The Goldstone Report and Israeli criminality– what the Israeli left (and the US left) refuses to get its head around

Israel/Palestine
on 61 Comments

In its issue of May 26, the New York Review of Books, one of the few major US media outlets for articles seriously critical of Israel, published an article by David Shulman, “Goldstone and Gaza: What’s Still True.” Shulman is a professor of Humanities at Hebrew University, and has long been a critic of Israeli policies towards the Palestinians, often writing for the New York Review, Harper’s, and other leading media.  In some important ways, the Shulman article is disappointing and puzzling. To be sure, Shulman is highly critical of Israel’s three-week attack on Gaza (“Operation Cast Lead”) in 2008-09, as well as the overall Israeli occupation of Gaza and the West Bank and the cruelties that accompany it, and he praises the Goldstone Report for the “unflinching gaze it directs at the occupation and the link it meticulously establishes between it and the Gaza war.” On the other hand, his criticism does not go nearly far enough, and three of his important arguments are misleading, problematic, or just plain wrong.

After the Shulman article was published I wrote a letter of criticism to the NY Review. Because I wanted to wait to see if the letter would be accepted, I have waited a month to publish my assessment here. It is now clear that my letter will not be published. However, in response to my query, Robert Silvers, the editor of the Review, confirmed to me that he sent my letter, along with others, to Shulman; in the June 23 issue, just out, Silvers prints a letter from Shulman, in which, “for the record and in the interests of precision,” in effect he responds to my criticisms, and perhaps of others.

There are three serious problems in Shulman’s article, and they are not remedied in his follow-up letter. First, Shulman wrote that “Goldstone’s revised statement rectifies the egregious failure of the Goldstone report to clearly condemn Hamas for its crimes.” That is wrong: the Goldstone report explicitly rejected Hamas’s argument that its rocket and mortar attacks in southern Israel were a legitimate response to the Israeli occupation and numerous military attacks on Gaza, and concluded that the attacks were “violations of international law” that were deliberately designed “to spread terror amongst the Israeli civilian population.” Consequently, the report concluded, the Hamas attacks “constitute[d] war crimes and may amount to crimes against humanity.” In that light (as I wrote in my letter to the NYR) what exactly was the report’s “egregious failure?”

In his June 23 letter, Shulman now writes this:

I’d like to make it clear that the Goldstone report…did note that the missile attacks by Hamas and related groups on Israeli cities prior to the Israeli operation “would constitute war crimes and may amount to crimes against humanity.” This statement, oddly hedged and couched in the subjunctive, is dwarfed by the overwhelming focus of the Goldstone report on Israel’s actions before and during the campaign….Goldstone’s reconsideration of his position…seems aimed, in part, at redressing this imbalance.

This “clarification,” however, does not strengthen Shulman’s argument; if anything, it compounds his errors.

To begin, Shulman fails to notice that the Report also used carefully hedged language in its conclusions about Israeli war crimes: “some of the actions of the Government of Israel might justify a competent court finding that crimes against humanity have been committed.” More importantly, of course the Goldstone Report focused more heavily on Israeli war crimes than those of Hamas: that did not reflect any “imbalance” in the thinking of the Commission, for there were many more possible Israeli war crimes to be investigated than those of Hamas, and they needed to be analyzed in great detail for the strong conclusions of the Report to be credible. Furthermore, it is obvious that the Goldstone commissioners considered it to be relevant that it was Israel that was the occupier and the aggressor and that the Gazan people—who chose Hamas to represent them in democratic elections–were the occupied and the victims. Finally, the consequences of the Israeli attacks on the Palestinian civilians were far worse than those of the Hamas attacks on Israeli civilians–which consisted primarily of rocket and mortar attacks that rarely hit their targets and killed only a few Israelis. By contrast, the Israelis directly killed hundreds of Palestinian civilians and somewhat less directly, but no less criminally, were responsible for the death and suffering of thousands of others.

The second major problem in the Shulman article is that his statement that Hamas and its allies attacked Israel “before the war” is quite misleading, for it clearly implies that Hamas, not Israel, must bear the responsibility for the escalating hostilities that culminated in Cast Lead. However, even after Israel withdrew its settlements from Gaza in 2005, it not only continued its devastating economic siege but launched a number of highly destructive military attacks against Gaza, in the course of which it killed over 1200 people, up to half of them civilians—even before Cast Lead. Of course, Israel claimed its actions were “retaliations” for Hamas attacks—which, to repeat, killed very few Israelis—but Hamas made the same claim, and more persuasively.

Moreover, in the two years preceding Cast Lead, Israel violated several ceasefires that had been negotiated with, or unilaterally proclaimed by, Hamas; it continued its “targeted assassinations” of Hamas leaders and other militants; and it steadily tightened the economic siege that was explicitly calibrated to cause great civilian suffering, though short of outright starvation. Yet, in his article Shulman essentially ignores these facts, or apparently considers them to be irrelevant.

Evidently Israeli General Shmuel Zakai, the former commander of the IDF’s Gaza division, does not agree. In a 22 December 2010 interview in Haaretz, Zakai bluntly stated that Israel had made a “central error” during the six month truce that preceded Cast Lead, because it failed “to take advantage of the calm to improve rather than markedly worsen the economic plight of the Palestinians.” Zakai goes on to clearly suggest that the continuation of the Israeli siege and its violations of various ceasefires made the resumption of Hamas rockets inevitable: “You cannot just land blows, leave the Palestinians in Gaza in the economic distress they’re in, and expect Hamas will just sit around and do nothing.”

In short, not only did Israel commit war crimes in its attack on Gaza, it was Israel that was primarily responsible for the cycle of violence that preceded Cast Lead. In his June 23 letter, Shulman now concedes that “Israel bears responsibility for breaking the ceasefire at crucial points in the period leading up to the campaign,” but he concludes his letter by reiterating that “there is no possible justification for Hamas’s deliberate targeting of innocent civilians.” Is that persuasive? Yes and no. On the one hand, it is true that Hamas intended to kill many more Israeli civilians and its failure to do so does not lessen the fact that attacking innocents is terrorism and a war crime. On the other hand, in assessing the gravity of the crime of terrorism, results as well intentions do matter, especially when the disproportionalities are so great. Moreover, while all attacks on innocent civilians are evil, some are more so than others. That is, in my moral world—and, I suspect, in that of many others, even when they don’t wish to make it explicit–there are important moral distinctions between the terrorism and war crimes of a powerful state occupying and repressing another people, and those of its stateless and militarily impotent victims.

In short, terrorism is always morally wrong—even so, there are mitigating circumstances in the case of Hamas attacks on innocents but none in the case of the far more destructive Israeli attacks.

