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Overplaying the 'terrorism' card

The reaction to this week’s killings of two IDF soldiers showed that Israel’s moral condemnation of deliberate civilian killings is a tactic, no more.     

The most powerful argument Israel makes in its campaign to paint the Palestinians as the bad guys and itself as the good guy is to point out that Palestinians deliberately kill innocent civilians, which Israel doesn’t do, at least not as policy. Although this claim conceals much more than it reveals (for example, that Israel doesn’t have to target civilians because its policy of aggression makes killing them inevitable), it is true as far as it goes. By making this claim, Israel is saying that it’s okay when it kills Palestinians, it’s okay when it kills Palestinians at a rate of 20-to-1, or 50-to-1,  or 100-to-1 as in Operation Cast Lead, because Israel only aims at legitimate targets (including political leaders and “ticking infrastructure”), while the Palestinians aim at civilians (even though given the opportunity, they’d just as soon kill soldiers, probably sooner).

Another reason Israel leans so heavily on this argument about targeting civilians is to preempt  discussion of whether it has the right to rule over the Palestinians. This, after all, could lead into a discussion of whether the Palestinians have the right to resist, which could lead to a discussion of what Menachem Begin, Yitzhak Shamir and their comrades did when the Jews of Palestine lived under British rule, and who wants that? Keep it simple: The Palestinians deliberately kill innocent civilians, we don’t, which is above all what makes our cause right and theirs wrong.

>Read more: Netanyahu’s lesson from killing of Israeli soldier in Hebron: Fortify occupation

Yet look at the Israeli reaction this week to the killing by Palestinians of two Israeli soldiers, Sgt. Tomer Hazan and Staff Sgt. Gal Kobi. Did anybody here say, “It’s tragic, but that’s war, soldiers get killed.” Did anybody even say, “It’s evil, but not as evil as when civilians are killed.” Of course not. Nobody said it, and I doubt if anybody outside the left-wing fringe even thought it.

As far as Israel is concerned, the killings of Hazan and Kobi qualified as terrorism every bit as much as the killings of civilians, and the Palestinians who killed those two soldiers are terrorists no less than the killers of an Israeli cab driver or hiker or whomever. Here is Netanyahu after Kobi’s killing in Hebron: “We will continue to fight terrorism and strike at terrorists on the one hand and strengthen settlement with the other.”

In fact, Israel doesn’t see the killing of its civilians as being any worse than that of its soldiers; in an Israeli court, the crime as well as the punishment in both instances is the same. And out of court, Israel considers the killing of a soldier, or of some soldiers at any rate, to be a greater crime than that of  killing a civilian. Ask yourself if Israel would respond the same way if a Palestinian killed an Israeli schoolteacher as it would if a Palestinian killed an IDF general.

So this whole sanctimonious routine about the absolute evil of the Palestinians’ deliberate killing of civilians is just a red herring: Israelis don’t believe it themselves. If they did, they’d react differently when Israeli soldiers were killed than they do when Israeli civilians are killed, and they don’t; not at all.

If they were honest, Israelis would say that the real absolute evil in this conflict, the only one, is this: The Palestinians are fighting us, the Israelis. They don’t have the right. They don’t have the right to attack our civilians or our soldiers. They don’t have the right to shoot us, they don’t have the right to throw a rock at one of our tanks, they don’t have the right to spray graffiti on our wall. Why? Because we are good and they are bad. Why? Because we fucking say so.

That’s what Israelis would say if they were honest. But when you’ve made an idol of power, honesty is something you can’t afford.

WATCH: Palestinians, IDF clash in Hebron, days after soldier’s death
Netanyahu’s lesson from killing of Israeli soldier in Hebron: Fortify occupation

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    1. Aaron Gross

      I think you’re not making distinctions here, which is surprising because one of the things I like about your columns is that you usually do make distinctions.

      Yes, the language of terrorism has been applied to guerrilla attacks for as long as I can remember (back to the Beit Lid “terrorist” attack, at least). But just because “terrorism,” “kidnapping,” etc. have spread to include guerrilla attacks on soldiers, doesn’t mean that Israelis look at the two the same. They do react differently when civilians and soldiers are attacked. They look at rocket attacks on residential areas differently than attacks on military bases, for instance.

      By the way, Tomer Hazan was murdered. His killer was acting alone, not in any connection with an organized fighting force. If the killing were connected with Hamas, for instance, it would be a guerrilla attack. But it was a murder committed by an individual acting alone.

