Monday, July 17, 2006

So what could Israel have done?

(Updated below)

Lefties have an obligation to recognise all attacks on civilians as crimes against humanity. In deploring what Israel is doing, I believe I have an obligation to tackle this question in a less than polemic manner.

Assuming Israel is not without rights in a situation where they continue to be targetted by homocidal maniacs, but also assuming that actions designed to (or recklessly likely to) exterminate civilians in reprisal are never allowable, what would be legitimate? I believe I may depart from many of Israel's detractors in this post, which I am writing entirely off-the-cuff as 'gut' analysis.

I welcome constructive elaboration.

1) Israel has the right to erect the wall, but on their own territory.

That's pretty self-explanatory. The current position of the wall makes it into a substantial land grab. I'm not going to enter the 'where's the border' debate here, but give or take a bit of thrashing you all know what I'm referring to. The left need to acknowledge that, leaving aside the land grab aspect, this wall has reduced suicide attacks and can therefore be justified as a defensive measure. However, see point 3) below.

2) Israel has the right to target those attacking them.

Some civilian casualties in these circumstances are inevitable. Although what is currently going on is clearly sledgehammer-swinging reprisal, it cannot be said that they can never take action that is aimed in good faith at directly hitting their protagonists that may also result in some civilian casualties.

Israel has, due to its experience and high expenditure on the military, an extremely capable air force and commandos as good as (or better than) the SAS, Delta Force and Spetznaz. It simply beggars belief that they could not attack their opponents with far more accuracy, if that was their aim.

In fact, their sprawling attack on Lebanon is a sign of weakness, because it suggests they really don't know where to start.

3) Israel may have a right to create buffer zones.

Let us assume that their attackers are too deeply embedded in civilian populations in Gaza and Southern Lebanon to be targetted without killing large numbers of civilians. It isn't reasonable in my view to simply make bland statements in relation to 'correct' borders and leave Israelis to suffer the consequences.

I have the same view regarding the Golan Heights- until Syria demonstrate that they are not a threat and won't revert to shelling Israel from that strategically advantageous piece of land, no-one can expect Israel to give it back.

It may have been a reasonable response that Israel would drive a few hundred metres, maybe even a couple of kilometres, into Gaza and Southern Lebanon and claim this as a buffer zone. If this was genuine then they would not populate it with 'settlers'.

Settler populations create 'civilian' targets and suggest that the land is intended as a national acquisition rather than a strategic buffer. However a short strip that could be watched and covered by anti-rocket missiles would appear to be justified.

Israel's reprisal slaughter will not win this for them. It is strategically foolish as well as being utterly and indefensibly illegal and immoral. There are other more nuanced steps they could have taken; instead, their conduct demonstrates that this is more about pure, vicious reprisal against civilian populations.

20 eyes for each eye, apparently.

Other lefties say...

If Western governments and leaders demand that the Muslim community do more to criticise “them”, it is not surprising that Muslims look askance when extreme disproportionate action by Israel, clearly involving collective punishment of whole civilian communities, is only met with minimalists murmurings of concern by the West, when Israel is clearly linked to “us”.
Guy at Polemica:
Hezbollah is calling Israel’s bluff, continuing to attack Israel while estimating (probably accurately) that Israel is going to come off decidedly second-best in the public relation stakes, particular in relation to the other Arab nations in the region and the Palestinians.
Shaun at LP:
Hezbollah cannot hope to win a war against Israel and it is unlikely that they even care.
I must respectfully disagree; this flailing response shows that Hezbollah are winning. And they didn't exactly lose last time around.

Eric Lee on why the left should support Israel:
But while the West Bank remained relatively calm, and the Golan completely quiet, Israel suddenly found itself under attack from precisely those territories which it had evacuated. Let's be absolutely clear about the nature of the attack. It was not the case that some Palestinian "militants" (as the BBC calls them) seized one Israeli soldier near Gaza. Those same terrorists (let us call things by their right names), having interpreted the 2005 withdrawal as a sign of Israeli weakness, have been bombarding the western Negev desert for months with their Qassam missiles.
OK Eric, but is slaughtering hundreds of civilians and destroying Lebanon from top to bottom the best response? One the left should, without reservation, support?

