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Israel/Palestine

A Final Solution for Palestinians? Really?

You can’t advocate for genocide and then hope we will all forget about it!

When I read Juan Cole’s essay in Truthdig titled, Are Israelis and Zionists Really Talking About a Final Solution of the Palestinian Problem I was expecting to see the predictable rhetoric accompanying both sides of the Israeli/Palestinian debate. Right in the title of the piece is the broad generalizations that are typical of a piece of propaganda, “Are Israelis and Zionists…” as if what Cole was about to reveal were true for all Israelis and Zionists. This is always a stretch, one we all make when writing on these issues, but one we should all be wary of when reading on the topic.

The column cited by Cole was ran in the Times of Israel yesterday, but was removed for obvious reasons. I was floored by what I read. The author, Yochanan Gordon, clearly advocates genocide. His title is not a question; it is a statement of fact. In this current conflict with Hamas led Gaza, “What other way then is there to deal with an enemy of this nature other than obliterate them completely?” He’s clearly not just referring to Hamas, but rather Gaza’s population in its entirely. According to Gordon “…anyone who lives with rocket launchers installed or terror tunnels burrowed in or around the vicinity of their home cannot be considered an innocent civilian.” In case there is room for doubt, Gordon goes on to say that the normal rules of warfare, by inference those that require protection for civilians, should be suspended. He summarizes his case in the final sentence, “If political leaders and military experts determine that the only way to achieve its goal of sustaining quiet is through genocide is it then permissible to achieve those responsible goals?”

Of course, the reasonable answer to this interrogatory concluding sentence is…um…no. Of course political and military experts, such as those who orchestrated the Final Solution in Germany (and I don’t make references to Nazis recklessly) have absolutely no expertise that legitimizes genocide under any circumstances. As Cole points out, though Hamas may have chartered the destruction of Israel, it is unlikely that all Palestinians feel this way. To be fair, it remains a stretch to suggest that all “Israelis and Zionists” are “talking about a Final Solution.” But this one, Yochanan Gordan, certainly is, and he needs to be called out on it.

Kudos to Juan Cole for preserving this little snippet of human ugliness for public debate. So here is the genesis of this post. When I read Gordon’s column and discovered that it had been taken down I felt that this despicable piece should not be hidden from public scrutiny. Credit should be given to the Times of Israel for taking the offending piece down. According to their explanation, it is their policy to provide an open forum for their bloggers, but in this case, the work was so “damnable and ignorant” that the editorial staff removed it. Laudable, but I believe that such damnable and ignorant work should not simply be flushed down the memory hole regardless of the editorial decisions of the publication. Let’s, in fairness, separate Gordon’s ugly opinions from the editorial mission of the Times of Israel, but let’s not allow his work to disappear. It’s only in the open marketplace of ideas that we can adequately contend with ignorance such as that displayed by Yuchanan Gordon. Toward that end, I accessed the cached link provided and attempted to share the post on my personal Facebook and on my Journal of a Mad Sociologist Facebook group. The link would not post. To be fair, I’m not computer savvy enough to know if this is due to a glitch in my system, though I’ve never had a problem posting links before, an inconsistency between my system and the cached link, or a conscious decision on the part of the host to keep this column from being shared. Regardless, because I fear the loss of this document to public scrutiny, I cut and pasted the article in its entirety below. I’ve added the bold face, italics and underline.

When Genocide is Permissible

By Yochanan Gordon

Published in The Times of Israel, Friday, August 1, 2014

Judging by the numbers of casualties on both sides in this almost one-month old war one would be led to the conclusion that Israel has resorted to disproportionate means in fighting a far less- capable enemy. That is as far as what meets the eye. But, it’s now obvious that the US and the UN are completely out of touch with the nature of this foe and are therefore not qualified to dictate or enforce the rules of this war – because when it comes to terror there is much more than meets the eye.

I wasn’t aware of this, but it seems that the nature of warfare has undergone a major shift over the years. Where wars were usually waged to defeat the opposing side, today it seems – and judging by the number of foul calls it would indicate – that today’s wars are fought to a draw. I mean, whoever heard of a timeout in war? An NBA Basketball game allows six timeouts for each team during the course of a game, but last I checked this is a war! We are at war with an enemy whose charter calls for the annihilation of our people. Nothing, then, can be considered disproportionate when we are fighting for our very right to live.

The sad reality is that Israel gets it, but its hands are being tied by world leaders who over the past six years have insisted they are such good friends with the Jewish state, that they know more regarding its interests than even they do. But there’s going to have to come a time where Israel feels threatened enough where it has no other choice but to defy international warnings – because this is life or death.

