Tuesday, August 05, 2014

War aims

Photo from Electronic Intifada via Tom Pride.
First Israel was fighting to rescue the kidnapped Eyal Yifrach, Gilad Shaar and Naftali Frenkel, although they knew the boys were already dead, then to punish the Hamas organization for killing them, though they knew the organization hadn't done it.

Then Israel was fighting to stop firing of thousands of Hamas rockets (which set a kind of record by not even slightly harming a single person during the whole month of attacks), only they didn't know (contrary to their claims) where the rockets were. But they could find some of the tunnels Palestinians had built out of their prison camp to attack their guards on the other side of the border, so they fought to destroy those.

That one stuck, with a brief interlude in which they were fighting to rescue the "kidnapped" Lt. Hadar Goldin, although they knew he was dead and the IDF itself may indeed have killed him in keeping with the so-called "Hannibal directive". But destroying the tunnels proved to be the best of the ex post facto war aims after all, so that now Gazans are to be allowed to have some peace for three days, maybe for another couple of years, for which everybody needs to be grateful.

The only true possibility of peace remains what Yitzhak Rabin called the Peace of the Brave, in which Israelis accept that there is a certain amount of ineluctable risk. There is a risk that some Israelis will be hurt if there is peace; if Gazans are permitted to travel in and out of the territory, or if Palestinians in general are permitted to constitute themselves as a state.

Then again some Israelis will certainly be hurt if there is no peace (64 IDF soldiers in the course of the current adventure dead, for what?). The Israeli government seems to have adopted Dick Cheney's "one percent doctrine" in which if there's a one-percent chance that something dreadful will happen you must act, but if there's a 90% certainty (e.g. that America's coastal cities will be drowned over the next century by the ongoing rise in the sea level) you can ignore that. It's the War of the Hysterically Frightened.

Cross-posted at The Rectification of Names.


aimai said...

Well said.

Victor said...


And I've been saying it for years - Bibi is an Israeli Cheney.

Except he's totally in charge, and doesn't need a pliable meat puppet to maneuver and put words in his smirking mouth.

The New York Crank said...

Sorry, I'm going to differ on this one, and differ strongly. I will not get into a stupid and protracted debate. This is my one comment for now. But consider:

When a country fires hundreds of rockets at another country's people and cities, all bets on adhering to Marquis of Queensberry rules are off.

The fact that most – not all – of the rockets were knocked out of the sky before they came down is not a reason to permit this to continue. Nor is the thusfar relative ineffectiveness of Palestinian gunnery. If somebody points a gun at you and discharges it, the fact that he missed is not bloody likely a reason to shrug, turn your back, and walk away.

Imagine if Mexico fired a few hundred – or to make up for the size differential between the US and Israel – a few hundred thousand rockets into US territory. What do you think the US would do? And suppose only a few rockets got through a defensive net. Do you think our reaction – or for that matter your own reaction – would be any different?

Yours with extreme – really, really extreme – crankiness,
The New York Crank

The New York Crank said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
tgchicago said...


Your response amounts to "How dare they hit me back!"

aimai said...

Actually we are in a low level war with gangs and with non state actors in Mexico right now and have been for years. But we don't bomb or invade Mexico and wantonly kill their citizens. We have borders that are overrun and undermined, smugglers who cross, a lively arms trade (from us to them) and yet we don't engage in hot pursuit across the border and bomb schools and hospitals.

Professor Fate said...

crank - nobody is saying 'turn your back and walk away' folks are saying 'don't blow up schools and hospitals'
And we're not talking about boxing match - what the IDF is doing goes under the rubric 'war crimes'
I swear the rationalizations that the defenders of the IDF have keep reminding me of the statements of the Germans when the invaded Belgium in 1914 complaining about how the citizens volations of internatational law (i.e. taking potshots at masses of troops with a rifle) forced them to shoot civlians and burn down towns and villages.
Hamas for all its nastiness is not an actual threat to the existance of Isreal (as much as it wants to be and number of rockets being fired not withstanding). To treat it as such is a horrifc over reaction made all the worse by the 'hey we're the victim here' complaints of the IDF aplogists.

The New York Crank said...

I'll let Benjamin Netanyahu speak for me. This is from an interview he did with the BBC:

The interviewer asked him: "How come so many more Palestinians have been killed in this conflict than Israelis?"

Netanyahu: "Are you sure that you want to start asking in that direction?"

Interviewer: Why not?

Netanyahu: "Because in World War II more Germans were killed than British and Americans combined, but there is no doubt in anyone's mind that the war was caused by Germany 's aggression.

And in response to the German blitz on London , the British wiped out the entire city of Dresden , burning to death more German civilians than the number of people killed in Hiroshima ... Moreover, I could remind you that in 1944, when the R.A.F. tried to bomb the Gestapo Headquarters in Copenhagen , some of the bombs missed their target and fell on a Danish children's hospital, killing 83 little children.

End of interview excerpt.

That's it. I'm done. This time I' really really done with this argument.

Yours very crankily,
The New York Crank

Yastreblyansky said...

Thanks, Crank.

Of course as Netanyahu and Lieberman and I'm sure you too know, Allied deaths in World War II included 27 to 29 million from the Soviet Union, which dwarfs the 7 to 9 million German deaths and doesn't make it any easier to say who was in the right. The kill ratio of almost 30 Palestinians (mostly civilians) to one Israeli (mostly soldiers) is a lot higher, and it does remind me of the collective punishment of French and Italian villages for harboring Resistance fighters in the war.

I certainly regard the firebombing of Dresden as an especially terrible war crime that should have been prosecuted (to say nothing of what was done to Japan). Your Copenhagen story, with which I was not familiar, is even worse. Being on the "right side" doesn't make it OK.

On the rockets question, my post was meant to suggest that the Israeli government (as opposed to the average Israeli on the street) doesn't take the rockets seriously. When they began striking Gaza on 6 July they surely knew they would be provoking rocket fire but they went ahead. Then when the rocket fire began they said stopping it permanently was their primary war aim. Then when they discovered the extent of the tunnels they changed. Now there is a ceasefire though Hamas rockets still exist. It's because Netanyahu and the Security Cabinet don't really care. As long as the Israeli public is adequately terrified and will ignore the incompetence of Likud public policy.

Some Israelis--leftists of course--refuse to be frightened. In the current climate of terror they are fewer and fewer. Likud knows what it is doing in the short term and doesn't care about the long term. If they really cared about the rockets they could do what has worked: getting Egypt to open up at least the Rafah crossing to normal traffic. But IMO they are more interested in maintaining the fear.

tgchicago said...


The Netanyahu comment boils down to "We are the good guys, so we can kill as many civilians as we want."

A bit self-refuting, don't you think?

Regular GeoX said...

Imagine if Mexico fired a few hundred – or to make up for the size differential between the US and Israel – a few hundred thousand rockets into US territory. What do you think the US would do?

This isn't the first time I've heard this analogy from Israel defenders, and I find it truly terrifying that they apparently just take it as a given that the self-evidently correct answer is "slaughter thousands of Mexicans, most of whom had nothing to do with the attacks." Granted, given that this is America (fuck year), it's entirely possible or probable that that WOULD be our response. But you'd have to be pretty monstrous to think that that was a GOOD thing.