      Reply to Comment
      • Gearoid

        That’s an important distinction I think.

        It was not terrorism. He was murdered, by one man trying to gain something. That fits well within the limits of murder.

        Calling it terrorism betrays the racism behind the concept. By terrorism they mean “a Palestinian did it”. Yet if a Israeli criminal murders someone, it is still murder.

        Reply to Comment
        • The Trespasser

          By your logic recent massacre in Nairobi is not terrorism either.

          Murder by few men trying to gain something.

          Reply to Comment
          • Gearoid

            You have no idea what my logic is.

            No, the attack in Nairobi is definitively terrorism.

            This incident was murder NOT terrorism. He was not working for a cause, not working for a group, not lashing out to cause terror. He murdered someone for personal gain. Functionally, the motive is no different than if he had murdered for money.

            Of course a neo-fascist like you, especially considering your racist comments on other threads, probably sees no issue with the racially-charged way the term “terrorism” is used.

            Reply to Comment
          • Marcos

            Your “ad hominem” attacks are quite annoying. Put on your big boy pants and create arguments from facts and logic

            Reply to Comment
          • The Trespasser

            >This incident was murder NOT terrorism. He was not working for a cause, not working for a group, not lashing out to cause terror.

            1- Releasing a prisoner is a cause.
            2 – How do you know he was not working for Hamas/Tanzim?
            3 – He was going to use the fear that the body of his victim is going to be dishonored to release a prisoner.

            >He murdered someone for personal gain.

            No, my dishonest friend. He murdered someone to release a “political” prisoner.

            >Functionally, the motive is no different than if he had murdered for money.

            More bullshit.

            Murder for money is nothing like murder to trade the body for prisoners, but for scum such as yourself it does not matter, obviously.

            Reply to Comment
    2. “If the law was the criteria for reporting on Palestine, the coverage would be entirely different. If morality was the criteria . . . well that’s off the scale: beyond consideration.”
      John Pilger

      Reply to Comment
    3. Average American

      “Which could lead to a discussion of what Menachem Begin, Yitzhak Shamir and their comrades did when the Jews of Palestine lived under British rule, and who wants that?”

      Oh my. I think we should absolutely discuss that. I think we should teach that in school. Because what those men did shows exactly what Israel is. “Guerilla turned peacemaker” is what they said about Begin. So Begin wasn’t a terrorist, he was a guerilla. What a joke. And the lone Palestinian shooter in this article wasn’t a guerilla, he was a terrorist. It’s Orwellian doublespeak. Or pathological superiority complex.

      I want to bring up a sensitive area here. Is the Talmud the basis for the Israeli government? I mean, they have two State Rabbis, and government ministers consult them, so Israel could easily be called a theocracy. So in the Talmud, at least the translations I’ve read, it says many times that one Jewish life is worth a thousand non-Jews, Jewish blood is different, those sorts of things. So are the Israelis following that when they decide to kill more Palestinians than Jews were killed? And do the Israelis care if that number is made up of civilians or soldiers?

      Reply to Comment
      • Vadim

        Dude, stop. Just stop.

        Your ignorance is simply shameful and your logic is even worse.

        So you’ve read a couple of badly translated, out of context and handpicked quotes from the Talmud (probably from site that “unmasks Judaism”, or “tells you what Jews don’t want you to know”) and you heard that we have two State Rabbis (to become one and then none I hope) and you just “wish to know” whether “the Israelis” follow this and that when we decide to kill Arabs for fun.

        Israel is not a Theocracy, we don’t kill Arabs for fun, the Talmud is much more than the crap you’ve read about it, we do study about Lehi and Ezel (which for all their questionable activities don’t have much in common with the Terror organization we now face) in school, and we are a rather open society with different opinions and discussion (as opposed to our lovely neighbors).

        You don’t bring anything new or interesting to the discussion, you’re not uncovering hidden truths or shed light on dark places. You’re just repeating stuff written in second grade Antisemitic (as in anti Jewish) sites. Blah Blah.

        You actually hit once, by mistake. “Because what those men did shows exactly what Israel is” – yes, these men fought when fighting was needed and created a state when that was possible. Because the creation of a state for their people was their real goal. I wish Hamas and Fatah had the same objective.

        Reply to Comment
        • Average American

          I didn’t say you kill Arabs for fun. Stop twisting and deflecting. If my content or logic isn’t great it’s because we don’t know much about your country from our American media (on purpose?). I would think with all our American politicians bending over for you, and our tax dollars spent on you, and our soldier’s lives spent on you, we’d be given more information about you. Here’s your chance to illuminate me: where can I get an accurate translation of the Talmud, and is it the guide of your people?