UPDATE: Israel are fine-tuning their targetting of terrorists:

Israel has extended its air campaign to northernmost Lebanon, killing at least 14 people, including nine soldiers, in the port of Abdeh near Tripoli.

Beirut's port and northern suburbs were also hit overnight. About 130 Lebanese have been killed since Israeli operations began on Wednesday.
All terrorists! At least this should stop those pesky rocket attacks from Northern Lebanon.
....attacks on a border village killed seven Canadians of Lebanese origin who were on a family holiday.
That will teach Canada to be soft on terror!


Splatterbottom said...


In 1967 the Arab countries launched an unprovoked attack on Israel, and in the course of being defeated, Egypt lost Gaza and Jordan lost the West Bank, and agreed to that outcome in peace treaties with Israel. That land is now Israeli land in the same way the Strassburg is now French.

So the Israelis can build the wall where they like. Any border with Palestine (a pretend country that has never existed) is yet to be determined. If and when the Palestinians can bring themselves to recognise Israel's right to exist, the parties might get around to negotiating a border. If necessary the wall can be moved, but at the moment, the Israelis should build the wall where it protects the most of its citizens.

The attack on Lebanon is specific and targeted, aiming to limit supplies to Hezbollah. This is clearly a long operation, and it will be pointless if Hezbollah is not grealty weakened. It is a bit premature for your leftie friends to start gloating about the likely outcome.

What good is a 2k buffer against rockets with a range of 40k? the probelm is that the Lebanese chose not to disarm Hezbollah when the UN requested them to. This led to the present mess.

Armagnac Esq said...

Without recognition of their claims Israel does not have sovereignty over that land. I'm not getting into a 500 hour protracted red herring over that, an elementary glance at the modern preconditions for sovereignty at international law will tell you this.

The death rate demonstrates that paragraph 3 is false.

And with respect I find use of 'gloating' highly offensive here. Unlike your own extraordinarily polemic and predictable kneejerk reaction which comes down to a defence of crimes against humanity or incredible lack of numeracy, I have made an effort to find some compromise and acknowledge that Israel has legitimate interests here too.

And I didn't realise that the struggling state of Lebanon had the ability to do that which Israel has been incapable of doing.

Really, appalling form.

Jeremy said...

I've tried to blog on this today; after the comment thread, I kind of regret it.

It's one of those issues where the whole thing is a mess, and in trying to debate your way through to a sensible solution everyone just gets angry and positions become even more fixed than they were before.


Splatterbottom said...

Really, appalling form.
Really, you sound like a teacher.

Without recognition of their claims Israel does not have sovereignty over that land.
Who does?

The death rate demonstrates that paragraph 3 is false.
The only reason you could make that statment is that you have leapt too readily to a conclusion. The death rate is in large part a factor of how deeply Hezbollah has entrenched itself among civilians.

Jumping straight into some arbitrary "middle" is not necessarily the best way to get at the truth of any particular matter.

Armagnac Esq said...

I haven't jumped to a middle, I believe Israel are committing crimes against humanity.

Because I don't want that firm conviction swept up in the usual accusations of anti semitism, and also because I recognise that I and other lefties often fail to sufficiently acknowledge the terrorism Israel is dealing with, I have attempted a preliminary but anything-but-arbitrary analysis.

Splatterbottom said...

If you regard war as a crime against humanity, then you may be right.

Apart from that Israel is attempting to stop Hezbollah and Hamas finishing off what Hitler started. They are doing it in as decent a way as is possible in the circumstances. More power to them.

Call me crazy if you like, but my own view is that Iran brought this on through its proxies Hamas and Hezbollah, and plans a major strike on Israel in August to facilitate the return of the Mahdi.

Armagnac Esq said...

No, the deliberate or reckless targetting of civilians is though.

I would not call you crazy for your Iran theory though. It would not surprise me at all.

Splatterbottom said...

