went out to a Modesto bar with her son to celebrate his 21st birthday. One of her son’s friends got thrown out of the bar and a scuffle appeared to break out between the bar’s security guards and some other people in the party. Ms. Shepherd, who had nothing to do with any of this, tried to approach some cops who were in the club to ask them what the hell was going on. So they broke four of her ribs, arrested her for resisting arrest, and then threw her in a paddy-wagon and refused to get her medical attention while she struggled to breathe in the back of the wagon. The story is in the news again because a jury just cleared the cops of any civil liability for this hyperviolent assault on an innocent woman who had done nothing other than try to ask the cops what was going on.

  13. Beating and pepper-spraying a man after he’s been handcuffed for arguing with a police officer. Lieutenant Chuck McBrayer and Officer Danny Williams. Valley, Alabama. Amy Weaver, Opelika-Auburn News (2009-06-09): Third claim filed against Valley, police. Valley cops Lieutenant Chuck McBrayer and Officer Danny Williams forced their way into 64 year old Joseph E. Coker’s home. Joseph E. Coker wasn’t accused of any crime; they were looking for his son, Brandon Coker. Joseph Coker and Lieutenant Chuck McBrayer got into a verbal argument, so McBrayer threatened to pepper spray him for arguing with a cop who was intruding into his own home. So McBrayer ordered Officer Danny Williams to handcuff this 64-year-old man; then, after he was already being handcuffed, Lieutenant Chuck McBrayer pepper-sprayed him in the face; then he pried open Coker’s right eye and pepper-sprayed him again, directly in the eye. Then they forced him down onto the ground and, while he was still cuffed and physically restrained, smashed his nose so hard he passed out and had to be hospitalized. After going on this unprovoked hyperviolent rampage against a 64-year-old man in his own home, McBrayer and Williams arrested Coker in the emergency room for disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. This is the third claim of police brutality filed against the Valley police department in the last three months. The boss cops in Valley refuse to comment on any disciplinary actions because the incident is being Internally Investigated. (Via @InjusticeNews.)

  14. Bludgeoning a stabbing victim after he was already handcuffed to a wheelchair. Officer William Cozzi. Chicago, Illinois. In Chicago, Officer William Cozzi, a 15-year veteran of the Chicago Police Department, was caught on video handcuffing a stabbing victim to a wheelchair, in the hospital emergency room, and beating him with a sap. He was called into the emergency room help the man out after he had been stabbed by a female companion. But his victim was drunk, and Cozzi was busy Investigating, so he got frustrated at the alleged beneficiary of this investigation, and decided to deal with his frustration by shackling the man to a wheelchair and beating him with a sap. Then he made up some complete lies for his police report about his victim having attacked him and hospital workers. After the video came out, Cozzi plead guilty to misdemeanor charges and got 18 months of probation.

    Later, a series of scandals over repeated and unchecked police brutality and corruption within the Chicago Police Department forced Chicago Police Superintendent Jody Weis to refer the case to the FBI for a federal civil rights investigation. Cozzi was just recently convicted and sentenced to three years in federal prison. In response, the Fraternal Order of Police in Chicago has made a public complaint about the fact that Cozzi will go to prison for beating the hell out of an innocent, wounded assault victim who was shackled to a wheelchair at the time, and who Cozzi was supposedly called in to Protect and Serve. Terence Gillespie, Cozzi’s defense lawyer, says that This is a message to all those officers in blue out there that after 15 years on the job you’ll get thrown under the bus.

    (See also the case of Hope Steffey for cops beating the hell out of an assault victim who gets too frustrating while the cop is doing his Investigating.)

