Israel Gets Tough


The United Nations has predictably accused Israel of a ‘disproportionate response‘ but also of breaking the international rules of war. Apparently Israel is culpable because it is punishing the entire population for the actions of a few.  

Yes, technically true (although the population of Gaza is wildly anti-Israel, much more so than, say, the German population was anti-English in 1939) but the act of declaring war is not usually decided by a national referendum but by the ruling party.  

Israel is being surprisingly direct in its words and actions; ‘Israel is in all-out war with Hamas‘, said Defence Minister, Ehud Barak.  

Most of the usual suspects are demanding Israel cease fire in Gaza, but support for its actions is coming from some unexpected places.   Deputy PM, Julia Gillard is clear that Hamas is to blame. So is Egypt.

Obama’s not sure.

These are the International Rules of War.

50 thoughts on “Israel Gets Tough

  1. posted at the same time as John’s below.

    i agree with John’s sentiments. Gaza started hostilities and wants Israel’s complete destruction as a solution. The UN has nothing to offer either side.

  2. Crush them. Take a big part of Gaza as a buffer zone and continue doing so until the last Palestinian turns off the lights.

    No other country in the world is expected or would take the abuse Israel does at the hands of these barbarians. They need to be crushed and removed from the area so can cause no harm to Israelis.

  3. Hamas is not just a bunch of Palestinians with historic grievances. It is primarily an Islamic fundamentalist organisation, comparable to Hezbollah in Lebanon. Both are a threat to Arab capitalism and democracy (to the extent they exist) in addition to their more immediate impact on Israel.

    Unless confronted and defeated they will spread like cancer through the Arab world. Egypt’s government recognises this, which is why it has closed the border with Gaza. It wants Israel to save it from the need to deal with Hamas in the future.

    This conflict is a proxy for the ‘clash of civilisations’. Modern western values of freedom and democracy are at war with medieval notions of religion, ritual and obedience.

  4. David – yes, with the additional key point that they do nothing without the approval of Iran – they are simply doing Iran’s dirty work. this, i understand, is one of the reasons other mid east Sunni muslim countries wont touch these poor people.

  5. Pommy – based on your past logic I presume the Palestinians should not try and understand why their people are being killed by the Israelis. After all trying to understand the motives of somebody who kills hundreds of innocent people on mass is simply stupid. Palestinians should not ask why this is happening, they should simply confront the evil head on using force.

    Snide remarks aside I agree that Israel is waging a defensive war. Such a pity that so many innocent people are losing on both sides.

  6. Crush them. Take a big part of Gaza as a buffer zone and continue doing so until the last Palestinian turns off the lights.

    JC – I suspect that genocide does work if you are really thorough. However it would work either way. If the Jews were pushed into the sea then there wouldn’t be much further conflict either. Personally I don’t think wiping out the Palestinian, as your comment seem to advocate, is any better than Hamas offering to wipe our the Israelis.

  7. Terje, JC’s comment is not about genocide. He said crush them.

    In practical terms it wouldn’t be that difficult. Allow disarmed non-combatants to move to the West Bank, with Fatah approval. When only the hard core Hamas loonies were left, turn Gaza into a shooting gallery. They’d either run up the white flag or go for the 40 virgins. Either way, they’d have nothing worth boasting about.

  8. Snide perhaps… but wise nontheless. 🙂

    And worthy of an answer. Should people consider why their opponents do what they do? Or should they ignore all ratinal analysis and simply fight, fight, fight.

    I hope that Hamas takes the former approach. Indeed, I hope that all people and all countries take the former approach. There is no virtue in dogmatic ignorance.

  9. terje – unusually snide remark for you.

    Pommy – snide wasn’t really the intent however it was the most practical way to phrase my point. And as John indicates it is worthy of an answer. Why should the Palestinians, in the face of so much distruction of innocent life, take pause and consider the motives of those that pepetrate such horror? Why should we expect such thinking from ordinary people living in Gaza whilst at the same time insisting that when others suffer such horror the motives of the pepetrators can be safely ignored? For instance you wrote recently:-

    On 26 November ten fanatical Islamists landed in Mumbai off a stolen trawler and began a killing and bombing spree that left 170 people dead and many more injured. Their choice of location, one of India’s most modern and successful, says it all about their nihilistic, stone age mindset. Yet, the usual suspects in the West couldn’t wait to ‘understand’ their actions.

