Re "
The Hag" re "Israel & Palestinian Civilians"

I think we agree on some broad general terms. The vast majority of the people caught up in the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians are innocents. Their suffering is a tragedy. We can judge the Israelis and the Palestinians largely by how they treat civilians. Where we disagree is in the subjective assessment of whether what the Israelis do to the Palestinians is worse than what the Palestinians do to the Israelis, and folks are bound to disagree on subjective judgments.

'There are policies, like settlements, water policies, seizing civilian private property (i.e. homes), enforcing harsh second-class-citizen status, and a number of economic policies which have direct and severe effects on civilians--and I would argue, encourage the Palestinian suicide bombers. Many of these existed before the conflict re-erupted, so they are not part of a policy against Palestinian militants today. This is a kind of violence that does in fact target the civilian population. Perhaps the issue is a difference of belief between you and I in what constitutes "violence."'

You win on that count. While the occupation is the result of a war launched against Israel (and thus a response to militants), the settlements are heinous. The Israelis are taking the Palestinians' land, and they should stop, as the UN has told them to do. Israel should abandon its settlements in the occupied territories immediately (while persecuting the campaign against terrorists without relent).

Does taking land amount to "targeting civilians" the same way blowing up kids at a mall amounts to "targeting civilians"? Maybe to you, but not to me.

'The gestalt (can I use that word?) effect is grinding down the civilians. Stopping ambulances seems to be a device of terror. Missiles, which are not implements of surgery, operate similarly. This tone was set up very early on in the renewed conflict by Israel.'

You might think that these acts are the moral equivalent of going out of one's way to blow up children, but I don't. Ambulances are stopped because they've been known to transport militants and weapons. Missiles are launched because they kill militants, and (because they kill civilians) they're not Israel's favored method of killing militants. Israeli kids in malls, meanwhile, are killed with no hint of legitimate military justification, and suicide bombings are the Palestinians' preferred tactic in this conflict.

'I am measuring Israel by its effect on civilians. Your position (I think) measures Israel primarily by its public intention, and is one interpretation of several operations of the military.

I would submit that you really can't trust Israel's announced intention. They have a lot of reasons to put on a face. Look at the history of Israel's leader. Why do you have such (dare I say it) "faith" in the pure intentions of Israel with regard to Palestinian civilians? Because of a few military operations?'

I look at the Israelis' actions and apparent intentions, not their stated intentions. The Israelis kill Palestinian children when they are going after Palestinian militants. The Palestinians, on the other hand, kill Israeli children when they are going after Israeli children. In a conflict where there are hateful, religiously righteous, murdering racists on both sides, the difference of whom one is trying to kill is the difference I care about. That's why once there's a serious Palestinian movement that adopts nonviolent resistance, I'll be solidly on the Palestinians' side. I hope that day comes soon, mostly for the sake of the Palestinians civilians.

'Furthermore, if as you say, the line between noncombatant and combatant is blurred, then clearly, Israel is targeting civilians since distinguishing between the two is impractical (whatever their intention otherwise).'

You're not using the term "targeting" the same way I am. The Israelis try to kill Palestinian militants even though they know they'll accidentally get civilians (because the militants hide among civilians and because the civilians harbor them). If that's "targeting" civilians, than we need a new term to cover Palestinians trying to kill civilians because they know they'll intentionally get civilians. It's not the same thing, so it's not productive to use the same term for both actions. It's the distinction between those ways that civilians get killed that matters to me, not whether one could use the term "targeting" for what the Israelis are doing.

'Nor do I think it is fair to support Israel and write off the majority of Palestinians for the acts of relatively few individuals. Supporting Israel ignores the vast majority of people who are innocent here.'

Supporting Israel no more ignores innocent Palestinians than supporting the Palestinians ignores innocent Israelis.

August 2002

G's response to "The Hag"

"The Hag"

other responses to "Israeli Civilians"