          Now let’s look at what you replied. You disagree with having state rabbis and hope it goes from two to zero. Israel is not a theocracy. You do study Lehi terrorism in school and you excuse their actions, but not the same actions by anyone else. You have a vibrant open fair society where I’m sure there are no segregated neighborhoods or armed settlements. The sites I’ve gotten information from are antisemitic because, well I didn’t really catch what your reason was for that one. I said one thing right, that Begin and Shamir fought to create a country, regardless of if anybody else wanted it to be there, by using any means including terrorism.

          Reply to Comment
          • Vadim

            You know “nothing” about Israel, but you do know (for certain?) that –
            1. Politicians bend over for us
            2. Israel receives huge chunks of your tax dollars
            3. US soldiers died for Israel. Since they did they not die in 48, 56, 67, 73 or any other Arab-Israeli war – I assume that you mean that some of the wars the US has fought were only fought for Israel.
            4. You are denied information about Israel. We’re just a big secret kept from most the Americans.

            That’s quite a lot of crap from someone who knows nothing. I think you know all you wish to know. That you do really wish to learn more (that’s very easy using google), you just wish to spread this crap on.

            “Here’s your chance to illuminate me: where can I get an accurate translation of the Talmud”

            Try this – http://bit.ly/15UbOrJ
            It took me quite some time to find it because Talmud translations are very hard to find.

            “Is it the guide of your people?” – I don’t believe you are seriously stupid enough to ask this. Of course it is. Every time I need to decide how to torment a gentile, how to make Matzo from an Arab child’s blood or how to advance my plans to take over the world – I consult the Talmud. I’ll tell you a secret – jewwatch, stormfront and the like are not a good source of information. Shocking but true.

            I do not “excuse” their actions, I just see the difference between them and Hamas. You would too, if you’d spend some time to actually study this.

            There is not legal segregation, but different communities may not welcome everyone. For example – most Arab villages will meet Jewish neighbours with violence. Ultra orthodox Jews may not welcome secular people in their neighbours.

            Armed settlements? What the hell is that?! Here are some shocking images of settlers (please note the horns, tails and talons) – http://goo.gl/5LUsVb and

            “The sites I’ve gotten information from are antisemitic” – well maybe your mind just came up with antisimitic propaganda that appears on every such site I ever visited. But I’ll bet your just read this crap somewhere.

            I said that Shamir and Begin had the creation of the state in mind. Creation of the state as in “let’s create a state for the Jewish people to improve their lives”. This is opposed to the stance of Hamas and Fatah which is “Let’s try to destroy Israel by creating a state, or claiming that we want to create a state”.

            Reply to Comment
          • Average American

            Yes, all the American candidates last election made sure they grovelled low and declared their love and alliance (if not allegiance) to Israel. We saw that on our American media. Embarrassing.

            Yes Israel does receive huge chunks of money from us that could be much better spent in this country for our own needs.

            Yes US soldiers were killed and maimed for Israel. Have you forgotten Iraq? It was Israel screaming about WMD, no one else, we did it for you God knows why, and guess what no WMD were found. Now you’re screeching the same about Iran and Syria. Forget it. Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice shame on me.

            Yes we seem to be kept in the dark about you and that makes us wonder why.

            So you’re saying any of the sites you led me to with your clever google link are accurate translations of the Talmud and are not antisemetic? Good, that’s what I asked you for. I’ll get back to you with some direct reliable quotes reflecting your culture’s values and traditions.

            Reply to Comment
          • Average American

            I don’t know if my response to you was censored, I don’t see it here now. It was a good one. But that’s given me some time to reconsider how I want to respond to you. Or if I want to respond to you at all. Or if there’s anything I haven’t already said. I think I’ll at least say we do alot for your little country, God knows why with the attitude of people like you.

            Reply to Comment
          • Eliza

            Get off your high horse Vadim.

