Scariest news yet »« At least the title gets it right: the author is a “Know Nothing”

Apparently, stated intent is magic

Sam Harris weighs in on the destruction going on in Gaza. He proceeds very, very carefully, explaining that the situation in Israel is complicated, they’re a largely secular state with a historical justification for their establishment, people with a history of oppression should have a safe haven, wars in any cause all cause casualties, yadda yadda yadda. And I agree emphatically with that. The people of Israel have a secular right to autonomous existence; they have a unique history of persecution (becoming increasingly less unique, unfortunately) and it is morally right to correct an injustice; every war is an evil that has unintended consequences, which is why we should be reluctant to enter them, and only engage when absolutely necessary (and I will also concede that the calculus for determining that is murky). But all that is just a prelude to his justification for Israel’s actions: it’s because their enemies are evil, and deserve it. Somehow, I’m not surprised at that.

Needless to say, in defending its territory as a Jewish state, the Israeli government and Israelis themselves have had to do terrible things. They have, as they are now, fought wars against the Palestinians that have caused massive losses of innocent life. More civilians have been killed in Gaza in the last few weeks than militants. That’s not a surprise because Gaza is one of the most densely populated places on Earth. Occupying it, fighting wars in it, is guaranteed to get woman and children and other noncombatants killed. And there’s probably little question over the course of fighting multiple wars that the Israelis have done things that amount to war crimes. They have been brutalized by this process—that is, made brutal by it. But that is largely the due to the character of their enemies.

Strangely, he never seems to question the necessity of fighting a war to keep a people oppressed, or considers the possibility that Palestinians see themselves as victims of the Israeli state, ghettoized and kept in a perpetual condition of essential serfdom…and that even that tiny bit of land that they do hold is constantly threatened by settlers and politicians eager to annex the place by one means or another. There is no consideration of alternatives, that maybe war is not the best solution to an extremely complicated (as he knows!) social problem. But to admit that they are committing war crimes, but that it is all the enemy’s fault, is simply disgraceful.

I must emphasize that this is NOT A DEFENSE OF HAMAS. As Harris points out, their goals are indefensible and despicable.

The truth is that there is an obvious, undeniable, and hugely consequential moral difference between Israel and her enemies. The Israelis are surrounded by people who have explicitly genocidal intentions towards them. The charter of Hamas is explicitly genocidal. It looks forward to a time, based on Koranic prophesy, when the earth itself will cry out for Jewish blood, where the trees and the stones will say “O Muslim, there’s a Jew hiding behind me. Come and kill him.” This is a political document. We are talking about a government that was voted into power by a majority of the Palestinians.

That is an evil statement, and I condemn it whole-heartedly. But condemning one side does not mean I endorse the other — it is possible to see that there is a lot of indefensible and despicable activity on both sides. Also, I’m not saying “a pox upon both houses” — I don’t think the evil Jews deserve to die, any more than I think all those evil Palestinians deserve it. There needs to be a solution to a complicated hatred between both sides, and the simple solution of war until one side is broken does not resolve it. Short of genocide (do I need to argue against that?), it only exacerbates the issues. Does anyone really believe blowing up houses, killing terrorists (and incurring lots of collateral damage), building giant walls, and imposing more and more restrictions on the lives of Palestinians, will actually accommodate themselves to Israeli rule?

Elie Wiesel, in Legends of Our Time, wrote this:

Every Jew, somewhere in his being, should set apart a zone of hate — healthy, virile hate — for what the German personifies and for what persists in the German.

Should we use that to argue against the legitimacy of Israel? It’s an example of emphatic hatred directed at a whole people (even though he walks it back in a footnote — he’s decrying racism, not all Germans — and he also visited Germany and felt no desire to kill everyone he met.) Persecution tends to do that to people, to feed the fires of hatred. It’s not an excuse, but when you kill and torture and oppress, normal human beings tend not to reply with love and forgiveness.

Then Harris trots out the most stupid argument ever.

Whatever terrible things the Israelis have done, it is also true to say that they have used more restraint in their fighting against the Palestinians than we—the Americans, or Western Europeans—have used in any of our wars. They have endured more worldwide public scrutiny than any other society has ever had to while defending itself against aggressors. The Israelis simply are held to a different standard. And the condemnation leveled at them by the rest of the world is completely out of proportion to what they have actually done.

I’ve been hearing a lot of this sort of thing, and it’s nonsense. With American gun laws, I could buy an assault rifle, modify it to be fully automatic, get a couple of extra large clips, and march into the local Catholic church and gun down the entire congregation (NO, I would never do such a thing). We have that power. So if I get a rifle and shoot just one Catholic as they were walking down the street (also never going to do that), could I use the excuse that I was exercising commendable restraint? If I did kill 10 innocent people, could I then claim that I was being judged by a different standard, because I could have parked a truck full of fertilizer explosive outside the building and killed hundreds and destroyed the whole church, just like Tim McVeigh?

No. I judge by a consistent moral standard, rather than the relative one Harris is using. Killing people is not a good thing, whether it’s one or a thousand or six million, and the existence of one gigantic moral atrocity, like the Holocaust or the Indian genocide, does not suddenly diminish the significance of numerically smaller crimes. It’s horror all the way around.

There is also a kind of moral blindness at work here. He says the condemnation is out of proportion to what they’ve actually done…so what exactly have they done? Harris comes right out and tells us.

But there is no way to look at the images coming out Gaza—especially of infants and toddlers riddled by shrapnel—and think that this is anything other than a monstrous evil. Insofar as the Israelis are the agents of this evil, it seems impossible to support them. And there is no question that the Palestinians have suffered terribly for decades under the occupation. This is where most critics of Israel appear to be stuck. They see these images, and they blame Israel for killing and maiming babies. They see the occupation, and they blame Israel for making Gaza a prison camp. I would argue that this is a kind of moral illusion, borne of a failure to look at the actual causes of this conflict, as well as of a failure to understand the intentions of the people on either side of it.

The “Palestinians have suffered terribly for decades under the occupation”. Stop right there. What do you mean, we critics are “stuck”? Isn’t that a terrible, awful fact of Middle East history that is being blithely glossed over? Of course it is. Sam Harris apparently does not think it’s that big a deal that the Palestinians are suffering under an occupation, and for someone who wants to claim we have to look at the big picture to see the causes of the conflict, he doesn’t seem to see how that could have led to the hatred expressed by Hamas. Again, not to excuse it…but if you want to address it, you can’t simply call the Palestinians evil bad guys and offer no solutions other than shooting them. Both sides have deep antecedents and a thousand justifications.

See the Elie Wiesel quote above. Many of the Palestinians hate the Israelis, no small wonder. You don’t fix it by shooting their cousin, or dropping a bomb on the local schoolhouse.

But all that matters to Harris is intent.

And this gets to the heart of the moral difference between Israel and her enemies. And this is something I discussed in The End of Faith. To see this moral difference, you have to ask what each side would do if they had the power to do it.

What would the Jews do to the Palestinians if they could do anything they wanted? Well, we know the answer to that question, because they can do more or less anything they want. The Israeli army could kill everyone in Gaza tomorrow. So what does that mean? Well, it means that, when they drop a bomb on a beach and kill four Palestinian children, as happened last week, this is almost certainly an accident. They’re not targeting children. They could target as many children as they want. Every time a Palestinian child dies, Israel edges ever closer to becoming an international pariah. So the Israelis take great pains not to kill children and other noncombatants. 

Whoa. So the reason we know that Israel would not commit genocide if they could do anything they wanted is because right now they have total power and can do anything they want, and they aren’t committing genocide. But that’s not true! Israel’s military power is strongly dependent on foreign support — maintaining good relations with the United States is a major constraint (well, maybe not that constraining, because so far it looks like Congress rolls over and does whatever Israel asks). Further, in his cautious prelude, Harris emphasized that Israel has a complex society with a very strong secular component — there are Jewish elements who resist the idea of wholesale murder, too. Right now, Israel has external and internal constraints, so it’s silly to argue that they don’t.

Israel has elected a government that is aggressively militant. If that government were released from all restraints, I suspect that they’d push for an even more thorough campaign of extermination. But that’s speculation about intent — I’m more interested in the actual evidence. I look at the casualties, and there sure seem to be a lot of dead Palestinians for an enemy that takes “great pains not to kill children and other noncombatants”. And then there’s the distribution of the deaths.

The United Nations estimates that more than 70% of the Palestinians killed were civilians, including 226 youths and 117 women. More than 150 were members of armed groups, the United Nations says.

UNICEF said Monday that about two-thirds of the children killed were 12 years old or younger.

We’re supposed to believe in reason and evidence. When I see a thousand dead bodies, many of them children, and city blocks reduced to rubble, I tend not to accept the claim that that was reasonable restraint. Likewise, when Hamas launches rockets into Jewish suburbs, I tend not to accept that they are acting under reasonable restraint.

We get another of those hypocritical arguments used by IDF apologists.

The truth is that everything you need to know about the moral imbalance between Israel and her enemies can be understood on the topic of human shields. Who uses human shields? Well, Hamas certainly does. They shoot their rockets from residential neighborhoods, from beside schools, and hospitals, and mosques. Muslims in other recent conflicts, in Iraq and elsewhere, have also used human shields. They have laid their rifles on the shoulders of their own children and shot from behind their bodies.

OK. So we should excuse the deaths of all the civilians caused by the Israeli military because they are a regrettable and unavoidable consequence of fighting in an urban area with a high civilian population density. But we have to blame the Palestinians for fighting in their homes in an urban area with a high civilian population density — they should have found some nice open fields somewhere and deployed an army that could be met by the Israeli army, I guess.

And please, please stop characterizing specific groups with specific issues and causes with global Islamism. I despise that religion myself, but that does not mean you can simply lump Palestinians under the thumb of Israel with Muslims in Iraq or unsourced claims that Muslims use their own children as shields, or complaining about ISIS when talking about the events in Gaza. Let’s start by recognizing that Palestinians have legitimate grievances, as Harris tacitly acknowledges, and not ignoring them under the umbrella of simply declaring them wicked and deserving of all that they get.


Here is an example of Israel’s measured response.

Comments

  1. dianne says

    he also visited Germany and felt no desire to kill everyone he met.

    But would he let them use his bathroom? The Holocaust was horrible, though not as historically unique as the Israeli government, among others, would like us to believe. For example, the history of the Americas is full of acts of genocide and forced resettlement. Should every Amerind hold a special zone of hate for everything that persists in the Anglo-American? And, more to the immediate point, what does this say about what every Palestinian should feel for the Israelis who are persistently moving into territory that they (the Israelis) agreed was Palestinian land? Or for the people who maintain a 20:1 death ratio in their wars. (Usual disclaimer about Hamas being incompetent to run a government, at best, crazy racists at worst.)

  2. Alverant says

    We also shouldn’t forget that Israel is often the aggressor by going into Palestine neighborhood and claiming it for themselves. The whole notion of “self defense” goes out the window when you consider how they took all that land by force. How can you think a side really wants peace when they insist they have a divine right to what they stole? Yes, both sides took land from other people over the thousands of years people have been there, but right now it’s Israel taking bulldozers to people’s homes to give them to their own citizens.

  3. says

    John Judis provides appropriate historical context:

    “Israel is one of the world’s last colonial powers, and the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza are its unruly subjects. Like many past anti-colonial movements, Hamas and Fatah are deeply flawed and have sometimes poorly represented their peoples, and sometimes unnecessarily provoked the Israelis and used tactics that violate the rules of war. But the Israeli government has continued to expand settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem and to rule harshly over its subjects, while maintaining a ruinous blockade on Gaza. That’s the historical backdrop to the events now taking place. . . .

    Israel’s settlers in the West Bank and East Jerusalem now number over 500,000. Palestinians are allowed to build on only about 40 percent of the West Bank. Settlers enjoy Israeli citizenship and rule of law. The Palestinians are under harsh military rule. No Palestinian may travel abroad without Israeli approval. There are 542 roadblocks impeding the movement of Palestinians, but not of settlers on the West Bank. Water rights are restricted. The settlers consume about six times more water than the 2.6 million Palestinians. Settler attacks on the Palestinians, which the police often ignore, have steadily increased. The number of “price tag” attacks spiked by 300 percent this last spring during the peace talks.”

    Let’s keep it straight who is the oppressor and who is the oppressed.

  4. says

    Once again, Sam Harris shows himself to be a flaming bigot — no better than the hardcore religious bigots on all sides of the ongoing conflict he’s bloviating about. How is this blowhard any different from Ayn Rand’s tirade about how Israel is civilized and all their enemies are barbarians?