  15. Gang-beating a man after he’s been handcuffed. Officer Brian Quilici, Officer Ronald Pilati, and Officer Jerome Volstad. Fox Lake, Illinois. Three off-duty cops — one on the Richmond city government’s police force, and two on the Spring Grove city government’s police force — went to a bar in Fox Lake to get drunk back in April 2005. Along the way they got into a verbal argument with a man named Ryan Hallett. When he tried to leave, the three cops followed him out of the bar, handcuffed him, and then beat him down to the ground while he was cuffed. Then, while Hallet was lying on the ground, one of the cops, Officer Brian Quilici, kicked him in the face so hard that he Hallett suffered a broken facial bone and later had to get multiple surgeries. Fox Lake police who responded to this mob beat-down by their gang brothers recommended that their victim, Ryan Hallet, be prosecuted, until a series of newspaper reports revealed that Officer Brian Quilici had already racked up multiple complaints for harassment, battery and disorderly conduct, somehow without charges ever having been filed against him or his job prospects having been hurt in the least. After the newspaper stories forced their hand, the State Police eventually started their own investigation, and Qulici was eventually charged and convicted of mob action, official misconduct, and obstructing justice, which got him a two-year prison sentence. His comrades-in-arms, Officer Ronald Pilati and Officer Jerome Volstad, plead guilty on misdemeanor charges. The story is in the news again for two reasons. First, because a federal jury recently imposed a $450,000 judgment against Quilici and the city government of Richmond for the beating. (The Richmond city government will, of course, force innocent taxpayers to pay for the government’s decision to keep an out-of-control hyperviolent cop on their police force after multiple complaints.) Secondly, because a state appeals court just threw out Officer Brian Quilici’s conviction, on the grounds that the judge in the original criminal trial should not have confused the jury by telling them that A police officer executing an arrest outside of his jurisdiction has no greater arrest powers than a private citizen executing a citizens’ arrest. Because arrest powers would have made it O.K. to pick a start fight, handcuff your victim, and then kick him in the face while he’s lying on the ground?

  16. Highway robbery. Officer Jonathan Lutman. Slidell, Louisiana. In Louisiana, Slidell Police Officer Jonathan Lutman repeatedly used his police car to pull over Latino drivers (whom he targeted because he thought they’d be less likely to report the stick-up) and then demanded that they hand over their wallets. When he had the wallet, he would rip out the cash and pocket it. Officer Jonathan Lutman stole about $3,000 on these highwayman traffic stops before two of his victims reported him. The story is in the news again because he plead guilty to 12 counts of malfeasance in office in May. If you or I or any other non-cop were convicted of practicing highway robbery (in the most literal sense) while armed with a dangerous weapon, we would be imprisoned at hard labor for not less than ten years and not more than ninety-nine years, without benefit of parole, probation, or suspension of sentence. But since Officer Jonathan Lutman robbed people using a government-issued weapon and under color of government authority, he plead guilty to a crime that normally carries a 5 year prison sentence. And then the judge suspended the sentence, and gave Lutman probation instead, and ordered him to complete 200 hours of community service. (Via Reason Daily Brickbats: Copping a Plead.)

  17. Corporal Jason King. South Bend, Indiana. After a high-speed chase, Corporal Jason King was filmed on his dash cam beating up the Suspect Individual he was arresting, even though his victim posed no threat and was not resisting arrest. The Chief of Police in South Bend punished Corporal King by giving him a 30-day unpaid vacation and dropping his rank to patrolman.. When even the Chief of Police concedes that he was needlessly assaulting and battering a man who posed no physical threat, why isn’t Corporal Jason King going to jail?

  18. Officer John Mailander and Officer Mersed Dautovic. Des Moines, Iowa. Two Des Moines city government cops were responding to an unrelated emergency call back in September; a car with a black couple in it failed to immediately yield, so instead of driving on to the emergency, the cops stopped the car, screamed orders and pulled the driver, Erin Evans, out of the car, and, when her boyfriend, Octavius Bonds, tried to get them to stop assaulting her, blinded him with pepper spray, and then beat him black and blue with batons, breaking his left hand and his right arm, and cracking his head open with a gash so big it took eight staples to close. Then they lied about it in their police report to try and cover up their brutality. The story is in the news again now because Des Moines Police Chief Judy Bradshaw just recently fired the two cops responsible for this out-of-control assault on helpless victims who had not committed any crime. So, great, they lost their jobs. Why aren’t these dangerous assailants in jail?

