Thursday, June 03, 2010

Operation Make The World Hate Us

Leon Wieseltier has a brilliant column up on the Gaza flotilla incident. Seriously -- it might be the best thing I've ever seen him write (and, while I find Wieseltier maddeningly inconsistent sometimes, when he's on, he is on. So to say it is his best work is high praise). I'll try to excerpt, but it's one of those cases where I really have to resist the temptation to copy and paste the whole thing:
Israel does not need enemies: it has itself. Or more precisely: it has its government. The Netanyahu-Barak government has somehow found a way to lose the moral high ground, the all-important war for symbols and meanings, to Hamas. That is quite an accomplishment. Operation Make the World Hate Us, it might have been called.

I leave it to others to make the operational criticisms of the Israeli action, and will say only that even my amateurish understanding of the tactical challenge posed by the interdiction of the boats suffices to suggest that there were other ways to do this. I also will not pretend to a perfect grasp of what happened on board the Mavi Marmara. I have pondered the videos that both sides have released, and concluded that the Israeli soldiers sliding down that rope had no intention of attacking the people on board and that the people on board had no way of being confident of this. I cannot expect Palestinians and their supporters to believe the best about the Israeli army. (This is what Israeli hardliners call “the restoration of deterrence.”) I do not doubt that some of the activists on the ship welcomed a confrontation with Israel, but the Israelis should not have obliged them. In any event, what took place on that deck looks to me like a tragic misunderstanding. Yet there was no reason to think that anything else would have transpired.
It is also the inevitable consequence of Benjamin Netanyahu’s cunning pronouncement last year that the Israel is now endangered by “the Iran threat, the missile threat, and the threat I call the Goldstone threat.” The equivalence was morally misleading, and therefore dangerous. Ideological warfare is not military warfare. I have studied the entirety of the Goldstone Report, and whereas I do not doubt (and wrote in this magazine in the days before Goldstone) that Operation Cast Lead caused the unjustifiable death of non-combatants, I also do not doubt that the Goldstone Report, which was nastily indifferent to Israel’s security predicament and to the ethical challenges of Israeli self-defense, was an instrument in a broad campaign of delegitimation against Israel—and yet the threat of delegitimation is not like the threat of destruction. It is different in kind. A commando operation is not an appropriate response to an idea. “This was no Love Boat,” Netanyahu said yesterday. “It was a hate boat.” He is right, but so what? The threat of delegitimation is not a military problem and it does not have a military solution. And the attempt to give it a military solution has now had the awful consequence of making the threat still greater. The assault on the Mavi Marmara was a stupid gift to the delegitimators.

You do not have to be a general to grasp these distinctions. In fact, judging by Israel’s recent history, it might help not to be one. But the militarization of the Israeli government’s understanding of Israel’s situation—this has been the most sterile period for diplomacy in all of Israel’s history—is not all that led to the debacle at sea. Rules of military engagement that allow soldiers to fire on political activists (I leave aside the question of their humanitarianism for a moment) may signify something still deeper and even more troubling. It is hard not to conclude from this Israeli action, and also from other Israeli actions in recent years, that the Israeli leadership simply does not care any longer about what anybody thinks. It does not seem to care about what even the United States—its only real friend, even in the choppy era of Obama—thinks. This is not defiance, it is despair. The Israeli leadership seems to have given up any expectation of fairness and sympathy from the world. It is behaving as if it believes, in the manner of the most perilous Jewish pessimism, that the whole world hates the Jews, and that is all there is to it. This is the very opposite of the measured and empirical attitude, the search for strategic opportunity, the enlistment of imagination in the service of ideals and interests, that is required for statecraft.

