Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Singling out raised to the power of two

OK; let's suppose, just for the sake of argument, that we anti-Zionists are in fact guilty of singling out Israel for demonization, like the Hasbara troupe likes to charge. Of all the countries that commit human rights abuses in the world, we condemn Israel and only Israel, even when other countries are far worse offenders, and that's a severe moral fault.

But are we alone? Check the following photograph of an anti-Sri Lanka rally held in London on February 2 (CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE):

The sign in the red box reads:


Some of these demonstrators may have been Sri Lankan Tamils, a group that seeks autonomy from the majority Sinhalese people. Some others may have not. But one thing is certain: they accused the Sinhalese of a genocide that is not taking place. Worse still, they did not speak about Darfur, where an actual genocide is under way. In other words, they singled out the ethnic group that rules Sri Lanka for demonization. There can be no doubt that they are anti-Sinhalites.

Yet the Hasbara peddlers don't say a word about those pro-Tamil demonstrators, even when their behavior is comparable to that of us anti-Zionists. In other words, of all the people who single out countries for demonization, the Hasbaristas only charge anti-Zionists with racism, while leaving all other demonizers alone. That's singling out raised to the power of two, an arguably worse sin than the single-level singling out we are accused of engaging in.

By now you must have gotten my point. If all people were under an obligation to write a treatise on all similar offenses each time they want to denounce a particular instance of wrongdoing, no one would ever be able to denounce anything. The Zionists would be well-advised not to cry "racism" whenever we talk about Israel, because we don't have any moral duty to talk about similar or worse countries. But if they believe we do, then they should be hurling the racism slur against all people who denounce one and just one country -- or accept they're themselves guilty of singling out a group for demonization.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

World champions of fig-leaf donning

Once upon a time Israel used torture to extract confessions from "ticking bomb" terrorists. Nay, it wasn't even torture, it was "moderate physical pressure." But then on September 6, 1999, Israel's High Court issued a landmark ruling which banned even that moderate pressure. Therefore, Israel is a torture-free land, as befits its position as the most moral country in the world and, just in case, a light unto the nations. We all know this.

Luai Ashkar, however, begs to differ. This Palestinian was arrested on April 22, 2005, on ticking bomb suspicions. He describes his experiences in the following video:

To make a long (and horrific) story short, however, Askar was subjected to the "banana position," in which his body was horizontally placed, face up, on a chair and bent like the letter U until his hands met his feet under the chair between the seat and the floor. Then an Israeli General Security Service man pressed his chest with his foot until Askar's backbone broke. The man was left paralyzed.

How could this happen in 2005, if "physical pressure" (in the literal sense of the word, in this case) had been banned in 1999?

The key to it is that the High Court did not ban torture at all. Paragraph 38 of the decision opened the door to continued use of it. In Regulating torture in a democracy: death indignity in Israel, Michael L. Gross explains that:

The Supreme Court was no longer impressed with the existential argument and acknowledged that while a democracy had to fight "with one hand tied behind its back," terrorism would not bring down the State of Israel. Further convinced that conditions for a "ticking bombs" were rarely met, the court concluded that "ticking bombs" could not underwrite a sweeping policy of torture. Absent definitive legislation, ruled the court, moderate physical pressure remained illegal. Nevertheless, the court did not ban torture absolutely, allowing recourse to the necessity defense and permitting investigators to use torture to meet immediate and otherwise unavoidable grievous threats to innocent life (para. 38).

(My emphasis.)

Needless to say, what has happened since is that whenever Israel wants to torture someone, it defines them as a "grievous threat to innocent life" and proceeds with the torture -- even if the prisoner's harmlessness is crystal-clear (on February 27, 2006, Laskar was convicted to 26 months in prison for crimes described as "not serious" by the prosecution). In a 2007 report, the Israeli human-rights organization B'Tselem found that half of all Palestinian prisoners are beaten, and two-thirds suffer physical injuries, with a staggering 96 percent being forced into painful positions.

Let's turn to another High Court decision. Israel has long used human shields in the "neighbor procedure": when the Israeli army wants to nab a terrorist, they take someone from the neighborhood and force them to enter the terrorist's house to call on him to surrender. When in 2002 a neighbor was killed in one of the procedures, the High Court issued a temporary injunction against the practice. The Army continued using it, only requiring that the Palestinian gave his consent to be used in the operation. Then in October 2005 the High Court banned the procedure altogether, citing, precisely, that a Palestinian wouldn't be able to make a free choice if asked by the IDF to serve as a human shield.

