Rad Geek People's Daily

official state media for a secessionist republic of one

Posts tagged Lebanon

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

See also:

You would not tell with such high zest

Sheldon Richman recently posted to on the Bush gang’s palavering and depraved indifference to the life of Lebanese civilians. It’s a good post; you should read it. Along the way, he said this:

Translation: The killing and maining of Lebanese and Israelis shouldn’t stop until Israel is ready for it to stop.

That is moral depravity, if anything is.

In the comments section, E. Simon replied:

So would your omission of the implication, that the cessation of hostilities not be constrained according to whether or not Nasrallah and his supporters are allowed to kill and maim Israelis, be an example of intellectual depravity?

Given that he’s so awfully concerned about innocent people being killed and maimed, I asked E. Simon the following, linking to my post on Proportionality:

And just how many unrelated third parties do you think the IDF can legitimately kill or maim in the process of retaliating against Nasrallah and his supporters?

Here’s the answer, such as it is:

That being said, I think your question is a good one, because ideally, I would like to see NO unrelated third parties hurt. Therefore, there is no good way to answer it since it would suggest legitimizing the ascription of a military debit or financial value to the loss of a life whose inherent worth is — otherwise — incalculable. And yet, the use of Israel’s military will prevent Hizbullah from intentionally causing the loss of similarly incalculably valuable Israeli lives. But Israel is not responsible for Lebanon’s failures in necessitating that most unfortunate decision.

There are costs, no doubt. But the costs of not thusly, and appropriately disincentivizing against murder are much riskier, given the total analysis.

Now, I’d like to note that this is a complete evasion of the question. (The fact that you wave your hands at the higher mysteries and heart-rending impossibility of answering a question does not mean that you haven’t evaded it; it just means that you’ve offered a poetical apology for the evasion.) As I note further down in the thread:

I’ve accused you of dodging the issue because if you do not have an answer to that question, then you can have absolutely no moral basis for endorsing the war. If you don’t even have a ballpark estimate of what a tolerable civilian body count is, then you have no idea whether or not the killing and maiming of innocents has gone beyond the limits of proportional self-defense. And if you don’t know that then you don’t know whether or not the war is legitimate self-defense or a massacre. If you treat the question as some higher mystery beyond your ken, then you have thereby admitted that you have no idea whatever whether justice demands that the IDF continue or that it relent.

If, however, you profess not to be able to answer the question, but then turn around and continue supporting the war, particularly with polysyllabic hand-waving at pacifying abstractions such as collateral damage and appropriately disincentivizing, then what I have to conclude is that you are quite satisfied with the level of killing, burning, bombing, and maiming being inflicted on innocents, but that you’d rather not say so because it would sound too brutal coming from your lips.

You can follow the argument on its merits through the rest of the thread; as far as that goes, I’m willing to just say We Report, You Decide for now. But I do want to make a remark about a matter of style, rather than substance here. That may seem petty, or underhanded, and in any case irrelevant. But it’s not: the style in which people say the things about war that E. Simon wants to say here is itself a very important part of what allows them to utter the substantial position that they end up uttering. Let’s look at that again:

That being said, I think your question is a good one, because ideally, I would like to see NO unrelated third parties hurt. Therefore, there is no good way to answer it since it would suggest legitimizing the ascription of a military debit or financial value to the loss of a life whose inherent worth is — otherwise — incalculable. And yet, the use of Israel’s military will prevent Hizbullah from intentionally causing the loss of similarly incalculably valuable Israeli lives. But Israel is not responsible for Lebanon’s failures in necessitating that most unfortunate decision.

There are costs, no doubt. But the costs of not thusly, and appropriately disincentivizing against murder are much riskier, given the total analysis.