            The Zionist movement had no blinkers on regarding the creation of Israel – it was accepted that for the state of Israel to be established, the indigenous non-Jewish population had to be transferred. This was achieved to the extent that approx. 750,000 Palestinians who were not of the right religion, fled the violence of Jewish terrorist organisations. You seem to be implying that the creation of Israel by the early Zionists did not also destroy. It did. Modern Israel is build on the ruins of hundreds of Arabic villages. The Palestinians are in the process of creating their own State (the default being the one state solution with ROR for Palestinian refugees)and the only destruction involved is the partial removal of the newly settled Jews in the West Bank. The PA has accepted Israel on the 67 borders and Hamas has stated that they will accept this conditional upon its acceptance by the Palestinian people. In contrast, Israel is currently subsidizing housing in the West Bank and many still lust after all of the land between the Jordon and the sea and have no scruples about a further transfer of people of the wrong religion to Jordon, Egypt or wherever. Finally, it is not unknown for settlers to be armed and for settlers to indulge in acts of property damage – how many olive trees have been destroyed this year; how many water cisterns have been smashed – all for the purpose of creating something that will be better for Jews.

            Reply to Comment
          • Vadim

            Eliza, this is really not the place for historical debates. The comment format does not allow it to become one.

            History is complex and I don’t agree with your oversimplification. There’s almost 50 years between the first Aliya and the creation of Israel and yet you mix everything into a single mess.

            The people of the first and second Aliyot where not in a position to kill, displace or threat anyone. The people that fled in 1948 fled from all kinds of reasons (Benny Morris and other historians provide several reasons). But most of all – they fled due to a war the Arab nations have started.

            To take an unfortunate and unplanned outcome of a war and somehow display it as the planned goal of impoverished immigrants 50 years before or their scattered leadership
            is simply wrong.

            I’m always amazed at these descriptions of Arabs craving for peace and big bad Israel denying it. After we withdrew from Sinai for peace, after we left Gaza – how can anyone still claim Israel prefers land over peace?!

            It is also unheard of for Arabs to be armed and indulge in acts of violence. What’s your point?

            Reply to Comment
          • Tzutzik

            “Here’s your chance to illuminate me:”

            And here is your chance to illuminate me, Average:

            When are you going to stop beating your wife?

            Reply to Comment
          • Average American

            So you’re not going to lead me to a translation of the Talmud that you certify is accurate and free of antisemitism? I think you should let me read it so I can gather the guiding values and attitudes of the country we’re supposed to be inseparable friends with in a region of the world that is important to my country. You don’t want to do that? Fine.

            Reply to Comment
          • Tzutzik

            How do you know that I know anything about the Talmud? I could not give a fuck about the Talmud nor do I know anything about it.

            Now I don’t know what religion you belong to maybe you could tell us? So that I too can ask “when are you going to stop beating your wife” type questions about your religion?

            Why do you assume that all Israelis are religious, Mr Average?

            Reply to Comment
    4. A brave piece. Death is sacred, and we kill to make it so. “We” is generic across cultures here.

      The problem with labeling the soldier’s killing an individualized “murder” is that the (presumed) murderer has a brother in Israeli prison, this the purported reason for the attack. This transforms the event into “terror” in the dominant lens, violent retribution against necessary Israeli control. That the soldier worked part time with the assailant, lured to his death through a sense of false security, underscores the hard sense that grievance will ever haunt. In this sense, an attack on civilians is seen just like an attack on soldiers: both reveal unacceptable acting out of grievance. Bibi captures this well: grievance against strengthening settlements is terror. Since soldiers protect settlers, there is no firm distinction between the two as targets of grievance as terror. Since settlers are citizens, this identity generalizes to all citizens: soldiers and citizens attacked are the same.

      This is why the Yesh Din posts on 972 are so important. They advocate an alternative form of grievance which short circuits the collective attribution of grievance against all Israelis, soldiers or not, as well removing the collective attribution of grievance as terror attached to Palestinians generically.

      Of course its no solution full. But in your land of madness such a thing doesn’t exist.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Nikki

      I very much appreciate your candor. We need much more of it regarding the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. I earnestly wish there were those in our government who shared your perspective. Perhaps we could have an honest chance at peace with our neighbors. Great article, as usual.

      Reply to Comment
      • Thanks very much, Nikki.

