Saturday, August 05, 2006

A response to an Israel-basher

I am impelled to respond to a comment from blog reader Tony Flaig, who severely criticizes Israel's defense against Hezbollah [see last post, "A message from an Israeli cousin"]. Mr. Flaig, who lives in Great Britain, charges that Israel is a "keen abuser of innocents" in Lebanon.

He appears to see a moral equivalency between Israel's attacks on Hezbollah, which uses civilians as human shields while deliberately firing rockets at Israeli civilians, with Israel's effort to specifically attack Hezbollah military targets. Because of Hezbollah's tactics, innocent Lebanese civilians sadly die. But while Israelis agonize and weep in grief over the tragic loss of Lebanese children and other civilians, Hezbollah and its supporters celebrate the loss of Israeli lives.

As Harvard law professor Alan M. Dershowitz writes: "When it comes to Israel, a lot of usually smart people stop thinking with their heads and start thinking with their guts. Most smart people know that when an armed criminal takes a hostage and fires from behind him, it is the criminal, not the policeman, who is guilty of murder, if the policeman, in a reasonable effort to stop the criminal from firing, accidentally kills the innocent hostage. The same should be true during wartime. But you wouldn't know it if you listened only to the singular condemnations of Israel by so many in the international community."

Mr. Flaig complains that Israel "bullies and controls its neighbors." That is an extraordinary claim for a tiny country like Israel with a population less than half the city of Cairo's, outnumbered and surrounded by more than a billion Muslims in 22 Arab countries and other Islamic states--most of whom would like to see Israel destroyed. In a perverse role reversal, Israel has become Goliath to the Islamic world's David.

I don't mean to bestow such prominence to Mr. Flaig's personal views. But his criticism reflects the increasing level of Israel-bashing in the world at large. It has been aggravated by Israel's fierce defense--regarded as "disproportionate" by Israel's kneejerk critics--against terrorism from both Hezbollah, supported by Syria and Iran, and the Palestinian Hamas militia.

On the surface, it's puzzling that Hezbollah and Iran are so obsessed with wiping out Israel. Until the current war began, Israel did not occupy any territory in Lebanon, and Iran has no territorial claims against distant Israel. At the risk of sounding jocular about a very serious matter, perhaps the Iranians resent the fact that Israel's president and its former defense minister and armed forces chief of staff, who is now the transportation minister, are both Jewish natives of Iran.

The major focus of Israel-bashing is Israel's so-called occupation of Arab territory. Mr. Flaig makes a peculiar reference to "Israel farming land that does not belong to them." Actually, virtually all the land that constituted the state of Israel when it gained independence in 1948 had been purchased from Arab feudal landowners or had belonged to the former Ottoman Turkish empire. (I remember as a boy in New York during the 1930s soliciting pennies, dimes and quarters for the Jewish National Fund to buy land for Jews in Palestine; I was proud to be awarded the Ussishkin medal--named for a Zionist pioneer leader--for collecting the most money in my Sunday school class.)

Israel acquired additional territory after becoming an independent nation only by successfully defending itself against invasion by neighboring Arab states intent on its destruction. And unlike other countries which acquired and absorbed territory in defensive wars (Russia, e.g., retaining East Prussia and converting it into a Russianized Kaliningrad), Israel has unsuccessfully offered to negotiate the return of land to the Palestinians.

In Gaza, from which Israel unilaterally withdrew last year, the Palestinians demonstrated how meaningless it could be to return land in the hopeful belief that the result might be peace. Instead of devoting themselves to job creation by bolstering their economy and rebuilding their infrastructure, the Palestinians quickly destroyed state-of-the art greenhouses, vandalized synagogues and other structures, and started launching rockets at neighboring Israeli communities.

I often think that the Arab world's primary grievance against Israel derives from sheer envy of Israeli economic achievements during its brief existence as a Jewish state. It introduced modernity in a region where much of the local society was still living in the dark ages. The Israelis drained malarial swamps, tamed the desert with advanced agricultural methods, and created a high-tech, Westernized democracy that was alien to the culture of its neighbors.