My short response would be to offer some suggestions about where E. Simon can take his total analysis. Fortunately, George Orwell already made the remarks I’d like to make about this passage, and much more eloquently than I could:

In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible. Things like the continuance of British rule in India, the Russian purges and deportations, the dropping of the atom bombs on Japan, can indeed be defended, but only by arguments which are too brutal for most people to face, and which do not square with the professed aims of the political parties. Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness. Defenseless villages are bombarded from the air, the inhabitants driven out into the countryside, the cattle machine-gunned, the huts set on fire with incendiary bullets: this is called pacification. Millions of peasants are robbed of their farms and sent trudging along the roads with no more than they can carry: this is called transfer of population or rectification of frontiers. People are imprisoned for years without trial, or shot in the back of the neck or sent to die of scurvy in Arctic lumber camps: this is called elimination of unreliable elements. Such phraseology is needed if one wants to name things without calling up mental pictures of them. Consider for instance some comfortable English professor defending Russian totalitarianism. He cannot say outright, I believe in killing off your opponents when you can get good results by doing so. Probably, therefore, he will say something like this:

While freely conceding that the Soviet regime exhibits certain features which the humanitarian may be inclined to deplore, we must, I think, agree that a certain curtailment of the right to political opposition is an unavoidable concomitant of transitional periods, and that the rigors which the Russian people have been called upon to undergo have been amply justified in the sphere of concrete achievement.

The inflated style itself is a kind of euphemism. A mass of Latin words falls upon the facts like soft snow, blurring the outline and covering up all the details. The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish spurting out ink. In our age there is no such thing as keeping out of politics. All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred, and schizophrenia. When the general atmosphere is bad, language must suffer….

— George Orwell, Politics and the English Language (1946)

War survives because people don’t talk about war, but rather about something else, using an inflated jargon that they have mostly nicked from military communication (both internally, and through their press flacks). That jargon, and the style that goes with it, is more or less deliberately calculated to obscure and degrade thought, because to think and to speak, really and seriously, about what war does to people, would be to destroy any hope of moral and political legitimacy for any kind of modern campaign.

I’m told, incidentally, that my mentioning this, and my using harsh words in my own remarks, shows a lack of civility, open-mindedness, and maturity. But if civility and maturity mean whitewashing the killing and maiming of real people with real lives (with or without incalculable value being sentimentally ascribed to them) into costs to be assessed along with the risks involved in not setting up the appropriate incentives, as you do the total analysis over the dispensability of other people’s lives and livelihoods, then civility and maturity and open-mindedness can go straight to hell, and take the civil warmakers and war apologists right along with them.

Further reading:


From Israel:

Hezbollah also claimed to have fired a volley of rockets on northern Israel early on Thursday. Israel said one woman was killed.

The killing of eight soldiers and the capture of another two by Hezbollah militants in fighting on the volatile Israel-Lebanon border on Wednesday opened up a dangerous new front in the Middle East conflict.

This was an act of war without any provocation on the sovereign territory… of the state of Israel, said Olmert, facing the most serious test of his leadership since his government took office in May.

Israel must respond with the necessary severity to this act of aggression… Israel will respond aggressively and harshly to those who carried out, and are responsible for, today’s action, a cabinet statement said.

— News24 2006-07-13: Israel bombs Beirut airport

From Lebanon:

Fighter jets swooped in on the airport, firing missiles on two runways, forcing the diversion of flights to neighbouring Cyprus and the closure of the newly renovated airport.

Lebanese police said 27 civilians, including 10 children, were also killed in a wave of Israeli attacks on the south on Thursday after the Hezbollah action that Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert branded an act of war.

— News24 2006-07-13: Israel bombs Beirut airport

So in Israel, one civilian was murdered. Eight soldiers were killed in combat and two captured. In the process of retaliating, Israeli forces have slaughtered 27 civilians, including 10 children, who had nothing in particular to do with the attack. They have bombed out bridges, destroyed roads, and bombed the country’s main airport (which had no connection with Hizbollah’s attacks and is far away from Hizbollah’s base of power in Southern Lebanon). They show no signs of letting up: this deaths and destruction is only the beginning.

From Israel:

JERUSALEM (AP) – Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip fired three homemade rockets into Israel on Friday, hours after the Israeli prime minister pledged to push forward with airstrikes against the militants despite a recent string of civilian casualties.

The Israeli army said there were no injuries or damage from the rocket fire. But the attack prompted a prominent legislator to call for Israel to launch a military offensive into the densely populated Gaza Strip.