Most of the reports coming from Gazan officials and leaders since the start of this operation have been either largely exaggerated or patently false. The truth is, it’s not their fault, falsehood and deceit is part of the very fabric of who they are and that will never change. Still however, despite their propensity to lie, when your enemy tells you that they are bent on your destruction you believe them. Similarly, when Khaled Meshal declares that no physical damage to Gaza will dampen their morale or weaken their resolve – they have to be believed. Our sage Gedalia the son of Achikam was given intelligence that Yishmael Ben Nesanyah was plotting to kill him. However, in his piety or rather naiveté Gedalia dismissed the report as a random act of gossip and paid no attention to it. To this day, the day following Rosh Hashana is commemorated as a fast day in the memory of Gedalia who was killed in cold blood on the second day of Rosh Hashana during the meal. They say the definition of insanity is repeating the same mistakes over and over. History is there to teach us lessons and the lesson here is that when your enemy swears to destroy you – you take him seriously.

Hamas has stated forthrightly that it idealizes death as much as Israel celebrates life. What other way then is there to deal with an enemy of this nature other than obliterate them completely?

News anchors such as those from CNN, BBC and Al-Jazeera have not missed an opportunity to point out the majority of innocent civilians who have lost their lives as a result of this war. But anyone who lives with rocket launchers installed or terror tunnels burrowed in or around the vicinity of their home cannot be considered an innocent civilian. If you’ll counter, that Hamas has been seen abusing civilians who have attempted to leave their homes in response to Israeli warnings to leave – well then, your beginning to come to terms with the nature of this enemy which should automatically cause the rules of standard warfare to be suspended.

Everyone agrees that Israel has the right to defend itself as well as the right to exercise that right. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon has declared it, Obama and Kerry have clearly stated that no one could be expected to sit idle as thousands of rockets rain down on the heads of its citizens, placing them in clear and present danger. It seems then that the only point of contention is regarding the measure of punishment meted out in this situation.

I will conclude with a question for all the humanitarians out there. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu clearly stated at the outset of this incursion that his objective is to restore a sustainable quiet for the citizens of Israel. We have already established that it is the responsibility of every government to ensure the safety and security of its people. If political leaders and military experts determine that the only way to achieve its goal of sustaining quiet is through genocide
is it then permissible to achieve those responsible goals?

 

To be fair, I also wanted to include the Times of Israel’s explanation for removing the post:

Times of Israel Takes Down the Post

The Times of Israel on Friday removed an unacceptable blog post, entitled “When genocide is permissible.”

This blog post, which was described by our Ops & Blogs editor as both damnable and ignorant, blatantly breached The Times of Israel’s editorial guidelines.

We have discontinued the writer’s blog.

The Times of Israel maintains an open blog platform: Once we have accepted bloggers, we allow them to post their own items. This trust has rarely been abused. We are angry and appalled that it was in this case, and will take steps to prevent a recurrence.

We will not countenance blog posts that incite to violence or criminal acts.

Indeed. Whereas I understand and agree with the editorial decision of the Times, removing Gordon’s content does not adequately allow us to contend with his ideas. Gordon is motivated by hate. He is certainly not alone. Hate cannot be covered up by closing our eyes to it. This was true in 1930’s Germany, and it is true now.

It is also fair to include Gordon’s later apology for his piece.

Gordon’s Apology

Well stated final sentence, and thanks for the apology, but Mr. Gordon, you will have to own your words. You cannot claim that you “never intended to call to harm any people” when you clearly defined those people as being by their very nature liars and deceivers and thus justifying their obliteration. This is as much a contradiction as distinguishing Israelis as “celebrating life” while calling for the deaths of 1.4 million people. You cannot advocate for genocide and then step back and say, “my bad.”


Hamas is Bad, But…

We shouldn’t have to make a disclaimer every time we want to criticize Israel

In the United States, it is incumbent upon us to make sure to specify that we do not support Hamas somewhere in any essay in which we might be even a little bit critical of Israel. Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Eugene Robinson satisfied this requirement in the third paragraph of his piece, Losing the High Ground. He said, “I support Israel. I abhor Hamas. But unleashing such devastating firepower on a tiny, densely crowded enclave in which civilians are trapped—and thus destined to become casualties—is wrong by any reasonable moral standard.” If targeting civilians is wrong by any reasonable more standard, why did it have to be qualified by saying “I support Israel…?” And if that which is wrong by any reasonable moral standard is not enough to get you to at least question your support, why should Israel give a damn about what you think of its targeting practices?