Despite which on February 27, 2007, during Operation Hot Winter in Nablus, the IDF used Jihan Tahdush as a human shield in a neighbor procedure, forcing her to march ahead of the soldiers in a house-to-house search. Here's the testimony of this lovely 11-year-old girl:

If you can bear with me until I explain why I'm bringing up all of this, allow me to turn to an apparently unrelated topic: an article by the New York Times' Thomas Friedman which explained the recent war on Gaza. Israel, he argued, may have been educating Hamas just like it educated Hizbullah in 2006:

Israel’s counterstrategy was to use its Air Force to pummel Hezbollah and, while not directly targeting the Lebanese civilians with whom Hezbollah was intertwined, to inflict substantial property damage and collateral casualties on Lebanon at large. It was not pretty, but it was logical. Israel basically said that when dealing with a nonstate actor, Hezbollah, nested among civilians, the only long-term source of deterrence was to exact enough pain on the civilians — the families and employers of the militants — to restrain Hezbollah in the future.

In essence, this paragraph says that while Israel's objective isn't to destroy the civilian infrastructure, only to crush the terrorists, by a felicitous coincidence enough infrastructure is obliterated in the process that civilians will be discouraged from continuing to support the terrorists.

This is clearly not the case; Israel destroys civilian infrastructure on purpose, not as collateral damage. An IDF report on the war on Gaza is already noting that the high number of houses razed is incompatible with any reasonable military objective. Also, Gaza's industrial sector (or what remained of it after the crippling Israeli blockade of 2007-2008) was completely destroyed by Israel in the last two days of the operation, when the military conflict had ended and no credible strategic value could be attached to those buildings (see here for an example).

So why would Israel's High Court issue a ban on torture that is not a ban, or a prohibition of the neighbor procedure that is ignored by the IDF? And why would a journalist state that the civilian pain that is necessary to discourage support of the terrorists is not a policy but collateral damage -- an unintended yet extraordinarily convenient consequence of the attacks?

The answer is that Zionists need to don a fig leaf whenever Israel does nasty things. Since that is an everyday occurrence, the result is that Zionists have become world champions of fig-leaf donning. There are several procedures to make it appear that there exist factors counterbalancing the bad behavior, notably:

  1. Landmark High Court rulings that contain caveats: The High Court outlaws bad things Israel was doing, but allowing them in situations that theoretically should be very exceptional. Then the exception becomes the rule and Israelis enjoy the best of two worlds: total freedom to apply torture and the ability to claim that they banned it.
  2. Landmark High Court rulings that are never implemented: The Court outlaws improper behavior but the decision is not enforced. Inquiries on army abuses in defiance of the rulings usually die at the internal investigation level, i.e. the soldiers acquit themselves of their own human rights violations.
  3. Claims that the damage caused is unintended (even if these claims are often accompanied by cynical statements that the deterrent aspect of Israel's wars is not the elimination of terrorists but, precisely, the pain involuntarily inflicted on civilians).

The most striking aspect of these rhetorical games is its masturbatory nature. Zionists have decreed that the public opinion can be won over using technicalities in court-of-law fashion. To them, what is important is not whether something happened or not, but whether it can be plausibly denied. That's why we see them on the blogs whining their frustration that the public at large doesn't buy into the brilliantly put together arguments that so much convince themselves, and ascribing it to the endless antisemitism of the world.

But the public is endowed with reasonableness and common sense, and tends to judge by the results and not by the good intentions the road to hell is proverbially paved with. They will, e.g., divide 1300 Palestinian casualties into 13 Israeli ones and conclude that 100-to-1 is not a reasonable proportion even if Israel did not intend to kill a single child. No antisemitism there, just the ability to grasp some uncomfortable realities no amount of fig leaves can be sanely expected to conceal.

Monday, February 9, 2009

The "disproportionate" debacle

The Hasbara world is in disarray over Israel's increasingly explicit admission that its response to the annoying, but relatively harmless, Palestinian rockets is disproportionate. First it was the Israeli ambassador to the UN who, during the Second Lebanon War, stated, to the dismay of the Hasbaristas: "And to those countries who claim we are using disproportionate force, I have only this to say: you're damn right we are!" At that time it was dismissed as a hot-blooded outburst during a harangue. But then came military analysts and generals who confirmed that, in fact, there existed an adopted policy of disproportionality. Finally, it was Prime Minister Ehud Olmert who declared that each Palestinian rocket would be met with disproportionate force.

Zionists around the world tend to be more Catholic than the Israeli pope, and it's amusing to watch their embarrassment when their own masters deny what they, the Hasbara peddlers, had been claiming all along in Israel's defense. This tends to confirm a theory I have long held, namely that Israelis are actually fed up with their Western lapdogs, are deeply annoyed by their efforts to angelize the country, and would actually enjoy it if the lapdogs could bring themselves to criticize even a single aspect of the State of Israel for a change. But it ain't gonna happen.