The complication—the one that deprives anybody who acknowledges it of membership in any of the gangs of commentary—is that there is a partial basis in the actually existing world for a degree of Israeli pessimism. There are leaders, states, organizations, and peoples whose hostility to the Jewish state is irrational and absolute and in some cases murderous. Things are said critically about Israel that wildly burst the bounds of thoughtful criticism. The language in which Israel is described by some governments and international organizations is lurid and grotesque and foul. Anti-Semitic tropes—the conspiracy theory about the Jews, most conspicuously—is regularly encountered in otherwise respectable places. The analysis of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that absolves the Palestinians of any significant role in it is widespread. I do not see how any of this can be denied, or shunted aside, or explained entirely in terms of Israeli behavior. But it is emphatically not the whole picture, except for those Israelis and Jews whose political interests and ideological inclinations prefer it to be the whole picture. For there are forces in Israel, and in its government, that have a use for Jewish hopelessness.

Again -- read it all.

(Blogging on my lunch break -- that's right, I'm committed).


N. Friedman said...


What a bunch of overblown nonsense. You must be kidding.

A good friend of mine, a rather prominent historian and full professor of history at a prominent university in Maryland, noted the following to me today in an email (which I now paraphrase): The events here have to be understood in the context of the signaled retreat of the US government. So long as that retreat continues, Israel will be in the cross-hairs no matter what she does or does not do. It is the retreat that is the driving force behind all of this. If the US continues to fail to stand with the Israelis, events will gather steam in support of the delegitimization campaign and, as he notes, many Israelis and others will die as a result. In fact, his view is that the US is creating, unwittingly, the seeds of a very major war.

My friend was a supporter of Obama, having given money to his campaign. However, my friend notes that Obama has harmed the US in ways that will take decades to recover from, if it ever recovers. He blames Obama for the sinking of the S. Korean ship, which he believes is entirely connected to what is now occurring against the Israelis. Why? Because the US has signaled unequivocally to the world that it is in retreat and, in such a world, a retreat is always - without exception - understood by opponents the way that matter understand a vacuum. Hence, his view is that Obama's policy is catastrophic for the US and, he would add, the Israelis and the rest of the world.

I have no serious argument against his view.

In any event, he, better than I, can defend his views. However, he is not a neo-con or a hawk. He is a liberal Democrat. I mention his views because the understanding of the delegitimization campaign as a distinct phenomena misses the point entirely.

The Israelis had no choice but to defend the blockade, one which the US and Egypt supposedly supported. With the Israelis being more and more isolated and having the US not be in a position to do other than retreat before ongoing events that undermine the US, not just Israel - since, after all, this was an event which involved a foreign government, Turkey, acting as its seeming new friend Iran wants in pushing the flotilla to go to Israel, something that would not imaginably have occurred if Turkey thought the US was other than in retreat -, if the Israelis do not defend their blockade, they would also signal a retreat and such would, as occurs when a power is seen as impotent, lead to more bloodshed.

Rebecca said...

Thanks, David, for highlighting this article. Wieseltier can be a fabulous writer when he tries. And N. Friedman, you seem to think that Israel can do no wrong. Can you not even admit that what Israel did was stupid and counterproductive?

N. Friedman said...


I think the Israelis made mistakes. Obviously, people were killed. That was not the intent.

However, I do not see this as a question of a counterproductive policy. I think it is a question of errors at the low end tactical side and, perhaps, in knowing who would be on the boat and what they were up to. I think that noting the policy as being counterproductive is simply not the case. I think the alternative policy would result in the return of rockets flying into Israel. And, I think that blockades do not work short term. They take a good long time. What I see is people using the word counterproductive to describe midstream problems, not a problem with the policy, which is both moral and legal.

N. Friedman said...

Rebecca (and David),

I would invite you to read a fascinating article by someone with whom I would not expect myself to agree. While the topic of the article is Turkey, the analysis of Israel's situation is, I think, among the best I have read, by anyone. I say this as one who reads all sides of debates and who rarely sides with a Republican.

From the article:

The existing Middle East balance of power must be preserved. And that balance is now tilting dangerously against Israel.