  5. dereksmear says

    And predictably as ever Jerry Coyne backs Harris and Israel…..again

    http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2014/07/28/sam-harris-on-the-israelpalestine-conflict/

    And in the comments Jerry declares

    ‘If Hamas stopped using human shields and putting their rocket launchers among civilians, the death toll would be much less. Further, remember the extraordinary lengths Israel goes to to avoid civilian casualties, phoning homes to warn the occupants to evacuate, dropping a dummy bomb first to warn people to get out (“knocking on the door”). Israel is pretty damn careful to avoid killing civilians. Hamas, of course, TARGETS civilians, and uses human shields. They also dug tunnels into Israel to kill civilians, and Israel went in to shut them down.

    I’m not sure about the “asymmetry” thing. To me, whether one acts in a civilized manner is more important, and its the failure of Palestine to do so that has elevated its casualties. The US lost almost no civilians in World War II; Germany lost millions. Does that mean we should have stayed out of the war?’

    Wow.

  6. brett says

    If Israel just wanted to wall themselves off from Gaza and the West Bank for security reasons, while maintaining the right to strike into both areas in situations where militant groups are launching rockets and other attacks into Israel, I would understand that. Just look at attacks like the one Hamas was planning through its tunnels, or the bus-bombings in the late 1990s/early 2000s to see why Israel started putting up security fences.

    But it’s the other actions that are vile and go beyond that. The massive strikes launched upon a flimsy premise, the checkpoints, the refusal to recognize land rights for Palestinians around and in Jerusalem, the settlements – all of that goes well beyond the “security” rationales that get dragged out every time a conflict like this starts.

  7. Randomfactor says

    Needless to say, in defending the faith, the Church officials themselves have had to do terrible things during the Inquisition. But they were fighting evil people who would wipe out the Church entirely if they had the opportunity.

  8. brett says

    @dereksmear

    And predictably as ever Jerry Coyne backs Harris and Israel…..again

    Somehow that doesn’t surprise me. I already figured he was Islamophobic, considering he’s practically a sock-puppet for Richard Dawkins on other issues and Dawkins tends to be like that.

  9. says

    For the record, I sympathize with Wiesel’s sentiments — there was extreme provocation behind them! — but do not agree with them.

  10. brett says

    To clarify, I used “Islamophobic” to refer to what Harris is doing. That doesn’t mean I actually like Islam as a religion or a lot of the behavior of its practitioners.

  11. ranmore says

    Not sure what this means: “The people of Israel have a secular right to autonomous existence” but if you believe in it then let it be at your expense and not the Palestinians. You can spare some of Minnesota right?

  12. dianne says

    You can spare some of Minnesota right?

    If I thought it would end the fighting and were possible, I’d be ready to cede part of Minnesota or part of Pennsylvania (including the house I currently own) or all of New Jersey or maybe Chicago (which is about same size as Israel) to either Israel or Palestine. No one else seems too keen on this plan, though, including the Israelis and Palestinians.

  13. says

    The real problem is that, despite technically being a secular state, the identity of Israel is inseparably tied to a very long, ugly history of Jewish persecution. As a result, any criticism of Israel, no matter how deserved or rationally presented, is met with immediate, almost hysterical screams of “Anti-Semitism!” You either wholeheartedly agree with anything and everything Israel does in the name of homeland security, or you are a bigot who believes that Hitler did not go far enough. On the diplomatic stage, there is absolutely no middle ground on which to have a meaningful discussion.

    Consider: would any other country be allowed to engage in the same actions as Israel, and manage to escape economic and diplomatic sanctions?

  14. says

    ranmore:

    “The people of Israel have a secular right to autonomous existence”

    The people of Israel have a right {that is separate from, and not determined by religion, hence ‘secular’} to have an existence {where they can act independently and have the right to do so, hence ‘autonomous’}.
    Not sure why that’s hard to understand.

  15. Zeppelin says

    I feel if someone uses someone else as a human shield, AND YOU SHOOT AT THEM ANYWAY, you forfeit the moral right to condemn their use of human shields.

    Wasn’t there a Tom the Dancing Bug comic on that subject? I can’t seem to find it.

  16. Anthony K says

    You can spare some of Minnesota right?

    If I thought it would end the fighting and were possible, I’d be ready to cede part of Minnesota or part of Pennsylvania (including the house I currently own) or all of New Jersey or maybe Chicago (which is about same size as Israel) to either Israel or Palestine. No one else seems too keen on this plan, though, including the Israelis and Palestinians.

    Sorry, First Nations. We’re just gonna go ahead and hand this land over. You won’t mind, willya? It’s for a good cause: indigenous land rights.

    Obviously, it’s England that owes some land for this solution. ‘Bout time those fuckers had to pay back for all the fucking shit they’ve caused. Bonus if it’s land that Condell and Dawkins are standing on at the time.

  17. dianne says

    @16: Further problems:
    1. Some criticism of Israel is, indeed, due to anti-Semitism.
    2. Some politicians in Israel are happy enough to claim anti-Semitisim to deflect any criticism of Israel or, more to the point, themselves.It’s not as though every (Jewish) person in Israel is happy with the settlements and aggressive stance that Israel takes, but they’re told to shut up or be regarded as self-hating.

  18. Anthony K says

    As a result, any criticism of Israel, no matter how deserved or rationally presented, is met with immediate, almost hysterical screams of “Anti-Semitism!”

    Yeah, it’s getting so a white man can’t think with his voice about subjects he only has a passing familiarity with these days for all the screaming almost hystericals.

  19. stumble says

    Just a little background… I am Jewish by decent, athiest by belief. I had family killed in the Russian programs, and German Holocaust. I have family right now that are members of the IDF and are fighting in Gaza. There is no question that Hamas is willing to use human shields to protect military installations, and rockets. And nothing I can say should be construed as a defense of Hamas.

    BUT Israel is no better. They too use (or used) human shields openly. They too target civilian populations, senior members of the IDF have called for the use of Palastinians pow’s for medical experiments, and genocide. And Bibbi intentionally inflamed public sentiment agains Palastinians when he called for vengeance against all Palastinians for the murderers of three Israeli children. Just before starting this incursion.

    And the justification that Hamas rockets are a substantial threat to Israel is just propaganda. In the last 13 years 32 israelies have dies as a result of these rocket attacks. Giving a mortality rate of roughly 1:2,500,000. By comparison you are five times more likely to be killed by lightning while in Israel (1:500,000) than by aa Hamas rocket.

  20. dianne says

    Obviously, it’s England that owes some land for this solution.

    (Shrug.) Works for me. But only if some of the land currently occupied by the US goes back to the First Nations at the same time. Otherwise saying, “but we can’t give this land away, we’re saving it to make reparations for our genocide” is just an excuse. So, Jersey to Israel, New Jersey to the Lenapi?

  21. Olav says

    PZ:

    I must emphasize that this is NOT A DEFENSE OF HAMAS. As Harris points out, their goals are indefensible and despicable.

    I do not agree one bit with their islamist, theocratic goals. And no, I would not defend their methods either. But their secular, materialistic goals do appear to be reasonable.

    Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas prime minister, 2006: We do not have any feelings of animosity toward Jews. We do not wish to throw them into the sea. All we seek is to be given our land back, not to harm anybody. It is a very concise interview, read it.

    Also, see their recently updated ten conditions for a ten year truce. No one in Israel or in the West speaks of this. Because they would not want you to think that Hamas are anything else than mindless genocidal freaks.

    As is so often the case, it is a little more complicated than that.

  22. Anthony K says

    But only if some of the land currently occupied by the US goes back to the First Nations at the same time.

    Why? I mean, it would be great if the US faced up to its own past, but barring some sort of ‘swap the entire US population for one that knows what books are’ Twilight Zone event, that’s not going to happen.

    So, we’re still left with the problem of Israel/Palestine, and an England that’s entirely too full of the English for its own good.

  23. Naim Matasci says

    To top it all, it turns out that to wield disproportionate power against [every village from which shots were fired in the direction of Israel] and cause immense damage and destruction. is in fact part of Israel’s military doctrine.

    It’s called Dahiya doctrine (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dahiya_doctrine) and has been formulated by the IDF Deputy Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot during the 2006 war with Lebanon (“Harming the population is the only means of restraining Nasrallah.”).

  24. dianne says

    Why? I mean, it would be great if the US faced up to its own past, but barring some sort of ‘swap the entire US population for one that knows what books are’ Twilight Zone event, that’s not going to happen.

    Because if we’re not giving it back to the actual owners, why not give it to the Israelis or the Palestinians or maybe to Liberians, who are, after all, displaced US-Americans or their descendants.

  25. Anthony K says

    Because if we’re not giving it back to the actual owners, why not give it to the Israelis or the Palestinians or maybe to Liberians, who are, after all, displaced US-Americans or their descendants.

    Well, for starters, their owners are still here. They may not ever get it back, but giving it away to someone else in service of land claims would be egregious on top of atrocity.

    So why not England? It’s not like the English love the place, given their proclivity for foisting themselves upon everyone else in the world. And it’s certainly not like they haven’t had a hand in Israel/Palestine since 1917, at least. They owe. Big time.

  26. coffeehound says

    Cervantes @ 4,

    There are 542 roadblocks impeding the movement of Palestinians, but not of settlers on the West Bank. Water rights are restricted. The settlers consume about six times more water than the 2.6 million Palestinians. Settler attacks on the Palestinians, which the police often ignore, have steadily increased.

    This. I hear much about Hamas’ manifesto promising to push Israel into the sea as justification for Israeli action and little attention paid to the fact that Palestinians are in fact being pushed into the sea for lack of any place to go as we speak.

  27. Anthony K says

    Check it out: all of Israel could fit between one place in England that ends in -ton and another place in England that ends in -ton and still have room for all the -wichs, -hams, and -fords besides.

  28. says

    You say: “With American gun laws, I could buy an assault rifle, modify it to be fully automatic, get a couple of extra large clips, and march into the local Catholic church and gun down the entire congregation (NO, I would never do such a thing). We have that power. So if I get a rifle and shoot just one Catholic as they were walking down the street (also never going to do that), could I use the excuse that I was exercising commendable restraint?”

    That is a rather nasty demagogic device you have there. Israeli government is not a private individual who bought a rifle. It is a government, voted into power by the people, and one of its responsibilities is protecting the said people from external threats by all available means – just like every other government. The means to do so include military force. And that can be exercised with restraint (Israel in Gaza) or without (Britain in Dresden, US in Hiroshima). But the military action by a state’s army is not the same as a random villain gunning down random people, it is governed by different laws and rules – a distinction you somehow failed to make.

    You say, “Israel has elected a government that is aggressively militant. ” What ground do you have for that statement? Israel did not start the military action in Gaza until they were bombarded with hundreds of artillery rockets from there. Only then they responded with force.

    You cite the distribution of deaths. Yes, let us look at the distribution of Gaza casualties. Over 80% are male, and 2/3 of them are 18-38 years old. Does it look like casualties resulting from targeting women and children? Or from indiscriminate fire at civilians? Or are those 80% dead Hamas militants and 20% unfortunate civilians? Hamas is well known to label their militants “civilians”, and to attribute to Israel any civilian deaths, including those resulting from their own rockets falling in Gaza (up to 30% of their rockets hit Gaza strip instead of Israel).

    The only reason you are not seeing “thousands of dead bodies and destroyed buildings” on the Israeli side is that Israel protects its residents, Arabs and Jews and Druze and Cherkes alike, by all means ranging from warning sirens and bomb shelters to anti-missiles and military action. Hamas does no such things in Gaza; there are no warnings other than Israeli ones (and even then Hamas often prevents the residents from leaving), no bomb shelters apart from Hamas tunnels, the only missiles are ones with shrapnel charges for wide-area strikes. Israel had accepted every offer of ceasefire that was not laden with a promise to give Hamas a free reign; their policy is “you don’t fire, we don’t fire first.” Hamas has violated every such ceasefire, both ones that they accepted and ones unilaterally imposed by Israel.

    Why are you hinging your acceptance of Israel’s actions on how many Jews have to die, anyway?

    Let’s look at bigger situation, though. Gaza strip borders both Israel and Egypt. You’d expect Egypt to open their border, since they are all Arabs on both sides of that border. Instead, it enforces the blockade of Gaza. Judea and Samaria border both Israel and Jordan; yet Jordan does not let the Arabs living there in.

    The Palestinian refugees – the unique refugees whose numbers had grown tenfold since they went to exile, instead of dwindling due to assimilation – do not just live in Israel, Gaza and occupied lands. Millions of them live in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt. All these countries speak the same language as them, they are the same ethnicity as them – yet there was resistance to assimilation for over sixty-five years. In these countries, the Palestinian refugees have severely limited rights – they are not granted citizenship, they are forbidden to own land, get education, work in certain professions, etc. Have you ever wondered why? Israel did assimilate at least 800 thousand Jewish refugees fleeing from pogroms in Arab countries after 1948 war; it did give full citizenship rights to those Arabs who chose to stay in Israel; yet a billion of Arabs could not assimilate 500 thousands Arab refugees, keeping them in camps. Does that struck you as normal?