Speaking Thursday evening at an economic conference in Jerusalem, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert apologized from the depths of my being’ for civilian deaths in recent airstrikes in Gaza. But he added, Israel will continue to carry out targeted attacks against terrorists and those who try to harm Israeli citizens.

I am deeply sorry for the residents of Gaza but the lives, security and well-being of the residents of Sderot is no less important,‘ Olmert said, referring to the southern Israeli town that has been pelted by rocket fire from Gaza.

Steve Weizman, The Guardian (2006-06-23): Gaza Militants Fire Rockets at Israel

Palestinian militants have captured an Israeli soldier during a raid on an army post near the Gaza strip, the Israeli military has said.

The man went missing during an attack on an Israeli tank which killed two of its crew, a military spokesman said.

Hamas said it had knew nothing about the soldier, but urged any captors to keep him alive and treat him well.

Israel said it would do everything in its power to retrieve the soldier, the first to be captured since 1994.

BBC 2006-06-25: Israeli soldier seized in raid

A young Jewish settler seized by Palestinian militants in the West Bank has been found dead.

The body of Eliyahu Asheri, 18, from the Itamar settlement, was retrieved near Ramallah by the Israeli army.

BBC 2006-06-29: Seized Israeli settler found dead

Israel has rejected criticism that its military offensive in the Gaza Strip is a disproportionate use of force.

PM Ehud Olmert said there was no other way to stop the fear, the shocks, the lack of security of Israeli civilians facing daily rocket attacks from Gaza.

— BBC 2006-07-10: Israel denies excessive force

From Gaza:

Israeli warplanes also bombed the Palestinian foreign ministry in the Gaza Strip overnight in the latest offensive over the seizure of an Israeli soldier by Palestinian militants three weeks ago.

A total of 70 Palestinians have been killed in the military onslaught against Gaza, which the United Nations has warned is causing a humanitarian crisis in one of the most densely populated areas on earth.

News24 2006-07-13: Israel bombs Beirut airport

The Israeli military said it attacked the home because it was a meeting place for terrorists. It also confirmed Israeli forces were operating in southern Gaza as part of an effort to win the release of a captured soldier.

With tanks and troops on the move farther south, a huge explosion destroyed the house of Hamas activist Dr. Nabil al-Salmiah, killing seven people, including two children, and wounding at least 24, hospital officials and residents said. There was no immeidate word if al-Salmiah was among the casualties.

They said the house was hit by a missile fired from an Israeli plane. The Israeli military said it attacked the house because it was a meeting place for terrorists who were planning attacks and rocket-launching.

Palestinian rescue teams dodged broken water pipes and electricity wires searching the rubble with bulldozers, shovels and their hands and to reach injured people screaming for help.

The scene resembled the aftermath of a 2002 attack, when an Israeli plane dropped a bomb on the house of a Hamas leader in Gaza, killing him and 14 other people, including nine children. The attack set off complaints from human rights groups that are still reverberating.

Canadian Press (2006-07-11): Israeli air strike on Palestinian home in Gaza kills 7, injures 24

Four Palestinian civilians were killed and 15 injured in Israeli airstrikes on a three-storey building and a car in northern Gaza City early Wednesday, witnesses and medics said.

Witnesses said that two successive airstrikes were carried out on Sheikh Radwan neighborhood in northern Gaza City.

They said that one rocket hit a car that drove in the neighborhood, but militants aboard the car managed to escape before the car was hit.

They said that a second rocket was fired at a three-storey building, which belongs to a Palestinian teacher at Islamic University in Gaza City called Nabil Abu Silmeya.

Medics at Shiffa Hospital in Gaza City said that four bodies were identified, two of them children, adding that 15 people were wounded.

People’s Daily Online (2006-07-12): Four civilians killed in Israeli airstrikes on Gaza

At around 1.00 am on Tuesday, 4 July 2006, an Israeli Apache helicopter fired one missile at the Islamic University in Gaza City. As a result of the attack, the target, a student council office, caught fire and was completely destroyed. At approximately 1:50 am on Wednesday, 5 July 2006, an Israeli aircraft dropped a bomb on the Dar al-Arqam School in al-Tuffah neighbourhood of Gaza City, destroying a number of classrooms. These attacks came less than a week after the IAF fired a missile at the Islamic University, hitting a football field.