In terms of offensive military capability, Israel has never been stronger. But the asymmetrical threat of missile terrorism emanating chiefly from Hezbollah and Hamas — which Israel has no way to defend against — has created perhaps the most existentially threatening situation in the history of Israel. Given this reality, and given that Israel is faced increasingly with the impossible choice between security at home and legitimacy abroad, the looming collapse of the Gaza siege has terrifying implications for Israel.

If Israel cannot get both peace and security out of negotiations, then it faces an existential choice between them — and alas neither, by itself, will bring legitimacy or survival for the Jewish state in the long run. Israel can simply surrender the occupied territories to its enemies, without any security guarantees, and pray for mercy — which is what Iran, Turkey, the Arabs, and Western liberals increasingly want. Or it can get security through further and endless projections of military power, while its international legitimacy continues to dwindle. Faced with that choice, Israel is highly likely to continue trying the latter before resigning itself to the former.

I could not agree more. But, as the author notes, the big issue here is Turkey, which is destabilizing things and acting against US interests. And, as my professor friend says, the perceived retreat of the US is the cause of what is going on here, driving Turkey away from the US.

Anonymous said...


This is a great blog, and a great article. N. Friedman, I have to partly disagree with what you're saying concerning the USA's retreat - whilst in a period of diplomatic pressure the USA is colder with Israel than it has been, the relationship between the countries will always be strong and for that reason I don't think Israel should fear long term isolation/ illegitimacy. They should deeply consider lifting the superfluous and perhaps counter-productive blockade, but there isn't too much to fear in terms of long term diplomatic change.
I myself also take interest in British politics and write a blog (PMQ's) on it.

N. Friedman said...


My point regarding the retreat of the US was a more general one, not one limited solely to the relationship between the US and Israel - although that is part of it. The issue is the perceived unwillingness or inability of the US to protect its interests and allies. Recall the reaction by the French President, Sarkozy, at the UN last Summer/Fall, in connection with the President Obama's disarmament campaign, with the French President stating:

"We live in the real world, not the virtual world. The real world expects us to make decisions. President Obama dreams of a world without weapons. But right in front of us, two countries are doing the exact opposite. Iran since 2005 has flouted five Security Council resolutions and threatened to wipe a U.N. member state off the map."

Such is the signal that Mr. Obama has sent even to allies.

I am no fan of Bush. But, the absence of Bush is not an argument in favor of Obama. In fact, so far as I can see, Obama is at least and, perhaps, even more dangerous than Bush - which is saying something.

Instead of disputes being contained, they are moving out of control. Supposed allies - e.g. Turkey - are acting to undermine US policies in important areas. Why is Obama letting that happen? Why, for example, is Turkey doing Iran's bidding, not that of the US? Why is Turkey willing to try to break Israel, Egypt and the US's blockade of Gaza? If the US were other than in retreat, Turkey would not dare cross the US. And, Turkey, for a very long time, perceived Israel as a ticket to influence in the US. Not any more. Instead, Turkey works actively to undermine US policy, US policy being to keep Iran non-nuclear, to resolve (or at least contain) the Arab Israeli conflict and to undermine genocidal Islamist forces.

Anonymous said...

N. Friedman,

I agree that the USA is in retreat diplomatically, which is the reason for all of what you've mentioned, but it still remains diplomatically highly influential and in the long term it is still supportive of Israel. Again, concerning other countries' relationships with Israel, not much really seems to be changing in the long term - Sarkozy, for example, has never exactly loved Israel.

N. Friedman said...


Well, I think Israel will survive because her people have great will to survive, because her people are technologically preeminent, because she is well armed and because, thus far at at least, her diplomacy has been sufficiently adept to outmaneuver her enemies.

