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The Gaza Reminder

2012 November 19
by Ian Welsh

is about the value of human life.

When I was a child, my father once threw some Christian evangalists off our property.

They had said, “everyone who doesn’t believe in Christ will go to hell.”

Now my father had a temper, but the way his voice dropped to a whisper, and the step he took towards them screamed incipient violence and they virtually ran.

I didn’t ask why, but he told me.

“I lived in Bangladesh, Malaysia and other Muslim countries for years.  Anyone who tells me that the good people I knew are going to burn in hell, can go to hell.  I’ll have nothing to do with any God who does that or people who believe that.”

I always remembered that.  Truth be told my father was slightly racist himself, he was of that generation.  But he was ashamed of it, he knew better, and he fought it.  What he understood was something simple: every human life has the same value.  Any moral system which places one life above the other is not ethical, it is evil.

We in the developed world, and in America and Israel in particular, don’t believe that.  We don’t even, any more, give it lip service.  And we especially don’t believe that a Muslim life is worth the same as an American life, or an Israeli life, or well, pretty much any non-Muslim life.  When Madeline Albright can say that half a million dead Iraqi children is a price worth paying for the sanctions, even before 9/11, we’ve become inhumane.

Osama bin Laden once asked, rhetorically, if Muslim blood was red, and if Muslim children were worthy of life as much as American children.

Israel is doomed.  The generation of young American Jews do not have the loyalty to Israel, no matter what it does, that older American Jews, as a group, have.  The world is coming to see Israel as an apartheid state, which is what it is.  The demographics are against it, and at some point America will cut Israel off, and Israel’s economy is not sustainable without the US.

And more to the point, somewhere, alive today, is the person who believes that losing Jerusalem is an acceptable price for wiping out Tel Aviv.  That person has been created by Israeli policy, by Western policy and by Saudi policy.  Israel is a small country.  It will not exist in 50 years.  It may be destroyed in an apocalyptic terror attack, it may be destroyed in military action, it may be destroyed by demographics, it may fall apart economically.  Its military advantage is already going away.   Hezbollah took away Israel’s armor advantage, straight up defeating them in their last invasion of Lebanon.  The Israeli air force was unable to substantially dent Hezbollah’s missile force, despite complete air supremacy.  If Hezbollah had had the good missiles, it could have wreaked much more damage.

Right now Hamas has rockets.  They look like something out of the 15th century.  They are pathetic.  It won’t stay that way forever.

All this before we get to the fact that Israel’s military is incompetent.  They are no longer the Israeli military of 68, they are an occupation military, and occupation militaries are only good at fighting weaklings, they always become corrupt, brutal and weak themselves.

Israel faces a stark choice: the two-state solution is no longer viable, there is not enough water and arable land, and too much population.  It can no longer work.  Israel can either become a secular single state, giving a vote and rights to everyone, it can ethnically cleanse out all Palestinians and become a pariah state, or it can cease to exist (option 2 and 3 may both occur).  Its end, moral or physical, may occur through terror, demographics, war, economic collapse, military decline or more likely, some combination, but it is as close to any historical process comes to inevitability.

Israel is acting like a monster, killing vastly disproportionate numbers of Palestinians.  But the grave it is digging, in the not so long run, isn’t that of the Palestinians, it is its own.

W.H. Auden once wrote the line that applies to Israel, and to the Palestinians, for that matter: Those to whom evil is done, do evil in return.

I can find no joy in this, no happiness, but it is what it is.  If Israelis, not Israel the religious-ethnic state, want to avoid catastrophic destruction, their only solution is simple: stop doing evil, and start doing good.

People will dismiss that as naive, but it is the hardest of hard headed pragmatism, and as such, is advice unlikely to be taken.

Those to whom evil is done, do evil in return.

51 Responses
  1. November 19, 2012

    Thank you Ian.

    Sadly, I fear your good advice won’t be taken.

    mfi

  2. Deckard permalink
    November 19, 2012

    I’ve often had to say to people, with reference to Palestine, that when you treat people like abused animals, they will probably respond as such. I’m always amazed they actually have an active non-violent peace movement (which no one in the US will discuss – it’s out of the realm of possiblity for un-people to be able to see a different world).