This, however, is the norm for American discourse on Israel and Palestine. Any statement that does not include a veritable loyalty oath to this foreign government and a retort to its enemies is marked as being anti-Israel (god forbid) or even worse, anti-Semitic. Consequently, nothing of substance can be elaborated about this ongoing conflict. We are condemned to issue our support for Israel despite their criminal behavior. We consigned to show our disdain for Hamas despite it being the democratically elected body in Gaza. In the crosshairs are Palestinians who are suffering at the hands of Israeli policies, and Israeli citizens who become targets of Palestinian retaliation. The interesting thing is that even the Israeli press does not have this standard!

Look, the Israel-Palestine Conflict can only be resolved in two ways. The first way is for one side to wipe out the other. That seems to be the goal for the power establishment on both sides. There’s really nothing anyone can do so long as this is the latent goal of politics in region.

The civilized, rational way to resolve the crisis is for both sides to decide on peace. Before that can happen, they both need to accept some truths that neither side has demonstrated a willingness to embrace. Without apologies to either side, those truths are as follows:

Palestinians (Hamas, Palestinian Authority): You Can’t Right the Wrongs of the Past: You got a shitty deal. Your lands were mandated to Britain, who used them toward their own ends without regard to your sovereignty. Ultimately, you were violently displaced. It sucks. It’s not fair. It’s even a travesty. But it’s done, and there’s really no going back. No amount of martyrdom or rocket attacks is going to make up for the loss, and you are certainly not going to get your traditional lands back any more than will the Sioux, or the Cherokee or the Tatars or any of a myriad of cultures that have been unjustly displaced by more powerful forces. You will most likely have to settle for sovereignty over what lands you have, or some form of cultural pluralism. Regardless, the wrongs of the past must remain in the past. Your indignation might be righteous, but Israel has existed since 1948 and will likely continue to exist. It’s done. Using violence, especially violence against civilians will not right the wrongs of the past and makes it more difficult for those in the international community who would otherwise be sympathetic to embrace your movement. Peaceful resistance and democratic movements are the way you need to go.

Israelis (Israeli political establishment, especially the conservatives): You are the Beneficiaries of Injustice: It sucks, but it’s true. Your nation was founded on the displacement of the indigenous people. Perhaps you have a two thousand year old claim, but who gives a shit. There were people already living on this land before your grandparents arrived. Now most Israelis had nothing to do with this, but as the beneficiaries of this injustice it is incumbent upon you to right it. If there’s going to be a two state solution, then the sovereignty of both states must be sacrosanct. You can’t blockade a region just because you don’t like the election results. You cannot bring settlers into lands that don’t belong to you just because you need elbow room. You can’t build a wall between people and their farms, fields, jobs and water sources and call it “security.” Most importantly, when there is a conflict between your nation and the other, you can’t respond by crushing them with tanks and missiles, especially when you target, and you did target, civilian centers. When three Israeli boys were killed outside of Gaza you responded by firing missiles into the territory. What are the chances that those missiles hit the boys’ actual killers? That’s what diplomacy is for.

Look, I know that when it comes to being a beneficiary of injustice, as an American, I have no room to point my finger. But someone has to say it without apologizing for saying it. My own country I have to say, stay the hell out of it. You can’t arrange peace when you are funding the military establishment of Israel. Your diplomatic efforts would be better served in more fruitful endeavors. Peace cannot be secured in the Israel-Palestine through US diplomatic efforts. The political establishment there is dedicated to destruction, not diplomacy. That does not mean we should profit from this. Our undying alliance with Israel is likely a key reason why its government feels free to pursue such harsh, disproportionate policies. Stop feeding the beast. No more military assistance for either side. Align the international community behind letting these groups figure out their own problems.

Most importantly, the political establishment of both sides rests on its hatred for the other. This has to end. The people of Israel and Palestine will have to choose their representatives based on their willingness to accept the truths elaborated above. Until that time, there is nothing anyone can do but shake our heads and the generations long stupidity of your conflict. Many more will die. Many more will suffer. This death and suffering will instigate further retaliation, which will only lead to more death and suffering, leading to more retaliation. Only you can end this senseless cycle.

As a writer, however, I’m not obliged to support either side of this macabre idiocy. Not being obliged to swear my fealty to Israel or my disdain for Hamas, or vice versa. Not getting caught in the rhetorical traditions requisite to legitimate commentary on this issue I’m free to say, a pox on both of your houses.