Shulman’s most important argument is this: “anyone who knows the Israeli army knows that, for all its faults and failings, it does not have a policy of deliberately attacking innocent civilians.” (emphasis in original) For two reasons, this is a highly problematic contention. First, it ignores the overwhelming evidence that from 1948 through at least 2006, the Israeli army—or, better said, the Israeli government—did have a policy of directly attacking civilians. As I have previously written in great detail, (here and here) it did so in 1947-48 in order to drive out hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from areas claimed by Israel; it did so in the 1950s against Palestinian and even Jordanian villagers, in order to “persuade” them not to support raids on Israeli communities; it did so during the 1956 Israeli-Egyptian war, in which it has been recently revealed that on at least two occasions Israeli forces systematically massacred hundreds of Palestinian refugees in the Gaza Strip; it did so when it shelled and bombed Egyptian towns and cities during the 1970-73 Suez Canal conflict with Egypt, making good on Moshe Dayan’s 1968 blunt warning that in the event of war with Egypt, Israel might attack Egyptian cities in order to “strike terror into the hearts of the Arabs of the cities….[and] break the Arab will to fight;” and it has repeatedly done so in its attacks on Lebanon in 1978, 1982, 1996, and 2006.

2006: Not very long ago. Yet, Shulman appears to have forgotten about the massive Israeli attack on Lebanon and the similar ongoing attacks on Gaza, deliberately designed to force the Lebanese government to end Hezbollah attacks and the Palestinians to end Hamas attacks. No need to take my word that the Israeli actions clearly reflected high policy: In July 2006, Yossi Alpher, a former high Israeli intelligence official and centrist member of the Israeli security establishment, wrote that “Some of the humanitarian suffering in Gaza and Lebanon is a deliberate act on Israel’s part….It is intended to generate mass public pressure on the respective governments to force the Islamic militants to release three IDF soldiers snatched from Israeli territory and end rocket attacks.”

After the invasion, Alpher again denounced “the folly of collectively punishing 1.5 million Gazans for the sins of Hamas…starving masses of Palestinians is a counter-productive strategy.” And less than a year before Cast Lead, Moshe Arens—a high Likud official and well-known hardline rightist, a former ambassador to the United States in the Menachem Begin government, the foreign minister in the Yitzhak Shamir government, and a three-time defense minister in Likud governments since the 1980s—wrote the following: The ‘leverage theory’—which holds that the destruction of enemy infrastructure and attacks on the enemy’s civilian population will produce pressure on decision-makers to cease their attacks against Israeli civilians—did not work in Lebanon, and it certainly does not work in Gaza. Quite the contrary, it only increases the support that the terrorists receive from the civilian population….[Such measures are] counterproductive [and]….impermissible by our moral standards.

Whether or not Cast Lead continued previous Israeli policies of directly attacking civilians is still in dispute. What is not in dispute, however, is the fact that Israel engaged in systematic attacks on civilian infrastructures during its three-week attack. Thus, the third major problem in the Shulman article is that he fails to examine the policy implications of these attacks, his sole mention of the issue being a single throwaway sentence–in parentheses– that the Goldstone report “suggested that Israel deliberately destroyed civilian infrastructures in Gaza on a wide scale.”

The Goldstone report, however, did not “suggest” that this was the case, but devoted 27 pages to highly detailed discussions of Israeli attacks on Gaza’s economic infrastructure. Its conclusion was that Israel had committed “war crimes,” for its attacks reflected “a deliberate and systematic policy…of denying [those targets] for their sustenance to the population of the Gaza Strip… indicat[ing] the intention to inflict collective punishment on the people of the Gaza Strip in violation of international humanitarian law.”

Subsequently, a number of investigations by international and Israeli human rights groups also found that Israel, as a matter of high policy, had deliberately attacked civilian infrastructure, and most agreed that the attacks constituted “war crimes.” In fact, the case is a prima facie one: even aside from the direct killings, from 2005 through Cast Lead, Israel attacked electrical generation plants, power lines, industrial facilities and cement factories, fuel depots, sewage plants, water storage tanks, and various agricultural and food production systems, including farms, orchards, greenhouses, fishing boats, chicken coops and a flour factory—and even some 3500 private homes. In that light, the distinction between attacks on “infrastructures” and those on “people” is essentially meaningless: the consequences of such attacks are that civilians suffer and die, even if it takes a little longer than when they are directly gunned down or bombed.

In his just-published letter, Shulman again ignores that argument (which was included in the letter I sent to the NY Review, and which he received). He is not alone: even B’tselem, the admirable and in other respects courageous Israeli human rights organization, objected to the Goldstone report’s conclusion that Israel engaged in “deliberately disproportionate” and “systematically reckless” attacks on densely populated areas of Gaza, in order to “punish, humiliate and terrorize a civilian population.”

In some ways, the unwillingness or inability of the mainstream Israeli left and its supporters in the U.S. to accept demonstrable facts is even more depressing than the moral obtuseness of the Israeli right: if not from people like David Shulman, or from the liberal U.S. media, where else can Israelis and Americans learn the full truth, acknowledge its implications, and finally confront the long history and depths of Israeli criminality towards the Palestinians?

About Jerome Slater

Jerome Slater is a professor (emeritus) of political science and now a University Research Scholar at the State University of New York at Buffalo. He has taught and written about U.S. foreign policy and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for nearly 50 years, both for professional journals (such as International Security, Security Studies, and Political Science Quarterly) and for many general periodicals. He writes foreign policy columns for the Sunday Viewpoints section of the Buffalo News. And his website it www.jeromeslater.com.

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61 Responses

  1. tombishop
    June 8, 2011, 9:32 pm

    To see what this excellent analysis is talking about, view the recently uploaded video “A story of war” by Media town at:

    link to youtube.com

    Words cannot express what this video shows about the war on Gaza in 2009.

    • Don
      June 8, 2011, 10:18 pm

      Definitely agree with you, Tom, this analysis is excellent.

  2. RoHa
    June 8, 2011, 10:01 pm

    “the US left”

    I have seen no indications that such a thing exists.

  3. Thomson Rutherford
    June 8, 2011, 11:33 pm

    I am deeply impressed by and appreciative of this critical analysis of the Shulman article, by our “comrade” Jerome Slater. I have been critical and a bit dismissive of some of Slater’s previous posts here (it had to do with the Israel lobby, as I recall), and now I’m regretting it. This was a penetrating and persuasive argument Prof. Slater has presented, and I want to thank him for it.

  4. Chaos4700
    June 9, 2011, 12:00 am

    Would this be a good time to point out that Goldstone and the rest of the investigative team weren’t even specifically tasked with investigating Hamas? That was something Goldstone shoehorned in, as a desperate attempt to deflect attention from Israel.

    Hell, do a search on my own comments. I know I’ve been pointing this out ad nauseum at least since the report has been published and I think I may have pointed it out even while it was underway.

    • Donald
      June 9, 2011, 9:23 am

      “That was something Goldstone shoehorned in, as a desperate attempt to deflect attention from Israel.”

      Whatever his personal motives (and on this point I think his motives were good),he did the right thing. Hamas did commit war crimes and those deserved investigation. And the evenhanded approach added credibility to the charges against Israel. Not, of course, that this penetrated the thick skulls of people like Shulman, but for anyone who doesn’t follow the issue closely this was very important.

      • Chaos4700
        June 9, 2011, 6:37 pm

        Fair point — Hamas has some vile stuff to answer for — but that should have been addressed in its own report. Using a report intended to document what the Israeli army did in Gaza as a pretext to direct attention to Hamas is a clear conflict of interest and it actually undercut having a separate report on Hamas activities.