    This conflict is not between Israel and some Palestinian Arabs. It is fought by Arab and Islamic countries by proxy, with hands of the disenfranchised Palestinians – more disenfranchised in Arab countries than in Israel by far. On the other side, there are Jews, Arabs, Druzes and other nations living in Israel fighting in the ranks of Israeli Defense Force. The Arab-Israeli wars never stopped in 1973; they only shifted to terrorist tactics from Lebanon, Syria, Gaza.

    Look at Hamas’s children’s TV where little kids pledge themselves to killing Jews. Not destroying Israel, not fighting Israeli forces, not righting the wrongs – straight, unabashed killing Jews. Read Hamas charter, it is in open access; it states that the goals of the organization are destruction of Israel and replacing it with an Islamic state in short term, and establishment worldwide Caliphate in long term, and that dying in achieving those goals is the ultimate acts of faith. Doesn’t that send a chill up your spine? If it doesn’t, there is something deeply wrong with your priorities.

    Israel is the only small bit of Western civilization in the Middle East; it’s all right that you hold them to a higher standard than you hold Islamists who want to bring a new medieval Caliphate over the whole world. It would be only fair.

    But please, please, please stop trying to disarm them. Let them protect their citizens from radical Islam. Please, please, please, do not repeat propaganda – check your facts, look at both sides, look at the strategic situation. If you respond without thinking like this to pictures of dead children by blaming Israel, you are aiding Hamas cause. Jews have a deep aversion to using such pictures for propaganda; Hamas have no scruples whatsoever – they had been shown to do their propaganda broadcasts using pictures of casualties from Syria, from past conflicts, from movies and in one case, despicably, used a photo of Jewish kids slaughtered in Judaea by a terrorist. That is a new low even for them.

    Please, please, please look at who you are actually financing in Gaza. Your money does not buy food, it buys long-range artillery rockets. Your concrete is not used to build housing and hospitals, it is used to build fortifications and terror tunnels. The schools and hospitals you run are used by Islamists as munition depots, human shields and rocket launchpads. UNRWA is so tied with Hamas it is hard to separate one from the other. The media overwhelmingly report Israel in negative light while ignoring Hamas, Syrian rebels, ISIS and a myriad other radical militants of the new Caliphate who kill more Muslims daily than Israel has killed in the whole Gaza campaign. Why do 1,000 Arab deaths in Gaza count more than 180,000 Arab deaths in Syria? Just because Muslims did that to other Muslims?

    Support Israel, not militant Islam. If you let Israel fall, you will be next.

  29. Anthony K says

    Eugene, I’m working really hard here to give everyone in the affected area their own little slice of soggy, English moor. It really is the only reasonable solution.

  30. says

    Jebus. The next idiot who declares that I’m supporting militant Islam will be banned. That is a reading of my post too stupid to be tolerated.

  31. says

    OK, Anthony K, let’s compromise. Give them either Calgary or Edmonton, your choice.

    I suppose if it has to be a slice of the UK, we could give them something around Balmoral. The queen won’t mind, will she?

  32. dianne says

    Seriously, where do people like Eugene get their news that Israel is criticized but Islamic countries never? Saudi Arabia? Taliban controlled Afghanistan? It sure isn’t the US or any European or “western” country that I’ve ever seen.

  33. dianne says

    Just not Northern Ireland, ‘k? That’s only going to lead to problems. OTOH, they’re actually pretty experienced at dealing with “insoluble” sectarian violence there. Hmm…

  34. Anthony K says

    OK, Anthony K, let’s compromise. Give them either Calgary or Edmonton, your choice.

    I don’t own either. Edmonton is covered by Treaty 6, and Calgary is covered by Treaty 7.

    I suppose if it has to be a slice of the UK,

    It really does.

    we could give them something around Balmoral. The queen won’t mind, will she?

    Sure. I mean, who cares? Look, I only speak English because the English themselves didn’t care enough about living in England to stay there—maybe it’s about time we hand some of that land over to people who won’t up and ditch it at the first taste of tea.

  35. Anthony K says

    I’m fine with leaving the Scots, the Irish, the Welsh, the Cornish, the Manx, and all of those groups where they are. England proper itself is large enough to house the entire population of Israel and the West Bank without even appreciably improving its cuisine. (Kidding, of course. I hear from the English all the time about how they perfected curry.)

  36. Anthony K says

    Can anybody help me set up a kickstarter to get this going? I want the title to be something like:

    “A two-state solution for Israel and Palestine within the confines of jolly old England? I’m Balfour it!”

  37. laurentweppe says

    Sam Harris weighs in on the destruction going on in Gaza

    The very second I read Harris’ name I knew I was in for some epic pro-bully apologetics, and oh boy did he deliver: the only surprise here is that his quotes didn’t get the comic-sans treatment.

    ***

    How is this blowhard any different from Ayn Rand’s tirade about how Israel is civilized and all their enemies are barbarians?

    huh… He got a PhD?
    (Playing the Devil’s advocate is not that easy)

    ***

    By comparison you are five times more likely to be killed by lightning while in Israel (1:500,000) than by aa Hamas rocket.

    Dialogue from Thor 3
    Asgardian Guard: Lord Odin, a tiny Midgaardian dukedom is demanding the withdrawal of your son’s diplomatic immunity so he can be extradited from that other midgaardian island where he currently resides. They added that should you refuse to comply, Asgaard would I quote “face dire consequences”
    Loki in Odin’s disguise: Ah, these humans and their quaint little customs

    ***

    little attention paid to the fact that Palestinians are in fact being pushed into the sea for lack of any place to go as we speak.

    Pushed into the desert, more like.

    ***

    Jebus. The next idiot who declares that I’m supporting militant Islam will be banned. That is a reading of my post too stupid to be tolerated.

    Drop your hanlon’s razor: reading your post supporting militant Islam is not stupid: it’s a malevolent attempt at using slander to silence dissent.

  38. laurentweppe says

    shit: I intended to write “reading your post as supporting militant Islam

  39. qwints says

    Look at mainstream coverage of NATO’s bombing of Kosovo or the Iraq occupation, and it’s clear that the mainstream press is much more willing to question the Israeli version of the truth than the NATO version of the truth. So, yes there’s a double standard. But the mainstream media’s willingness to lie for some governments doesn’t justify them lying for others.

  40. Anthony K says

    Sure, so long as they get London and the home counties.

    That’s exactly what my coworker (has a Yorkshireman for a brother-in-law) was just telling me. Looks like I’ve got buy-in from the northerners!

  41. jrfdeux, mode d'emploi says

    I attended a dinner last night with some friends who are observant Jews. Hadn’t seen them in a long while. Talk around the table was all about the “thousands of terrorists” in Gaza. I stayed quiet and left early. Didn’t sleep well last night at all.

  42. says

    The people of Israel have a secular right to autonomous existence;

    Why? Or rather, what is meant by autonomous here? Why, essentially, are they entitled to a ‘Jewish State’? That’s not just intrinsically problematic (ethnic nationalism is a problematic thing, religious nationalism as bad if not worse), but to have any ethical basis whatsoever it would absolutely require that they live someplace that had no non-Jewish inhabitants to start with, which clearly isn’t the case here. The Israelis who were born there have as much right as anyone to stay, I suppose, since they hadn’t any choice in the matter, but the same goes for Palestinians, and if Israel wants to claim to be a legitimate first-world democracy, instead of a fascist rogue state, they need to take care of the rights of everyone in their jurisdiction, and that means not just ending the blockades, it means giving Palestinians citizenship and the vote, and fuck their precious racial purity. If they want to have a purely Jewish state, let them build an island in international waters somewhere and they can only let the ‘true blooded’ in, if that’s their game; I know of a couple technologically feasible ways of doing it starting today.

    Who uses human shields?

    The IDF. Or rather they used to until an Israeli court told them they had to stop, and they’ve been appealing the decision ever since. Way to point out the differences, Sam.
    Anthony K

    Obviously, it’s England that owes some land for this solution.

    Or Germany, maybe.
    dianne

    But only if some of the land currently occupied by the US goes back to the First Nations at the same time. Otherwise saying, “but we can’t give this land away, we’re saving it to make reparations for our genocide” is just an excuse. So, Jersey to Israel, New Jersey to the Lenapi?

    New Jersey has a relatively small population, which could probably be absorbed by other states without much difficulty. New York would be impractical, though, as would considerable portions of both coasts. That said, there are large amounts of territory that could feasibly be returned to First Nations control while still giving the 300 million-odd other people who have no place else to go someplace to stay, and I’m heartily in favor of doing so.

  43. says

    I understand that Israel is under constant attack, but one point I would like to correct, if I may, is the statement that Leviticus or Deuteronomy are worse than the Koran. I would have thought it blatantly obvious that they are equivalent in the atrocious laws attributed to their God. We have Muslims in the US who don’t follow Koranic law to the letter, how is this any different from Jews not taking the law of their holy book literally? We know that there are atheists in Islamic society (for safety reasons they hide their identity and rightly so).

    And the other point I think needs correcting is that Israel has acted more humanely than the other countries in these interactions. To that I am going to not only strongly disagree but would also like to point out that if the US wanted to bomb the middle east into oblivion we definitely had the mean and opportunity. But even we weren’t willing to act in such a monstrous way (no country really wants to alienate themselves). It is more to the point that in conflicts mistakes will be made as he used to defend Israel’s imperfect actions (their not right, but they happen), but the same could be said for the US or any other country that has been involved in military conflicts within the middle east or anywhere for that matter.

    War is a messy bloody affair and neither side really wins. The death toll and the bitter hatred take decades even centuries to get some resolution. Look at Ireland and England. There’s still a divide between these cultures, where they have a strong distrust for each other, because of their history of war and oppression. China and Japan the list just keeps going with countries that have long seeded distrust and hatred for other countries.

  44. Alexander the Good Enough says

    My wise father generally summed it up years ago. He said, “Son, when you wrestle a skunk, no one comes away smelling good.” In the context of all the historical and current unpleasantness throughout the Levant, I’ve rather concluded that, with individual exceptions of course, they’re ALL skunks. I prefer to stay out of it.

  45. Alexander the Good Enough says

    (Oh, and apologies to the skunks. I view them as actually being quite good animal citizens.)

  46. Phillip Hallam-Baker says

    Last I read the British attempted to prevent the Zionist settlers declaring a breakaway state.

    It was the terrorism of the Haganah etc. and in particular the bombing of the King David hotel that created Israel. The ethnic cleansing was a Zionist project not the UK’s.

    One of the rarely told stories of US history is the fact that the Pilgrim fathers really left to seek the ‘freedom’ to be intolerant. The Mayflower compact is as obnoxious a piece of bigotry as you will find. The reason that the revolution started in Massachusetts is that the colony lost a lot of its original autonomy and was made a comonwealth under direct crown control in response to the Salem witch trials and the execution of Mary Dyer for being a Quaker.

    The Samaritans have a claim on the land that predates Judaism, they have been there since before the Babylonian exile. Guess how they get treated…

    If there is going to be peace then all sides need to accept the right of the others to live there. The Likud and the Israeli far right need to stop talking about ‘transfer’ (i.e. genocide) and stop trying to push Palestinians out. Israel has to stop being a Jewish state and accept that there is no place for any state based on one ethnic group being above the others. Palestinians have to accept that the Jewish population is now native as well and isn’t going to leave either.

    The US needs to admit that the two state solution isn’t something anyone is actually serious about. Hamas does not want a two state solution and will disrupt any attempt to establish one. Likud has no interest in a two state solution either. The pretense that there will be a two state solution allows the Israeli far right to pretend that the current situation is temporary to a fair settlement for the Palestinians. It isn’t and they have zero interest in being fair.

  47. omnicrom says

    So here’s something that people who know more about the conflict can tell me, is Hamas’ authority a result of the piss-poor conditions of the Palestinians? I get the feeling that the only reason Hamas is seen as the de facto political authority of the Palestinian people is because they’re the loudest and most vocal. I’ve heard a couple of people suggest that Israel wouldn’t consider the problems of the Palestinian people serious and relevant without the geurilla violence that affects them.

  48. Maureen Brian says

    Hamas was elected by the people of Gaza in 2012 it is therefore, at very least, the legitimate County Council of the place.

    Before this last round of fisticuffs broke out Hamas and Fatah were beginning to work on joint arrangements, not exactly a government of national unity but a positive move. Whether it will survive this episode remains to be seen.

    One of the factors which keeps Hamas in power is that they are a major source of basic supplies and social services. One of the problems about clinically /cynically wiping Hamas out is that there are far more horrible people just waiting, in Gaza, for the chance to topple them. IDF might well end up doing ISIS’s work for it.

  49. dianne says

    there are large amounts of territory that could feasibly be returned to First Nations control while still giving the 300 million-odd other people who have no place else to go someplace to stay, and I’m heartily in favor of doing so.

    I suppose the non-FN people could stay as non-citizen residents if nowhere else wants them. Without voting rights, of course. Maybe they* could work as migrant farm workers or something.