    I cannot imagine what it must be like day in and day out for the occupied. Life is terror. Everyone is so profoundly damaged that there cannot be any outcome other than what you have outlined.

  3. November 19, 2012

    And it is so very difficult to point out to Israel’s supporters that it is Israel itself that chose its own fate.

  4. Holden Pattern permalink
    November 19, 2012

    Trap people behind the God Wall and torture them in slow motion for long enough, and they won’t lose their humanity — no matter how often you call them animals, they still love their children and can hope for a better life. But they’ll sure as hell learn to hate you.

  5. November 19, 2012

    Elites Will Make Gazans of Us All
    by Chris Hedges

    http://www.truthdig.com/report/page2/elites_will_make_gazans_of_us_all_20121119/

  6. November 19, 2012

    A comment where none is needed, but my comment in addition to thanks for your insights and courage to state them is–
    –it is easier to destroy than to build.

    We see this axiom in practice in financial institutions, political institutions, and of course in personal relationships. Maybe it is the curse of humanity, maybe it will never be overcome, at least universally and over time…but we must try, no?

    The appeal of the diplomat needs to reach higher. As does mankind to whom this great diplomat must appeal. If there is a God, why hasn’t He become completely bored of our sad repeated attempts where we never seem to do any better than the last generation. I need to walk this world off.

  7. Greg T permalink
    November 19, 2012

    This is very true. Israel is losing its ability to control events in the region. The Arab states are in the process of shedding the authoritarian regimes that made common cause with Israel ( SEE EGYPT, SYRIA) and the US After 1967. Israel can no longer count on sympathetic Arab dictators like Assad or Mubarak to keep other Arab countries in line. The tighter Israel grips on the rope, the more precarious the grasp. Interestingly, Israel’s own troubles are a reflection on the US inability to control the region, since Israel is a de facto client state of America. It could never get away with its atrocities without substantial American support.

    I suspect that the surge in employing fracking technology has a lot to do with geopolitics.

  8. November 19, 2012

    I think the U.S. is more of a client state of Israel than it of ours despite the fact the U.S. bankrolls it because the people that are in charge of that bankrolling within the U.S. … U.S. politicians … are more loyal to Israel than they are the U.S. and they consistently betray the U.S.’s interests in favor of Israel’s. It’s not often that AIPAC doesn’t get their way.

    There are exceptions: the Obama Administration … to their credit … apparently has resisted Israel’s insane push to attack Iran.

    Z

  9. Greg T permalink
    November 19, 2012

    Yes, Z. The Obama administration has pushed back hard against Israel’s beating of war drums against Iran. What I think is happening ( I don’t know for sure ) is that the US is carefully reassessing its interests in the region. Once Israeli actions stop serving US interests, Israel will be on its own to make peace with its neighbors…or not. I think AIPACs role is exaggerated. Netanyahu seems to want to a war of expulsion and expand Israel’s borders. The Obama administration likely sees him as a loose cannon, and does not want to corner him for fear he will start a wider conflict. His behavior and the behavior of Likud could be a catalyst to a redefinition of the US-Israel relationship.

    It also makes the current situation very dangerous. You might be right, if Israel feels American support is weak, it may try to rope us into a cauldron.

  10. Ian Welsh permalink*
    November 19, 2012

    The Bush administration also resisted Israel’s push to attack Iran. It also resisted Israel’s push to impose crippling sanctions, which the Obama administration did not do.

  11. November 19, 2012

    Everything you have said here so self-evident… which makes the situation in the Middle East a tragic puzzle all the more.

    On your “go to hell” anecdote: I have a close Baptist friend with whom I had a heated conversation… which ended when I verbally ejected him from my apartment after he finally admitted that yes, he thought I was going to go to hell. I found this to be very offensive as well (which kind of surprised me – getting exercised over a fantastical proposition like that!)