    I find the last sentence in that paragraph so incredible daft. You want others, such as the people of Gaza, to think about motives but not Western people. Is your point that Western people should just react like wounded animals and never think? I must be a “usual suspect” because I believe that we should think long and hard and very deeply about what motivates such actions. I think your dismisal of such analysis is totally disfunctional. What do we lose by understanding other peoples motives?

  10. Terje – when a word is placed in expression marks ie ‘understand’, it’s a convention to signify a different meaning.

    the point i was making (i thought fairly obviously) was to equate ‘understanding’ with ‘sympathising’.

    Who can possibly understand what drove the Mumbai terrorists to do what they did. but many in the West, sympathise with their actions.

  11. Pingback: Israel vs Hamas at catallaxyfiles

  12. “Who can possibly understand what drove the Mumbai terrorists to do what they did.”

    The Indians certainly want to. And why not? All the better to defeat them.

    “but many in the West, sympathise with their actions.”

    They do? Who?

  13. Many pro-war people have mocked the “root-cause” approach and have insisted that we don’t need to understand the opinions of muslim extremists. I have had that impression from Pommy before, sometimes in response to things I’ve written.

    If Pommy wants to correct the record and agree that root causes do matter and we should aim to understand our enemy so we can better understand the incentives and consequences from our actions, then that is a good thing.

    I should also quickly note that nothing here implies moral equivalence between ismalic extremists and the west… the point is simply that all humans respond to incentives, and it is best to understand those incentives.

  14. Of course root causes matter and of course we should try and understand the motivations of our allies and enemies.

    The point i have been trying to make (obviously not very well) is that sometimes there are no answers to the ‘root causes’.

    Jack the Ripper tortured and murdered prostitutes. The ‘root causes’ of his actions were that he thought prostitutes were not real human beings who deserved to die. The way to appease him was not to sell your body for money.

    In the same way, OBL’s ‘root cause’ was the collapse of the Caliphate in the early 1920s. The ‘root causes’ of Hamas are the elimination of the Jewish state of Israel. The root causes of the Mumbai terrorists is probably brainwashing by influence Islamists. These are all unacceptable to us and clearly cant be met.

    Understanding root causes is always a first step however it doesn’t always help us figure out a solution.

  15. In the spirit of agreement then… I agree that understanding the root cause doesn’t mean being a pacifist, and that some “root causes” are unreasonable.

    As you say, the goals of AQ & Hamas are unacceptable. If they chose to use violence, then it is appropriate to retaliate against them.

    One of the reasons that knowing the “root cause” is important is that shows us where the disagreement lies, and whether that disagreement is reasonable and can be solved in a non-violent way. I believe that the disagreement between many Israelis and Palestinians can be solved through a peaceful two-state solution with both sides being more flexible about the status of East Jerusalem.

    The quicker we move to that solution, the quicker we undermine one of the recruiting tools for Hamas.

  16. >> Understanding root causes is always a first step however
    >> it doesn’t always help us figure out a solution.

    I don’t agree. On the contrary, it makes the solution quite obvious in most cases. Just because a solution is politically unacceptable to a bunch bleeding heart luvvies doesn’t mean that it does not exist.

    If a political group is driven solely by the need to kill you then the solution is quite obvious: kill or be killed. Stop looking for the Magic Key of Compassion which will turn all your opponents into loving, caring, productive, tolerant, collectivist, tree-hugging friends of the earth. You won’t find the key. It was taken by Santa Claus, the Man Friendly Feminist and the Tooth Fairy.

    You are at war. Admit it.

  17. Necessary but not sufficient. Winning the war (any war) means changing your enemy. It means dividing the leadership from the people and installing or awaiting new leadership. Unless you just want to nuke all the people. In the case of fighting AQ it means killing the leadership and destroying the moral of those that would keep fighting for AQ or who would join AQ to fight or who would become leaders in the same mould. In the case of the Gaza conflict it means removing Hamas from a position of leadership or changing the nature of Hamas. In the case or Northern Ireland it entailed giving the people enough that they no longer wanted to fight even whilst not given the leadership everything they would have wanted. It also entailed making the leadership more directly accountable to the people. In the case of Iraq it means installing a new government that is an acceptable alternative to both the people and to yourself.