These accomplishments may have been hard for the Arabs to tolerate because traces of the philosophy of "dhimmitude" still persist in parts of the Islamic world. Until very recently, Jews--and in some cases Christians--in many Arab lands were treated as "dhimmis." They were identified as infidels who, while called "protected people," were actually treated as second-class citizens. They were subject to special taxes, barred from certain occupations, often required to wear special clothing, and exposed to other humiliating social restrictions. In Yemen, e.g., Jews were not allowed to sit on donkeys so that they would not tower over walking Arabs.

The Israel/Palestine conflict, which is at the heart of the prolonged Middle East crisis, boils down to this: If the Palestinians and their activist allies would abandon their goal of destroying Israel and would lay down their arms, there would be peace. If the Israelis, however, laid down their arms, an independent and secure Jewish state would be wiped out.


Blogger saz said...

As always Mort your analysis is accurate and to the point.

I ran across the following by the great Eric Hoffer who is much admired in my neck of the woods. Seems as true today as it was in the 60's and speaks to this same subject.

By Eric Hoffer, May 26, 1968

(In 1968 the LA times ran this article, written by Eric Hoffer, a former longshoreman and non-Jewish American social philosopher. Born in 1902, Hoffer died in 1983, after writing nine books and winning the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Although written 38 years ago, the following is as timely and applicable today as then )

The Jews are a peculiar people: things permitted to other nations are forbidden to the Jews. Other nations drive out thousands, even millions of people and there is no refugee problem. Russia did it, Poland and Czechoslovakia did it, Turkey threw out a million Greeks, and Algeria a million Frenchman. Indonesia threw out heaven knows how many Chinese - and no one says a word about refugees.

But in the case of Israel the displaced Arabs have become eternal refugees. Everyone insists that Israel must take back every single Arab.

Arnold Toynbee calls the displacement of the Arabs an atrocity greater than any committed by the Nazis. Other nations when victorious on the battlefield dictate peace terms. But when Israel is victorious it must sue for peace. Everyone expects the Jews to be the only real Christians in this world.

Other nations when they are defeated survive and recover but should Israel be defeated it would be destroyed. Had Nasser triumphed last June he would have wiped Israel off the map, and no one would have lifted a finger to save the Jews. No commitment to the Jews by any government, including our own, is worth the paper it is written on.

There is a cry of outrage all over the world when people die in Vietnam or when two Negroes are executed in Rhodesia. But when Hitler slaughtered Jews no one remonstrated with him. The Swedes, who are ready to break off diplomatic relations with America because of what we do in Vietnam, did not let out a peep when Hitler was slaughtering Jews. They sent Hitler choice iron ore, and ball bearings, and serviced his troop trains to Norway.

The Jews are alone in the world. If Israel survives, it will be solely because of Jewish efforts. And Jewish resources. Yet at this moment Israel is our only reliable and unconditional ally. We can rely more on Israel than Israel can rely on us. And one has only to imagine what would have happened last summer had the Arabs and their Russian backers won the war to realize how vital the survival of Israel is to America and the West in general.

I have a premonition that will not leave me; as it goes with Israel so will it go with all of us. Should Israel perish the holocaust will be upon us.


And as usual - I'm sorry for tying up the comments section but it's an important topic.

Saturday, August 05, 2006 9:22:00 PM  
Blogger tony flaig said...

Firstly I am not an Israel basher, neither am I a supporter of terrorist cowards, I just happen to be an ordinary working-class bloke who gets a little disturbed and emotional when I see an unequal fight taking place this does not make me an extremist or even an enemy of the state of Israel.