    It was many years ago, and we have not broached the subject since, so “all is well” now…

  12. November 19, 2012

    Yep, sanctions kill people too … largely innocent people … and don’t generally do a damn bit of damage to the people that run the governments that they are aimed at (see: Iraq). The Obama Administration is killing innocent Iranians right now.

    My example just goes to show you how deep you have to go to point to an instance that the U.S. defied Israel’s wishes: the Obama Admininistration pushing back against a potentially apocalyptic war. One could make the claim that even in that case Israel’s best interests were being served. And I tend to believe the U.S. military leaders provided some resistance … some sanity … to that endeavor.

    Z

  13. bathcat permalink
    November 19, 2012

    “every human life has the same value.”

    ah yes. i am reminded again that liberals are merely Christians minus the church and god.

    “To call the belief in substantial human equality a superstition is to insult superstition. It might be unwarranted to believe in leprechauns, but at least the person who holds to such a belief isn’t watching them not exist, for every waking hour of the day.

  14. Ian Welsh permalink*
    November 19, 2012

    And who is to decide what life is worth more? Hmmm?

  15. bathcat permalink
    November 19, 2012

    great men

  16. Julien permalink
    November 19, 2012

    great men

    Or monsters.

    If empathy won’t do it for you, consider this fact: when deciding who lives or dies, you’re much likelier to be a decidee than the decider.

  17. November 19, 2012

    Is bathcat saying that *s/he* him/herself believes that to be the truth or is merely informing us of something we already know: that people in real existing life are not treated equally?

  18. bathcat permalink
    November 19, 2012

    i’m saying that we were not created equal, cannot be made equal, and thus should not be treated equally.

    im saying we need to roll back the last few centuries of “progress” because we were altogether way too optimistic about human nature.

    men are the product of the blind forces of natural selection, are risen killer apes, rights come from fire and steel, or the threat thereof. it time for all of you to understand this.

    finish me off Judge…

    “It makes no difference what men think of war, said the judge. War endures. As well ask men what they think of stone. War was always here. Before man was, war waited for him. The ultimate trade awaiting its ultimate practitioner. That is the way it was and will be. That way and not some other way.”

  19. November 19, 2012

    OK, I’ll bite. How do you propose to back off from this “progress”, and to what?

  20. Greg permalink
    November 19, 2012

    bathcat, are you reading from Mein Kamp?

  21. jawbone permalink
    November 19, 2012

    Greg T — re: your comment, “I suspect that the surge in employing fracking technology has a lot to do with geopolitics,” what do you mean? How is fracking tech leading to such things as the Israeli government once again going after Gaza? And provoking Gazan rockets by assassinating al-Jaffiri?

    Interesting thought, but I’m not sure where you’re taking us with it.

  22. you know who permalink
    November 20, 2012

    > men are the product of the blind forces of natural selection, are risen killer apes, rights come from fire and steel, or the threat thereof. it time for all of you to understand this

    Where as women are the product of sugar and spice–and thus are outside of the scope of this discussion. *whew* We’ll keep our progress, thank you.

  23. Greg T permalink
    November 20, 2012

    The energy industry is aggressively employing fracking as a means to increase domestic oil production. This is being done despite its negative after effects on the water supply and other substantial environmental damage to the fracking areas. The industry now realizes that fracking so depletes a local water supply, it needs to recycle the remaining water to continue the process. I think the speed at which they’re doing this, and doing it without careful regard to consequences, is related to the loss of influence in the oilgarchies. By creating a domestic boom in oil production, the United States thinks it can counteract that loss of influence.

  24. November 20, 2012

    “… occupation militaries are only good at fighting weaklings, they always become corrupt, brutal and weak themselves.”

    It’s worth noting that the last two major wars fought by the American military, Iraq and Afghanistan, have been wars of occupation. It would not be much of a stretch to include Vietnam in that list.

  25. November 20, 2012

    @ Greg November 19, 2012

    Nope, it’s Cormac McCarthy: Blood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West

  26. November 20, 2012

    @ you know who November 20, 2012

    We’ll keep our progress, thank you.