    Killing people is part of any war. However it is merely a tactical activity. The strategic aspect of winning must entail an understanding of incentives and motives. And it should not assume that the enemy is an homogenenous block.

    Empathy is not the same as sympathy. We should empathise with our enemies even as we kill them. Otherwise what we do is pointless and disfunctional.

    The example of Jack the Ripper is actually useful. Most such criminals are apprehended (even though Jack wasn’t) by understanding their motives more so than their means. Was he killing for money, thrills or to conceal some other crime? Understand the motive and you are closer to winning. A serial killers means may change with time but generally not his motive.

  18. “We should empathise with our enemies even as we kill them. Otherwise what we do is pointless and disfunctional.”

    Well said.


  20. FF — got a theory over at our place I’m curious for you to read — only in the comments so far. It’s on DEM’s ‘Gaza funny’ (insofar as Gaza can be, ahem, funny).

  21. If one analyses ‘root causes’ in the Middle East, the very first root one stumbles upon is the dichotomy of Israeli Jews’ “guilt/rights” sociology versus Arab Muslims’ “honor/shame” sociology. A second root is the psychological ‘improvabilism’ of the Qur’an versus the psychological ‘fallibilism’ of the Hebrew Bible. Throw in a comparison of the last sixty years of Israel’s existence to the past fourteen hundred years of Muslim domination of the exact same land, and one begins to understand why there will never be a two-party state, nor will there ever be a ‘peace’ in the Middle East until one of the two obliterates the other, or until Israel freely moves to more hospitable territory.

  22. Duoist has reminded me of an article I have read, “Shame, The Arab Psyche, and Islam” in which the author brings together similarities between the culture of Japan during WWII, and the current Arab nationalism.

    Now that the Arabs have acquired national consciousness, and they compare their societies to other nations, these deficiencies become painfully evident, particularly to the upper-class Arab kids who attend foreign universities. There they learn about the accomplishments of Christians, Jews, (Freud, Einstein, for starters) and women. And yet, with the exception of Edward Said, there is scarcely a contemporary Arab name in the bunch. No wonder, then, that major recruitment to al-Qaeda’s ranks takes place among Arab university students. And no wonder that suicide bombing becomes their tactic of choice: it is a last-ditch, desperate way of asserting at least one scrap of superiority—a spiritual superiority—over the materialistic, life-hugging, and ergo shameful West.

    But this tactic is not, I suggest, a product of Islam. Rather, it is a product of the bruised Arab psyche. Remember that the Japanese also turned to suicide tactics in WWII to evade the humiliation of defeat. Though their religion was Shinto rather than Muslim, they too constituted a paradigm shame/honor culture, and defeat brought about, as with the Arabs, a furiously suicidal/homicidal response. After their armies had been defeated, their fleets sunk, their cities set aflame, and their home islands invaded, they launched the kamikaze bomber offensive, thereby committing a hi-tech form of hara-kiri, their usual remedy against intolerable shame. It is in this way that the modern Arab world resembles the Japan of World War II. In both cases it is not religions but psychic wounds, the wounds inflicted by defeat and evident inferiority, that inspire suicide bombers.

    It is often asserted that the changes set in train by modernization are particularly toxic to the Arabs. No doubt this is true. But if we are going to be therapeutic, our diagnoses need to be more specific; we need to identify the particular pathogens that are released by modernization. Besides sharpening their sense of inferiority relative to the West, modernization threatens to bring about the liberation of women (as in Afghanistan and Iraq). I say “threatens,” because the self-esteem of Arab males is in large part predicated on the inferior position of their women. ……

  23. A Duoist and Jim – thanks for putting some flesh on the bones of a concept that I have not previously fully conceptualised. The notion that shame and honour are so pivotal to Islamic Arab culture does go a long way towards explaining certain aspects of their behaviour. Obviously it explains the prevalence of honour killings but I had not previously extrapolated this to a broader cultural context. Obviously the nature of a culture in which honour and shame are pivotal will also be determined to a large extent by what they link to feelings of shame and what they link to feelings of honour. If peace and security for your family made you feel honour and war with your neighbour made you feel shame then perhaps the result may be different.

    I have heard the “they envy our success” claim before but it hasn’t ever entirely made sense to me before now. Stuck in my own cultural paradigm perhaps.