        Reply to Comment
    6. Richard

      “If they did, they’d react differently when Israeli soldiers were killed than they do when Israeli civilians are killed, and they don’t; not at all.”
      Here we have the article’s thesis, which is supported only by the statement that a Palestinian killing a soldier would be prosecuted for the same crime as for killing a civilian. So Larry’s relying on military law as a barometer of Israeli public opinion. That’s all Larry’s got, really. That, and the fact that Israelis were upset, to at least some extent, that a soldier was killed. So this piece boils down to speculation, on the factual question. How about an opinion poll that asked whether it is worse for Palestinians to kill a soldier or Israeli children eating pizza in a cafe? Somehow I doubt Larry would wager on an actual poll, as opposed to what he happens to think about Israeli public opinion when he sits down to write. On the moral point, Larry’s reasoning simply doesn’t make sense. Even if Israelis were equally miffed by the death of a soldier and civilian, that still doesn’t mean the Israeli moral claim, about Palestinians targeting civilians vs. the IDF targeting combatants, is less valid. Why do Israelis have to value soldiers’ lives less in order for this claim to be true? Larry’s argument about Israeli hypocrisy simply doesn’t follow from his factual claim – a leap of logic. Unless Israelis themselves accept the idea that Palestinians are entitled to kill at least some category of Israelis, it doesn’t follow. Obviously Larry thinks they are entitled, but Israelis don’t think so. So there really isn’t any hypocrisy here on the part of the Israeli public. If you untie the knots, Larry has said nothing that is factually or morally true.

      Reply to Comment
    7. The evidence I’m going on is not just that the crime/punishment is the same, but also that both crimes are described the same way, as terrorism, and finally that in the media coverage of this and every other killing of a soldier, as well as in the reactions of Israelis around me, I have never seen any difference. BTW, I agree that a poll result might well be different, because then people would see the official view, the one they’re supposed to hold, spelled out in black and white and they might well endorse it. But in real life, in the aftermath of the killing of Israelis, the only difference in reaction I see is when children are the victims – I see no difference between the reaction to killing of soldiers and the killings of adult civilians. And the issue is not the relative value Israelis place on their lives, but rather the relative gravity Israelis attach to the crime – which is equal, in and out of court, and which in turn contradicts the official line that deliberately killing civilians is in a class of evil by itself. Israel makes this claim because it plays to its military advantage – it has the weaponry to target combatants (and political leaders and “ticking infrastructure” and govt buildings, college science buildings and all the other non-military targets it considers legitimate), and all the civilians who get killed can be written off as collateral damage. Palestinians don’t have that sort of weaponry; if they did have F-16s and Apaches, etc., then they, too, could target, for instance, the Defense Ministry HQ in the middle of Tel Aviv, and all the civilians living nearby would likewise be collateral damage. Ask an Israeli what he would prefer in the hands of the Palestinians – Qassam rockets that can’t be aimed, or F-16s that can. One other point – Begin and Shamir’s men blew up Arab markets, buses, they fired into Arab crowds at train stations, and their reputations didn’t exactly suffer for it. So much for Israel’s moral superiority. One last point – Israel is no more hypocritical on this score than the U.S., Britain, France. Russia, Turkey, Egypt and probably every other state on earth.

      Reply to Comment
      • Richard

        You’re still relying on wrong assumptions and bad logic. Your main claim, your subtitle is: Israel’s moral condemnation of deliberate civilian killings is a tactic, no more – which I understand to mean that you believe that the State of Israel and the Israeli public, do not sincerely believe in the moral proposition that Israel’s war against the Palestinians is, at the very least, more moral than the war waged by the Palestinians against Israel, by virtue of the (asserted) fact that Israel hits legitimate targets and the Palestinians do not. Leaving all of your evidentiary claims aside (media, anecdotes, etc.): how Israelis describe, or react to attacks against soldiers, simply does not have a logical connection to your thesis. Its sophistry. You’re arguing that because Israelis see attacks on soldiers as illegitimate (“terrorism”), they must not truly believe that attacks on civilians are also illegitimate because of a moral distinction between the intentional homicide of a solider vs. a civlian, all else being equal. This does not follow, logically. Israelis who believe the occupation is justified for security reasons, for instance, might view attacks on soldiers as illegitimate for that reason, and but might view attacks on civilians as illegitimate for an entirely different reason. Right here, your argument falls apart. And there are other plausible explanations that would shine a lot of light through the empty space between your premise and your conclusion. The basic problem is that you project your own view that the Palestinians have a legitimate right to attack Israel in the first place, onto the Israeli government and the Israeli public. The idea that revealing an Israeli preference for Palestinian Qassams over Palestinian F-16s reveals some kind of hypocrisy is nonsense, because Israelis don’t recognize don’t have to recognize the legitimacy of any form of Palestinian violence against them – its only YOU who recognizes that. This kind of writing, which for you is typical, inserts as subtext that the idea that Palestinians have a right to ‘resist’, and then builds claims about what other people think based on the idea that, at the very least, you’re right, and perhaps even that others agree with you. You’re very good at doing this in a way that’s hard to unravel, which is impressive in a sad sort of way, because it reveals a lack of confidence, and you spice it up sometimes with non sequitors (e.g. suggesting that a poll would put Israelis on notice to be p.c.), but ultimately, this strategy produces writing that is NONSENSE. As for Begin and Shamir, I would venture to say that the Israelis who know about their attacks on civilians would make an ends/means argument, or perhaps contrast the scale, organization, and popular support for their actions with the activities of Hamas/PFLP post-1980. There’s also the fact that the worst Palestinian terrorists didn’t even bother making an ends/means argument, and that they were simply fanatical enough to kill Jews FOR ITS OWN SAKE. So, sorry, there is still plenty of room for moral superiority, Begin and Shamir notwithstanding.

