Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Who Holds Israel Accountable?

"In Ireland, my favourite journalistic justification for this bloodbath came from my old mate Kevin Myers. 'The death toll from Gaza is, of course, shocking, dreadful, unspeakable,' he mourned. 'Though it does not compare with the death toll amongst Israelis if Hamas had its way.' Get it? The massacre in Gaza is justified because Hamas would have done the same if they could, even though they didn't do it because they couldn't. It took Fintan O'Toole, The Irish Times's resident philosopher-in-chief, to speak the unspeakable. 'When does the mandate of victimhood expire?' he asked. 'At what point does the Nazi genocide of Europe's Jews cease to excuse the state of Israel from the demands of international law and of common humanity?' "

It bothers me that our bent in reporting and in placing judgments on the Middle East and specifically in Gaza seems favor Israel. I think it's dishonest. I admit that I don't understand what's going on over there. It's extremely complicated. But from what I can gather there is no flat out good guy and no flat out bad guy. It's like watching The Dark Knight. Only worse. And who you're listening to determines who should be held accountable for their irresponsible, defiant and self-centered actions.

I risk pissing off two of my closest friends and my vet by saying these things, but the excerpt from an article above sums up how i'm inclined to feel about Israel right now.

I hope that doesn't make me Anti-Semitic (kind of like I hoped criticizing America's decision to put her thumb on top of Iraq by going to war with her didn't make me Anti-American). I hope it just makes me honest. The violence needs to end no matter who thinks who started it because it's like all the fights you had with your little sister growing up. There was never any ending and never any beginning. Once that child was birthed the disagreements began and no one is really to blame. But there comes a time for everyone to leave home and go off to college and discover that low and behold she does actually love her sister and misses her and her sister feels the same. So much so that they decide to work on getting along better when they are actually at home and living together under one roof. And that is a miracle. The miracle of growing up.

So you know what Israelis (and Palestinians)? Grow up. Grow up. You live in the same land. Deal with it. Figure out you actually love your sisters and brothers and if you don't, you need to. It's way past time you learned how to get along.


Rev Kev said...

Ooh, I can't wait to see the comments on this post. Thanks for daring to address the topic.

Alysa said...

I hear your heart, Ann, but you really can't tell people what to do when you stated that "I admit that I don't understand what's going on over there"

If the situation between the Israelis and Palestinians were only as simple as Missouri home life. If it were then yes, the fighting would have ended many, many eons ago with Abraham, Issac and Ishmael and the people would have indeed "grown up".

Rebecca said...

One thing you said I agree with:
"It's extremely complicated. But from what I can gather there is no flat out good guy and no flat out bad guy."

I know there are many other people who think that the reporting of this story has been slanted pro-Israel. I know that there are also many people who think that it has been slanted pro-Palestinian. Funny how that works, huh?

It is far too easy to choose to view things in a black and white way, which is what it seems so many tend to do with any issue involving Israel. Human beings have a hard time with nuance and complexity.

It is a much too easy answer for someone who herself admits that she doesn't understand "what's going on over there" to tell the people of this region to "learn to get along." I agree with Alysa when she says if only it were that simple.

Chris said...

It's frustrating when other people don't listen to me when I say, "No, really, You can learn to get along."

I'm not in Israel, and I'm glad I'm not. I don't want to have to deal with incessant rockets being fired at me from people who believe that I am a curse on the world.

I'm not in Palestine, and I'm glad I'm not. I don't want to have to deal with being ghettoized. I don't want my life and livelihood held in the balance between other people's ideologies.

I've not had to make the choices that people in those places have made, and I want to be compassionate to those who have had to make decisions in the face of hatred, violence and death.

But...As someone not in that position, I'm more, not less qualified to look at the thing and see it for what it is.

Hamas is a wicked organization with wicked goals informed by a very skewed world-view. It is unfortunate that they find supporters. The rocket attacks are inexcusable, and it is unfortunate that there are people sick enough to terrorize a civilian community, day after day.