  19. Quid custodiet…? Officer Paul Abel. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Pittsburgh cop Paul Abel was an eight year veteran of the police force, and also a former counter-insurgency soldier in the U.S. government’s war on Iraq. He had already racked up three outstanding complaints against him for brutality and filing false police reports on the night he went out to celebrate his wife’s birthday. He decided to drive drunk — after four beers and two shots. Some dude came by and punched him in the face while he sat in his car at the stoplight. So Officer Paul Abel got out, grabbed his government-issued gun, and drove after the suspect. Then, with a blood alcohol level over 0.111, he rolled up on a young man from the neighborhood named Kaleb Miller. Miller says he wasn’t the man who punched Abel; two tow-truck drivers, who were in the area and saw the punching happen, say that Miller looks nothing like the man who did punch Abel. But Officer Paul Abel, drunk off his ass, decided that he had his man, so (out of uniform, at 2 in the morning) he charged up on Miller, waving his gun around, and bellowing arbitrary commands to get down on the ground. Miller didn’t get down quickly enough, so Officer Paul Abel grabbed Miller, pistol-whipped him five times, and then accidentally shot him in the hand. Even the Pittsburgh Police Chief had to publicly announce that The gentleman who was in the physical altercation [sic] is an innocent victim as far as we can tell. The story is in the news now because, when Abel was brought up on aggravated assault, reckless endangerment, and DUI charges, he opted for a trial before a government judge (because government cops know that they are much more likely to be acquitted by a government judge than by a jury), and Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey A. Manning has just recently acquitted him on all charges, even the DUI. Manning himself called the beat-down, pistol-whipping, and shooting inappropriate, imprudent and ill-advised. But Manning chose to dismiss all the charges because Officer Paul Abel is a cop, and therefore (according to Manning) he cannot be held legally responsible for his admittedly inappropriate, imprudent, and ill-advised hyperviolent beat-down against an admittedly innocent man. Because, according to Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey A. Manning, cops are a class apart, who cannot be held to account for their unrestrained violence in mere civilian courts; or, in his own words, It is not the obligation of this court to police the police department.

    So if the courts don’t police the police, who does?

    The answer is, of course, that most of the time, nobody does. Other arms of the government hardly ever hold government police accountable for abuse because they fob off responsibility to the discretion of their legally-privileged-and-immunized enforcers. The government police hardly ever hold other government police accountable for abuse because they have no incentive to restrain the conduct of their fellow government cops, and a distinct professional interest in giving their colleagues as much latitude as possible in the exercise of unchecked power over their chosen targets. And nobody outside of government can hold police accountable for abuse, because government refuses to recognize the right of any independent person or association to sit in judgment of its own actions, and so has legally declared the State and all its agents accountable to none save God alone. And if you want to know why, week after week, you see the same pattern of rampant, relentless, unchecked, unaccountable, unrepentant, overwhelming and intense violence, committed by government cops against people who are obviously harmless, helpless, or defenseless, in the defense of police prerogatives and inflicted against the very people who they are allegedly being privileged and paid to Serve and Protect — well, that’s pretty much why.

    Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

  20. Because the cops we have are already doing so much… Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Departments, North Las Vegas Police Department, and Henderson Police Department. Carson City, Nevada. Meanwhile, in the capital of Nevada, the bosses of several Nevada police departments — which currently pay the second-highest average police salaries of any state in the U.S. — rolled into the state legislature in the state of Nevada demanding the second half of a quote-unquote More Cops tax, a special tax increase to be inflicted on Nevada taxpayers, in the midst of the state’s worst economic crisis in three generations, solely for the purpose of hiring even more police to go on saturating Nevada city streets and doing all the things that cops do with their time, on our dime, and supposedly in our names.

See also:

Men in Uniform #2

(Via Austro-Athenian Empire 2009-03-21.)

The office at the Adiv fabric-printing shop in south Tel Aviv handles a constant stream of customers, many of them soldiers in uniform, who come to order custom clothing featuring their unit’s insignia, usually accompanied by a slogan and drawing of their choosing. Elsewhere on the premises, the sketches are turned into plates used for imprinting the ordered items, mainly T-shirts and baseball caps, but also hoodies, fleece jackets and pants. A young Arab man from Jaffa supervises the workers who imprint the words and pictures, and afterward hands over the finished product.

Dead babies, mothers weeping on their children’s graves, a gun aimed at a child and bombed-out mosques — these are a few examples of the images Israel Defense Forces soldiers design these days to print on shirts they order to mark the end of training, or of field duty. The slogans accompanying the drawings are not exactly anemic either: A T-shirt for infantry snipers bears the inscription Better use Durex, next to a picture of a dead Palestinian baby, with his weeping mother and a teddy bear beside him. A sharpshooter’s T-shirt from the Givati Brigade’s Shaked battalion shows a pregnant Palestinian woman with a bull’s-eye superimposed on her belly, with the slogan, in English, 1 shot, 2 kills. A graduation shirt for those who have completed another snipers course depicts a Palestinian baby, who grows into a combative boy and then an armed adult, with the inscription, No matter how it begins, we’ll put an end to it.