    How do people learn to reframe feelings of humiliation and shame and to channel them into success oriented endeavours rather than self destruction? How does a culture do the same thing? These would seem to me to be relevant questions.

  24. Looking through the report in the Australian on the death of Nizar Rayan, a couple of gems really appealed to my sense of irony: –

    A son not home at the time said his father did not imagine Israel would attack a home with a family inside. …

    … Rayan, 49, was one of the most extreme of the Hamas leaders. He had sent one of his sons on a suicide mission against an Israeli settlement seven years ago.

    Evidently Israel is supposed to avoid harming the family he is hiding behind, so he can send them on suicide missions against other families later.

  25. Great to see the ALS complying with ALP policy..
    Support for Israel is a vote (not just a preference) for the Australian Labor Party.
    (UN President and leftist ALP mega-statist) Doc Evatt joined the diplomatic councils of the allies during the Second World War, and in 1945 he played a leading role in the founding of the United Nations. He was President of the U.N. General Assembly in 1948-49, and was prominent in the negotiations which led to the creation of Israel.

    You really are the most politically confused bunch of mongrels on the face of Ozblogistan..

  26. I’m not a mongrel. I’m come from pure viking stock. Which isn’t overly relevant here but then neither is your point Parkos.

  27. i, however, am a mongrel – a mix of Anglo Saxon and ‘Mediterranean sailor’ according to my doctor.

    parkos – i was impressed with Julia Gillard’s statement. i also like Lindsay Tanner very much. but i’m really not confused.

  28. Mongrel is a state of moind (note Gillard accent)..
    Moving roight along and keeping it contemporary.

    Objectively, without passing judgment about what is moral or correct, or taking sides in this situation:

    Israel, being the world’s fourth nuclear power, and essentially (but not exclusively) a religious state, which exercises direct state influence (ie heaping passports, investments, religious control and military service etc) upon Jewish citizens of other nations, is an example of mega-statism. It is the opposite of small government libertarian ideas. They even have their own official Hebrew character system, possibly a sign of an overblown collective state identity (see Korea both North and South).

    The Palestinians, who are trying to assert their private property rights, want more guns and do not have a government, are the libertarians in that region, until such time as they establish a state, disperse or perish.

    Therefore, supporting Israel overrides libertarian ideals.
    Is this a problem? Or is it only a minor contradiction?

    This conflict gets too much attention, when compared to the amount of carnage in other parts of the world that is not comparatively represented in western media. In a sense, Israel is presented as a whipping boy for western guilt.

  29. Parkos, does Hamas advocate the destruction of Israel, or does it not? Is Hamas the elected government of Gaza? Do the Palestinians want peace, or not?
    None of that was in your article.

  30. Guys open your minds
    Parkos is right
    Don’t you see that ‘The Palestinian Authority’ is the Hong Kong of the Middle East and these misunderstood jihadists are actually Randian uber-capitalists? That’s why the Palestianians have to go to Israel to seek work … err …

  31. That’s a particularly poor effort by Raimondo. I like some of his stuff and he certainly can make you think about issues from a different perspective, but on this one he has left an obvious question unanswered…

    Does he support the Hamas attacks on Israel?

    He seems to support this because (1) Israel previously won a war against the Palestinians in 1948 and did bad things; and (2) Israel doesn’t allow trade with Gaza. I agree these things are true, but (being anti-war) I don’t think they are sufficient justification for Hamas to start a war.

    If he supports the Hamas attacks on Israel, then he is not “anti-war”.

  32. Given that I had already considered the counterpoints offered by Nicholas and JaySoon before nominating the Gazans as libertines, and furthermore had considered kibbutzim and other Jewish contributions to liberal/anarchist thought, I would go on to state that libertarianism is a phase and at other times a deconstruct:

    An individualist phase prior to or in lieu of the consolodiation of state power and collective identity. ie Gaza

    A deconstructionist movement within a state seeking to devolve regulation. In the case of the ALS, this involves whinging in public spheres such as Ozblogistan in order to obliterate the public sphere as a whole (without actually understanding political theory to the extent that public does not equal state), whilst seeking political enclosure (seats in parliament) as hypocritical aspiration towards consolidation.
    Mind you, no more hypocritical than the rest of the brothel clientele.

  33. The ALS more or less agree with the mainstream of Australian politics – and disagree with the Greens and left labour.