        Reply to Comment
        • “Israelis who believe the occupation is justified for security reasons, for instance, might view attacks on soldiers as illegitimate for that reason, but might view attacks on civilians as illegitimate for an entirely different reason. Right here your argument falls apart.”
          An Israeli may believe Israel needs to rule the Palestinians on security grounds, but he cannot argue that the Palestinians are bound to accept that rule passively, and thus any attack against Israeli soldiers is illegitimate. He can argue that, of course, but unless he’s a pacifist, and damn few Israelis are, he’s just a hypocrite – he’s demanding that Palestinians live by a principle he wouldn’t accept for a moment. And this is the “belief” of, I’d say, roughly 90% of Israelis – no belief at all, just siding with their self-interest.
          So while you can say it’s immoral for Palestinians to target civilians (though for an Israeli to say that he has to acknowledge that the entire pre-state Zionist military machine – Irgun, Lehi, Haganah and Palmach – was immmoral because they all targeted Arab civilians in large numbers, both during and before the War of Independence), you can’t make that claim and then say it’s also immoral for Palestinians living under Israeli rule to target IDF soldiers, because the latter point is hypocritical. And when somebody makes that latter point, I suspect his objection to Palestinian attacks on civilians isn’t really a moral one (even aside from the Irgun, Lehi, etc. issue), but is likewise based only on self-interest. And that’s all I see – if I look at Israeli attitudes to the conflict with the Palestinians, the only consistent principle I see operating is that all of Israel’s tactics are just, and all of the Palestinians’ tactics are unjust. No principle at work here, just hypocrisy.
          BTW, where do you stand, Richard Whoever You Are? Are you one of these people who think Israel is always right and the Palestinians always wrong, or can you give examples to the contrary?

          Reply to Comment
          • Richard

            More sophistry. Your piece was about how the Israeli reaction to a soldier’s death said something about the sincerity of Israelis’ belief in the moral distinction between killing soldiers and civilians. I’ve explained how an Israeli could object to the killing of a soldier because he believes the occupation is justified, and object to the killing of a civilian because he believes that terrorism is morally indefensible. Those are two principles operating side-by-side, and that explanation makes more sense than yours. Israelis don’t have to give you an account of how they would behave, as a Palestinian, to make a moral argument for the occupation. I’m sure that plenty of Palestinians would not want to be an Israeli living under a barrage of Qassams in Kfar Saba, after Hamas takes over the West Bank, which shows us something pretty obvious – trying to see things from the other side’s perspective doesn’t answer the moral question about how either side should behave, so this paradigm, shoe-on-the-other-footism, which you seem to adopt, isn’t a logical or useful way to answer the moral question about what Israelis SHOULD expect from Palestinians – which, btw, is a different subject from what’s addressed in your piece – you’re digressing. The one thing you have going for your ORIGINAL point, about what Israelis believe, not what they SHOULD believe, is your observation about terrorist acts committed by the founding generation not being seen as particularly troubling by many Israelis. I’ve already pointed out some relevant distinctions between 1948 Israeli terrorism and circa 2000 Palestinian terrorism which you have not addressed – how about you do that? And while you’re at it, consider that Palestinians were operating as terrorists in 1948 as well, so that an Israeli could also reasonably argue that Israelis have employed tactics AT LEAST AS moral as those employed by Palestinians, at any point in time. So really, I don’t see anything left to support your argument about Israeli hypocrisy, and I’m looking carefully.

            Reply to Comment
          • Why don’t you answer the question I asked you – have there been any episodes, any disputes in the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict when Israel was in the wrong and the Palestinians in the right? And I explained why there is no such thing as a moral argument for the occupation, and all you’ve got to say in response is yes there is, yes there is. Why don’t you explain what it is that makes the occupation just?