    *I’m mixed race with a minority of my genetic background being Amerind, which is why I’m completely random about who “they” and “we” are on this issue. Thanks to at least two cultural genocides, one of which may have been semi-unintentional, my cultural background is almost pure European-American though.

  50. dianne says

    One of the factors which keeps Hamas in power is that they are a major source of basic supplies and social services.

    And this being true, why should the people in Gaza elect anyone else? What has anyone else done for them?

  51. doubtthat says

    Move Israel to the Gulf Coast. They can take the Alabama or Mississippi shoreline. No one will go through the US to harm Israel, and that part of the country really isn’t being used for anything productive.

    Surely that can be done for significantly less than One Iraq, ie, the amount of money and labor hours we spent tooling about during Bush’s Excellent Adventure.

  52. alkaloid says

    @omnicrom, #54

    So here’s something that people who know more about the conflict can tell me, is Hamas’ authority a result of the piss-poor conditions of the Palestinians? I get the feeling that the only reason Hamas is seen as the de facto political authority of the Palestinian people is because they’re the loudest and most vocal. I’ve heard a couple of people suggest that Israel wouldn’t consider the problems of the Palestinian people serious and relevant without the geurilla violence that affects them.

    The way I understand the situation, Hamas was first elected to be the government of the entirety of Palestine (or rather what is left of it) in a UN-certified election in 2006, defeating Fatah. These results were considered unacceptable by Israel and its enablers (especially the United States) so what happened afterwards was a struggle between Hamas and Fatah in which the latter retained control of the West Bank, while Hamas retained control of Gaza. Ever since then the Israeli government has been trying to strangle Hamas and Gaza out of existence with illegal blockades and assistance from the Egyptian government, which keeps border crossings closed and as for the most part tried to destroy any tunnels that could carry aid to Gaza. Israel also controls Gaza’s airspace and was willing to engage in piracy (the attack on the Mavi Marmara in international waters) in order to prevent aid from arriving by sea either.

  53. says

    @58, doubtthat:

    Move Israel to the Gulf Coast. They can take the Alabama or Mississippi shoreline. No one will go through the US to harm Israel, and that part of the country really isn’t being used for anything productive.

    Surely that can be done for significantly less than One Iraq, ie, the amount of money and labor hours we spent tooling about during Bush’s Excellent Adventure.

    I object to this plan on three grounds:

    1. The gulf coast is terribly polluted and losing sealife now, so giving them large amounts of coastal water is not exactly helping.

    2. In any event those flood plains will be swallowed up by global warming as the icecaps melt. (Anything below 100 meters in elevation is questionable.)

    3. It would leave the U.S. with fewer states, but still hanging on to Texas.

    Clearly, the thing to do is to give the Palestinians Texas. Of course, we’d have to pay them for taking over such a lousy area, but it would solve some of our problems by either making Texans move somewhere else where “stupid” is no longer a direct synonym for “local majority”, or else stay and be non-citizens. Either way, it would get their paws off the U.S. educational standards, which would be a good thing.

    Similarly, we can give lots of lands back to the native Americans, but we need to insist that they take Arizona, even if we have to pay them extra.

  54. clevehicks says

    Brilliant piece, PZ. I am glad that someone is standing up to Harris’ tortured and painful defense of mass slaughter. It boggles my mind that the US government uses our tax dollars to blindly support one country no matter what that country happens to be doing. It is at least heartening that a number of American Jews are willing to be arrested in order to make it clear that criticism of Israeli government actions does not equal anti-Semitism. http://www.democracynow.org/2014/7/23/not_in_our_name_jewish_activists

  55. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    there’s probably little question over the course of fighting multiple wars that the Israelis have done things that amount to war crimes.

    I disagree.

    They have been brutalized by this process—that is, made brutal by it. But that is largely the due to the character of their enemies.

    Finally! Someone who understands the nature of war! It brutalizes the poor colonial powers through the uncivilized use of violence by the natives. If only the Palestinians would use civilized violence, the Israelis could adopt a much healthier attitude towards killing them and spare many, many Israelis the deep anguish of shooting innocent people and blowing up children on beaches. Israelis would love to only kill the guilty, and that they are forced to kill the innocent by the twisted tactics of the Palestinians use, that they are made brutes by the Palestinians (but not as brutish as the Palestinians, that would be ridiculous) is just another way that the devious Arabs of the region victimize Israelis specifically and Jews generally.

    If only someone, somewhere could find it in their hearts to sympathize with the Israeli political and military leadership…

    The truth is that there is an obvious, undeniable, and hugely consequential moral difference between Israel and her enemies. The Israelis are surrounded by people who have explicitly genocidal intentions towards them. The charter of Hamas is explicitly genocidal.

    And this is the crux of the issue. That thing about war crimes that everyone keeps harping on about? **You can’t hold Israel accountable**. War crimes, by definition, are things that can only be justified in the exigencies of war, so if you’re fighting in a war it’s okay. Especially if the other side is E-ville! That’s why they’re called “war/crimes”. It’s either war, or it’s a crime. For Israel, it’s war, therefore anything at all is justified. Easy-peasy.

    Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not excusing Palestinian action. **THEY** aren’t engaged in war. The very fact that have committed war crimes proves them terrorists, therefore not warriors, therefore they aren’t fighting a war, therefore those are crimes.

    Is Sam Harris some kind of a genius? Why can’t everybody figure this out?

    But PZ is clearly not a genius. His analysis of this section?

    Whatever terrible things the Israelis have done, it is also true to say that they have used more restraint in their fighting against the Palestinians than we—the Americans, or Western Europeans—have used in any of our wars. They have endured more worldwide public scrutiny than any other society has ever had to while defending itself against aggressors. The Israelis simply are held to a different standard. And the condemnation leveled at them by the rest of the world is completely out of proportion to what they have actually done.

    Goes off on killing Catholics for whatever reason. You really have to figure out that these are 2 separate sections to fairly analyze them.

    1. Whatever terrible things the Israelis have done, it is also true to say that they have used more restraint in their fighting against the Palestinians than we—the Americans, or Western Europeans—have used in any of our wars.

    2. They have endured more worldwide public scrutiny than any other society has ever had to while defending itself against aggressors. The Israelis simply are held to a different standard. And the condemnation leveled at them by the rest of the world is completely out of proportion to what they have actually done.

    You see, #1 proves the great moral courage of Israeli political and military leadership, as they could, at a moment’s notice, complete a more thorough genocide then the Nazis inflicted upon European Jews and queers and Gypsies and such. With zero consequences to hold them back save their own principles, we see the greatness of the state of Israel.

    #2 proves once again, the immoral, anti-semitic vindictiveness of the Palestinians and too much of the outside world. Dammit, Israel faces massive international consequences from any bullet’s ricochet! It’s so unfair that every time a mortar is 20 yards off target there’s talk of international trade sanctions that have the power to destroy Israel’s economy, leaving her defenseless. This horrendously disproportionate response to every single one of Israel’s missteps, this threat to the life of every single Israeli Jew every time one of their informants names the wrong house!, is a threat so dire that no other nation has had to face its like. This proves the vileness of the Palestinians and their allies, rendering the entirely voluntary restraint of Israeli military and political leadership that much more noble!

    Get it together, PZ. This is not about Israel being less bad than it could be. This is about the complete absence of any realistic or even drastically improbable negative consequences for evil proving Israel isn’t less bad, it’s morally awesome!
    And it’s about the horrendously disproportionate consequences for every single, random, little child blown up, even when that child is holding a stick and looking off over the oceans…exactly where vulnerable Israeli warships are waiting for targeting orders! Worse, it’s about the undue scrutiny, such that where other countries can blow up 12 or 20 kids and only catch any hell (not even disproportionate hell!) for 2 or 3, Israel is criticized for blowing up kids **every single time they blow up kids**!!!!!

    This malevolent, Sauron-like obsession with looking over the shoulder of every Israeli in harm’s way, combined with the unfathomable need for inflicting vastly disproportionate harms, such as talking in front of the UN about imposing trade sanctions until we comply with international law or filming a media story, well, it doesn’t make Israel more moral, becomes Israel is entirely moral for acting with restraint when it faces no negative consequences, but it does highlight the evil of the other side, making Israel more, like, functionally moral by comparison!

    That “less immoral” argument you’re making? That bears no resemblance to Harris’ point.

  56. doubtthat says

    @60

    I like where you’re going with this. I was more anxious to get rid of Alabama and Mississippi just because it looks like the Texas problem may be solved with a little time – he demographics are already changing.

    The less tongue-in-cheek point, which I think is a useful thought experiment, is to consider how much time, effort, and money we spent on wars in the 2000’s.

    It drives me to the brink of madness to consider that effort and imagine it being directed to something productive. Take that same cost + labor hour equation and we could have 90% of our energy coming from renewable sources and still have billions left over to build schools or fix infrastructure.

    Literally the only thing towards which humans can dedicate that amount of effort and yield no productive results is war.

  57. chrisdevries says

    I agree with a lot of what Harris has said in the past but he’s dead wrong here. Israel is not in a state where they can do and get away with anything they want against the Palestinians. If that were truly the case, I think they would push for a program of forced assimilation of the majority of the Muslims in the contested areas, forced exile of the radicals who fight back, and the murder of all members of Hamas and any other so-called terrorist organisation.

    The human rights conscious Westerner should view the situation in Israel as one that cannot be solved solely by allowing Israel complete control over the future of their territory. A two-state solution needs to be negotiated amongst those who are willing to do so, and imposed on those who are not, and it needs to fairly provide enough arable land to allow each population to exist comfortably and achieve economic independence.

  58. says

    Dianne

    I suppose the non-FN people could stay as non-citizen residents if nowhere else wants them. Without voting rights, of course.

    Part of the point I was aiming at with my earlier post is that a large population of non-citizens within a country is pretty much intrinsically a bad thing, no matter who they are or how they got that way. The solution, in most cases, is to make them citizens.

  59. says

    War crimes are war crimes.

    But there are two considerations that make the situation in Gaza different. First, Israel is not threatened in any meaningful way. There is never any real urgency to the attacks. Before the current cease-fire, Israel had struck 2,400 ground targets from the air. Think about that. If Israel had struck only 1,900, or only 900, how many fewer innocents would have died? Of COURSE Israel is choosing to kill these women, children and the elderly. The entire Gaza occupation is predicated on collective punishment, a specifically enumerated war crime in Geneva IV.

    And that brings us to the other consideration. Gaza is currently under occupation, and blockade, by Israel. That makes Israel RESPONSIBLE for the well being of civilians under occupation under international law. The responsibilities of an occupying power are not ambiguous, they are clearly delineated in treaties that carry the force of law. There might be a long military history of ignoring human shields, but when those humans are people whose well-being you are as a nation legally obligated to protect, and you choose to kill them anyway, that cannot be anything but a horrific war crime.

    And we should neither defend them, nor support them with our foreign aid.
    ~

  60. says

    Here you’ve presented a thing that’s well-said;
    And so I comment here: good job, P-Zed!

    It’s a rhyming couplet, so y’all have to stop arguing now, because rhyming couplets mean scene’s over.

    Think that’ll work?

  61. says

    People use “The Palestinians” and “Hamas” interchangeably. When Hamas misbehaves, well, all of Palestine is at fault.

    When settlers misbehave, on the other hand, that has nothing to do with Israel. Regardless of explicit official government policies that benefit the settlers. Here in the US, we ignore this aspect of the conflict altogether.

    One side of this conflict gets plausible deniability for escalations of the conflict. But only the one side. Curious.

  62. Nick Gotts says

    I understand that it’s an attempt to deal with the horror of the ongoing slaughter with a kind of bleak humour, but I find these discussions of which part of the USA/Europe should be given to the Israelis/Palestinians rather distateful. Nothing of the kind is going to happen, or would be acceptable to those concerned if it did, as everyone knows. The only acceptable solution is a negotiated compromise that finds as many as possible on both sides a peaceful and materially tolerable life – but that’s not going to happen while there is such an overwhelming preponderance of force on one side. Practically, the best thing Americans and Europeans can do is to pressure their governments in any way they can to stop supporting Israel.

    Israel is the only small bit of Western civilization in the Middle East – Eugene Arenhaus

    That’s q

  63. Nick Gotts says

    Sorry – premature comment submission@71. To continue:

    Israel is the only small bit of Western civilization in the Middle East – Eugene Arenhaus

    That’s quite astonishingly, and unintentionally, revealing. It is of course a clear admission that Israel is a racist, colonialist state, planted by outsiders. Of course, many Israelis were born in Israel, or came there because of persecution in European or Arab countries, and it would be a great wrong to expel them – but the state was formed by people who came from Europe with the deliberate intention of acquiring the land and creating a sovereign entity for a specific ethnic group, where those not of that group would live on sufferance. The land they desired was not, as the lie has it “A land without people”, any more than the Americas, Australasia, or South Africa.

  64. anteprepro says

    Jesus, didn’t realize Coyne was an Islamophobe (haven’t read his shit in years though so I guess I shouldn’t care TOO much, aside from out of principle).