  5. Henry Norr
    June 9, 2011, 12:36 am

    I’ve had my differences with some of Professor Slater’s previous posts, but IMO this one is superb. It’s depressing that even someone like David Shulman, who has written very powerfully about the human reality of the occupation, especially in the South Hebron Hills, still suffers from such an enormous blindspot about Israel’s nature. (Ditto re Jessica Montell and associates at B’Tselem.)

    Slater mentions two of his previous articles about Israel’s history of attacking civilians, but the links attached to “here and here” evidently didn’t come through when Phil or Adam posted the piece. To save everyone else the small bother of going to Slater’s own site to find working versions of these links, they are here and here. In the latter case, you have to scroll down a bit to get the post I’m pretty sure means, the one entitled “The Goldstone Commission Report, Part 2: Did Israel Deliberately Attack Gazan Civilians?” If you don’t want to bother scrolling, go straight here instead.

  6. Shingo
    June 9, 2011, 2:28 am

    An excellent article Jerome,

    And one that demonstrates the blond spot the Israeli peft and PEP’s in the US share suffer from.

    BTW. There is also the quote from Ze’ev Schiff, during his interviwe with Mordecai Gu, another admission that Israel targetted civlians:

    “In South Lebanon we struck the civilian population consciously, because they deserved it…the importance of Gur’s remarks is the admission that the Israeli Army has always struck civilian populations, purposely and consciously…the Army, he said, has never distinguished civilian [from military] targets…[but] purposely attacked civilian targets even when Israeli settlements had not been struck.”
    — Israeli military analyst, Ze’ev Schiff (Haaretz, May 15, 1978).

  7. Shmuel
    June 9, 2011, 3:07 am

    Thank you for this article.

    Shulman’s agreement with two of the three points in Goldstone’s “retraction” (clear condemnation of Hamas, and targeting civilians as a matter of policy) is as odd as the “retraction” itself. Shulman goes a step further, making the sweeping statement that “anyone who knows the Israeli army knows that, for all its faults and failings, it does not have a policy of deliberately targeting innocent civilians. Suggestions to the contrary are simply wrong.” Slater easily refutes this preposterous assertion, but so does Shulman himself, by implication, in the rest of his May 26 article. “Anyone who knows the Israeli army” knows that the theory of “zero risk” formulated at the Kirya easily translates into the actual targeting of civilians by commanders and soldiers in the field – and the muckamucks in Tel Aviv are fully aware of (and fail to punish) such behaviour. Shulman condemns the attack on the police graduation ceremony as, in so many words, the deliberate targeting of civilians. He also characterises Israeli policy in Gaza 2009 as an expression of “the attitude toward Palestinians that has crystallized in the current Israeli leadership (I presume he includes members of the current “moderate” opposition, directly responsible for Cast Lead, in this group – Shmuel) and, I fear, in much of the general public”. What is this attitude, if not a “policy” of viewing all Palestinians as combatants – or, at the very least, strategic “levers” (as Slater points out) – and thus legitimate military targets, as a matter of policy?

    I appreciate most of Shulman’s article but, like Slater, find the illogical and inconsistent straws he grasps at to somehow defend Israel against the Goldstone Report, very depressing.

    • Donald
      June 9, 2011, 7:40 am

      “I appreciate most of Shulman’s article but, like Slater, find the illogical and inconsistent straws he grasps at to somehow defend Israel against the Goldstone Report, very depressing.”

      Very depressing is right. For a fair number of liberal Zionists (though not all), their belief in Zionism functions like a religion and one of the statements in their creed is “Thou shalt not morally equate any Israeli action with Palestinian terrorism.” They are unmovable on this subject. There is some unpleasant psychology at work here.

  8. eGuard
    June 9, 2011, 6:34 am

    Do I understand that David Shulman is some sort of a hero? A bright left-wing thinker within Israel? Let’s note the position of this debate: it is about Israeli left, not more. And Jerome Slater does a good job here destroying his argument.

    More on Shulman. This is what he wrote in the original April 28 article:

    “[A]nyone who knows the Israeli army knows that, for all its faults and failings, it does not have a policy of deliberately targeting innocent civilians. Suggestions to the contrary are simply wrong”.

    Using four specifications (policy, deliberate, targeting, innocent) is the biggest venn-exclusion he can create, which leaves space for only one non-responsible Israeli — the rest is within the venn areas. And still then we are supposed to know that by knowing the IDF (incidentally, why doesn’t he mention the government since it’s about policy?). And I bet even that small remaining point of non-responsibility is up for discussion. So, all in all, this person is representing the thinking part of the Israel left? Exposing this deplorable state, well done, Slater.

  9. Richard Witty
    June 9, 2011, 8:12 am

    Surprisingly,
    I am not as excited by Professor Slater’s analysis.

    I believe that it is unproven that Israel (in contrast to individual Israelis) committed war crimes in Operation Cast Lead.

    It is a certainty in my mind, that some defensive operation was needed to address Palestinian militant aggression on southern Israeli civilians.

    The question of war crimes can only originate in definition of what range of scale of military operation would constitute a justifiable defense on the part of Israel, and then a review of whether specific operations are consistent with that definition.

    The assertion that a scale of operation is excessive is a moral and strategic assertion, NOT a legal one.

    Professor Slater does have credibility to participate in an internal moral/strategic conversation in that he is on record as committed to the preservation of Israel as Israel (though his analysis declaring that in the political context of moral errors renders their responsibility to defend Israeli civilians from foreign originated assault void, puts that commitment into serious question).

    Those that bear the agenda of seeking to remove Israel from the map, do not have the credibility to be listened to in that discussion, among those that do commit to the preservation of existing nation-states.

    The rationale for states remains on the planet, and the responsibility to protect civilians from assault remains. And, the responsibility to use even intense military means to do so remains.

    Is clearing a line of sight a justifiable military objective? (If so, then to clear a line of sight within 800 yards of the border is a justifiable military objective, even if it involves clearing civilian features, even infrastructure.)

    Such is the consequence of a state of war, rather than of reconciliation.

    “We will NEVER accept the state of Israel as Israel” constructs a state of war.

    • Chaos4700
      June 9, 2011, 8:57 am

      I believe that it is unproven that Israel (in contrast to individual Israelis) committed war crimes in Operation Cast Lead.

      And yet you believe the entirety of Hamas is culpable for the rocket attacks originating from independent (or Fatah aligned…) groups, and in response to that, it’s appropriate to punish THE WHOLE POPULATION OF GAZA.

      And you’re perfectly fine with the fact that Israel will make it impossible to prosecute its soldiers? So no one will be punished for slaughtering hundreds of children with the most advanced military hardware on the planet? And you like it that way, huh.

    • eljay
      June 9, 2011, 9:11 am

      >> It is a certainty in my mind, that some defensive operation was needed to address Palestinian militant aggression on southern Israeli civilians.

      Israel is permitted both to offend (to “start it”) and to defend. The Palestinians are forbidden even to defend. How typically and hatefully hypocritical of you.

      >> “We will NEVER accept the state of Israel as Israel” constructs a state of war.