    Not unless you fight for it you won’t.

    mfi

  27. Everythings Jake permalink
    November 20, 2012

    We keep talking about who is right and that is irrelevant. We are staring down the extinction of the species – if you listen to those who were most alarmist, they have been even more terrified in the last several months, because even the worst predictions set for ten years out have come to pass too fast (witness a leading british arctic ice expert who says total ice melt is now 2 years away).

    Do I give a shit if Israel or Palestine holds the the moral upper hand? I do not. The brutal cold fact is that Israel holds the power here. Either it must be overthrown (no time for this) or its people must decide to be vulnerable and bold and share and direct all’s attention to the survival of the species.

    The Israeli state is presently engaged in a resource grab (principally water), but on whose behalf? When thousands gather in the street to protest the effect of neoliberlism, that is an argument againt Israel’s current policies.

    Similarly, of course, the United States.

  28. Deckard permalink
    November 20, 2012

    @Holding Patern – Sorry if my comment came off as if I thought Palestinians were animals. They are hardly such. I was making the point (poorly) that if you treat people badly, don’t be surprised if they defend themselves against harm. The percentage of PTSD and malnutrition amongst the Palestinians is extraordinarly high, and understandably so considering the awful way Israel treats them, which is why I said they were damaged.

    I’ll make sure to phrase things a bit more elequently in the future, as the written word does demand more thoughtful phrasing – especially in this instance.

  29. Holden Pattern permalink
    November 20, 2012

    @Deckard — my comment wasn’t directed at you; I knew what you meant. No worries.

  30. November 20, 2012

    War endures. As well ask men what they think of stone. War was always here. Before man was, war waited for him.

    The inability to distinguish between what Nature sets upon us against what is borne in the plastic construct of the mind is arguably the single biggest cause of human malady.

  31. November 20, 2012

    Don’t virtually all of the Ashkenazi Jews in Israel have dual citizenship in the US, Canada, Argentina, or where ever? They must make up close to half the Jews in Israel. And even the newer Russian immigrants are 3rd class citizens (at least for the first generation) who might also decide to go home if things got bad enough.
    I think part of what makes them dangerous is that they have options in the event they fuck things up too bad, whereas the Sephardim have coexisted with Muslims for many centuries and they are pretty much stuck in Palestine.
    I don’t really agree with the point about Israel losing the support of America young and secular Jews. Even most older Jews do not support Israel, and certainly not unconditionally. Many regard the fanatics who scream anti-semitism as a pain in the ass.
    Israel still has the support of the minority of Jews with power and influence, and more importantly they have the support of the fundamentalist Christians and Mormons. I don’t see them losing American backing anymore than I see the NRA losing its death grip on politics. You are trying to apply ration to predict the motives and actions of irrational people.

  32. The Tragically Flip permalink
    November 20, 2012

    “The demographics are against it, and at some point America will cut Israel off, and Israel’s economy is not sustainable without the US”

    Perhaps on some very long term (like 50 years) but I’m really not seeing much sign of this today. Congress is still falling overthemselves to pass supporting motions in feality. As Greenwald notes, Obama can’t even plausibly mouth insincere objections to targeted assassinations the way Clinton and Bush used to, since he practices them routinely.

    My fear is the next step for Israel is to annex the West Bank, and move to put the Palestinians in reservations the way the North American aboriginals had their land stolen. Gaza is already essentially a reservation for 1.7M Palestinians. There’s room for a couple Gaza sized “camps” in the West Bank.

    Or maybe they’ll just keep stealing the land in dribs and drabs. If nothing forces their hand, I guess they’re fine with that.

  33. Ian Welsh permalink*
    November 20, 2012

    When these things change, they change fast. Congress is OLD. When the next generation sweeps into power, they will have no patience for Israel. 2024 is a good expected date. That’s not too long, either, I remember 2000 very well.