Terrorists will always hide behind civilians, as has been the case in many conflicts and sadly you can bomb these people and more often their neighbours, morning noon and night forever and when you've finished they will still be there. Consider this more than 3500 people were murdered in Northern Ireland, then consider the conduct of United Kingdom, not once did British military forces find it necessary to invade the Irish Republic, or even contemplate such action for this rather simple reason, citizens of the Republic of Ireland are our neighbours, this conflict is now being resolved by political inclusion and economic factors and as with any dispute both sides have their faults.

To say that Israel is not the dominant military force in the Middle-East, ignores the facts, Israel is the largest recipient of American aid, some of which comes in the form of a cutting edge military hardware, also it happens to be a nuclear power.

Israel has or is in the process of bombing the Lebanon back into the Stone Age for what purpose I don't know, but unfortunately the effect of this will be to increase hostility to itself. Perhaps Israel should have learnt from Americas recent military adventures, there were few critics of their intervention in Afghanistan as this was the country that trained Al-Qaeda, then they moved on to Iraq and again they had popular support (mine included which they still have) but learning nothing from history in that gung-ho way stayed too long.

Apologies if my opinions have offended, and must admit, I don't know all the facts, what I do know is that I am no basher of Israel, a critic with a sense of proportion.

Sorry for the length of my response. Just one final point if you were driving a friend down the road, and that friend perceived your driving to be reckless and they happened to pass comment would that make them a Mortart basher or a friend.

Sunday, August 06, 2006 4:08:00 AM  
Blogger saz said...

Hi Tony - One thing we agree on is the stupidity of both our countries bombing Iraq into the dark ages which has just shifted the power to Iran and taken the focus off the peace process in the Middle East. We are now responsible for an average of 100 deaths a day in Iraq so when looking at proportionality we need to keep that in mind.

If Ireland was shooting 100-200 rockets into Great Britain daily and you had over a million people living in bomb shelters for over 11 days I would bet your government would have troops in Ireland so fast it would make your head spin. I know if the same were true here in California and it was Mexico lobbing rockets into Southern California there would be no discussion of proportionality.

Sunday, August 06, 2006 1:05:00 PM  
Anonymous Ivan said...

The comment about farming land in your seventh para. above brought back memories from pre-war Czechoslovakia. Probably every Jewish household had a metal, box-shaped, blue & white coin collection box from KKL (Keren Kayemet L'Israel?). There were also personal piggy banks --- that does not sound very kosher ---, blue cardboard wallets with the initials I.M.I. One or the other may have been connected to the Jewish National Fund mentioned in your article.

Monday, August 07, 2006 1:12:00 PM  
Blogger Treifalicious said...

I read a blog recently called GedankenTravelExperiment where they talk about 4th Generation Warfare, or how the nature of warfare is changing with teh proliferation of terrorist organizations like Hixbullah and Al-Qaeda. He links to an article in a military website about teh whoel history and philosophy behind 4GW (4th Generation Warfare). VERY interesting article. The blogger is a philosophy professor who serves in teh ARmy reserves.

The URL is:

A quote: "The inability of modern states to fight a modern war is a function of the assymetrical warfare that modern nations are forced to fight against terrorist networks and proxy armies. The 21st century has to see either the world change in to a place full of only nation states, which is not too likely, or warfare has to change. Modern armies have to learn to fight wars that will be much dirtier than the ones we currently fight."

"I can't remember the last time I heard that an Iraqi group, the Taliban, Hamas, or Hezbollah actually attacked a military target. The Taliban are targeting markets, the Sunni and Shi'i in Iraq are targeting mosques, Hamas is targeting whover it can, and Hezbollah are throwing rockets in to the middle of cities. Being in the infantry seem to be one of the safer jobs these days. It is much more dangerous to be a civilian. A group like this is not fought on traditional terms."

Wednesday, August 09, 2006 11:38:00 AM  
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Thursday, November 01, 2007 9:37:00 PM  
Anonymous JohnBraun said...

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Sunday, November 04, 2007 1:25:00 AM  

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