      1. Is “We will NEVER accept the state of Israel as Israel” a direct quote?
      2. Israel’s ON-GOING campaign of aggression, oppression, theft, colonization, destruction and murder, coupled with its refusal to enter into sincere negotiations for a just and mutually beneficial peace ALSO constructs a state of war.

    • James North
      June 9, 2011, 9:14 am

      Richard Witty said, ‘In recent times, Israel’s attack on Gaza and its assault on the Mavi Marmara have posed the greatest threat to my dream castle view of Israel. I avoided discussing the Mavi Marmara by hiding from Mondoweiss during the assault and by ignoring it afterward. With Gaza, I don’t let the facts get in the way, even when they are presented with skill and eloquence by someone like Professor Slater.
      ‘I also make this astonishing statement

      Professor Slater does have credibility to participate in an internal moral/strategic conversation

      ‘What does “internal” mean here? Am I suggesting that only Jews have the right to even discuss Israeli war crimes? That would be a stretch, even for me.
      ‘Then of course, I go to to challenge even Prof. Slater’s “credibility.” In the end, Gaza bothers my conscience. I will seize upon anything to justify the killing of 1400 human beings, including 300 children.’

      • Donald
        June 9, 2011, 9:29 am

        Now now, James, surely you can see that if there is a military objective like clearing lines of sight that this justifies anything one might choose to do. Col. Travers did Richard an inestimable service by mentioning this factor–from now on, whenever someone mentions the immense damage Israel did to civilian infrastructure in Gaza he can mutter “lines of sight, lines of sight” and feel really good about himself and his idol. This is what matters.

        I wonder if there are some lines of sight in Israel that need to be cleared.

        I had to hit the edit key and fix this post. I forgot that in Israel there are real people who live there, not just a bunch of Palestinians. Scratch that whole line of sight business as applied to Israel.

      • LeaNder
        June 9, 2011, 3:44 pm

        ‘What does “internal” mean here?

        that is a Witty-standard, James. As far as he is concerned Mondoweiss should not exist. All these matters should be discussed inside the Jewish community only. At one point he even suggested other jobs for Phil, and warned him the blog will harm his career. But he hasn’t mentioned his core principle for quite some time now.

        Professor Slater does have credibility to participate in an internal moral/strategic conversation

        credibility to participate means:

        a) someone has to be Jewish
        b) he can only address the Jewish community.

        • Citizen
          June 10, 2011, 8:39 am

          Bingo!”

        • Elliot
          June 12, 2011, 10:18 am

          credibility to participate means:

          a) someone has to be Jewish
          b) he can only address the Jewish community.

          a) is J Street’s line too.
          b) is inferred from a).

          Israel is the American Jewish community’s only common denominator. According to this view, Israel is the place that is all-Jewish all the time. In the non-Orthodox community, the subject of Israel is the last domain which is entirely Jewish. All-Jewish Israel is the only guarantee for our own ephemeral Jewishness.

          Even as Ben-Ami speaks of values, the liberal Zionist camp is clinging on to the tribal definition of Jewishness. It is desperately holding on to what has become in recent years anachronism: the all-Jewish nuclear family.

    • Bumblebye
      June 9, 2011, 9:33 am

      RW
      I guess we need to revise the three wise monkeys for Richard.
      Cover your eyes.
      Cover your ears
      & Hold your nose.
      See no evil, hear no evil, whitewash everything.

      • Richard Witty
        June 9, 2011, 9:59 am

        Again,
        Rather than address my ponts, you name-call.

        Slater even does not address the legal questions of what are legally admissable ranges of military responses to assaults on civilians.

        This has shifted to legal, not to polemic or even moral opinion.

        So, the questions need to be addressed, not just asserted.

        • Donald
          June 9, 2011, 10:34 am

          What about the legal question of what constitutes self-defense against occupation and an illegal blockade? What sort of violence is allowed Palestinians?

          For the sake of reaching common accord, I’d suggest that this is what we do. Pretend that Hamas has the same weapons as the IDF. Clearly
          the Palestinians have far more legitimate reason to use violence than Israel does. So let’s just agree that dropping white phosphorus on urban areas is fine and destroying thousands of homes is fine, because one needs lines of sight, and let’s ignore Israeli statements about punishing the civilian population (clearly they only meant “Let’s clear lines of sight”) and just jump right to the point. Hamas should be allowed to do to Israel just what Israel did to Gaza. Except, of course, on a larger scale, because the provocation is far greater.

          I’m really tired of pointing out your hypocrisy, Richard, and of trying to get you to see that mass destruction and pointless killing are wrong. So if you can’t beat them, join them. You win, Richard. From now on, I suggest that anyone arguing with you embrace your principles and recommend they be used against Israel.

        • Richard Witty
          June 9, 2011, 11:10 am

          Your back to ranting rather than addressing.

          It is a DIFFERENT statement to say that clearing a line of sight in an area of affirmed war may be legal, than it is to say that it is moral or achieves peace.

          The legal question is what is asserted. I have doubts.

          I stated a few weeks ago, that I cannot conceive of any modern just use of white phosphorous. There might be, but I don’t know of any.

          After the seeing the forum presented, I was left with more doubts than confidence in the thesis of “Israeli war crimes”.

          I was left with the feeling of anguish (I share, even as I don’t have a TV and didn’t see the same things that many saw), confusion, anger at the rationalization of Israeli PR.

          But, I disciplined myself to not extend that to a determination of guilt until I heard facts, fully.

          It was surprising to see intelligent proponents acknowledge that while watching TV, they determined guilt of war crimes already.

          Its not clear to me that the purpose of Cast Lead was to punish the population. I know that appalls you to hear that, but I don’t yet see it.

          I see other possible plausible explanations, which are just ignored as inconvenient for the thesis of war crimes.

        • Woody Tanaka
          June 9, 2011, 11:49 am

          “Again,”
          “Rather than address my ponts, you name-call.”

          Because, at a certain point, it is the only rational response to the insanity in your posts. (Although James North’s summaries are fantastic.)

        • James North
          June 9, 2011, 11:56 am

          Richard Witty said, ‘I hope noone (sic) notices that I still won’t use terms like “murder” or “mass murder,” to describe any Israeli behavior, although I’m quick to apply them to Palestinians. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever even condemned Dr. Baruch Goldstein here, although his cold-blooded killing of 29 Palestinians while they prayed actually triggered the first retaliatory suicide bombings.
          ‘I don’t like to think about Dr. Goldstein at all. I prefer to sound off about lines of sight — completely misinterpreting Col. Travers’s point in the process — as though I were a military expert. That way, I can hide from my conscience.’

        • Richard Witty
          June 9, 2011, 11:58 am

          Baruch Goldstein’s actions were mass murder.

        • Donald
          June 9, 2011, 12:02 pm

          “Your back to ranting rather than addressing.”

          Well, yes, if I apply your principles to Israel it is going to sound like ranting. That’s the point. Only a moral idiot would look at massive destruction and the use of heavy weaponry in urban areas and start looking desperately for legal loopholes. There are Palestinian proponents who justify Hamas rocket fire and also Hezbollah rocket fire and personally, like Jerome Slater, I think they have a better case than you, but it still fails. You don’t seem to think it requires that much thought to condemn indiscriminate rocket fire. You’re right. It also doesn’t take much to listen to what Israeli officials have said and to notice how Israel has behaved since 1948 to realize that they commit war crimes against Palestinians as a matter of standard operating procedure.