Al-Haq Press Release (2006-07-06): Israeli Attacks on Educational Institutions in the Gaza Strip Violate International Law

PCHR strongly condemns the targeting of the Palestinian Interior Ministry building by Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) for the second time this week. In addition, the Centre condemns the military escalation against civilian property and installations, including educational and governmental institutions that are essential to the daily lives of the civilian population. The Centre warns against the continued targeting of these institutions, which will lead to a complete collapse of basic services in the sectors of health, sewage disposal, transportation, education and social services. …

Shortly after targeting the Ministry of Interior, IOF planes dropped another bomb on Dar Al-Arqam School in the densely-populated El-Tuffah area of Gaza City. A number of structures and classrooms were destroyed. No injuries were reported.

Palestinian Centre for Human Rights Press Release (2006-07-05): Israeli Occupation Forces Destroy the Ministry of Interior Building and a School in Further Aerial Attacks on the Gaza Strip

GAZA, July 1 (Reuters) – Lutfi Halawa stood beside the hospital bed of his nine-month old daughter Isra, praying power cuts hitting the Gaza Strip will not shut down her ventilator.

Without electricity my daughter will die, he said.

Palestinian health officials say an Israeli air strike which knocked out Gaza’s main power plant has put the lives of hundreds of patients in imminent danger.

The attack was part an Israeli offensive to free a soldier captured by Palestinian militants last Sunday. Israel, which provides most of Gaza’s electricity, says it has boosted supplies because of the current situation.

But the United Nations and the International Committee for the Red Cross say the strike has cut vital electric power for hospitals as well as families. Air strikes have also knocked out water supplies, they said.

Israel’s closure of Gaza’s borders has also halted commodities including gasoline, meaning the fuel Palestinians are using to power home generators is being depleted.

Al-Naser hospital for children, where Isra is being treated, has been relying on a generator during power cuts. But its gasoline reserve will only last four to five days, doctors say.

Reuters (2006-07-01): Gaza power cuts endanger patients, doctors say

The decision to expand the the military operation in Gaza was made during consultations between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Amir Peretz.

Our main target is the terrorist infrastructure — the rocket crews, the gunmen, the arms caches, said an IDF commander.

But of course we are here to show that if, God forbid, any of us is captured by the enemy, the army will do everything to secure his return.

IDF troops rolled into Gaza from the Kissufim crossing, once the main access point to Jewish settlements, and an access road four kilometers to the south, menacing the nearby city of Khan Yunis and town of Dir al-Balah.

Palestinians said that IDF bulldozers were leveling farmland in the area, and the military ordered Palestinian security forces to leave their forward positions.

— Ha’aretz (2006-07-13): U.S. vetoes UN resolution condemning Israel’s Gaza incursion

So in Israel, one civilian was murdered, two soldiers were killed in combat, and one captured. Residents of towns near the Gaza strip have suffered some fright and some property damage from poorly-aimed rocket attacks. In the process of retaliating, Israeli forces have killed some 70 people, many of them children or other civilians who had nothing in particular to do with the attacks. They have also deliberately torn up farms, bombed bridges, destroyed school buildings, and the main civliian power plant. They show no signs of letting up: this death and destruction is only the beginning.

The murder of civilians by Palestinian or Lebanese 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 livehlihoods of scores of innocent people in the process of trying to stop the murder of one or two other innocents is criminal. Destroying the lives and livelihoods of scores of innocent people in the process of trying to avenge the death or capture of a handful of soldiers in combat — the primary justification given by the Israeli government for these campaigns — is nothing less than an atrocity.

Further reading:

Collectivism and Compensation

Let’s suppose, arguendo, that there exist some individual Palestinians who had identifiable parcels of land in Israel, or in the Occupied Territories, stolen from them, during the 1948 war, or the 1967 war and the occupation that followed it. Considered as a matter of justice — without any claims as to how far the hypothetical represents reality, or bears on the best way to solve the diplomatic conflicts between the state of Israel and its various rival states and quasi-states — should those Palestinians be able to demand that their old parcels of land be returned to them? And if they do, and the parcels aren’t returned on their demand, are they justified in using proportional violence, or designating others to use proportional violence on their behalf, to evict the trespassing occupants currently on their land? In comments at No Treason, Stefan suggested that they would be, and Tim Starr dissented:

Assuming for the sake of argument that some of the land in Israel actually was stolen from individual Palestinians in the Israeli War of Independence (there was absolutely no general policy to do so, see Efraim Karsh’s Fabricating Israeli History on this), I would disagree with Stefan that this fact actually would justify forcible removal of the Israelis from that land and its return to its Palestinian owners.

