Massacres and Propaganda (Israel/Hamas/Gaza)

Gaza City raid kills 18, wounds 48

Apparently, the IDF tried to raid a rocket base in Gaza, were met with resistance from Hamas, and the ensuing battle went badly on the Palestinian side.

Palestinians, both the PA and Hamas, are saying this is yet another in a series of horrible provocations and massacres:

Except - as the BBC article correctly notes - the great majority of the dead Palestinians were not civilians, but Hamas guerillas. Mahmoud Zahar himself is far from an innocent bureacrat. Which would not make that a massacre, except in the “wow, you guys can’t really defend yourselves at all” sense (the only Israeli death was a civilian killed by a sniper sometime later that day). You can’t be both an army and a helpless victim.

It really bothers me that this core lie - and that’s what it is - in Palestinian propaganda isn’t highlighted more. And as long as Hamas continues to be both an army and a political party, repeatedly proclaim that it’s at war with Israel, attack or facilitate attacks on Israeli territory, and refuse to negotiate or recognize negotiations already taken place, Israel has every right - and in fact duty - to kill their members until they cease attacking or come to terms. Because that’s how wars work.

The fact that Hamas (and Islamic Jihad, who until recently have been the ones taking credit for rocketing Israel) are usually spectacularly bad at actually fighting back or targeting their homemade artillery isn’t an excuse to keep playing war. And it doesn’t make them helpless victims.

Hypocrisy irks me. Unchallenged hypocrisy irks me more.

For the first three sentences I thought maybe I’d underestimated you.


Can you show me on the doll that looks vaguely like Kucinich’s wife where the bad Jews touched you?

(Clearly, responding seriously would be overestimating you.)

I’m not sure I’m seeing the hypocrisy. Exaggeration, sure, although I can understand how they might call the result of tanks vs militia and civilians a “massacre” even if the deaths were mostly AK-47 wielding gunmen. If the US had tanks in the 19th century, I’d imagine sending them to deal with troublesome gun-toting Lakota might get described later by some, especially the Lakota, as a massacre.

My problem isn’t the use of the word “massacre” - as I noted, in military terms it was a massacre. But it’s clearly intended more in the sense that Israel just got it in its head to whack some random civilians, rather than the result of a battle - even if between unequal combatants, if you take a potshot with an AK-47 at a tank, you know, it is likely to shoot back.

It’s propaganda, and in this case it’s pretty clear. If Hamas is going to wave guns and brag about how they are “The Reisistance” , well, when you fight a war, people die. That’s kind of what war is. It’s like if America complained because the Iraqis they were fighting actually shot back. Oh, wait.

Remember the Alamo?

I honestly don’t know if Israel’s tactics, in general, are justified or not, but I do agree with you that the spin of this incident given by Hamas is pretty weak.

To take the discussion to a slightly broader field - this is sort of the central military conundrum of the age, isn’t it? What are the boundaries of acceptable behavior when the legitimate armed forces of a nation-state engage with a quasi-political paramilitary group (or quasi-military political group, depending on your point of view)?

The kicker, I’d think, would be at what point does the response turn from police work (no one thinks the US military should be turned loose against street gangs) to a full military response. And those are probably the only 2 realistic options.

It’s pretty difficult, and probably unfair, to expect military forces to fight a ‘limited war’ just because a paramilitary group doesn’t wear fancy uniforms, especially given how good some of those weapons paramilitaries have now are (Hezbollah is better armed than the Lebanese army and successfully hit an Israeli naval vessel with a missile, to take an extreme example).

The problem though is that paramilitary groups by their very nature are deeply embedded in civilian populations, and taking action against them means innocent civilians will die. That’s the strongest argument for restraint. But exercising restraint means that, at some point, members of your own military are more likely to die. That’s not a calculus military commanders like.

The best solution is political - end the conflict. Which seems to be a solution eluding Israel and the Palestinians.

I think the words of our president are appropriate now.

If a bankrobber pulls a hostage in front of him to shield himself, and the hostage gets shot, is it the fault of the robber, the shooter, or the hostage?

In the case of situations like Hamas, its not even that the civilians are hostages, so they can’t make that excuse. The civilians are either a) actively supporting Hamas, b) passively supporting Hamas, or c) afraid of Hamas. Anyone in Gaza who isn’t doing one of those three things has likely already left, because Hamas isn’t too fond of supporters of the PLO or whatever it calls itself these days as it runs the West Bank.