            Reply to Comment
          • Richard

            There’s no reason for me to answer any questions about Israel being wrong or the Palestinians being right, because’s its beside the point: the point is the accuracy of your piece – the one above our comments. I’m not interested in changing the subject. I’ll wander far enough to say that you haven’t explained why there’s no moral argument for the occupation, you’ve only explained that shoe-on-the-other-footism (justifying one’s behavior based on its compatibility with behavior that is reasonable to expect from your enemy), which is one form of argument, doesn’t justify the occupation, and you’re right that it doesn’t. But it doesn’t justify ending the occupation either, as I explained, because a Palestinian wouldn’t want to be an Israeli living next to a Hamas-run state situated on certain hilltops that happen to be strategically placed for pretty nasty war of attrition against half of Israel’s population. This means that you’ve got to find a DIFFERENT WAY to analyze the moral problem, which is how to justify the occupation. I’m not going to try to do that, because its BESIDE THE POINT. Wandering EVEN FURTHER away from the real issue here, I’ll entertain your change of subject enough to say that if I were Israeli, I might say that the right to self-defense, per se justifies the occupation. I would be on pretty solid ground if I did, too, since this principle – the overiding perogative of self-defense over ALL OTHER norms of moral behavior, is enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations. From now on, please, stick to the point of your article, and respond to what I’ve said about it, instead of asking me questions that are tangetially related to it.

            Reply to Comment
          • I asked you for examples of Israel being wrong and the Palestinians being right because I suspected that your “morality” is the kind of morality I’ve been talking about – no morality at all, no principles at all, just “I’m right, the other’s guy’s wrong because I’m me and he’s him.” If you could show me a couple of examples which broke that pattern, I’d grant that you do have some principles. But you didn’t, and my hunch is that it’s because you can’t, so it seems my suspicion was confirmed: You are one of the 90-whatever percent of people who always root for your side against the other side and call that morality, principles, values, whatever.
            And so it is with your view of the occupation. My article rests on one basic point – that the occupation is an act of grave injustice against the Palestinians – the denial of their freedom and the taking away of the only land they have for a national home. I say that that injustice is so grave that it gives the Palestinians the right to fight back, and I base that on the PRINCIPLE that all people, Palestinians, Jews, everybody, has the right to fight for their freedom. (And my article says that when Israelis deny that principle, which they’ve always lived by themselves, when it comes to Palestinian attacks on soldiers, it shows that their objection to Palestinian attacks on civilians – which could, theoretically, be objected to on moral grounds – is not principled but rather a simple matter of self-interest.) It seems to me that if you’re going to disprove my point about Israeli attitudes, you’re going to have disprove my point that the occupation is an injustice that gives the Palestinians the right to fight back. Now you justified the occupation on the basis of Israelis’ right to self-defense, for instance against Hamas rockets. But Palestinians have always faced incomparably worse military attacks from Israel than the other way around – doesn’t the right of self-defense extend to the Palestinians too? Especially in light of this rather important inequality – that when the guns go silent, the Israelis go back to being free while the Palestinians go back to being under Israeli subjugation? And after you get through trying to explain why the Israeli right to self-defense justifies keeping the Palestinians under military control, explain why this “right” also justifies taking the land they live on and building Jewish settlements on it.
            If you’re going to try to refute my argument, you’re going to have to refute the principles it’s based on, and to do that you’re going to have to assert some principles of your own – a principle being a code of behavior that applies to everyone, not just your enemies. You sure as hell haven’t done it yet, and I don’t think you can, because when it comes to politics/international relations, at least, I don’t think you have any principles. Now prove me wrong.

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          • Richard

            “It seems to me that if you’re going to disprove my point about Israeli attitudes, you’re going to have disprove my point that the occupation is an injustice that gives the Palestinians the right to fight back. ” Err, wrong. There’s a difference between arguing about what people believe is right, and what’s actually right. Since I know you’re intelligent enough to tell the difference, I can only assume that you trying to change the subject of this argument to my personal views, or to what’s actually morally correct, is a diversionary tactic. I’ve humored your digressions enough already by explaining what’s wrong with your moral argument – and even there you don’t answer me, you just keep being obtuse and repeating yourself, which can only mean that you’ve nothing to actually refute or undermine what I’ve said, and keep saying about the ORIGINAL point – which was about what Israelis THINK, which has got NOTHING to do with what’s right or wrong. Sorry you lost this one, feel free to have the last word (because I don’t feel like repeating myself again), and better luck next time.