Civilans aren't the target. If you could demonstrate that they are targeting civilians, I would agree with you that Israel has gone too far.

But if it is taking out Hezbollah command and control which is conducted from civilian areas then only Hezbollah is too blame.

Try reading the Jerusalem Post or Debka
or IMRA.

Armagnac Esq said...

Those crafty Hezbollah, recruiting canadians, children, and the regulars from the lebanese army to their cause!

Splatterbottom said...

Nah its the crafty Hezbollah hiding behind them.

Or maybe its this.

Anonymous said...

I can't agree with the argument that Israel is off the hook and civilian deaths are "a-ok" just because they are purportedly not specifically targeting civilians.

If you do something stupid that accidentally kills hundreds of people, you need to face the consequences of your actions just as you do if you kill them purposefully.

At the end of the day, dead people are dead people. Dead husbands, wives, daughters and sons.

Nilk said...

That's all very well, Guy, but how about we leave it for the UN to sort all that out after the war is done.

Hezbollah and Hamas have a long and well-established history of deliberately targetting civilians, while Israel doesn't. Surely that should say something.

And Armaniac, as for recognition of their claims? Israel has never had that from her neighbours. She never will.

Where do you suppose they all move to? Australia? Europe? America? What about Peru?

The Palestinians have had plenty of opportunities to establish a state, but have rejected each one. They democratically voted in a terrorist organisation, and in plenty of soundbites are more than happy to call for a ramping up of hostilities with Israel.

My education on the situation in Lebanon is sadly lacking, but even I know that Hezbollah is yet another terrorist group, who would be happy to eradicate the Jews and annex Israel.

How would you suggest Israel deal with such neighbours?

Everyone talks about Israel's superior firepower, yet neglect to mention the fact that after decades of terrorist attacks, they have exercised restraint.

Now, after months of provocation and and act of war, the UN and most other nations want restraint?

heathlander said...

"Hezbollah and Hamas have a long and well-established history of deliberately targetting civilians, while Israel doesn't. Surely that should say something."

What should that say? Firstly, as far as I know, Hizbullah have a record of largely attacking soldiers, not civilians. And prior to the Shalit kidnapping, Hamas hadn't attacked anyone in 17 months (save under extreme provocation). That Israel acts 'better' than a terrorist group is nothing to be proud of. What matters is whether Israel's behaviour is up to the standard of international law, and it isn't.
Incidentally, there is no difference between deliberately targetting civilians and indiscriminately firing into a crowd. Both see civilian deaths as acceptable to achieve military/political goals.

"The Palestinians have had plenty of opportunities to establish a state, but have rejected each one. They democratically voted in a terrorist organisation, and in plenty of soundbites are more than happy to call for a ramping up of hostilities with Israel."

The terrorist organisation voluntarily imposed a unilateral ceasefire, and kept to it. Israel has done no such thing. When have the Palestinians had an opportunity to set up a state? The Isralis have never offered a serious settlement, save for at Taba, when Barak left the talks. Let's not forget that in every area, it is the Palestinians that are making compromises. Under international law, the Palestinians are entitled to *all* of the West Bank and Gaza. Under the law, all 6 or 7 million refugees are entitled to return to their homes in Israel. The Palestinians aren't asking for anything like that (they ask for several hundred thousand).
The Israelis have made precisely *zero* concessions.

"How would you suggest Israel deal with such neighbours?"

Within the bounds of the law, and with some common sense. If you refuse to negotiate a peace, what you will get is war. Israel has never seriously tried to negotiate a settlement with the Palestinians, and, from the point of view of the populations on both sides, this is a mistake.

Splatterbottom said...

Heathlander, Hezbollah have a long history of terror. They were established in the early eighties after the newly installed theocracy in Iran sent over some revolutionary guards to work with the Lebanese shiites.

They were responsible for the Argentinian bombings against the Israeli embassy, and then the synagogue there. They have hijacked an airliner, carried out a few suicide operations, and also attacked military targets. They are quite rightly a designated terror group by the US.

The rest of what you said is even less accurate than your Hezbollah comments, but its late and I'm off to bed.

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