But the Israeli offensive is also inexcusable. One crime does not, and never will warrant another. Hundreds of civilians have been killed, thousands wounded. U.N. aid workers have been killed. A warehouse of food and medicine has been destroyed. Aid workers and doctors have been turned away at the border. Not only is this evil. It has not worked. The rockets have not stopped. Young Palestinians are not less likely to become violent extremists because of the the extreme violence to which they have been subjected. You cannot root out hatred by planting fear. They are the same plant.

Ann said...

Cross your fingers...

Pete & Joy said...

If you would like to keep the subject open for discussion, we could continue to post relevant info and thoughts.

like this:

UN halts Gaza aid after food intercepted. (The Scottsman UK)

Published Date: 07 February 2009
By Josef Federman

THE UN agency for Palestinian refugees has halted all aid shipments into the Gaza Strip.
The UN Relief and Works Agency said yesterday it made the decision after Hamas personnel intercepted a second aid shipment. UNRWA said ten lorry-loads of flour and rice delivered to Gaza on Thursday were taken away by trucks affiliated with the Hamas-run Ministry of Social Affairs. Earlier this week, Hamas police took thousands of blankets and food parcels meant for needy residents.

UNRWA said the suspension would remain in effect until the aid was returned and the agency received credible assurances from the Hamas government in Gaza that such thefts would end.

In Gaza, Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said Hamas supported UNRWA's work, but believed that some of its employees were giving aid to groups attached to rival political parties.

"We as Hamas refuse all use of the people's needs for political ends," he said. He called on UNRWA "to put an end to using aid for political means, and to distribute it to all the needy equally".

Pete & Joy said...

Israel is the only democracy in the world ever accused of war crimes when it fights a defensive war to protect its civilians. This is remarkable, especially in light of the fact that Israel has killed far fewer civilians than any other country in the world that has faced comparable threats. In the most recent war in Gaza fewer than a thousand civilians -- even by Hamas' skewed count -- have been killed. This, despite the fact that no one can now deny that Hamas had employed a deliberate policy of using children, schools, mosques, apartment buildings and other civilian areas as shields from behind which to launch its deadly anti-personnel rockets. The Israeli Air Force has produced unchallengeable video evidence of this Hamas war crime.

Just to take one comparison, consider the recent wars waged by Russia against Chechnya. In these wars Russian troops have killed tens of thousands of Chechnyan civilians, some of them willfully, at close range and in cold blood. Yet those radical academics who scream bloody murder against Israel (particularly in England) have never called for war crime tribunals to be convened against Russia. Nor have they called for war crime charges to be filed against any other of the many countries that routinely kill civilians, not in an effort to stop enemy terrorists, but just because it is part of their policy.

Nor did we see the Nuremburg-type rallies that were directed against Israel when hundreds of thousands of civilians were being murdered in Rwanda, in Darfur and in other parts of the world. These bigoted hate-fests are reserved for Israel.

The accusation of war crimes is nothing more than a tactic selectively invoked by Israel's enemies. Those who cry "war crime" against Israel don't generally care about war crimes, as such, indeed they often support them when engaged in by country's they like. What these people care about, and all they seem to care about, is Israel. Whatever Israel does is wrong regardless of the fact that so many other countries do worse.

You can't just talk about Jews. Nor can you just talk about the Jewish state. Any discussion of war crimes must be comparative and contextual. If Russia did not commit war crimes when its soldiers massacred tens of thousands of Chechnyans (not even in a defensive war) then on what basis could Israel be accused of accidentally killing a far fewer number of human shields in an effort to protect its civilians? What are the standards? Why are they not being applied equally or selectively? Can human rights endure in the face of such unequal and selective application? These are the questions the international community should be debating, not whether Israel, and Israel alone, violated the norms of that vaguest of notions called "international law" or the "law of war."

If Israel, and Israel alone among democracies fighting defensive wars, were ever to be charged with "war crimes," that would mark the end of international human rights law as a neutral arbitrator of conduct. Any international tribunal that were to charge Israel, having not charged the many nations that have done far worse, will lose any remaining legitimacy among fair-minded people of good will,

If the laws of war in particular, and international human rights in general, are to endure, they must be applied to nations in order of the seriousness of the violations, not in order of the political unpopularity of the nations. If the law of war were applied in this manner, Israel would be among the last, and certainly not the first, charged.

from, "The Phony War Crimes Accusation Against Israel" by A. Dershowitz