    Gregory in Seattle:

    Consider: would any other country be allowed to engage in the same actions as Israel, and manage to escape economic and diplomatic sanctions?

    Ummm…the U.S. (?)

    Zeppelin

    I feel if someone uses someone else as a human shield, AND YOU SHOOT AT THEM ANYWAY, you forfeit the moral right to condemn their use of human shields.

    Bingo. Like ramming a mini-van of the road, and then lecturing about how unethical it was of them to not make sure their children were buckled up.

    Anthony K

    Yeah, it’s getting so a white man can’t think with his voice about subjects he only has a passing familiarity with these days for all the screaming almost hystericals.

    I think your snark was a little over the top there. Gregory had a valid point. The label of anti-semitism is used as a silencer in this debate. Not just at the slightest provocation, but with NO provocation. We had a great example of that with Colnago in the previous thread. I think it is something that we need to keep in mind: that right-wingers are grabbing onto terms used to describe legitimate biases and prejudices, and are just using them blindly without rhyme or reason to shut down debates they don’t care for. They already have taken to using “racism” for those purposes, whenever it suits them (usually, bafflingly: when a black person is saying something they don’t like).

    Crip Dyke: Holy shit, I don’t know why, but I almost thought you were serious for a moment there!

  65. says

    Did you somehow miss where Harris said, “Note: I was not giving Israel a pass to commit war crimes. I was making a point about the realities of living under the continuous threat of terrorism and of fighting multiple wars in a confined space”? And also this? “Note: I was not saying that because they are more careful than we have been at our most careless, the Israelis are above criticism. War crimes are war crimes.” It would not be unreasonable to say that oppressing people can be included here, but you seen to say that Harris glosses over this. Harris is saying keep criticism in proportion. Israel does not have an official policy to commit genocide, Hamas does. Imagine for a moment if Mexico built tunnels into the United States (which isn’t hard to do, since they have for purposes of transporting illegal drugs) for the purpose of kidnapping and attacking American civilians. What would be the appropriate response? It certainly wouldn’t involve intentional targeting of Mexican civilians, but it would certainly involve a military response.

    Additionally, you say, “No. I judge by a consistent moral standard, rather than the relative one Harris is using. Killing people is not a good thing, whether it’s one or a thousand or six million, and the existence of one gigantic moral atrocity, like the Holocaust or the Indian genocide, does not suddenly diminish the significance of numerically smaller crimes. ”

    So, the thought experiment where one considers throwing a switch to alter the direction of a train to kill one man rather than letting in continue on course and run over five people is meaningless? The one person and five are equivalent? One innocent death is equal to six million? (They are both horrible as you point out, but I’d hardly call them equivalent.) Ideally, we don’t want any innocent deaths and Harris does condemn the killing of innocents on both sides. In a real world scenario, zero isn’t always an option. Israel has to be accountable for wrongful actions; Harris does not deny that. But to say that stated intent is meaningless, especially when that stated intent is the genocide of 15 million people, is absurd.

  66. anteprepro says

    Chris Buckley :

    Did you somehow miss where Harris said,

    Are you unfamiliar with Sam Harris? That’s basically his MO. It is always him resort to a “I’m not saying, I’m just saying”. He fervently denies that he is saying something but then just continues to say it. He did the same mealy-mouthed routine with his remarks about nuking the Middle East and about racially profiling Muslims. Apparently his routine fools some people.

    Israel does not have an official policy to commit genocide, Hamas does.

    Israel does not have a policy to commit genocide. But they sure as shit don’t mind indiscriminately killing Palestinians, man, woman, or child. Just the fact that they have purer hearts or aren’t plotting active genocide does not make mass murder any less horrible.

    So, the thought experiment where one considers throwing a switch to alter the direction of a train to kill one man rather than letting in continue on course and run over five people is meaningless?

    That thought experiment doesn’t have a correct answer. That’s why it is a thought experiment.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trolley_problem

    In addition, there is no compelling reason to believe that there needs to be any deaths at all. That is just your assumption. As is your assumption that Israel killing Palestinian civilians will save more lives than it costs.

  67. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    I have a foster-child, a cute little space alien we’ve nicknamed “Eta”. It’s ironic because this thing sings **so** horribly it just cracks you up. Really funny child when not acting out, actually. Anyway, this thing doesn’t merely attack me, but this 4-year old will verbally announce it’s attention to hit me, to hurt me, and to drive me away from the family literally forever. Then it proceeds to actually hit me. Wildly. It’s mostly ineffective, but damn, sometimes it really hurts.

    So this one time I whacked it on the head with a shovel and left it unconscious and bleeding in the dust for a few hours, then when it came home all terrified I sent it to bed without supper.

    Now I’m being investigated because they think **I** overreacted. That thing had as its **expressed and serious intent** driving me out of my own home forever. Through violence!

    I can’t believe that they would compare my single swing of a shovel with someone who would scream out for everyone to hear the intention to drive me from my home with violence.

    Ugh. Some people just don’t understand.

  68. consciousness razor says

    Did you somehow miss where Harris said, “Note: I was not giving Israel a pass to commit war crimes. I was making a point about the realities of living under the continuous threat of terrorism and of fighting multiple wars in a confined space”?

    Then what are these “realities” exactly, which he is supposedly not condoning?

    And also this? “Note: I was not saying that because they are more careful than we have been at our most careless, the Israelis are above criticism. War crimes are war crimes.” It would not be unreasonable to say that oppressing people can be included here, but you seen to say that Harris glosses over this.

    What do you think glossing over would look like?

    Harris is saying keep criticism in proportion. Israel does not have an official policy to commit genocide, Hamas does.

    Which of them is actually carrying out genocide and various other war crimes, policy or no policy? Both? Neither?

    Is there any proportion to keep track of, regarding words written or spoken aloud, compared to actually doing this shit? Or what is the proportion of hysterical fear of some supposedly inevitable thing that hasn’t actually happened, compared to what we’ve already been seeing for decades?

    Is criticism of that sort of shit the kind of thing we ought to keep in proportion? Or is it something else entirely?

    Imagine for a moment if Mexico built tunnels into the United States (which isn’t hard to do, since they have for purposes of transporting illegal drugs) for the purpose of kidnapping and attacking American civilians. What would be the appropriate response? It certainly wouldn’t involve intentional targeting of Mexican civilians, but it would certainly involve a military response.

    This analogy is so far from the situation at hand that it’s hard to even know what to say about it, except that it indicates you’re not thinking about this clearly at all. An appropriate response, if it were somehow made analogous, would be to ensure there is peaceful immigration and citizenship and respect for the rights of every single human being involved, within one state or among however many different states there are.

    So, the thought experiment where one considers throwing a switch to alter the direction of a train to kill one man rather than letting in continue on course and run over five people is meaningless?

    Try reading that again. A single person being murdered is significant (and meaningful, to use your word). It is not “diminished” by a larger number of people being murdered. That’s one of the reasons why trolley car problems are worth thinking about, because it isn’t a foregone conclusion of those that you simply must switch the train’s course.

    One innocent death is equal to six million?

    On what planet does “numerically smaller” mean the same thing as “equal”?

  69. Holms says

    He proceeds very, very carefully, explaining that the situation in Israel is complicated…

    This always gets my hackles up; too often, it amounts to nothing more than a smoke screen. ‘How dare you condemn Israel, it’s too complicated to possibly arrive an an opinion!’

  70. nomadiq says

    Needless to say, in defending its territory as a Jewish state, the Israeli government and Israelis themselves have had to do terrible things.

    But apparently never the brave and moral thing. That is, end the occupation. Is Sam Harris really saying someone or some group of people had to act immorally? Or are terrible acts moral or immoral based on who did them?

  71. jnorris says

    At some point in time I expect Mr Harris to award Prime Minister Netanyahu the Jürgen Stroop Medal of Honor.

  72. Anathema says

    @ Chris Buckley #76,

    Are you sure you want to invoke the trolley problem here?

    The number of Palestinians killed in Israel’s recent offensive against Gaza dwarfs the number of Israelis who have been killed by Hamas’s rockets. If Israel’s attack on Gaza somehow manages to completely destroy Hamas’s ability to fire rockets, the number of deaths that this attack has caused is still far greater than the number of deaths that it would have prevented. You can’t defend Israel by saying that all of Israel’s options suck and that the path they’ve chosen is the one that does the least damage. It may be true that Israel does not have any really good options, but its simply not true that the course of action that it has chosen to take is the one that will result in the least damage.

    In the current situation, Israel is not analogous to someone who sees a trolley heading down a track with five people on it and decides to flip a switch so that the trolley moves to a track where it will only run over one person. Israel like like someone who sees a trolley heading down a track where a single person stands, and decides to flip a switch so that the trolley will head down a different track where it runs over five people instead.

  73. anteprepro says

    The Islamophobe Trolley Problem: There is one Muslim on the train tracks in front of an oncoming train. There are five on the alternate track. Should you let only one Muslim die, or switch the train track over to kill the maximum of filthy Muslims?

    The correct answer is: Pull the switch to kill the five Muslims, and the shoot the one on the first track. Because they were are all filthy terrorists and you probably saved the lives of ten non-Muslims by killing them, probably, maybe, possibly.

  74. nomadiq says

    @75

    Harris is saying keep criticism in proportion. Israel does not have an official policy to commit genocide, Hamas does.

    This is a fascinating point to consider. What is more important, words or actions? Who is actually being murdered in greater numbers? Which people are having their land and culture systematically removed? That is, which side is actually having anything like genocide happening to them? It doesn’t matter that Israel has no official policy of destroying the Palestinian identity (although the Israeli right-wing legislate to encourage it). Settlements in the West Bank, the Bandustan in Gaza. These acts speak louder than even the nasty deplorable words of Hamas. And if you argue “well, Israel has to act because of those words”, keep in mind Hamas was formed in 1987. The occupation is much much older.

  75. chrisdevries says

    It seems as if Harris contradicts himself in the paragraph where he asserts his opinion of what each side would do if they had the power to do it. On the one hand, he says:

    “[We] know the answer to that question, because they can do more or less anything they want. The Israeli army could kill everyone in Gaza tomorrow.”

    On the other:

    “Every time a Palestinian child dies, Israel edges ever closer to becoming an international pariah. So the Israelis take great pains not to kill children and other noncombatants.”

    Clearly, Israel cannot commit the kind of all-out genocide Harris talks about because (a) the backlash from the West would be immense and unequivocal, and (b) doing so would result in a war with basically every Muslim country in the region. The tiny number of Israelis in the world would never take such a large risk because it would unite every single country that has a problem with Israel’s existence against them in common cause (including Pakistan, rendering Israel’s strategic nukes less persuasive).

    Peaceful co-existence is not being blocked only by Muslim terrorism; it is being blocked by the militant attitudes of the Israeli occupation, and by their insane military strategies like “collective punishment”, which justifies the extermination of anyone living in a community in which a terror cell operates. For not openly defying Hamas (an action that could result in an abbreviated lifespan at the hands of Muslims) one risks dying at the hands of Jews. If it is wrong to punish all Israelis for the actions of the most zealous nationalists, it’s wrong to punish all Palestinians for the actions of the terrorists in their midst. Picking a side is pointless.

    There are two possible peaceful solutions. First is to create a new country, a single state, organised around no one religious identity, where all members have equal standing as citizens and equal rights, modeled on something like the U.S. Constitution (as a Canadian I have to comment that this document really is something worth emulating, even as its amendments get flouted by moronic Supreme Court justices). A top court comprised of Jews, Muslims and seculars would keep any law from being upheld that violated anything enshrined in the Constitution. Terrorism would still likely take place, but if the new country produced a massively-improved quality of life for the average former Palestinian, there would be broad support for peace in all religious communities.

    A two-state solution would be the other option, and would absolutely have to be negotiated by a third party with no perceived bias to either side. Both states would be allocated the same amount of arable land per resident (a census would be required to ensure accurate counts of Muslims wishing to live in a Muslim state, Muslims wishing to stay in a Jewish state, etc.). Areas with religious and historical significance to more than one religion would be governed by an international delegation appointed by the U.N. for this purpose, and would not be the property of either state. Access would be allowed, but controlled to prevent terrorism. Future expansionism would be banned, and while armies would be permitted, the U.N. would oversee them, and be ultimately responsible for the defense of both states. And while both states would be created to meet the needs of a religious population, their constitutions would be secular; theocracies would be disallowed.

    Pipe dreams, I know, but the Israeli solution seems to be to expand further and further into lands that aren’t theirs, driving population density and suffering up in the Palestinian lands, creating a basis for more wars in which more Palestinians will be killed. An Israeli hegemony will gradually emerge, where oppressed Muslims would be foolish to rise up against Israel; any “terrorism” will be met with the military equivalent of swatting a mosquito with a pile-driver.