. . . A few of the images underscore actions whose existence the army officially denies - such as confirming the kill (shooting a bullet into an enemy victim’s head from close range, to ensure he is dead), or harming religious sites, or female or child non-combatants. In many cases, the content is submitted for approval to one of the unit’s commanders. The latter, however, do not always have control over what gets printed, because the artwork is a private initiative of soldiers that they never hear about. Drawings or slogans previously banned in certain units have been approved for distribution elsewhere. For example, shirts declaring, We won’t chill ’til we confirm the kill were banned in the past (the IDF claims that the practice doesn’t exist), yet the Haruv battalion printed some last year.

The slogan Let every Arab mother know that her son’s fate is in my hands! had previously been banned for use on another infantry unit’s shirt. A Givati soldier said this week, however, that at the end of last year, his platoon printed up dozens of shirts, fleece jackets and pants bearing this slogan.

It has a drawing depicting a soldier as the Angel of Death, next to a gun and an Arab town, he explains. The text was very powerful. The funniest part was that when our soldier came to get the shirts, the man who printed them was an Arab, and the soldier felt so bad that he told the girl at the counter to bring them to him.

— Uri Blau, Ha’aretz (2009-03-20): Dead Palestinian babies and bombed mosques - IDF fashion 2009

One of the most consistent themes running through the designs for these t-shirts is the use of sexualized violence — in particular, cartoons of rape and verbal threats of rape against women and men identified with the enemy — as the punchline and the basis for bonding among the men in uniform.

There are also plenty of shirts with blatant sexual messages [sic —R.G.]. For example, the Lavi battalion produced a shirt featuring a drawing of a soldier next to a young woman with bruises, and the slogan, Bet you got raped!

. . . After Operation Cast Lead [the Israeli government’s invasion of Gaza from December 2008 – January 2009], soldiers from that battalion printed a T-shirt depicting a vulture sexually penetrating Hamas’ prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh, accompanied by a particularly graphic slogan. S., a soldier in the platoon that ordered the shirt, said the idea came from a similar shirt, printed after the Second Lebanon War, that featured Hassan Nasrallah instead of Haniyeh. . . .

[Ha’aretz:] What’s the problem with this shirt?

S.: It bothers some people to see these things, from a religious standpoint …

. . .

[IDF veteran Yossi] Kaufman has also been exposed to T-shirts of the sort described here. I know there are shirts like these, he says. I’ve heard and also seen a little. These are not shirts that soldiers can wear in civilian life, because they would get stoned, nor at a battalion get-together, because the battalion commander would be pissed off. They wear them on very rare occasions. There’s all sorts of black humor stuff, mainly from snipers . . . . There’s a Golani or Givati shirt of a soldier raping a girl, and underneath it says, No virgins, no terror attacks. I laughed, but it was pretty awful. When I was asked once to draw things like that, I said it wasn’t appropriate.

. . .

Sociologist Dr. Orna Sasson-Levy, of Bar-Ilan University, author of Identities in Uniform: Masculinities and Femininities in the Israeli Military, said that the phenomenon is part of a radicalization process the entire country is undergoing, and the soldiers are at its forefront. I think that ever since the second intifada there has been a continual shift to the right. The pullout from Gaza and its outcome — the calm that never arrived — led to a further shift rightward.

This tendency is most strikingly evident among soldiers who encounter various situations in the territories on a daily basis. There is less meticulousness than in the past, and increasing callousness. There is a perception that the Palestinian is not a person, a human being entitled to basic rights, and therefore anything may be done to him. [sic —R.G.]

Could the printing of clothing be viewed also as a means of venting aggression?

Sasson-Levy: No. I think it strengthens and stimulates aggression and legitimizes it. What disturbs me is that a shirt is something that has permanence. The soldiers later wear it in civilian life; their girlfriends wear it afterward. It is not a statement, but rather something physical that remains, that is out there in the world. Beyond that, I think the link made between sexist views and nationalist views, as in the Screw Haniyeh shirt, is interesting. National chauvinism and gender chauvinism combine and strengthen one another. It establishes a masculinity shaped by violent aggression toward women and Arabs; a masculinity that considers it legitimate to speak in a crude and violent manner toward women and Arabs.