          But you won’t be convinced because you don’t want to “grovel” as you once put it, and admit that Israel does things every bit as bad if not worse as the atrocities committed by Hamas. So I’m adopting your view for the sake of communication. For purposes of discussing things with you, I strongly advise Palestinians to acquire heavy weaponry and employ exactly the same tactics within Israel that you are willing to justify against Palestinians. I think they will find it does not tie their hands to any noticeable degree and they should be able to clear a line of sight from Sderot to Tel Aviv and all the way up to Lebanon. If it’s a state of war, then Israel inflicts far more harm on Palestinians and therefore supplies far more provocation than inaccurate rockets shot in the general direction of Sderot. Some on the pro-Palestinian side claim that occupation can be legitimately opposed “by any means necessary”. I don’t agree with that, but if I adopt the Witty principles I guess I have to.

          “But, I disciplined myself to not extend that to a determination of guilt until I heard facts, fully.”

          That was unintentionally hilarious. But I will adopt your pov on this too. For the sake of communication, I can no longer condemn any act committed by any Palestinian group, no matter how heinous or disgusting, until I hear the facts fully. Since that will never happen, well, I guess I stand side-by-side with you Richard in not condemning any vicious act by either side. Oh, wait….

          Anyway, Richard, you’re a moral fraud but that wouldn’t matter much except it is annoying to read your apologetics all the time. The serious side to all this is that the moral rot and hypocrisy that is reflected in your comments is mainstream pseudo-liberal opinion in the US. Obama, the supposedly pro-Palestinian President, is completely in your corner. Take comfort in that Richard. I suppose the Palestinians realize by now the utter contempt that you and he and most liberal American politicians have for them.

        • Donald
          June 9, 2011, 12:14 pm

          “Baruch Goldstein’s actions were mass murder.”

          But that’s just you with the bad apple defense, in this case a rightwing fanatic. Those are your preferred scapegoats. It’s the Israeli government, the decisionmakers, who are innocent of war crimes in your view. You are identical to those Americans who brushed off the torture scandal as the actions of a few bad apples. And when we talk about 1948, you’re okay with condemning Irgun, but Haganah forces also committed massacres.

        • Richard Witty
          June 9, 2011, 12:20 pm

          Donald,
          I think my points stand.

          I don’t yet see that Israel committed war crimes even in using heavy weaponry where civilians live.

          I believe that the question remains as to the admissable scale of war relative to the actual and historical circumstances.

          From Israel’s perspective, Hamas’ history of shelling civilians, independantly of deterrence or even specific retaliation (ONLY an eye for an eye), defined an environment of foreign assault on Israeli civilians, a state of confirmed war.

          If Hamas had not declared that they were prepared for a minor Israeli land sweep to search for weapons and would ‘wipe the Gazan streets with blood’ (I use the single quote to indicate that the gist was state repeatedly, but I can’t find a direct quote), then a much more moderate response to Hamas aggression would have been appropriate.

          But, the reality was that Hamas did declare that Israel would not successfully conduct a street sweep, and that only a larger scale operation would successfully end the rocket firing.

          Such is the reality of dealing with a rationalizing violent resistance movement, that does not consider the other in the slightest in their strategy and operations, let alone international law.

          Its a grave dilemma that Israel has to face. Hamas doesn’t in its resistance. You don’t in your condemnation.

          I respect that Israel tries to to any material extent, and I genuinely believe that it does try to a material extent, not a perfect extent.

          That is the reason that I declare that I am not convinced that Israel committed war crimes, that it is likely that individual Israelis did in circumstances.

          Again, I have doubts about your assertions. Where the Goldstone Report states ‘there is no other plausible explanation’, I discern a potentially plausible explanation.

        • Donald
          June 9, 2011, 12:41 pm

          Richard, I agree that Palestinians face a grave dilemma. They are under brutal occupation and their civilians are killed by Israelis in large numbers, far larger than the number of Israelis killed by Palestinians. The Palestinians have the right to defend themselves against aggression and it only seems fair that if Israeli methods in Gaza are legitimate that Palestinians use them as well. After all, they have much greater provocation.

          There are many dilemmas here-how many lines of sight need to be cleared in Israel? How draconian should the blockade be? Who should be in charge of determining what is or is not allowed into Israel? Should Israeli college students just be allowed to study overseas willynilly as though they had human rights? How many houses destroyed, how many chicken farms bulldozed, how many artillery shells and white phosphorus munitions need to be dropped and how many police cadets killed? It’s hard to say, but until Israel stops its aggression against the Palestinians I would need to have all the facts before I could condemn any act of the Palestinian Defense Forces. Fortunately we have one clear bedrock statement upon which we can rest–there is no inherent problem in using heavy weaponry in urban areas. At least that is the case so long as I employ the Witty principles.

          Having adopted them, I find interacting with you to be much easier. It won’t bring peace, but then the Witty principles are only meant to bring peace by rationalizing the killings by Israel and if the principles are good for one side then they are good for both. That should bring peace twice as fast.

          “I think my points stand.”

          Gosh, I never saw that coming.

        • James North
          June 9, 2011, 12:53 pm

          Richard Witty said, ‘My attitude toward James North is contradictory. Here, I say

          If Hamas had not declared that they were prepared for a minor Israeli land sweep to search for weapons and would ‘wipe the Gazan streets with blood’ (I use the single quote to indicate that the gist was state repeatedly, but I can’t find a direct quote),

          ‘I’m thus repeating my pioneering discovery that you can use single quotes to communicate “the gist.” But when James North does exactly that with my own statements, I squawk and whine — even though many Mondoweiss visitors have thanked him for making my admittedly convoluted comments comprehensible.’

        • Bumblebye
          June 9, 2011, 1:25 pm

          RW
          “affirmed” war? I thought wars were declared? So where were the heavily armed other party to Israel’s Gaza Slaughter, inflicting tremedous casualties on the cowardly (scared of kids in t shirts) IDF? Can’t even count IDF deaths on two hands, and most were killed by their own. The whole damn thing was a war crime from start to finish perpetrated as a political diversion.

          Spend half an hour watching this Miko Peled interview, especially when he visits Sderot after a Qassem rocket and sees nursery children with scratches and compares that to the much greater injuries inflicted on many,many more Palestinian children.
          link to mikopeled.wordpress.com

        • LeaNder
          June 9, 2011, 5:48 pm

          the problem is Richard, you seem to have invented that quote. You are the only person spreading it in all it’s mutations:

          If Hamas had not declared that they were prepared for a minor Israeli land sweep to search for weapons and would ‘wipe the Gazan streets with blood’ (I use the single quote to indicate that the gist was state repeatedly, but I can’t find a direct quote), then a much more moderate response to Hamas aggression would have been appropriate.

        • LeaNder
          June 9, 2011, 5:59 pm

          May I thank you, it definitively is fun, James:

          many Mondoweiss visitors have thanked him for making my admittedly convoluted comments comprehensible.’