  76. laurentweppe says

    The number of Palestinians killed in Israel’s recent offensive against Gaza dwarfs the number of Israelis who have been killed by Hamas’s rockets

    Also, the number of israeli civilians killed by Hamas is dwarfed by the number of israeli soldiers killed by Hamas. If an organization originally intended as the vanguard of an ethnic cleansing manages to do better than you when it comes to sparring civilians, you’re either exceptionally incompetent, incredibly bloodthirsty, or both.

    If Israel’s attack on Gaza somehow manages to completely destroy Hamas’s ability to fire rockets, the number of deaths that this attack has caused is still far greater than the number of deaths that it would have prevented.

    Israel has been killing Hamas leaders and operatives for twenty years: even if every Hamas member ended up killed, survivors among the civilian population would simply grab the flag and vow vengeance for their murdered relatives and neighbors, giving birth to another generation of militants.

    You can’t defend Israel by saying that all of Israel’s options suck and that the path they’ve chosen is the one that does the least damage.

    As a matter of fact, there has been time when Israel did use methods which, although bloody, killed a lot less bystanders: for instance, Yahya Ayyash, Hamas’ chief bombmaker and the architect of several suicide bombings was killed in early 1996 via a bomb rigged to his cell-phone: a gruesome end, to be sure (and one which turned a remorseless killer into an heroic martyr in the eyes of many), but when the Shin Bet assassinated him, they didn’t blow up the whole block. Today’s more indiscriminatingly murderous approach comes not from lack of choice, but from deliberate choices made by the ruling elite.

    ***

    Also, someone should add that it turns out that the much vaunted Iron Dome defense system is actually just another con allowing the military-industrial complex to suck up hundreds of millions of (israeli and american) taxpayers dollars for a 5% interception rate.

  77. chrislawson says

    The US never had a policy of genocide against the native Americans. The early English settlers were expressly forbidden from killing native Tasmanians, too. I’m don’t know enough about the current govt. of Israel to say if it has genocidal intent, but I am saying that official policy being non-genocidal doesn’t necessarily mean a genocide isn’t happening.

  78. dravid says

    PZ, I don’t know what has been gained by buying in to this dispute except to start a war of “word rockets”. At least nobody has been hurt. It has shown how polarized opinion is and depending on your bias you either agree or disagree with Sam Harris. I thought the article was quite balanced however, being biased towards Israel I would say that, wouldn’t I?

  79. alkaloid says

    @Holms, #79:

    This always gets my hackles up; too often, it amounts to nothing more than a smoke screen. ‘How dare you condemn Israel, it’s too complicated to possibly arrive an an opinion!’

    I’ve found that it’s often hypocritical as well-because after saying something like that people will then turn around and either imply or say outright that it’s all the Palestinians/Arabs/Muslims’ fault (which is obviously an opinion).

    The House of Representatives today entered the debate on the Israeli attack on Gaza-by proposing a resolution (H.Con.Res.107) which praises Israel:

    Whereas Israel drops leaflets, makes announcements, places phone calls and sends text messages to the Palestinian people in Gaza warning them in advance that an attack is imminent, and goes to extraordinary lengths to target only terrorist actors;

    (I’m sure the families of the four dead children on the beach would agree)

    blames Hamas for using human shields:

    Whereas Hamas has urged the residents of Gaza to ignore the Israeli warnings and to remain in their houses and has encouraged Palestinians to gather on the roofs of their homes to act as human shields;

    and blames Hamas in general and demands that Abbas ‘denounce’ them. This is the list of the cosponsors:

    Rep. Deutch, Theodore E. [D-FL-21]
    Rep. Chabot, Steve [R-OH-1]
    Rep. Weber, Randy K. Sr. [R-TX-14]
    Rep. Marino, Tom [R-PA-10]
    Rep. Bilirakis, Gus M. [R-FL-12]
    Rep. Diaz-Balart, Mario [R-FL-25]
    Rep. Frankel, Lois [D-FL-22]
    Rep. Cook, Paul [R-CA-8]
    Rep. Wasserman Schultz, Debbie [D-FL-23]
    Rep. Meadows, Mark [R-NC-11]
    Rep. Cicilline, David N. [D-RI-1]
    Rep. Gabbard, Tulsi [D-HI-2]
    Rep. Duffy, Sean P. [R-WI-7]
    Rep. Perry, Scott [R-PA-4]
    Rep. Lowenthal, Alan S. [D-CA-47]
    Rep. McKinley, David B. [R-WV-1]
    Rep. Murphy, Patrick [D-FL-18]
    Rep. Hunter, Duncan D. [R-CA-50]
    Rep. Wolf, Frank R. [R-VA-10]
    Rep. Kilmer, Derek [D-WA-6]
    Rep. Capito, Shelley Moore [R-WV-2]
    Rep. Joyce, David P. [R-OH-14]
    Rep. Hastings, Alcee L. [D-FL-20]
    Rep. Lance, Leonard [R-NJ-7]
    Rep. Kennedy, Joseph P. III [D-MA-4]
    Rep. Mica, John L. [R-FL-7]
    Rep. Conaway, K. Michael [R-TX-11]
    Rep. Pearce, Stevan [R-NM-2]
    Rep. DeSantis, Ron [R-FL-6]
    Rep. Cotton, Tom [R-AR-4]
    Rep. Bera, Ami [D-CA-7]
    Rep. Crenshaw, Ander [R-FL-4]
    Rep. Young, Todd C. [R-IN-9]
    Rep. Stockman, Steve [R-TX-36]
    Rep. Higgins, Brian [D-NY-26]
    Rep. Israel, Steve [D-NY-3]
    Rep. Collins, Doug [R-GA-9]
    Rep. Hall, Ralph M. [R-TX-4]
    Rep. Vargas, Juan [D-CA-51]
    Rep. Waxman, Henry A. [D-CA-33]
    Rep. Franks, Trent [R-AZ-8]
    Rep. Price, Tom [R-GA-6]
    Rep. Kuster, Ann M. [D-NH-2]
    Rep. Gosar, Paul A. [R-AZ-4]
    Rep. Johnson, Bill [R-OH-6]
    Rep. Connolly, Gerald E. [D-VA-11]
    Rep. McCarthy, Carolyn [D-NY-4]
    Rep. Poe, Ted [R-TX-2]
    Rep. Grayson, Alan [D-FL-9]
    Rep. Griffin, Tim [R-AR-2]
    Rep. Nadler, Jerrold [D-NY-10]
    Rep. McHenry, Patrick T. [R-NC-10]
    Rep. Harris, Andy [R-MD-1]
    Rep. Lowey, Nita M. [D-NY-17]
    Rep. Sires, Albio [D-NJ-8]
    Rep. Fincher, Stephen Lee [R-TN-8]
    Rep. Schakowsky, Janice D. [D-IL-9]
    Rep. Schwartz, Allyson Y. [D-PA-13]
    Rep. Bachus, Spencer [R-AL-6]
    Rep. Polis, Jared [D-CO-2]
    Rep. Schneider, Bradley S. [D-IL-10]
    Rep. Simpson, Michael K. [R-ID-2]
    Rep. Wilson, Frederica S. [D-FL-24]
    Rep. Brown, Corrine [D-FL-5]

  80. says

    WMDKitty, your statement @88 isn’t much different than someone telling an abused woman that all she has to do is walk away from her abuser.

  81. dravid says

    timgueguen, not even close. This is all about people who won’t negotiate except for ambit claims, and I don’t mean Israel.

  82. says

    Ing — No. You go fuck YOURSELF, because it’s Hamas that is constantly attacking Israel, and then whining about “genocide” when the Israelis rightfully strike back at the terrorists.

    So, yeah, the Palestinians? Need to stop electing and supporting terrorists, and they absolutely need to sit the fuck down, shut the fuck up, and get on board with the peace process if they want any chance at a legitimate government.

    Any individual that voted for Hamas is just as guilty as those who are launching rockets and using children as human shields.

  83. carlie says

    WMDKitty – what assurance, history, track record, faith should the Palestinians have that if they shut up and play nice and be civil that they will get anything from Israel at all? You don’t think they’ve been driven to it by being stepped on and ignored when they do anything short of violence?

  84. carlie says

    as those who are launching rockets and using children as human shields.

    See Zeppelin at 18: “I feel if someone uses someone else as a human shield, AND YOU SHOOT AT THEM ANYWAY, you forfeit the moral right to condemn their use of human shields.”

  85. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    @WMDKitty, #88:

    Gee, maybe the Palestinians should stop supporting terrorist orgs like Hamas, and start actively working towards peace…

    Of course they should renounce the fucking violence. Who says they shouldn’t?

    But this thread’s OP was about Sam Harris’ bullshit pro-Israeli-violence PR. So we’re pulling apart bullshit pro-Israeli-violence PR.

    Also, while it may seem like some individuals don’t get around to critiquing the Palestinians as much as you think fair, the Palestinians carry 100% of the blame on Fox, and well over 90% on all the other major news media in the US. I don’t harp on it because *duh* that’s a message that doesn’t need my help to spread. I don’t have enough time in my day to repeat what Ted Koppel & Wolf Blitzer already told 3.2 million people today.

    @Tim Gueguen:

    WMDKitty, your statement @88 isn’t much different than someone telling an abused woman that all she has to do is walk away from her abuser.

    No. That’s not it at all. What WMDKitty said cannot be fairly categorized that way. I’m surprised you didn’t have a better example to hand.

  86. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    @WMDKitty, #95:

    Any individual that voted for Hamas is just as guilty as those who are launching rockets and using children as human shields.

    In exactly the same sense that my mom deserves life in prison for the utter destruction of Iraq and the murder and torture of unknown numbers of prisoners of war.

  87. says

    WMDKitty – what assurance, history, track record, faith should the Palestinians have that if they shut up and play nice and be civil that they will get anything from Israel at all?

    Plenty, considering the Palestinians refuse to negotiate in good faith, and have a long track record of supporting terrorists. The Israelis have tried, repeatedly to negotiate a two-state solution, with and without the aid of other countries, and every single time, the Palestinians refuse any solution that leaves Israel standing.

    You don’t think they’ve been driven to it by being stepped on and ignored when they do anything short of violence?

    They haven’t tried anything short of terrorism since the beginning. The Palestinians started this war, they don’t get to whine about being victims when they were — and continue to be — the aggressors and instigators.

    I don’t support either side; they can both go jump in the fucking sea and drown. Save the world a lot of trouble…

  88. says

    @101, WMDKitty:

    Plenty, considering the Palestinians refuse to negotiate in good faith, and have a long track record of supporting terrorists. The Israelis have tried, repeatedly to negotiate a two-state solution, with and without the aid of other countries, and every single time, the Palestinians refuse any solution that leaves Israel standing.

    You might almost have a point if all of the following weren’t true:

    1. The Israelis are in the wrong in the first place; when Israel was created, Palestine wasn’t part of what they were supposed to get. They took it by force — you know, one of those things we fight world wars to stop?

    2. The Israelis have been against a two-state solution all along. You’re just lying there. Several U.S. presidents tried to convince the Israelis to accept one, and the Israelis rejected it every time.

    3. Israeli rhetoric may not say, explicitly, that they want to kill all of the Palestinians — although several official and semi-official sources have essentially done so — but in effect that’s what they are doing. This being the case, Palestinian policy becomes largely irrelevant to the moral/ethical equation.

    4. Israel’s officials have admitted that they knew in advance that the missing kids who formed the justification for this whole campaign were not, in fact, taken by Hamas, and yet the campaign is against Hamas. So, regardless of whether you think the Palestinians negotiate in good faith, Israel is in an immediate, definite, active sense, Israel is not acting in good faith. A careful reading of the history of Israel reveals that they have never done so. If you want to call the kettle black, I suggest you look in a mirror first, pot.

    They haven’t tried anything short of terrorism since the beginning. The Palestinians started this war, they don’t get to whine about being victims when they were — and continue to be — the aggressors and instigators.

    “Some small number of Palestinians committed a crime, so all of them can be killed.” Hello, it’s collective punishment! Are you saying that the Israelis are engaging in collective punishment? And you think that that’s a good thing? Because that’s a war crime, period. As in “in the aftermath of World War II there were people who were hung because they did this”. If you’re admitting this, then you are saying that the Israelis are on a par with the Nazis, and you think that that’s okay, and nobody should ever, ever listen to a thing you say on this subject again, because you are, frankly, scum.

  89. atheistblog says

    Seriously ?! Only a moron like Sam Harris could pull something out his arse like this.
    There are atheist, then there are really really stupid atheist. Well, Sam Harris needs no explanation which one he belongs. Learning Neuroscience is not enough to know the frigging history, anthropology and conflicts. Its not just the mere hate makes one racist but abject ignorance as well. Well, it comes back to this, just because if one calls himself atheist it definitely doesn’t make him intelligent.
    He is just as ignorant about world religions and conflicts as religious people are about the reality of Universe.