  34. November 20, 2012

    Ian,

    I think you may be underestimating the ability of the leadership of the democratic party to slant the game such that only candidates that follow the party’s sponsors’ dictates ever make it to the ballot … and AIPAC is a major and very powerful sponsor. In 2006, the democrat voters came out in full force to try to put an end to the Iraq War and Rahm and company made sure that the great revulsion of Bush and the Iraq War largely ended up empowering the corporate democrats’ best friend: the pro-war blue dog contingent. And the republicans are a long way away from stepping back from supporting Israel with their ties to the hypocritical religious right and all. Not to mention the influence that the military-industrial complex has on both parties.

    The only political push back to our two major parties’ slavishness to Israel may be for a strong third party to arise and there hasn’t been much progress made on that front yet.

    I think you might be being too optimistic again …

    Z

  35. someofparts permalink
    November 20, 2012

    linked at Agonist -

    http://www.equaltimes.org/opinion/israel-the-conflict-within

    Says action against Palestinians is deflection from tensions created by racism within the Jewish community plus the pain inflicted on the poor by market-driven economic injustices.

  36. Bernard permalink
    November 21, 2012

    thanks Ian for continuing to post. i read with pleasure and await your next topic, as always.

    thanks again for doing what you do.

  37. Formerly T-Bear permalink
    November 21, 2012

    Just in case anyone needs a reminder just WHY Zionist israel must destroy Hamas you seriously need to read this:

    http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2012/11/washingtons-blog-war-in-gaza-war-over-natural-gas.html

    and if 4, count them four BILLION $ of natural gas isn’t worth stealing, please notify what colour the skies are where you are. Would not be surprised the root of IDF exclusion of ship traffic in that area is to hide drilling operations from being spotted either directly or on radar and once the wells are connected to underwater pipelines to israel none will be the wiser. This is what the US secretary of state is in Jerusalem making herself the right whore about.

  38. Celsius 233 permalink
    November 21, 2012

    Formerly T-Bear PERMALINK
    November 21, 2012
    …and if 4, count them four BILLION $ of natural gas isn’t worth stealing, please notify what colour the skies are where you are. Would not be surprised the root of IDF exclusion of ship traffic in that area is to hide drilling operations from being spotted either directly or on radar and once the wells are connected to underwater pipelines to israel none will be the wiser…
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Yes, water resources have long been the target of the Israelis. So, no surprises there over anything they do in the name of “survival”.
    At this juncture, I do not see the viability of their long term endurance as a country.
    They are a pustule on the M.E.; a boil that needs lancing.
    As we (ha! America) gain an energy independence; Israel will go the way of crumbling empires. And good riddance, I say.

  39. Celsius 233 permalink
    November 21, 2012

    ^ The only question is; which of us will be first as per my closing comment above.

  40. Formerly T-Bear permalink
    November 21, 2012

    @ 233ºC

    That “energy independence” being touted is as close as one can legally get to a pipe-dream, hype for the rubes and will disappear with the election rhetoric like morning (after) mist on the political swamp. It is a political lie told to inject hope into a fictitious future of a dying empire. As for which is first, it matters little, neither can now exist without the other’s approval, the stench of corruption and lies has become the attar of preference, integrity has become a one-way ticket to oblivion, as death overtakes their destinies.

  41. Celsius 233 permalink
    November 22, 2012

    Formerly T-Bear PERMALINK
    November 21, 2012
    @ 233ºC
    That “energy independence” being touted is as close as one can legally get to a pipe-dream, hype for the rubes and will disappear with the election rhetoric like morning (after) mist on the political swamp. It is a political lie told to inject hope into a fictitious future of a dying empire. As for which is first, it matters little, neither can now exist without the other’s approval, the stench of corruption and lies has become the attar of preference, integrity has become a one-way ticket to oblivion, as death overtakes their destinies.
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Your spot on assessment is almost prose like.
    The lie of “energy independence” is very much in line with the illusion of the end of the cold war and it’s supposed de-weaponization that was supposed to follow (silly us, no?).
    A peaceful world is anathema the the U.S.’s desires; leaving a death knell as the only sound uttered…

  42. Vibhu permalink
    November 22, 2012

    Those to whom evil is done, do evil in return.