Be it as it may, the Hasbara troupe is faced with many Israeli people candidly admitting to disporportionality. There have been two lines of response to this.

The primary reaction has been to claim that the Israelis are talking nonsense. Olmert simply has no clue what disproportionate means. Neither he nor his generals are aware of the true meaning of this word, but people whose closest approximation to a military conflict has been typing on a keyboard with spelling mistakes claim they do understand the term, and according to their grasp thereof Israel is not disproportionate. However, this is not very convincing, because generals, in general (bad pun intended), tend to know a lot more about military terminology than pundits or bloggers.

A slightly more elaborate reaction has been to claim that the nature of conflicts has changed, and that the Geneva conventions did not foresee the rise of terrorism. Therefore, the very concept of disproportionality is null and void, because overwhelming force may be actually needed to fend off the terrorist scourge. To some extent this is a variation of the first reaction. The flat-screen generals on the blogs want us to believe the authors of the Geneva conventions did not know that a guy called Guy (terrible pun again intended) Fawkes once tried to blow up the British Parliament, and therefore were not aware of a phenomenon called terrorism and did not set forth special provisions to combat it.

But that is not so. The message of the Geneva convention was, precisely, that an army must respond in a civilized way even to uncivilized enemies. To make an everyday analogy, if you spit on my sister this doesn't mean I'm entitled to kill your aunt. Examples of countries that did not react disproportionately to persistent terror abound, but a case in point is the British reaction to Jewish terror in the 1940s, which didn't include massively shooting Haganah people or blowing up their headquarters.

Those of us who have opposed any excuse for Palestinian terrorism, and who refuse to accept the theory that in asymmetrical warfare certain actions may be allowed that would be forbidden in a war between equals, are dismayed to see Zionists propounding a very similar theory: that there exist "special situations" which require rules to be waived.

In sum, yes, when the Israelis say "disproportionate" they mean disproportionate, and no, there are no exceptions to the rule requiring a proportional retribution to war actions. The Zionist attempt to claim otherwise represents a further dive into intellectual dishonesty by a Hasbara brigade with already very solid bad faith credentials.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

The angelization of Israel

I don't think I'll ever be able to understand why Zionists insist on singling out Israel for angelization. They have nothing to win and a lot to lose.

By angelizing Israel, its apologists oblige themselves to prove not only that its actions are justified (already a daunting task), but also that the country's behavior is superior to that of "any other country in its position." This is due to a number of extraordinary claims the Zionists make: most notably, that Israel holds the moral high ground not only in relation to its Muslim neighbors, but also as compared to other developed democracies where its leftwing critics live.

A key ingredient of the angelization is the claim that the Israeli Defense Forces are the most moral army in the world, which is regularly repeated, most recently in relation to the Gaza op.

A case in point is the ineffable Alan Dershowitz. A writer notable not for the depth of his ideas, but for the influence (itself telling) he exerts on the lower echelons of the Hasbara troupe, a.k.a. Zionism's useful idiots. In his book The Case for Israel Dershowitz describes Israel's doctrine of "purity of arms," which "requires that soldiers put their own lives at stake in order to avoid harming non-combatants" (p. 145). He gives an example:

Recall that when Israel sought to protect itself against Beirut-based terrorism in 1982, it sent a team of soldiers --led by then Major General Ehud Barak, dressed as a woman-- to target the terrorists themselves in a building then being used as their base, instead of bombing the building from the air, which would have resulted in many more casualties. This is typical of the Israeli "retail," rather than "wholesale," approach to targetting terrorism (p. 151).

This is a puzzling example. I thought dressing like women was a very wrong thing for soldiers to do, and the only reason why so many Palestinian women died in Israeli attacks. Now it turns out it's commendable, if done by Jewish soldiers.

More importantly, the incident Dershowitz refers to is not illustrative that Israel does not perform wholesale murder; it only means that in some cases pinpoint operations may be more effective. It did not take place during the 1982 war, as Dershowitz suggests, but as part of Operation Springtime of Youth, carried out in 1973 to wipe out three PLO members alleged to have played a part in the Munich massacre. It was not a time of war and a discreet operation by a handful of men had a greater chance of success.

The doctrine of "purity of arms" must be tested in war conditions. And in the recent war on Gaza, I can't think of a single instance of an Israeli soldier's life being risked so that civilians won't die. In fact, only about 3 Israeli soldiers died from enemy fire, against at least 400 Palestinian women and children. This does definitely look a lot more like wholesale than retail, yet I haven't seen any comment on this imbalance from Israel's angelizers explaining how it can be reconciled with any notion of purity.

So why insist on the "most moral" thing? Why bring up a nonexistent spirit of self-sacrifice on the Israeli soldiers' part? Such preposterous claims only invite scrutiny -- and exposure when proved false.