For one thing, compensation in lieu of returning the property may be more appropriate. Also, is there no statute of limitations for land theft? Furthermore, a good many Jews used to live in Islamic countries that expelled them and confiscated their property — how come that is never brought up by those who want land returned to Palestinians by Israel? Do those Jews not have the right to have their property returned, or to receive compensation for it? Also, what about compensation to the families of all the Israeli victims of Palestinian terrorism?

In fact, Israel is the only country in the Middle East which HAS returned land that it had conquered. Israel returned the Sinai Desert to Egypt as part of its peace treaty with Sadat, and returned land to Jordan as part of its peace treaty with Jordan. Israel also relinquished control of southern Lebanon and the Gaza strip, even though it faced a serious increase in the scale and frequenty of terrorist attacks by Hezbollah and Hamas as a result. Israel has also inflicted ethnic cleansing upon itself twice, once when it returned the Sinai and again when it relinquished Gaza, making sure those territories were nice and judenrein when the Islamo-Nazis took them over.

Israel has also offered tens of billions of dollars in compensation to the Palestinians for any injustices they might have suffered at Israeli hands, but the Palestinians have never offered any compensation to Israel for killing Israeli civilians as a means of achieving Palestinian political goals.

Instead, each of these concessions has been taken as a sign of weakness. Israeli land for peace deals w/ compensation have been taken as invitation to Intifadeh; Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon and Gaza have been taken as invitations to rocket attacks from the territory Israel de-occupied.

In short, Israel has bent over backwards for peace in the Middle East, and the Islamo-Nazis and their international sympathizers on the commie-left and nazi-right have merely replied to each effort by saying that Israel wasn’t bending over far enough.

Comment by Tim Starr — 2/7/2006 @ Feb 07, 06 | 4:58 pm

I objected to the details of Starr’s claims — arguing that there was no reason to suggest that either the perpetrators or disinterested third parties had a right to determine whether land or some pile of money was the appropriate form of compensation for the theft, and that that is properly left up to the victims to decide. And further that Starr’s attempts to dismiss or dicker down the claims of these hypothetical Palestinian victims of land theft on the basis of later terrorism committed by other Palestinians against Israelis, amounted to nothing more than a change of subject, and an exercise in shameless tribal collectivism from beginning to end.

Starr objected to my objections; this is rapidly spiralling way out of the range of the comments space at a [No Treason post][] intended primarily to point out a historical gaffe in an article on Ireland and Ulster at LewRockwell.com. So I bring it here. Here’s Starr’s response to my first objection:

While I agree that it is not primarily up to the beneficiaries because of their obvious conflict of interest, I disagree that it is primarily up to the victims. Victims are usually biased in their own favor, so they also have a conflict of interest.

Disinterested third parties are precisely who ought to be the judge of such things, which is why arbitration by such parties is advocated by anarcho-capitalists like David Friedman and myself. The way that disinterested third-party arbitrators know what the best remedy is for such offenses is by hearing the evidence on all sides of a case.

There’s a perfectly good reason why (genuinely) disinterested third parties should serve as arbiters in disputes in a free society. People in a dispute may be mistaken, or dishonest, about the facts as to whether or not they are victims of aggression (so disinterested third parties may come to the right verdict where the disputants wouldn’t). That’s fine; three cheers for disinterested arbiters. But there’s no question as to the verdict here, or as to proportionality: we’re presuming (arguendo) that the individual Palestinians in question are, and can prove to honest arbiters that they are, victims of land theft.