          But do you know any person that would insist to quote even the gist of something supposedly said, after having been challenged by many here to give your source? I don’t. Even the gist of something must rely on something said in the real world. So can he please finally give us his sources of the statements? Can’t be that difficult?

          Or is he–”But wipe, flood … the street with blood”–too enamored in his own invention to be able to give it up?

        • Chaos4700
          June 9, 2011, 6:39 pm

          I don’t yet see that Israel committed war crimes even in using heavy weaponry where civilians live.

          Remember that you said that if Israel ever attacks Iran and the whole Middle East unites against Israel in open war.

        • Shingo
          June 9, 2011, 8:59 pm

          Slater even does not address the legal questions of what are legally admissable ranges of military responses to assaults on civilians.

          And you don’t even address the legal questions of what are legally admissable responses in the absence of a negotaited cessation to hostilities.

        • Shingo
          June 9, 2011, 9:06 pm

          From Israel’s perspective, Hamas’ history of shelling civilians, independantly of deterrence or even specific retaliation (ONLY an eye for an eye), defined an environment of foreign assault on Israeli civilians, a state of confirmed war.

          Did Hamas ever shell Israel independantly of deterrence or even specific retaliation? Let’s see, when as the last time Hamas./Palesinians were not occupied or under blockade?

          Therefore, there is no history of shelling civilians, independantly of deterrence or even specific retaliation.

          If Hamas had not declared that they were prepared for a minor Israeli land sweep to search for weapons and would ‘wipe the Gazan streets with blood’ (I use the single quote to indicate that the gist was state repeatedly, but I can’t find a direct quote), then a much more moderate response to Hamas aggression would have been appropriate.

          You’ve had 3 years to find that quote Witty, but setting that aside, when did Israel propose conducting a “minor Israeli land sweep to search for weapons”?

          But, the reality was that Hamas did declare that Israel would not successfully conduct a street sweep, and that only a larger scale operation would successfully end the rocket firing.

          When did Hamas declare that “only a larger scale operation would successfully end the rocket firing”?

          Again, I have doubts about your assertions. Where the Goldstone Report states ‘there is no other plausible explanation’, I discern a potentially plausible explanation.

          Based on make believe quotes right?

    • Don
      June 9, 2011, 11:53 am

      Richard, no offense intended, but I would like to ask you to read the two paragraphs below (written by Professor Slater on his blog post of Feb 25th, 2010). (and I admit to an extremely strong bias in favor of Prof Slater’s views; primarily because they are so well reasoned, well documented, and are as powerful as any moral statements I have ever read on this topic).

      ———————————————————————-

      By Professor Jerome Slater
      “Any discussion of Israeli policy and behavior towards the Palestinians should start from, and continually emphasize, the most important point, which often–incredibly–seems to be overlooked: for more than four decades Israel has been occupying, repressing, killing, starving, and in all other ways making Palestinian lives a misery. In those circumstances, it has no claim to be “defending itself” when it responds to desperate acts of Palestinian resistance–even those that really are “terrorist”–not by reconsidering its repression, but by intensifying it.

      In western philosophy, we evaluate the morality of military attacks by first considering whether they have just cause, and it is only when they do that we then need to go on to consider whether the methods of warfare are also just. When there is no just cause, then no methods of warfare are justified, even those that scrupulously adhere to the principles of proportionality, discrimination, and noncombatant immunity. Israel, of course, violated all of those principles, but even if it hadn’t its attack on Gaza would have been criminal. “

      • Richard Witty
        June 9, 2011, 12:01 pm

        “In those circumstances, it has no claim to be “defending itself” when it responds to desperate acts of Palestinian resistance–even those that really are “terrorist”–not by reconsidering its repression, but by intensifying it.”

        That primary element of Slater’s thesis, I disagree with entirely.

        When Israeli civilians are shelled, the IDF has a responsibility to defend Israel’s civilians. It is an unconditional, unequivocal responsibility, independent of good or bad policy judgement of Israeli administration.

        The protection of civilians is a just cause.

        • Donald
          June 9, 2011, 12:20 pm

          “The protection of civilians is a just cause.”

          Agreed. That’s exactly why after decades of repression it’s time the US supplied Palestinians with the heavy weaponry that they need to free themselves from a brutal occupation and defend their lives and liberties from aggression. We should put limitations on how they can use these weapons, just as we do with Israel, and enforce those limits as we do with Israel. So long as the Palestinians only use their weapons to defend themselves and clear lines of sight, only killing hundreds of civilians and destroying massive amounts of civilian infrastructure when the right phrases can be chanted as justification, I don’t see the problem, at least not if I employ the Witty principles.

        • Woody Tanaka
          June 9, 2011, 1:00 pm

          “That primary element of Slater’s thesis, I disagree with entirely.”

          Really, are you that dense??

          What is the first line of Slater’s statement?

          “Any discussion of Israeli policy and behavior towards the Palestinians should start from, and continually emphasize, the most important point, which often–incredibly–seems to be overlooked: for more than four decades Israel has been occupying, repressing, killing, starving, and in all other ways making Palestinian lives a misery.”

          You did EXACTLY what he said is the problem. He laid it out as plainly as any rational person should need to, stating, in essence, if you are going to discuss this subject, you can’t simply jump to the obligations of Israel, you have to start with the actions the Israelis have taken against the Palestinians. You can’t overlook those actions; they must be continuously emphasized.

          And what is it that you did? You simply overlooked the actions of the Israelis against the Palestinians and juimped to the obligations of Israel.

          How the hell can you say that you disagree with Slater’s thesis when you don’t even frigging understand it????

        • eljay
          June 9, 2011, 1:05 pm

          >> RW: The protection of civilians is a just cause.
          >> Donald: … I don’t see the problem, at least not if I employ the Witty principles.

          Seems fair. According to Witty principles – assuming he’s not hypocritically going to deny their application to the Palestinians – the Palestinians will be entitled to “start it” and then to undertake “belligerent reprisals” to defend themselves.

        • Don
          June 9, 2011, 1:49 pm

          “It is an unconditional, unequivocal responsibility…”

          According to who? You are forever criticizing others for not making their arguments in reference to international law. Can you provide such reference?

          Your logic is worthy of a pyromaniac, who admits that, yes, it is a pity that I started the fire, but it is the putting out of the fire that is “an unconditional, unequivocal responsibility”…which unfortunately may involve my having to kill you.

          This is the best you can do, Richard?

        • Bumblebye
          June 9, 2011, 2:35 pm

          RW
          Oh, yes, civilians must be protected, most especially if they are Jewish Settlers – then they can even give the orders to the IOF! And, hey – you can “arrest” somebody by shooting them, you can shoot little boys throwing stones…all because they’re NOT!
          Here are soldiers explaining the “rules of engagement” and consider how moral they are:
          link to gilad.co.uk

          What would be your response had these incidents – or a Gaza style turkey shoot – been occurring in Northern Ireland. perpetrated by the British Army? There were outrages on both sides, but never as consistent or over such an extended span of time. Should Britain have been as ruthless as Israel?

        • Shingo
          June 9, 2011, 7:04 pm

          When Israeli civilians are shelled, the IDF has a responsibility to defend Israel’s civilians.