So really, that leaves two possible at fault: the shooter, or the robber. Obviously, the situation in Israel is more complicated than a bank robbery, because the Palestinians believe they have a right to be there. But if they shoot at civilians, after embedding themselves among civilians (if there is such a thing, which is what I meant above) then their own civilians are going to suffer too. I’d lay that at their feet, not Israel’s. Only the insane could believe that such behaviour could ever drive Israel out, so what do they really hope to accomplish?

“The Palestianians are lying hypocrites” isn’t something new, but thanks for telling us I guess.

They don’t dwell too much on what Israel is really doing or saying in straight news stories either.

The only solution is political. Conventional forces and tactics will only buy you time against an enemy that has mastered 4th generation warfare. The punchline is that political solutions to the question at hand invariably result in the destruction of the Jewish state, whether literally right away or in the long run by democratic means. Which means that the Israeli state has the choice of annihilating the Orthodox Jews, wiping out the Palestinians, or continuing to play for small stakes until their chips run out.

The only thing that is going to push them from the third option into altering their calculus to include the gradual degradation of Jewishness is the US altering its position in a serious way. And even then it would probably only be the one thing that could unite the Israeli people apart from Iranian nukes.

So the question isn’t how we travel from reality to magical rainbow land where fundamentally irreconcilable views are satisfied in a just way. It’s how we get to the most tenable version of the status quo. It begins with the absorption of the refugee camps into Arab countries properly, and the US recognizing publicly that quasi-theocracies are not acceptable 21st century primary allies for the United States. They can sit at the same table as the Saudis if they want. Want to see how many angels can dance on the head of that pin?

So we’re left with a fundamentally reactive situation built around Israel and the United States chasing their own tails indefinitely. There’s a reason that the only people capable of discussing the region accurately are novelists.

These kinds of incidents also illustrate how nonsensical the idea of a proper Palestinian state is. A very central part of being a state is the ability to protect your borders, and that’s something they will never be able to do. The current political construction is rather pointless, to me it seems more like disjoint reservates that aren’t even allowed to decide if they can have their own corrupt police force or not. The only minor benefit for anyone is perhaps that it’s easier for Israel to kill foreigners than its own citizens.

I think a big part of the problem can be found by considering the abused Golda Meir quote about there not being any Palestinians. There are Palestians now, but what they are is a people of servants and the homeless. They aren’t wanted anywhere except as cheap labor or political pawns. Even in Israel where they on average have it better than other arabs they’re third class, and in the arab world they’re most likely below that average. They’re essentially a people of losers who desperately needs to win somehow, a peace on Israel’s terms would just be another failure.

I think that the initial Egyptian success in the Yom Kippur war was pretty important in “redeeming” Egypt and allowing it to make peace with Isreal even though they hardly won the war itself. The Palestians need such a victory, hopefully with less casualties on both sides though.

I don’t get it… a two-state solution with Israel inside the borders defined for it by the UN would invariably result in the destruction of Israel? Why? What makes you so certain?

I think it was the fact that Egypt wanted the Sinai Peninsula back. That’s a fairly large chunk of land they lost in '67 and oil had also just been discovered on it as well.

Really? You’re saying that if police walked in on a bank robbery and shot the robbers and some civilians that seemed to be cooperating with them, you’d be ok with that? I don’t think you would. And if it was white police shooting black robbers and civilians, you would especially be angered by, I’d bet.

Using terror for political aims is obviously a bad thing, and the government of a country that is repeatedly suffering terrorist attacks needs to do what it can to stop those attacks, both militarily and politically. However, that doesn’t give them free license to kill whoever is standing near (or give food or shelter to, or even providing weapons for) someone that is intent on causing harm. It isn’t even clear it gives them the right to kill those who are causing harm (it’s only clear that it is something they may have to do because no other solution can be found).

What Israel does to Palestinian targets is no more or less justifiable than our invasion of Iraq, or Vietnam, or Afghanistan, for that matter. Taking pot shots in some sort of quid pro quo game of russian roulette isn’t actually accomplishing anything and hasn’t been for many years. There’s no question that Israeli forces could destroy any Palestinian army or material they wanted. They could also nuke them if they felt like it. That doesn’t mean they should or that anyone should support them in doing so.

The way I see it, there are diplomatic/political options available to Israel that they refuse to explore for no good reason, and while their resorting to terrorist attacks to attempt to force change makes them equally or perhaps more loathesome, the Palestinians do have legitimate issues that should be worked out by a democracy.

So Israel can go ahead and put preserving its Jewishness ahead of preserving peace, but if it does, then it isn’t really better than its neighbors. We can keep asking them to work things out, but I think we can only either embrace the doctrine of spreading democracy to the world, by force if necessary, or embrace the idea of national sovereignty.