The question is about the appropriate form of compensation. There may, again, be a place for disinterested mediators if you think that someone is mistaken, or dishonest, about the level or kind of compensation that would be fit for the injury — suppose I knocked a baseball through your window, and you demanded $1,000,000 compensatory damages because of the sentimental value you attached to it. But this is not a case like that. If I steal something from you, then the presumption is that the best kind of compensation is the return of what I stole (plus whatever damages I may owe for the duration of the theft). There are ways that the presumption can be overridden in favor of some equivalent level of compensation paid out in some other good: if the item is fungible without a loss in value to you — suppose I stole $500 from you and you didn’t care whether you got back the specific bills I took from you, or some other bills, or a check — or if the item is no longer distinctly identifiable — suppose I stole a chunk that you took from the Berlin Wall and added it to my collection of indistinguishable Berlin Wall chunks — or if the item itself can’t be returned without inflicting a disproportionate burden on me above and beyond the loss of the stolen good — suppose I stole a bottle of pills from you that I need to take in order to survive, but that you value for purely sentimental reasons. But we’re not looking at a case like that here. There’s no question of proportionality: if you steal my land, then losing the stolen land is not a disproportionate burden to bear. We’re supposing that the parcels of land are identifiable by the specific victims. And if the victims were willing to take the money as compensation instead of the land, then there wouldn’t be any issue at all: they’d just take the money.

So the only question at hand is: which of two proportional forms of compensation — getting your own land back or getting money back in return for your land — is the better form of compensation for a proven victim of land theft? Starr seems to suggest that disinterested third parties have a right to set terms not only as to the verdict, and as to the limits of proportionality in compensation, but also as to which of these two forms of proportional compensation the victim can demand. I reject this completely, because the aim of justice here is restoration, and I reject the notion that third party arbiters can overrule the victim’s own judgment about what best restores them to their proper state as long as the judgment is within the bounds of proportionality. I reject it for roughly for the same reasons that I reject the confiscation of property through eminent domain, even if monetary compensation is paid after the fact. If the monetary compensation offered isn’t enough to make the victim freely turn over her legitimate demands to her own land, then it isn’t enough to satisfy the just demand that she be put back into her own.

So let me suggest to Starr that there are only three possible grounds here on which you could suggest that anybody other than the victims themselves has a right to impose terms as to whether or not individual Palestinian victims of land theft can demand their own land back, or get some other appropriate form of compensation. (1) You could claim that getting the land back is (potentially, at least) disproportionate compensation for having the land stolen from you. But why? Or (2) you could claim that, even though the land is within the range of proportionate compensation, disinterested third parties have reliable epistemic access to the real worth of the land to the victim, independent of, and even overruling, the victim’s own judgment as manifest in her decision not to accept the money as satisfactory compensation. If so, then you could just pay them out the equivalent of the real worth of the land in money, and even if the victim wouldn’t agree that that’s satisfactory, you’d know that that pays off the debt. But how would you know this? (And are you willing to excuse eminent domain seizures on the same grounds?) Or (3) you could argue that the worth to the victim is just irrelevant to the appropriate level of compensation, even if it falls within the bounds of proportionality. But why? What else would you use to determine the injury? What the land is worth to somebody else? Why should the victim care about that? Why should we?

Finally, I should note that this is all in response to Stefan’s hypothetical claim that where there are individual victims of Palestinian land theft, they are justified in using proportional force (or having others use proportional force on their behalf) to make the current inhabitants vacate the stolen land that they are occupying. Whatever form of compensation might be the appropriate outcome of a fair arbitration process, it is important to note that there simply is not a fair arbitration process in existence, and there is absolutely no credible reason to suggest that the Israeli government — whatever its merits — or the governments of various world powers — whatever their merits — or the govenments of the world assembled in the United Nations — whatever their merits — constitute a disinterested third party in this dispute. Given the lack of a substantial arbitration process to participate in, the rights of self-defense revert to their original holders: the aggrieved. So I don’t see how this answered Stefan’s point at all.

In response to my charge of tribalism, Starr replies:

As for my alleged collectivism, where are the Palestinians who are merely innocent victims of Israel, who have never supported any anti-Israeli terrorism? Where is the Palestinian peace faction? Where is the Palestinian support for the legitimate rights of Israelis to live in peace in at least some of the land of Israel? Where can these Palestinians be found, either within the occupied territories themselves or elsewhere, outside the control of either Israel, Hamas, or any of the Arab governments of the world? If there are any such Palestinians, they are so few as to be virtually non-existent and completely irrelevant to this subject.