          That includes sticking to ceasefires or accepting calls for a return to ceasefires.

          Israel were actually negligent on multiple counts.

          1. They did not want the existing ceasefire to be extended, thuse endagering the lives of those civilians.

          2. They did not accept the proopsal by Hamas to return to the ceasefire in December, thuse subjecting the citizens to attacks for a month unecessarily.

        • pjdude
          June 12, 2011, 1:46 pm

          but under the geneva conventions those civilians may not be protected. they are living in territories not legally annexed so must be considered occupied. and since it r civilians into occupied land thye shouldn’t even be there.is a violation of the conventions to ransfe

    • Shingo
      June 9, 2011, 7:01 pm

      Professor Slater does have credibility to participate in an internal moral/strategic conversation in that he is on record as committed to the preservation of Israel as Israel

      Right, so Witty (who’s credibility went down the toilet years ago) has decided that Slater has no cerdibility becasue he cares about Israel.

      Yeah, makes perfect sense.

      Those that bear the agenda of seeking to remove Israel from the map, do not have the credibility to be listened to in that discussion, among those that do commit to the preservation of existing nation-states.

      In other words, according to Witty, no one has credibility.

      The rationale for states remains on the planet, and the responsibility to protect civilians from assault remains. And, the responsibility to use even intense military means to do so remains.

      As does the responsibility to use every means, including negotiation and accepting ceasefires, which is the first responsibility.

      Such is the consequence of a state of war, rather than of reconciliation.

      Israel rejected reconciliation.

  10. seafoid
    June 9, 2011, 8:38 am

    The New York Review is not “one of the few major US media outlets for articles seriously critical of Israel”.

    I have never seen the Review carry an article by Finkelstein for example. The Review is also PEP. Which is a real pity because it is otherwise a wonderful publication.

  11. stevieb
    June 9, 2011, 9:51 am

    “That is wrong: the Goldstone report explicitly rejected Hamas’s argument that its rocket and mortar attacks in southern Israel were a legitimate response to the Israeli occupation and numerous military attacks on Gaza, and concluded that the attacks were “violations of international law” that were deliberately designed “to spread terror amongst the Israeli civilian population.”

    I’ve probably said this before, but I’ll say it again – I don’t agree with that. I don’t see how the determination is made that such attacks were not a legitimate response to occupation and violent attacks on Palestinians – those very rights that are enshrined in international law. If the Palestinians can’t fight back against and illegal military occupation and the ongoing killing of their people than the law is meaningless…

  12. MHughes976
    June 9, 2011, 12:22 pm

    Professor Slater’s analysis deserves the highest praise, of course.
    A rearguard action against the Goldstone’s ‘great retraction’ is evidently taking place and achieving at least some minor limitation of the damage. Which is very much better than nothing. In this context Shulman deserves some praise too. He does at least draw attention to the massacre of police cadets and their families, which if not disowned must have been in accord with policy, just as Shmuel remarks, even if he will not use the right words for it.

  13. Les
    June 9, 2011, 7:24 pm

    The NYRB’s articles with any criticism of Israel at all, are by good cops in opposition to bad cops like Netanyahu. Because good cops and bad cops work for the same police department on the same case, such analysis really can’t go beyond arguing for a less horrific occupation and ethnic cleansing. Such articles are their authors’ contributions to Israel’s good image, not to be confused with any defense of Palestinians or of their rights.

  14. lobewyper
    June 9, 2011, 9:35 pm

    Jerry Slater at his best–incomparable! Thanks for sharing, Jerry.

  15. dbroncos
    June 9, 2011, 10:25 pm

    Mr. Slater,

    Thanks for your insightful post.

  16. Robert Werdine
    June 10, 2011, 2:57 pm

    Professor Slater,

    Said you:

    “The second major problem in the Shulman article is that his statement that Hamas and its allies attacked Israel “before the war” is quite misleading, for it clearly implies that Hamas, not Israel, must bear the responsibility for the escalating hostilities that culminated in Cast Lead. However, even after Israel withdrew its settlements from Gaza in 2005, it not only continued its devastating economic siege but launched a number of highly destructive military attacks against Gaza, in the course of which it killed over 1200 people, up to half of them civilians—even before Cast Lead. Of course, Israel claimed its actions were “retaliations” for Hamas attacks—which, to repeat, killed very few Israelis—but Hamas made the same claim, and more persuasively.”

    Professor, in 2005, Israel withdrew all of its population, settlements, and military from the Gaza strip. It did so unilaterally and without asking for, or demanding, any concessions in return. In the hope of leaving assets that could be converted by the Gazans into capital that would assist in building up their economy, the Israelis left behind intact greenhouses and other economic assets. The Israelis also withdrew from the Egypt-Gaza border.

    For the first time in centuries, the people of Gaza were free from any occupation. Turks, British, Egyptians, and Israelis had all occupied at one time or another. Now they were free. This freedom, along with the generous array of foreign economic aid open to them, could have greatly assisted the Gazans in building up a civil and economic infrastructure that would, for once, have promoted the welfare of its citizens and allowed them to finally live in peace with its neighbors. In the absence of the Israeli occupation, however, Hamas quickly gangsterized the territory, rounding up “collaborators” for torture, imprisonment, and murder, and spreading a swarm of criminal “protection” rackets enforced by gun-toting thugs sporting keffiyeh head cloth. The financially lucrative greenhouses left by the Israelis were vandalized and their contents stolen.

    After winning the election in 2006, Hamas staged a counter-coup against its Fatah rivals in Gaza in 2007; scores of Fatah members were killed, maimed and mutilated in the most brutal fashion, and scores of others were dropped from rooftops with their hands tied for the benefit of the cameras. Now Hamas were the sole masters of Gaza. With the Israelis now gone, all efforts by Hamas would now be solely focused on the production, positioning, and firing of mortars and rockets into Israel, some several thousand being fired into an area encompassing nearly a million Israeli civilians over the next two and a half years.

    A six month cease-fire established in June 2008 was disrupted on November 4, 2008 when Israeli troops crossed into the Gaza Strip near the town of Deir al-Balah targeting a tunnel that Hamas was planning to use to capture Israeli soldiers positioned on the border fence 250m away. Four Israeli soldiers were injured in the operation, two moderately and two lightly. One Hamas gunman was killed and they launched a volley of mortars at Israel. An Israeli air strike then killed five more Hamas fighters. In response, Hamas launched 35 rockets into southern Israel, one reaching the city of Ashkelon.

    “This was a pinpoint operation intended to prevent an immediate threat,” the Israeli military said in a statement. “There is no intention to disrupt the cease-fire, rather the purpose of the operation was to remove an immediate and dangerous threat posted by the Hamas terror organization.”

    It is, I think, disingenuous to portray Israeli acts of self-defense as a “violation” of the cease-fire, and an act of aggression. The Nov.4 incursion was a necessary and completely justifiable action of self-defense. This tends to blur the the dynamic of the conflict, where every Israeli counter-terrorist action taken in defense of its civilians and soldiers is thus an excuse for another Hamas terrorist attack, thus becoming a “response” to Israeli “aggression.”