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          • Dave

            “Feel free to have the last word”? Dude, he had the last word the moment he asked you a question that you refused to answer. Your subsequent responses were nothing more than the feeble arm flappings of a drowning man. Yep, it’s all shits and giggles until you find yourself out of your depth. 😀

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        • Joe

          I don’t understand your argument. One can disagree with methods whilst morally agreeing with the right of a population to resist an occupier, no?

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    8. Kolumn9

      What a really really dumb position.

      The argument basically goes as follows. Some Israeli politicians on the right consider the deaths of Israeli soldiers to be acts of terror. Therefore all acts of terror against Israelis should be considered legitimate. As such Israelis should accept that the deliberate targeting of Israeli civilians are legitimate acts. Therefore it shouldn’t impact their views of the conflict and its resolution.

      The argument that such acts are legitimate because the Palestinians only have the ability to massacre women and children is frankly insane. It falls flat on its face were it to be reversed. I too have a hard time attacking the armed forces of Hamas, but I might be able to blow up a bus full of Palestinian civilians. I am sure I can come up with a cause – the liberation of Schem from Arab occupation or whatever. Is it then legitimate for me to blow up a bus full of Arab children? Or would you then too make the same argument that it is all I can do to further my cause? No, you would probably argue that it is absolute evil to deliberately murder civilians for a political cause, because that is terrorism. Except of course when the victims are Israelis, right? Because then its ok.

      It is also a BS argument because the suicide bombers could have been sent against checkpoints, but they were *deliberately* sent against Israeli civilians. It would have actually been easier to target soldiers because they are closer. Instead there was an entire network of people trying to get a suicide bomber from a Palestinian city to an Israeli city in order to purposefully kill the *maximum* number of civilians. So, here too, that argument is ridiculous. The tactic of massacring Israeli civilians was not chosen because it was easier. It was chosen precisely because it massacres the maximum number of Israeli civilians and causes a major psychological impact on society. It was chosen precisely because it was intended as an act of terror.

      There is no overplaying the terrorism card. Palestinians terrorists deliberately massacre Israeli women and children. These terrorists are then provided with funds by the Palestinian government while in prison and treated as heroes by Palestinian society upon release. This is evil. There is no overstating it. And yes, of course it should have an impact on how Israelis and others see the conflict. When an entire Palestinian society embraces the massacre of the women and children of Israel as a glorified act of heroism, there is very little likelihood that Palestinian society is interested in coexisting peacefully with Israel. Even the most basic element of mutual respect for human life is missing. What government among the Palestinians is going to make a sincere effort to prevent acts of terrorism against Israel once its own political needs are met when the entire Palestinian society considers any steps against the ‘heroes’/terrorists to be illegitimate? What security for Israelis can even be remotely provided by an agreement where the Palestinian leadership (Hamas or Fatah) isn’t even willing to condemn acts of terrorism against Israeli women and children because it would be seen as treason? And no, the usual condemnations issued by Abbas that terrorist attacks on Israeli civilians are ‘not constructive for Palestinian interests’ is not a condemnation.

      Nor do comparisons to previous actions of Jewish terrorists really matter much here. It is possible to condemn both and be consistent, but that isn’t what you are trying to do. You are trying to argue that deliberate Palestinian attacks against Israeli civilians are legitimate.

      Nor for that matter do comparisons to other countries matter here. The simple question here is whether you accept the deliberate massacre of civilians as legitimate for a cause or not. And no, they don’t have the right to blow up civilians and nothing the Israeli politicians say for propaganda purposes matters here. This is one of those absolute things where were you to argue to the contrary you would be in really shitty company.

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      • Joe

        You lost me after the first paragraph. How is an IDF soldier in occupied land a civilian?

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    9. Tom Feldman

      Yet another challening, thought- provoking piece by Larry Derfner.

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    10. Shmuel

      “Nobody said it, and I doubt if anybody outside the left-wing fringe even thought it.”

      What is it that you left wing Israelis want exactly?

      At the end of the day this is a 100 year war already. They want all of Israel and they are ruthless about trying to get their way. But you are quibbling about who is the good guy and who is the bad guy?

      I say everybody is bad in wars. War is not a moral enterprise.

      What exactly do you left wingers want? You want to prove that we are the bad guys and they are the good guys? Will that make you feel good? What next? Are you going to pick up your guns and turn on Israel to help the “good guys”, them?!!!!

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