But of course, the Zionists respond to this by playing the "double standards" card. "We say that we're morally superior, but if you try to check out if we're morally superior, then you're judging us by standards you don't expect any comparable country to meet." Why, of course, but that's because you claimed to meet higher standards in the first place. What you're doing is something only bad-behaved children do, and the name for it is wanting to have it both ways.


In my previous satirical post, I argued that South Africa had been "demonized" during Apartheid, because it was ostracized by the international community when other, far worse regimes were left alone. This was meant to expose the fallacy of the Zionist argument that singling out Israel for criticism is tantamount to demonization.

The piece was cross-posted on Harry's Place, a site which, while largely supporting behaviors and policies we have been fighting here, displays an openness not usually found in political blogs. HP was fiercely criticized by some of its unconditional followers for allowing me to cross-post the article.

One of HP's frequent contributors, Brett, responded in two different posts. On 28 January he pointed out several factual errors in my post, which were mostly deliberate and mocked the factual errors the Zionists commit in their defense of Israel. However, he didn't rebutt the demonization argument.

Then, on my insistence, Brett published a second post on 29 January, in which he did tackle the problem of why Apartheid was uniquely punished.

His new response posits that the African National Congress worked better than other liberation movements in presenting their case before the international community. To begin with, they had a Freedom Charter that was a model of good intentions. Next, they had clear and logical objectives. Finally, they showed good communicational skills. Their case was "better packaged" than that of other peoples who also fought for their freedom. Such is, in a nutshell, Brett's argument.

While publishing a response to it on HP would seem to be the logical step, I also understand that it would further anger the blog's "constituency," which does not appear to enjoy dissent very much. I don't expect HP's editors to commit blogospherical suicide for the sake of balance. Therefore, I'm responding to Brett here on my blog.

One must give the benefit of the doubt that Brett actually believes what he says. He lived in South Africa, and is much more aware than the Western public about the complexity of the ANC movement.

However, the reasons he gives are not the ones behind the international rejection of Apartheid. No one can honestly say that the people who demonstrated against Apartheid had the faintest idea of the Freedom Charter. And the ANC's bad image peaked precisely when punitive measures were being implemented.

Thus, for instance, the US imposed stiff sanctions in 1986 -- a time at which the ANC was rejected by the American government (which branded it as a terrorist organization) because of its associations with the Communist Party.

In fact, bilateral sanctions by the world's leading economies were imposed between 1985 and 1986. What was the ANC's image in those years? Let's see:

1) The ANC was seen as the organization behind several major terror attacks. Brett's assertion that these attacks were objected to by the ANC's leadership is highly debatable. In fact, after the Church Street bombing (aimed at a military building, but which mostly killed civilians), Oliver Tambo, ANC's leader in exile, declared it a legitimate target. Even one who had in fact read the Freedom Charter would have been horrified by this attack in rush hour, in which civilian casualties were inevitable.

2) The ANC was seen as the organization behind the blood-curdling practice of necklacing, a summary execution of political opponents and impimpi (police informers) carried out by forcing a rubber tire, filled with gasoline, around a victim's chest and arms, and setting it on fire. Although Brett argues that the practice was short-lived (1984-87), those who imposed sanctions in 1985-86 couldn't have known that. Also, the most visible ANC figure, Winnie Mandela, did endorse it quite explicitly. While Brett dismisses Winnie's importance within the ANC, the West saw her as the actual ANC leader, with her husband in prison and Tambo in London. She was even called "Mother of the Nation," which was perfectly known to Western anti-Apartheid demonstrators. As for the perpetrators of the necklacings, they were not ashamed of what they did. As the first man to photograph one, Kevin Carter, said:

After having seen so many 'necklacings' on the news, it occurs to me that either many others were being performed (off camera as it were) and this was just the tip of the iceberg, or that the presence of the camera completed the last requirement, and acted as a catalyst in this terrible reaction

3) The ANC was seen as one of the factions in the fratricidal war on Inkatha. Whether this war was encouraged by the Apartheid regime or not, the fact is that the West saw horrible black-on-black violence. Internal warfare is, as everyone knows, terrible publicity for a liberation movement. "If they can't help fighting each other, how could they run a country?"

Therefore, Brett's fable of a "good packaging" does not hold much water. Quite on the contrary, it can be argued that the West ostracized the Apartheid regime in spite of what could be seen in the news about the ANC. The question remains, then: why? My theory is that the reasons behind the West's shunning of South Africa are similar to those behind the widespread criticism of Israel: we know and care more about both countries because they're more "like us" than, say, Pol Pot or Jean Kambanda.

For those of you who don't know (whose existence, if confirmed, would thoroughly prove my point): Kambanda was Rwanda's Prime Minister during the Tutsi genocide.