    The “violation” of the cease-fire was met by the launching of some 190 rockets and mortars in November, and some 210 between December 1 and December 24, every one of them a war crime. As a reward for this terrorist aggression, the Hamas regime now demanded the following terms for a renewal of the cease-fire, which lapsed on December 18: a complete opening of all border crossings, an opening of the Rafah border with Egypt, and a ban on all IDF activity in Gaza. Hamas was thus now demanding a removal of all the restrictive measures and “IDF activity” that the terrorist actions they had previously committed, and were currently committing, had made absolutely necessary. On December 24 Hamas launched “Operation Oil Stain” to the accompaniment of an 87 rocket volley. On December 25 Prime Minister Olmert said: “I am telling them now, it may be the last minute. I’m telling them stop it. We are stronger.” This was met with an attack of six rocket attacks, and the next day there were 12 more. All efforts to constrain or contain the attacks being ineffective, on December 27 Israel commenced Operation Cast Lead, a three-week sustained military strike on Hamas’s terror infrastructure and rocket launching sites in an effort to thwart future attacks.

    Hamas’ culpability for the Gaza War, is thus beyond serious dispute. Do you really believe that Hamas was prepared to live peacefully at Israel’s side but was forced to fire rockets and mortars into Israel in self defense? Was the necessary, limited, surgical incursion of November 4 such a wrong that only the launching of some 400 rockets and mortars over a two-month period could set right? The truth is that Hamas was shooting at Israel before, during, and after the Gaza withdrawal and is today just as implacably devoted to Israel’s total destruction as it ever was.

    Professor, in Hamas, Israel is faced with a terrorist regime wholly and singly dedicated to its destruction, and one who, for over two decades, wages, and has waged war towards this objective in violation of every known law of warfare. They are not concerned merely with settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, but with Israel’s existence. Period.

    The fact that Hamas won a plurality of the vote (mostly to protest the failures of Fatah) in the 2006 municipal elections does not make them practitioners of democracy. Like every other totalitarian entity in history, they recognize no law but force and fraud and murder to achieve their barely concealed goals, and mock and deride the ethnic, religious, and cultural pluralism of Israel and the West.

    Hamas was founded and exists for one reason: to murder Jews, to destroy Israel, and to establish an Islamic totalitarian regime in all of Palestine with themselves as rulers. Israel would have no cause for quarrel with Hamas if this were not Hamas’ ambition, or if Hamas were a peaceful, lawful entity with peaceful, lawful ambitions. But they are what they are: violent, lawless terrorists, and Israel has every right to defend itself and its people against a self-identified terrorist entity openly seeking its destruction whether they are stateless terrorists or rulers of a sovereign nation. All Hamas suicide bombings as well as rocket and mortar attacks on Israel before, during and after the 2005 Gaza withdrawal were and are indiscriminate acts of terrorism and murder against innocent Israeli civilians in the service of their openly stated objectives.

    Professor, I do not for one moment question the sincerity or the humanity that motivates your opinions on this matter, or your desire to see peace between Israel and the Palestinians, as I do. No one can deny that the Palestinian people are the ones most grievously affected and victimized by Hamas’ brutality, not to mention by the war between Hamas and Israel. But Hamas is not a victim; they are victimizers. They are both oppressors of the people of Gaza, and aggressors against the people of Israel. Just what has Israel done to contribute to these hostilities? Exist? Defend itself? The only way Israel can accommodate Hamas is to no longer exist. Then Hamas will give Israel peace–the peace of the grave, that is.

    The dynamic of the conflict is thus clear: it is Hamas’ war on Israel’s existence. As I said before, Israel would have no cause for quarrel with Hamas, if these were not Hamas’ objectives, openly proclaimed in words, and sanctified by bloody deeds. I ask you, sir: What has Hamas ever done to promote or facilitate peace with Israel?

    Professor, as you surely remember, left-leaning journalists, academics, and anti-war protesters believed the assurances of the North Vietnamese Communists both during and after the war that they would establish democracy and respect human rights. In the event, they did not. I wonder: do you really believe the same thing about Hamas? Do you really believe that Hamas ever has or ever will respect Palestinians’ human rights?

    • eljay
      June 10, 2011, 9:37 pm

      >> Hamas was founded and exists for one reason: to murder Jews, to destroy Israel, and to establish an Islamic totalitarian regime in all of Palestine with themselves as rulers.

      It’s a good thing Israel initially supported the growth of Hamas.

      >> Israel would have no cause for quarrel with Hamas … if Hamas were a peaceful, lawful entity with peaceful, lawful ambitions.

      Palestinians would have no cause for quarrel with Israel if Israel were a peaceful, lawful entity with peaceful, lawful ambitions. And they would have no cause to support Hamas, which would wither into irrelevance.

      Unfortunately, Israel exists to drive Palestinians into the sea (or into the grave), and to destroy the Palestine of old and re-build it as a supremacist “Jewish state”.

  17. Jerome Slater
    June 10, 2011, 3:59 pm

    First, let me express my gratitude for the many words of praise for this posting–they are very much appreciated. On a minor point, I have been wrestling with the problem of “Professor” Slater, which makes me a bit uncomfortable, as my arguments should rest on their merits, not on my title–which in any case is probably no longer accurate–but “Professor Emeritus” is worse. I now have a solution: my supporters should address me as Jerry, but my critics should feel free to address me as Professor.

    Which brings me to Robert Werdine:

    While you write well and your tone is courteous, unfortunately you have wholly adopted the mythology–or the standard Israeli hasbara–about the I-P conflict. I cannot, here, offer a point-by-point refutation of your argument, but–along with many, many others–I have addressed these issues at length elsewhere.

    That said, the short response to your argument is that it is entirely untrue that the Israeli occupation and control of Gaza ended with its withdrawal of its settlements in 2005–in various ways the Israelis continued to control Gaza and repress its people, including not only repeated military attacks but a devastating economic siege that you somehow fail to mention.

    Your argument entirely ignores the obvious central point: for over sixty years, and especially since 1967, the Israelis have made life miserable for the Palestinians, contrary to international law and elementary morality. That some of them have chosen to fight back, unfortunately sometimes by terrorism, is a direct consequence of that state of affairs. As long as that continues, Israel has no right to claim “self-defense.”

    Since you don’t accept that, try this thought experiment: suppose during the Soviet occupation and repression of Eastern Europe that resistance groups, lacking the military capacity to dislodge the Soviets, in despair had set off bombs in Russian cities–surely acts of terrorism. Nonetheless, would the Soviets have had a convincing case that they had no choice but to respond with stepped-up military attacks, economic warfare, and other intensified measures of repression and control, all of which should be considered as legitimate acts of self–defense?

    • Donald
      June 10, 2011, 4:08 pm

      Let me add to the chorus. That was a characteristically superb post.

      Incidentally, have you ever tried submitting an op-ed to the NYT? Given your criticisms of them maybe they wouldn’t feel friendly, but they are always publishing people far to their right.
      Of course that’s their function–supposedly liberal gatekeepers who shut out almost any hint of a position to their left that could be held by an American. They published Abbas a few weeks ago, but I’d be amazed if they ever published you. Still, it might be worth a try. Or if not the NYT, maybe the LA Times.

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