    This has been my observation. The Nazis did evil to the Jews, and now the Jews do evil to the Palestinians in particular, and the Arabs in general. Those who are the recipients of evil are henceforth damaged, just as those who inflicted the evil are in some way damaged, and so, damage spreads like a disease. The same holds true for the IRA. Evil was done to the Irish by Britain, and as a result, the Irish were damaged. The IRA is a manifestation of that damage, and to this day, it continues to spread the damage, thus ensuring that evil continues on in perpetuity.

    You have stated the case as to why Israel will attack Iran. Don’t think the increasingly desperate measures by Israel don’t indicate that its leaders know what you have just stated but with one catch. They believe they can overcome it, and in order to accomplish the predicament, they must up the ante and go for broke, or fold with their tail between their legs, utterly demoralized before the world. Considering that, it will be the former, and unless we forget, they have over a hundred nukes. It will be nasty, and the unfortunate thing is, as rightful critics ratchet up the focus and scrutiny, the likelihood of Israel going for broke correlates positively., meaning the more pressure applied, the more likely it will be that Israel does something absurdly drastic.

  43. Rob Grigjanis permalink
    November 22, 2012

    @Vibhu: The IRA is a manifestation of that damage, and to this day, it continues to spread the damage, thus ensuring that evil continues on in perpetuity.

    One of us hasn’t kept up with recent events. What on Earth does that mean? That there are still a handful of loonies supporting violence?

  44. Vibhu permalink
    November 22, 2012

    One of us hasn’t kept up with recent events. What on Earth does that mean? That there are still a handful of loonies supporting violence?

    Apparently you haven’t kept up on recent events. The IRA didn’t just go away, it embraced what it had always done so well; robbing and pillaging to finance its paramilitary operations. When the paramilitary part was significantly neutralized, it focused on the robbing part and became a mafia. Damaged.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2005/01/17/world/europe/17iht-irish.html?_r=0

    The IRA has a long history of using criminal activity as a funding source. But investigators and analysts say this robbery illustrates how one of the most sophisticated, disciplined, and heavily financed paramilitary organizations in the world has, in the decade since declaring a cease-fire in its fight against British rule in Ulster, transformed into an organized crime syndicate.

    If it is committed to its stated intention to end military operations, then why is it still planning and pulling off robberies, especially of such magnitude? Crime specialists say the question underscores the need for the PSNI to alter its approach to the IRA and other paramilitary organizations involved in the 30-year sectarian conflict. In this view, the police need to confront the IRA less as a terrorist organization and more as a Mafia family.

  45. Formerly T-Bear permalink
    November 23, 2012

    Justify this:

    http://aje.me/10EKYPs

    From Al Jazeera:

    http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2012/11/201211238226924973.html

    with collective silence, if you can, assassins!

  46. Rob Grigjanis permalink
    November 23, 2012

    Vibhu,

    You make it sound like the terrorists (and you shouldn’t exclude Loyalists from that description) switched en masse to straight crime. The ex-IRA (and ex-Loyalists) who switched to crime are a small minority. If you have more recent evidence that organized crime is a bigger problem in NI than the rest of UK or Europe, I’d like to see it.

    In the meantime, NI crime statistics and murder rates are in line with the rest of UK.

  47. Formerly T-Bear permalink
    November 24, 2012

    Sorry this is Off Topic:

    This last week El País published letters written by Spanish refugees from Gen. Franco’s Spain to the Mexican government asking for asylum. In Spanish the pain the writers were experiencing was overwhelming. The following is from El País english which succinctly gives their story and excerpts from those letters. Four your consideration:

    http://elpais.com/elpais/2012/11/23/inenglish/1353688568_121578.html

  48. Formerly T-Bear permalink
    November 24, 2012

    *chagrin* FOR your consideration:

  49. Celsius 233 permalink
    November 24, 2012

    Formerly T-Bear PERMALINK
    November 24, 2012
    Sorry this is Off Topic:
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Seems “on” to me; but then I see connections pretty much everywhere…

  50. November 24, 2012

    @T-Bear: Poignant. Thanks for the link.

  51. November 24, 2012

    That was very interesting. I thought Petain’s reaction was fascinating. They really, truly believed that.

Comments are closed.