Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Self Defense Dodge (Updated)

I don't think they were launching rockets
from the laundry room
Historical convention, common sense and even the United Nations charter accept the premise that a nation always has the right to defend itself against attack, invasion and aggression.  No rational or thoughtful person would truly question a nation's right to defend itself.  So what's behind this refrain, constantly repeated by Israel and the United States, reiterating Israel's right to self defense?  Well, sadly it's as obscene as it is obvious.  Israel has evolved to such a level of military dominance in the region that they are utterly unconstrained in their actions toward anyone they see as their opponents.  So when they respond to minor acts of armed resistance by committing repeated, horrific war crimes, attacks against civilian population centers and journalists, collective punishment and extra-judicial executions, their supporters find themselves in a terrific bind.  These actions by any other nation would draw instant international condemnation, but Israel often gets a pass from many in the international community, led by the United States.

So these supporters can't come out and say "in this case we actually DO support the bombing of hospitals and apartment buildings", so instead they simply repeat the meaningless platitude that Israel has the right to defend itself.  But let's think about this self-defense we are so mindlessly defending.  Because people have an inherent bias toward fairness, one of the things that most catches our attention in Gaza is the lack of proportionality.  Over the years, Palestinian rocket fire has killed about a dozen Israelis.  Now, this is not to be condoned, certainly, and a response intended to stop the rocket fire and defend against that threat is perfectly reasonable.  What exactly bombing apartment buildings in Gaza City has to do with stopping the rockets, or any other definition of self-defense, however tortured, goes unexplained.  Israel kills hundreds of Palestinians for every Israeli killed, and yet insists this is not an act of collective punishment, but merely self-defense.  An occupied, stateless people not permitted to grow their own crops, fish their own waters or export their own goods is the aggressor  and a modern, rich, nuclear armed country cries out they are the victim of this aggression.  It is impossible to believe the Israeli and American governments believe this construct - the open question is whether they think anyone else does.

One of the most interesting facets of this latest round in Gaza's endless torment is the role of Egypt, their immediate southern neighbor.  It is no longer under the dynastic control of the brutal kleptocrat Hosni Mubarak, but rather in a state of cautious balance between the longstanding military leadership and the newly elected moderate Islamist President Morsi.  Under the new government, there has been unequivocal condemnation of Israel's politically motivated slaughter of innocents, but the Generals have limited Egypt's actions in support of the Palestinians out of concern for their "global credibility" and, of course, their desire for continued US aid.  But one wonders if this isn't the end of the decades - old status quo, that with the 'Arab Spring', the increasing democratization of the middle east and north Africa, the peoples voices being heard rather than suppressed by greedy and authoritarian governments; it might be that "global credibility" will soon require speaking out against atrocities and war crimes committed in the name of political power.  It might be that in the eyes of the world, the US and Israel will find themselves viewed in the same light as Syria's Assad and Iran's Khameini.  It may soon be the case that universal disgust at the horrors inflicted on a stateless and helpless people will lead to international opprobrium and isolation, and political expediency will drive nations from a longstanding policy of looking away to more direct support for the people being slaughtered.

And that would be a welcome change.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has spoken out against the Israeli attacks on Gaza, calling them "ethnic cleansing" and emphasizing that they could in no way be deemed self-defense.  He referred to Israel as a "Terrorist State", and in discussing the refusal of the United Nations to act to reign in Israel war crimes, had this to say:

"It is against them today, tomorrow it will be us, keep that in mind. If we are going to die, let's go down with decency. Keep that in mind too."


  1. Interesting that a nation that was formed as partial response to genocide and war crimes, would then become so fond of genocide and war crimes themselves.

    But perhaps the whole thing is more reminiscent of the cycle of family violence than anybody outside of Arthur Silber is willing to consider.

  2. And by "intersting", I mean "sick-making", of course....

    Lest you think I was insufficiently appalled.

  3. The fact that national leaders like Erdogan and Morsi are unwilling to be intimidated into silence is very good for the world. As soon as Israel is treated fairly, no better and no worse than any other nation, the region will be on the way to permanent peace...

  4. Maybe as soon as Gaza is treated fairly, also.

    Not holding my breath on either one.

  5. Interesting that a nation that was formed as partial response to genocide and war crimes, would then become so fond of genocide and war crimes themselves.

    Interesting, or typical of our species?

    Anywho, I say Israel is the aggressor and has been since 1982.

  6. Maybe as soon as Gaza is treated fairly, also.

    Precisely. But this would be among the consequences of ending Israel's special status and treating her no differently than we treat France or Brazil. And that includes eliminating the double standard where the US (and much of Europe) defends war crimes committed by Israel and condemns the same crimes when committed by another nation. Israel is a modern, powerful nation and should be expected to be held responsible for her actions...

  7. I keep reading your headline as "The Self Defense Dog"