    Parkos also thinks that Hamas ruled Gaza is a individualist paradise and thse who don’t agree are moneyed purveyors of whores. Presumably he thinks left labour and the Greens also agree with him here.

    Parkos, I hope your family finds you and can give you the instiututionalised care you sorely need.

  34. When you have taught political theory in central European universities, then you might understand not only what I am talking about, but what you are talking about. There is quite a lot of material that does pass down into English translation.
    Until such time, you are basically a hick from the sticks, with an ultra-leftist Foucauldian view of psychiatry as a political tool.
    Carry on up the coconut tree..

  35. If anyone needed proof that Ron Paul is on another planet, listen to this:

    Quotes: “Israel invaded Gaza”, “We (the US) have just antagonised the Arab/Muslim world more than ever before”, “There is no benefit to us from being involved in this fight over there”, “The Palestinians are virtually in a concentration camp”, “They (Hamas) have a few small missiles that are so minor compared to the fire power of Israel”, “They (Israel) can turn off all the food and all the water to the people in Palestine”.

    I wonder what he would say if Mexico lobbed a few thousand “small” missiles over the border.

    About the only thing he gets right is that governments shouldn’t run up big deficits. Otherwise he’s nothing but an appeasing pacifist without a decent moral compass.

  36. Pingback: More evidence of Ron Paul’s poor political judgement at catallaxyfiles

  37. I disagree with the pro-Hamas vibe from the above Paul quotes, but I will take a moment to explain (not justify) those thoughts.

    First, some Palestinian complaints against Israel are very appropriate. We should not forget that some of their anger is understandable.

    Second, it seems to me that the position of Paul & Raimondo is based in part on noble double-standards. It is noble because these people want to hold “their side” to the highest standards of peace… but it is a double-standard because they don’t seem to apply the same rules to groups like Hamas.

    Some say that this double-standard comes from anti-Semitism. I don’t think this is true for most western critics of Israel.

    Another possible reason is that the double-standard holds the west (including Israel) to a higher standard because the west is seen as inherently better, whereas the simple-minded non-westerners can’t be expected to be enlightened.

    Another part of the explaination is probably that people have a (justifiable) greater interest about the actions of “their side”.

    And finally, we have the constant problem of “heart-over-head” concern that comes from seeing dead people. I agree that the deaths of innocent Palestinians is bad (and I find it sickening that some pro-Israel people hold a “they had it coming” attitude)… but we shouldn’t allow these (understandable) emotions get in the way of rational analysis.

  38. the double-standard holds the west (including Israel) to a higher standard because the west is seen as inherently better, whereas the simple-minded non-westerners can’t be expected to be enlightened.

    I suspect that’s probably a significant factor, although it seems to be subconscious. Logically, those with such a view would be expected to encourage unenlightened non-westerners to rise to our standards. Instead there is this lack of expectations of anything including morality and decency.

  39. It’s all a cycle of violence that just keeps on repeating itself. Hamas (or Hezbollah, or half a dozen other Arab states at various points) attack Israel with rockets or other guerrilla tactics. Israel let it go for a while, then spank them hard. There are many more casualties on the Palestinian / Arab side because Israel are more heavily armed and the Arabs deliberately hide among civilians.

    The world media condemn Israel’s response as ‘disproportionate’. What is a ‘proportionate’ response, anyway? Is it about number of combatants? Given there are 6 million Israelis surrounded by some 300 million Arabs who want them to cease existing, should they halt their offensive when they have killed 50 times as many Israeli deaths?

    Not that Israel is faultless of course, many of their actions have been draconian. But the common theme here is that the aggression is always started on the Arab side, even though they know they will be totally spanked. Apparently in the Arab mindset, having gruesome pictures of their dead children broadcast around the world is worth it to reinforce their victimhood status.

    So how do we end this cycle of violence? It will take strong leaders on both sides who refuse to cave in to the extremists within their own people. On the Israeli side they will need to be strident but less aggressive when they defend themselves, and be willing to discuss East Jerusalem. On the Arab side the leaders will need to renounce terror as a weapon and abandon their victimhood mentality.

    However none of this ‘peace process’, ‘road map’ or whatever you want to call it can even start if one side is calling for the complete destruction of the other. It is really up to the Arabs to start the peace process by formally acknowedging Israel’s right to exist, then hopefully Israel will be strong enough to participate.

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