    Next think I am gonna blame whole America and American people, because 1 anti abortionist guy killed Dr Tiller, so all American Christians agenda is killing Doctors. My logic is better than idiot Sam Harris’.

  90. alkaloid says

    @WMDKitty, #103

    Like I said above, both sides can go jump in the sea for all I care, because neither is behaving in a civilized manner.

    Would you mind terribly coming up with an example of people that were being bombed and strangled into extinction that did meet your high moral standards?

  91. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    I don’t support either side; they can both go jump in the fucking sea and drown. Save the world a lot of trouble…

    Fuck this noise. You’re better than this sentence would indicate, WMDKitty. You have no responsibility to tell me if there’s anything going on other than just particularly feeling the tragedy of it all and hating that feeling – we all get that – but you do have a responsibility to decline to make statements like this.

    “Jump in the fucking sea and drown”… as if that didn’t have horrid connotations for both Israeli Jews and for Palestinians.

    Find somewhere else to put that shit until you’re done with it. Here isn’t the right place.

  92. Nick Gotts says

    It doesn’t matter that Israel has no official policy of destroying the Palestinian identity (although the Israeli right-wing legislate to encourage it). – nomadiq@84

    It’s also a frequent part of the rhetoric of Israel’s apologists generally. Here we have Eugene Arenhaus@33:

    The Palestinian refugees – the unique refugees whose numbers had grown tenfold since they went to exile, instead of dwindling due to assimilation – do not just live in Israel, Gaza and occupied lands. Millions of them live in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt. All these countries speak the same language as them, they are the same ethnicity as them – yet there was resistance to assimilation for over sixty-five years.

    Arenhaus thinks he has the right to tell Palestinians what their identity should be, what their ethnicity is.

    Incidentally, Arenhaus, the Palestinian case of refugee numbers increasing in exile is not, in fact, unique. There was another ethnic group, oddly enough exiled from much the same area, which grew far more than tenfold in exile, despite suffering a great deal of persecution there – although admittedly over a much longer period. I wonder if you can guess which group I’m referring to?

  93. Nick Gotts says

    Both sides are behaving atrociously. – WMDKitty@105

    Yup, Ouda Lafi al-Waj, the Bedouin man killed* near Dimona by a Hamas rocket, was behaving atrociously. As were the four Palestinian children playing on a beach when killed by an Israeli attack. Hell, they might have grown up to vote for Hamas, so in killing them, Israel was just defending itself.

    *As the Times of Israel points out:

    The incident in Dimona highlighted the severe lack of bomb shelters and protective cement structures in Bedouin villages across the Negev. Since many Bedouin communities are unrecognized by the government, many basic services are not provided to them. They are also not protected by Iron Dome, which registers their homes as “open areas” and allows rockets to fall there without attempting interception.

  94. laurentweppe says

    WMDKitty, your statement @88 isn’t much different than someone telling an abused woman that all she has to do is walk away from her abuser.

    Actually it’s much worse: to keep with the abusive couple metaphor, it’s tantamount to telling the abused woman that she deserves all the bruises, scars and broken bones she got after her misguided attempt at scratching his face

    ***

    what assurance, history, track record, faith should the Palestinians have that if they shut up and play nice and be civil that they will get anything from Israel at all?

    Oh but there is assurance, history and track record: Abbas gave the israeli authorities everything they asked, and he was rewarded with more settlements and more violent depredations from the “price tag” thugs.

  95. pyrion says

    Just a thought experiment:

    Mexico suddenly has a revolution, leading to an absolutely fundamentalist government. From now on every few hours some rockets are fired to american heathen territory, just to show them. Tunnels are being built to attack inside the US. What would the US do? I know that the situation around israel is more complicated, this is just a thought experiment. I honestly don’t think that the US would be more restrained than the israelis, not judging if that is right or not.

  96. dereksmear says

    I’m sick of all these people pointing out all the facts and data about what Israel is doing at the moment. Examing what actually is happening is unscientific and pointeless. What we should be doing is drawing up thought experiments and fictive hypotheticals like Sam. Here’s another example of Sam’s brilliance as he defends the US in the Iraq War (which he didn’t support of course)

    “If the situation had been reversed, what are the chances that the Iraqi Republican Guard, attempting to execute a regime change on the Potomac, would have taken the same degree of care to minimize civilian casualties?” Plainly then Bush was noble in intent and foiled in his mission only by the superhuman evil of Muslims to undermine his just cause. The distinction is between killing intentionally and unintentionally. “But for him (Chomsky), intentions do not seem to matter. Body count is all.”

    Oh yes, the data and reports on the US in Iraq are meaningless when Sam’s basis for moral superiority is put forward. And here’s Sam’s wonderful defence of Clinton

    “Did the Clinton administration intend to bring about the deaths of thousands of Sudanese children? No.”

    And here is a wonderful thought experiment:

    “Do speeding motorists intend to kill pedestrians? No. Does that get them off the hook for the predictable outcome of their disregard for human life?”

    Wow. Deep.

  97. says

    WMDKitty,

    You seem to think the Israeli’s* do not support terrorist organisations, like their government.

    *Across the board generalisations are of course never true.

  98. laurentweppe says

    I know that the situation around israel is more complicated, this is just a thought experiment

    Translation: “I know that I’m being disingenuous, but let’s pretend I’m not, ‘Kay?

  99. says

    So I posted a comment over at Jerry Coyne’s blog on this.

    I’m going to reproduce it here. Please be aware that it is in response to what Jerry Coyne wrote, so if there’s anything that seems to be out of the aether and doesn’t respond to anything written here, that’s because it’s in response to Jerry Coyne’s OP:

    ————————————————–
    I’ve been listening to the audiobook of Max Blumenthal’s “Goliath”, partly because of Citizen Radio, which I’ve been listening to for over a year, and Democracy Now, which I’ve been watching for almost a year.

    (Arab citizens of Israel are not segregated or denied voting rights, for instance, as were South African blacks. They have precisely the same rights as non-Arab citizens, except they do not have to serve in the Israeli Army, though they can volunteer to do so.)

    Very many would disagree. They might have it in writing, but in practice? I did a google search for “Does Israel deny Arabs voting rights?”. Some of the hits I got include:

    +927 – Who gets to vote in Israel’s democracy?
    The Jerusalem Fund – Political Discrimination Against Arab Citizens of Israel
    The Guardian – Israeli poll finds majority would be in favour of ‘apartheid’ policies

    Are these biased sources? Sure. Democracy Now and Citizen Radio are, too. But then so is the entirety of US mainstream media. Even CNN is more pro-Israel than a lot of people give them credit for, and I can prove it. Compare CNN’s coverage of the conflict to Democracy Now’s coverage. If you still think CNN is anti-Israel, there’s no hope for you.

    I guess I should probably note my bias, then. My family is heavily Jewish. My dad is a Conservative Jewish Hazan. And despite this post, I am indeed, at least for now, pro-Israel. I went on Birthright in 2012 and, aside from the Yad Vashem day (I hate funerals for the same reason… I like to avoid depressing shit, thanks… my anxiety is bad enough as it is), I had a marvelous time and would like to visit Israel again. In fact, currently, as I post this, my parents are in Israel.

    But see… when I hear about crap like this and this and this… and oh hey! Did you know that Hamas actually had nothing whatsoever to do with the kidnapping and death of those three Jewish teens, and Israeli police knew this from the beginning? And since that incident is part of the justification for this current attack on Gaza, that’s looking pretty terrible…

    On top of that, Harris brings up the human shields thing… a thing which may actually be a myth.

    And then there’s this, at The Nation:
    Five Israeli Talking Points on Gaza—Debunked

    Again… yeah… okay… BUT THOSE ARE BIASED SOURCES! THEY’RE JUST ANTI-SEMITES AND SELF-HATING JEWS!

    Sure. That’s great. And everyone who’s completely pro-Israel are just Islamophobic and self-hating Muslims!

    See? Two can play at that game.

    I’m at a point where I have no fucking clue what I think about all this any more. Because actually, you’re right. Hamas has no interest in peace with Israel. Hamas is anti-Jewish to their core. They want nothing less than to fulfill Hitler’s dreams. They want to wipe Judaism off the face of the earth. Further, Islam itself isn’t so hot on Jews, either. Mohammed (or however you spell it) was notoriously anti-Jewish, and he made sure it was in his Quran and Hadiths.

    But with Hamas, there are those who would argue that Hamas wouldn’t even have any power if not for Israel’s treatment of Gaza and the blockade in the first place. I believe it was one of the founding Zionists who said that anti-semitism (sic: anti-Jewish bigotry… technically, Arabs are Semites, as well) would be the Zionist’s best friend.

    I absolutely blame the US for anti-US sentiment the world over. We have never had any right to play world police, especially since we’re fucking terrible at it. Perhaps the US’s best talent is creating anti-US radicals around the world. I’m starting to wonder if Israel’s picking that up from us.
    ————————————————–

    Since I’m a bit of a coward, I’m not comfortable with being the only dissenting voice on things, so if anyone wants to back me up, flesh out my points or whatevs over there, feel free.

    Oh… and I keep getting a “Sorry… this comment could not be posted” message when I try to post now. Must be a glitch…

  100. dianne says

    Any individual that voted for Hamas is just as guilty as those who are launching rockets and using children as human shields.

    Are you sure you want to go there? Because if everyone who voted for Hamas is as guilty as those launching rockets then surely every person who voted for Obama is as guilty as he is of continuing to use torture, using drones to assassinate random individuals, sending guns to Mexico and Central America, abusing children trying to come over the border to escape the consequences of US policy in Central America, etc. In short, if you follow your argument out then surely the 9/11 terrorists were right and the WTC was a legitimate target. Almost certainly at least some people in it voted for Bush, some probably donated to his campaign.

  101. dianne says

    In terms of how this mess actually could be resolved…I know the analogy isn’t perfect and maybe there’s a fatal flaw in it, but the situation seems a little bit like Northern Ireland. As I understand it, NI is no longer a war zone largely because the British went out of their way to convince the North Irish, including active terrorists, that they (the British) were human too and that their differences could be resolved some other way than random bombings. Alternately, South Africa, which at least partly aborted its potential race war by simply saying that there was no point in trying to punish the guilty when too many people were guilty and went for the truth and reconciliation committees rather than war crimes trials. Is either model useful here? Maybe Israel could stop allowing and encouraging settlers into Gaza and start trying to convince the young people that everyone involved in the conflict is human and can be negotiated with? I don’t know. Maybe there’s some fatal flaw in this idea. I can’t believe that it hasn’t been tried–and it clearly hasn’t worked yet. I’m certainly vastly oversimplifying. But the argument about who uses human shields more often doesn’t seem to be getting anywhere.

    The other problem with my suggestion is that I’m not Israeli or Palestinian. And this won’t be solved until people in Israel and Palestine get tired enough of being manipulated by their politicians to find another way. No one outside can solve this problem for them. We can only make things worse.

  102. alkaloid says

    @dianne, #118

    The other problem with my suggestion is that I’m not Israeli or Palestinian. And this won’t be solved until people in Israel and Palestine get tired enough of being manipulated by their politicians to find another way. No one outside can solve this problem for them. We can only make things worse.

    Several ways in which the United States makes this much worse are through giving Israel billions of dollars of military aid per year, providing diplomatic cover for the state of Israel in the United Nations, and providing approval for its governmental officials regardless of what they do whenever they come to the United States.

  103. says

    We now look at the French colonization of Vietnam, the displacement of people, and repression as being a wrong thing the French gov’t did. Colonialism is bad. And the vietnamese people organized an insurgency and drove the French out, and the Americans intervened (to stop the spread of a liberal ideology) and killed a fucketonne of the natives, who organized an insugency and drove the Americans out. There was great loss of life afterward sorting out the divisions established during the attempted colonization. America came out with heaping mountains of shame for its genocidal “tit for tat” anti-civilian retaliation against the insurgents.

    What was it Santayana said about history? Oh, yeah.

    Now a European colony is established, people displaced, an insugency formed, retaliatory repression, containment, and ethnic cleansing attempted.

    What was it Santayana said? Y’know the voices that argue for further devastating the villages, in order to drive out the vietcong… They’re talking the same shit. We’re on the wrong side of history again. How did our leaders manage to not learn a fucking thing?

  104. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    @NateHavens:

    I have your back.

  105. dereksmear says

    @NateHevens, resident SOOPER-GENIUS… apparently…

    There is little point writing comments critical of Coyne’s positions on his blog. He censors comments and bans people. He’s a complete coward. He pretends that he is banning and censoring abusive posters. This is a lie.

    A comment he deleted recently
    https://twitter.com/ttrwttr/status/494090784795533312/photo/1

    People on this forum describe further Coyne’s dishonesty
    http://www.freethought-forum.com/forum/showthread.php?t=28356

    Some of the comments he actually approves are cringeworthy — anti-Muslim and anti-Arab rants and all kinds of vindications of Israeli brutality.