But what are you asking for? (1) A list of individual Palestinians who have never directly participated in terrorist operations against peaceful Israelis, or (2) a list of individual Palestinians who have never said or believed that terrorism against peaceful Israelis is justified? In either case (a) there are plenty, and (b) it’s bloody well irrelevant, for reasons I’ll mention below. But if (2) is all you mean, this is a plain demand for tyranny; the suggestion would be simply that Palestinians can be robbed of their land — or rather the robbery of their land can be retroactively justified or excused — by the fact that, after the fact, they came to have evil thoughts. Evil thoughts don’t justify violent force, either before or after the fact. The initiation of violence does.

Starr continues:

Rad Geek also seems to have missed the relevance of Arab/Palestinian offenses against Israelis to the question of Israeli offenses against the Palestinians. The relevance is that the compensation claims tend to cancel each other out and, to the extent that Palestinian offenses against Israelis have been worse than Israeli offenses against Palestinians, it is the Palestinians who have an outstanding debt of compensation which they owe to Israel.

But this is overtly tribalist rot. Israel does not owe a goddamned thing to Palestinians, and Palestinians (let alone Arab/Palestinians, whatever the hell that is intended to mean) don’t owe a goddamned thing to Israel. Ambiguous-collectives do not offend, do not owe, and do not compensate, because they do not act at all.

The question is whether individual Palestinians, not participants in an Arab/Palestinian hive mind, have actionable claims against individual Israelis, not cells in the corporate body of Israel. Suppose we’re talking about someone who was actually materially involved in terrorism against innocent Israelis. If X has land stolen from her by Y, and then X goes on to do unjustified violence to Z — who, by your stipulation is an innocent who had nothing to do with the theft — then that does not cancel out Y‘s obligations to restore X‘s property. Even if Y and Z and happen to be members of the same ethnic group, or subjects claimed by the same self-proclaimed tribal collective-bargaining agent. What it does is create a new obligation that X has to Z. It may be the case, under some imaginable set of circumstances that that obligation from X to Z should be paid to Z out of the compensation that Y pays X. But it certainly provides no justification whatsoever for Y to be left in possession of property that she (ex hypothesi) stole and never did anything to earn. Now let’s suppose that we are talking about a Palestinian who hasn’t ever been materially involved in terrorism against innocent Israelis. Then what happened is that W has a claim to land stolen from her by Y and X unjustifiably attacked Z, where W and X both happen to be Arab/Palestinians (whatever that means) and Y and Z both happen to be Israelis. But it ought to be obvious that in that case X‘s attack on Z has no effect at all on Y‘s obligations towards X. No matter what the tribal affiliations, or citizenship status, of W, X, Y, and Z happen to be.

Starr, however, has made no attempts at all to pick out victims and perpetrators as individuals, or to sort out the individual obligations that those people have towards each other. He has only recited the evils committed by some ill-defined grouping of the heads of Arab states and self-appointed “representatives” or “defenders” of the Palestinians as a people, have committed, and then (attributing responsibility for those crimes to the ambiguous-collective of Palestinians or Arab/Palestinians and identifying the victim as the ambiguous collective of Israel), suggested that this somehow has some bearing on the compensation that is owed between individual Palestinians individual Israelis. That’s why I accused Starr’s comment of being an exercise in tribal collectivism. And why I stand by that charge in light of his clarifications.

As for the peace process, like Stefan, I’m not interested (here) in solving the diplomatic conflict between the state of Israel and the quasi-state in the Palestinian Authority, or between Israel and its various rival states in the region. I’m interested only in determining what it is that justice requires for individual Palestinians and individual Israelis, and have mentioned no other topic. And in that connection I couldn’t possibly be motivated to care a whit about the claims of the PLO, Fatah, Yasser Arafat (!) or the Arab League (!!) to speak for and serve as representatives of, leaders of, or collective-bargaining agents for, all Palestinians everywhere.

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