Col. (res.) Ron Levy began his military service in the Sayeret Matkal elite commando force before the Six-Day War. He was the IDF’s chief psychologist, and headed the army’s mental health department in the 1980s.

Levy: I’m familiar with things of this sort going back 40, 50 years, and each time they take a different form. Psychologically speaking, this is one of the ways in which soldiers project their anger, frustration and violence. It is a certain expression of things, which I call below the belt. [sic —R.G.]

— Uri Blau, Ha’aretz (2009-03-20): Dead Palestinian babies and bombed mosques - IDF fashion 2009

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In which commentary becomes copy-and-paste

The Israeli government’s military began heavy artillery shelling of civilian targets in Gaza this weekend. The idea was that by besieging Gaza, and then firing heavy artillery down into one of the world’s most densely populated urban areas — along with a continued barrage of aerial bombardment, which has been blowing the hell out of universities, mosques, residential neighborhoods, and other civilian targets for the past several days — the Israeli government’s military might be able to somewhat reduce the number of its professional soldiers killed in combat during a ground invasion.

Israel unleashed an artillery bombardment on Gaza today for the first time in its week-long offensive, prompting increased speculation that a ground invasion is about to begin.

Palestinian medical officials also said that an Israeli airstrike on a Gaza mosque had killed 10 people and wounded dozens more. Al Jazeera quoted witnesses as saying there were at least 200 people at prayer inside the Ibrahim al-Maqadna mosque in northern Gaza when the missile struck.

The Israeli TV station Channel 10 said the entire length of the Gaza Strip was under attack. Palestinian witnesses told Reuters the shelling had caused a large explosion in Gaza City and there were a series of blasts close to the frontier with Israel. There were no immediate reports of casualties.

Israeli TV commentators said shelling could be used to clear Hamas-laid minefields ahead of a possible ground invasion. Israeli troops are massed on the border waiting for orders to go in.

. . .

More than 400 Palestinians and at least four Israelis have been killed since Israel launched its offensive last Saturday. The UN estimated yesterday that a quarter of the Palestinians killed were civilians.

— Matthew Weaver, The Guardian (2009-01-03): Israel fires artillery shells into Gaza

Then the Israeli government’s military began its ground assault — that is, sending in infantry and armored divisions to invade and occupy Gaza, with the usual imposition of martial law and military curfews and more-or-less shoot-on-sight procedures, the blockading of roads and bridges, the house to house operations of storming, searching, and commandeering civilian homes en masse, and all the rest involved in exerting military command-and-control over a large, besieged city.

Israel has said that its offensive in Gaza could take many long days as its troops moved deeper into the Palestinian territory in the second day of its ground attack.

Troops backed by air and naval power surrounded Gaza City and in effect sliced the territory in two.

An Israeli air strike hit two ambulances in Gaza on Sunday, killing four paramedics as they tried to reach those injured in the offensive.

Israeli government officials say they are not targeting civilians, only trying to stop rockets by the Palestinian Hamas movement governing Gaza, which are still being fired into southern Israel.

Civilian injuries and casualties in Gaza continue to mount and the death toll now stands at 521, with at least 64 people killed since the ground offensive began, according to Palestinian medical authorities. Some 2,450 have been injured.

Among the latest victims were a mother and her four young children, killed in an Israeli air strike on their home in Gaza.

Four Israeli civilians have been killed and two injured by Palestinian rocket attacks.

Al-Jazeera (2009-01-05): Israel [sic] intensifies assault on Gaza

According to Shimon Peres, arbitrary President over the territory of Israel, the idea is to teach a lesson to Hamas.

We don’t intend neither to occupy Gaza nor to crush Hamas, but to crush terror. And Hamas needs a real and serious lesson. They are now getting it.

Shimon Peres, quoted in Al-Jazeera (2009-01-05): Israel [sic] intensifies assault on Gaza

Somewhere above 100 civilians have been murdered in the process of delivering this lesson to unrelated third parties. Ehud Barak, arbitrary Minister of Defense over the territory of Israel, tells us (from his perch in a comfortable government meeting room) that this is because War is not a picnic.

The operation will be expanded and intensified as much as necessary. War is not a picnic.

Ehud Barak, quoted in Al-Jazeera (2009-01-05): Israel [sic] intensifies assault on Gaza

Indeed; but for whom?