  106. muletonic says

    Ok people, here’s the thing: everyone loves to trot out the Hamas Charter, to show how bloodthirsty and evil they are, and how they want to kill all Jews. They repeat this uncritically, ignoring the fact that Hamas no longer uses the Charter. The Charter is not “Hamas’ stated goals”. It’s an excuse used by anti-Palestinian parties for why Hamas couldn’t possibly be reasoned with — and therefore, they’re going to have to carry on with the shelling and oppression.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hamas#Current_status_of_the_Charter

  107. anbheal says

    Why would anyone even look to Harris for disquisitions on an issue such as this? Or Hirsan Ali or the late Hitch or William Kristol? We know their take on it already, and it’s devoid of nuance or compassion or any appreciation of realpolitik. It’s like asking David Duke for his opinion on busing or reparations, or the Koch Bros for their thoughts on raising the minimum wage.

    Also, it’s easy for those on the side of the military-industrial overdog to decry “terrorism” and “human shields”. The underdog has no tanks or cruise missiles or battleships of F-16s, so all we’ve left them to fight with is IEDs and highjacked planes and kidnappings, etc……and international public opinion, which is the whole point of human shields — there’s nothing cynical whatsoever about using women and children to protect your soldiers, when the other side has Dome Defense sponsored by Uncle Sam, and all you’ve got is women and children. It’s just warfare, from the MUCH weaker side. If they had F-16s and smart-bombs, I’m sure they’d be happy to use them against us. That we continue to credit OUR version of warfare, the FAR MORE EFFICIENT version when it comes to killing, with any sort of ethical superiority is the height of First World hubris.

  108. ck says

    Marcus Ranum wrote:

    They’re talking the same shit. We’re on the wrong side of history again. How did our leaders manage to not learn a fucking thing?

    Apparently you didn’t notice that some of those same leaders believe that they could’ve won in Vietnam if they hadn’t been sabotaged by those hippie anti-war types back home? If they had their way, you’d still be fighting the war in that country.

  109. atheistblog says

    Please someone send Sam Harris to school and teach him about world history, conflicts, world economics, colonialism, imperialism, world power struggle and all those non science subjects but still very essential subjects to humanity.

    Being atheist doesn’t mean all you have to do is you learn science and know about some claims in scripture and some traditions and compare and mock those ( which you should do if not disparaging but reject those bogus claims ). As a rational person you should also know how conflicts arise, reasons for imperialism and ethnic cleansing. Otherwise you are just a frigging dumb atheist.

    Gosh, once I admired those ” Four Horsemen”, now I totally reject Sam Harris, he is plan stupid idiot, and Hitchens and Dawkins, some part of them are plain vile, ( gosh is that British thing ? Or May be we are deluded about British conservatives and think them as like our Liberals, probably yes, American Liberals are prone to hatred as well, I hope Progressives are not. But to be clear, Hitchens and Dawkins are not as bad as Sam Harris in whole range of Humanity issues, Sam Harris is plain idiot, or Libertarian, you know Libertarian has some good things not because they thought through those issues, but like religious people they just followed their Libertarian ancestors, say Rand Paul and Ron Paul ). And which left us with our Mr Dennett.

    Fingers crossed. I hope Dennett has no skeleton in his closet. I just could not imagine now Dennett aligning with these people now.

  110. dereksmear says

    @Chris Buckley comment 75

    You’re comparing the Israel-Palestine situation to US and Mexico? Jesus wept.

  111. Phillip Hallam-Baker says

    The people of Israel have the right of self-determination. But Jewish citizens don’t have the right to deny citizenship to the Palestinians or to restrict full citizenship rights to Jews.

    The US has loved the Israel project because it matches the US wild west frontier mythology and the Pilgrim fathers narrative so closely. And just as the displacement and genocide of the native American is forgotten or downplayed in those fables, the implications of the creation of Israel for the native population was completely overlooked.

    We don’t have much leverage with Hamas but we have a lot of leverage with Israel.

    But don’t forget that whatever Israel is doing now is trivial compared to what Bush and Cheney visited on Iraqi civilians. Together they managed to slaughter a half million Iraqis. A large part of the problem seems to me to be the idea that the US is going to sweep in and solve the situation as a fair and honest broker. There is a lot of willful blindness on all sides.

    Stop talking about ‘the Jewish state’, Israel is the Jewish AND Palestinian state.

  112. says

    This article is one of the best I have seen in terms of getting to the root causes of this conflict and the need for Israel (my contention) to totally withdraw to its pre-1967 borders. This is the only viable option for peace and it is what International Law requires.

  113. says

    On what planet does “numerically smaller” mean the same thing as “equal”?

    I wasn’t referring to the statement about being numerically smaller as meaning equal. The way the full sentence was phrased seemed to indicate an equal level of horror between one, one thousand and six million deaths; i.e. “they are all horrible.” The way the sentence is worded conveyed to me that an intentional distinction was being made between quality and quantity. I don’t think it’s a valid distinction. One death is horrible. Two deaths is doubly horrible, and so forth.

    The fact that the Trolley Car problem is a thought experiment and the claim that there is “no right answer” underscores my claim, and I think Harris’ claim about proportional criticism. I will concede that on an objective, scientific basis, there is no right answer here, but that philosophically (which is the point of these type of thought experiments), right answers can be rationally justified. All other things equal, I think body count is a reasonable way to comparatively judge atrocities. (Take it to the extreme, if the Trolley Car was to kill 1 person or the rest of humanity, it isn’t so readily obvious that there is “no right answer” with regard to human well being.)

    You can’t defend Israel by saying that all of Israel’s options suck and that the path they’ve chosen is the one that does the least damage. It may be true that Israel does not have any really good options, but its simply not true that the course of action that it has chosen to take is the one that will result in the least damage.


    I agree, and I don’t think Israel is necessarily taking the course that results in least damage. Quantifying precisely what least damage is aside, I think they can do much more and I’ll address that at the end of my response. As to whether this is an “element” Harris thinks can be better addressed, I’m not going to attempt to discern, but I think he is quite clear that Israel is far from the extreme of acting with the most reckless abandon possible given their capabilities. Can the same be said for Hamas? They don’t have particularly effective weapons, but they are using them to the maximum of their capabilities with the intent to kill civilians and given their stated intentions, we don’t have reason to believe that they would show any restraint or remorse if they could annihilate an entire population.

    This is a fascinating point to consider. What is more important, words or actions? Who is actually being murdered in greater numbers?


    Actions, certainly. Words must also be taken into account. Stated intent combined with the maximum effort to carry out those actions (even if that effort pales in comparison to the opponent’s capabilities) must be taken into account. There isn’t reason to believe, given this combination, that Israel can simply call for a ceasefire, incorporate Palestinians into their society, and there will be no continued attempt at civilian massacres.

    Additionally, what you are referring to here is the consequences of actions, not the actions themselves. There is no denying Palestinians are dying in greater numbers. This is the result of Israel’s action; namely, firing missiles into civilian areas with a stated primary purpose of rendering Hamas’s missile system useless. Hamas’s stated intent is to kill all the Jewish people in Israel. Their action to accomplish this is to fire rockets into civilian areas; the fact that they are failing miserably at accomplishing their goal does not diminish their culpability nor the maliciousness associated with their actions. Let’s look at a different thought experiment: A psychopath barges into a crowded theater, unloads 50 rounds in an indiscriminate manner, and is subdued. 40 people die. Another psychopath, with less ability to handle his gun, and less luck with hitting any targets, also indiscriminately fires 50 shots into a theater, but they all miss and no one dies. I would argue they are both equally accountable and both actions are equally atrocious. The death count in the first scenario makes it much more tragic, but does not make the first shooter more accountable, nor more inherently evil. They are both equally evil.

    Now, to clarify my position on Israel’s actions, I think they should cease firing rockets into civilian areas. Perhaps a ground invasion where they could have soldiers actively moving innocent citizens out of harm’s way would be an answer. There is no doubt this would risk soldiers and likely result in far more military deaths on Israel’s side, but if they can eliminate civilian casualties, this is a worthwhile risk. Israel cannot be viewed as having clean hands in this; they deserve criticism. But there can be no assumption that they can reduce the strength of their military and live peacefully with a group whose stated intent is to annihilate an entire population. If Hamas is either removed from power, or revokes their charter, that could be a game changer. Meanwhile, Israel must show that they are being genuine with their claims they are attempting to spare citizens and work with allies to determine what course of action will greatly reduce, and ideally stop Palestinian citizens from being killed.

  114. says

    Chris Buckley #131

    Hamas’s stated intent is to kill all the Jewish people in Israel.

    a group whose stated intent is to annihilate an entire population.

    You might want to revisit this. As muletonic pointed out @comment #125, Hamas’s policy has changed since the charter was drawn up.

    Perhaps a ground invasion where they could have soldiers actively moving innocent citizens out of harm’s way would be an answer.

    How’s about first getting them to stop shooting civilians

    “Month after month, Israeli forces have wounded and killed unarmed Palestinians who did nothing but cross an invisible, shifting line that Israel has drawn inside Gaza’s perimeter,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “It’s appalling that soldiers have shot men, women, and children apparently for simply crossing a line.”

  115. says

    @132:

    I think Hamas needs to be more transparent about what these “internal reasons” are for not changing the Charter. Perhaps I just am not imaginative enough, but I cannot think of an ethical reason to keep a genocidal policy on the record, even if it “isn’t current.” They should unequivocally revoke the statements there.

    Yes, Israelis should not be shooting civilians. I would not ever dream of trying to defend taking innocent lives if there is no imminent danger to other innocent lives. One horror of all wars is the independent actions of soldiers within a military. If it is Israel’s official policy to shoot innocent people for crossing a line, that is unacceptable. It is also unacceptable if Israel’s policy doesn’t condone this and they fail to address the issue of soldiers operating outside of policy.

    I think the only way out of this is a ceasefire, both sides should honor it and agree to a binding UN resolution. This will undoubtedly lead to some upset people on both sides, but violence is not the answer. We are at a point in human history where a large percentage of the world’s population has moved beyond our primitive urges for violence as a problem solver. There simply is not a rational reason to say that missiles being fired at people (civilian or military) is ever a way to solve an issue. (I don’t mean this to say that use of force as a means of defense against attack is never justified, but it is simple logic that if everyone ceased to kill right now and everyone agreed never to fire an unprovoked shot again, wars would immediately stop). We all know that a major hurdle to accomplishing this are irrational beliefs that this life pales in comparison to supposed bliss in an infinitely longer afterlife and none of this means we can’t criticize one group more than another even when they are both acting inappropriately.

  116. says

    @132: I forgot to add: I don’t know if you read my original post (75) further up the thread, but I think you pointing out that Hamas may be changing it’s intent reinforces my point (and Harris’) that intentions do matter, contrary to what PZ’s post says.

  117. says

    One group consists of dispossessed people herded into what amounts to the worlds largest prison. The other group hold the keys to that prison and have complete control over the (inadequate) supplies of necessities allowed in.

    I’m pretty sure I can criticise one more than the other.

  118. dereksmear says

    For all those trotting out this nonsense about Israel’s ‘intent’ and moral superiority, Howard Zinn, who unlike cowards like Sam Harris actually fought in a war, rightly oberves:

    “These words are misleading because they assume an action is either ‘deliberate’ or ‘unintentional.’ There is something in between, for which the word is ‘inevitable.’ If you engage in an action, like aerial bombing, in which you cannot possibly distinguish between combatants and civilians (as a former Air Force bombardier, I will attest to that), the deaths of civilians are inevitable, even if not ‘intentional.’ Does that difference exonerate you morally? The terrorism of the suicide bomber and the terrorism of aerial bombardment are indeed morally equivalent. To say otherwise (as either side might) is to give one moral superiority over the other, and thus serve to perpetuate the horrors of our time.”

  119. says

    @dereksmear, I understand the distinction Howard Zinn is making. I’d argue that it is a distinction without a difference. If the “inevitable” is known, then it can rightly be called an intention. Israel’s stated intention is to destroy the Palestinian launch sites. Israel (as does Palestine) knows that these are being placed in areas where attacking them will result in civilian loss of life. Therefore, part of Israel’s intention can justifiably be argued to include killing civilians. In this context, Palestine must also be blamed for having this intent (given the history, they can’t argue that they don’t think firing rockets into Israel won’t result in a return attack.)

    I don’t think there is ever anything that can be considered objectively good about innocent people being killed; whether this happening as a result of another justified action is a different argument. I said the other day that the UN needs to step in and broker a solution. From the game theory perspective, neither Israel nor Palestine can trust each other if one of them suggests a ceasefire, and unfortunately in light of today’s events, an outside proposal for a ceasefire doesn’t seem to be working either.

    Now that the UN is involved, I am baffled by the outside proposal for a temporary ceasefire, with the tacit implication that fighting is approved once again in three days. An outside proposal, in the interest of solving this, should involve nothing less than a permanent ceasefire, a call to broker a resolution and take as long as necessary to do it, but there can be no more launching attacks.

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