So, anyway, to review, in Israel, four civilians have been murdered, two have been injured, and some other residents of towns near the Gaza strip have suffered some fright and some property damage from poorly-aimed rocket attacks launched by Hamas, the quasi-governmental terrorist faction that claims a right to rule over the 1.5 million people living in Gaza. In the process of retaliating against these attacks, the Israeli government’s military has locked down those 1.5 million people — the primary victims of Hamas — under a state of siege and bombarded their homes, their schools, their roads, their houses of worship, and the ambulances that tried to come to their rescue. They have killed more than 100 times as many Palestinians as Hamas has killed Israelis, and injured more than 1,000 times as many. More than 100 of those killed in the massive indiscriminate bombardment (that is, at least 25 times the number killed in Israel) are known to have been civilians, who had nothing in particular to do with the poorly-aimed rocket attacks that the Israeli government’s military claims to be trying to stop. Many of those killed have been children. The Israeli government’s military has also deliberately stormed houses, bombed bridges, destroyed school buildings, cut electrical lines, and blockaded land crossings and sea lanes so that not even emergency relief NGOs can reach the people being maimed and killed by the bombardment. They show no signs of letting up: this death and destruction is only the beginning.

The official reaction from most of the rest of the world — which is the dignified term that the press uses to describe the ranting power-trips of a tiny, parasitic minority sitting in comfortable government offices far away from the millions of people upon whose lives and livelihoods they constantly render their sanctimonious opinions and summary judgments — has been to call for moderation. We will be told that both sides in this conflict have made moral and strategic blunders, that the best thing to do is to take a soft touch and to try to convince the belligerent states and quasi-states involved to tone things down and come to the bargaining table in some sort of diplomatic negotiation process. The problem is that there are not two sides in this war; like any other war, there are three sides — or, more properly, millions of tiny, individual sides — because in any war there are not only two states fighting each other, but also everybody else, the millions of people caught in between. Besides the belligerent states and quasi-states facing off against each other, in any war there are also the millions of people held hostage by one or both of the belligerent powers and coldly shoved into the crossfire by the usurpers who style themselves their leaders, and by the rival usurpers who are the enemies of their self-styled leaders; millions of people who have nothing at all to do with any casus belli or with any of the political maneuvers that led up to the onslaught; millions of people who were just trying to live their lives, and, for doing nothing worse than existing in the wrong place at the wrong time, will be hurt or maimed or bereaved or killed themselves — all in the name of the ranting power-trips of a tiny, parasitic minority who sit in comfortable government offices or heavily-fortified bunkers far away from the millions of people upon whose lives and livelihoods they constantly render their sanctimonious opinions and summary judgments. Of course news coverage never discusses this other side — that is, our side — those of us who do not sit in the halls of power and do not have our fingers on the triggers. Government diplomats care nothing about the interests our side and nobody ever consults us or considers whether we have legitimate interests worth respecting. Instead this is presented as a fight between Israel and Gaza — all of them, apparently, all at once — because it’s necessary to talk about it that way in order to obscure the question of who is really dying, and how many, and where, and for what. I should like to say something more about this, but what more can I really say? I say it again, and again, and again, and it doesn’t make a bit of difference but it remains no less true. There is a point at which no more commentary is possible; there is only copy-and-paste. Thus:

The murder of civilians by Palestinian . . . terrorists is criminal, and those who committed the murders can be stopped from committing further crimes through the use of violence, if necessary. But the right to use force against someone does not mean the right to use any amount of force necessary against anyone at all in the process of stopping her. It’s true that if you really are willing to do everything in retaliation for the kidnapping of a soldier, or attacks on your forces, or attacks on civilians, then this is included. Any atrocity at all is included in doing everything, and that is precisely why the willingness to do everything in retaliation for an attack, no matter what the cost to innocent third parties, is a moral crime of the first order. Destroying the lives and livelihoods of scores of innocent people in the process of trying to stop the murder of one or two other innocents is criminal.

— GT 2006-07-13: Proportionality

And doing so to hundreds of civilians in the name of reducing military casualties in an invasion, or in the name of teaching a lesson to unrelated third parties — as if these hundreds of civilians were just so many Post-It notes, on which the Harrow of the State can write its little messages for the edification of rival state powers — is nothing less than an atrocity.

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