However, if Israel lifts the blockade and Hamas rearms sufficiently to renew the rocket barrage - and, as the article I cited mentioned, the Israelis have no defense thus far against supposed NGO terror groups that have such rocketry -, what will the country's future be? Will her allies, such as Obama, stand with Israel? Or, will he approach the matter as Europeans do, telling the Israelis to stand down, either living with rockets or giving in to the demands of the country's enemies?

I think, given Obama's reaction to the boat incident, which it now seems, included a boat on which a group intending to cause a fight joined the supposed activists, shows that he will not stand with the Israelis, putting appeasement of Arab demands above Israel's most modest security needs. Which is to say, I think Obama is a complete disgrace.

Anonymous said...

N. Friedman,

The reason I believe Israel should lift the blockade is that bowing to International Pressure will give them some diplomatic power to say 'Look, we did what you told us, now they're attacking us' and thus regain support. Furthermore, because Egypt has just left the blockade, it is as of now superfluous - and in addition it seems that Hamas are already receiving a limited military supply through secret networks. Thirdly, as soon as an organisation hits Tel Aviv (which we will try to prevent by trying very hard to disarm missiles) Israel will be able to reestablish the blockade and the costs will not be overly disastrous in comparison to loss of diplomatic support.
As you say, Israel have so far been able to survive using diplomatic manoeuvres, but I wouldn't say Israel has outmanoeuvred her enemies - these surrounding states and NGOs have an advanced press system that keeps the international media on their side unless Israel stops looking like the oppressor.
Finally, Obama's actions have not been disgraceful. They have been exactly what you would expect from a President whose country is appauled by Israel's behaviour, be that founded or unfounded. I'm sure some Presidents would have been kinder to Israel, but at the end of the day until the USA criticises Israel they will never learn that it is important to keep foreign relations strong, which so far Netanyahu has struggled to grasp.

Joe said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
joe said...

You heard it here first. Breaking Gaza's economy, not merely intercepting actual weapons shipments, but keeping the whole place in ruins and poverty, is a "modest security need."

I'd hate to see what an immodest security need would be.

Without litigating the whole I/P conflict here, I'd note it's really baffling that N. Friedman goes to Herculean efforts to point out exactly how this or that liberal critic is unwittingly delegitimizing Israel through words, but can't recognize (or at least doesn't think worthy of comment) how the Israeli government delegitimizes itself through its actions.

N. Friedman said...


There are no pretty wars. Blockades are not pretty things. The so-called liberals have decided to micromanage the steps Israel takes to survive when, by world standards - and Western standards - Israel's behavior is better than most. It has, to note, the lowest percentage of killed civilians of any country in the West.

joe said...

Yeah, crying micromanagement is a cop-out. It's not micromanaging to look at someone claiming he only wants to stop the rockets from flying and conclude, that since cilantro is not a key ingredient in rockets, that he is not being fully honest. The more apt term might be "calling BS."

As for your claim about percentages, without citation, and without even knowing what you're dividing by what, I can't really comment? (Is it Palestinian civilian dead divided by total Palestinian population? I have no idea; you didn't say.)

joe said...

Also, please consider dropping the "Few Good Men" war-is-hell speech. An argument loses anything in the way of authority when it can just as easily be used to justify literally any act. It's pretty much the "because I said so" of armed conflict justifications. Great for unruly teens, not fit for adult conversation.

N. Friedman said...


Note that you did not address my main argument, which is that Israel's military kills, percentage wise, fewer civilians than do any of the other Western countries. That is a fact that entirely belies your argument.

On one minor point, you are correct. I should not have said "micromanage." I should have said, there is a group of so-called liberals which wishes to deny Israel any self-defense. And, that is shown by crocodile tears in a war when, in fact, the Israeli military is - and I repeat - more careful for the lives of civilians than are any of the other Western powers.

As for the cilantro nonsense, all blockades over reach in what is blocked. In other words, it is you who are BS'ing.

N. Friedman said...


My claim was to a ratio of intended victims of violence versus civilians killed by violence. The US and the UK and Nato rates are substantially higher than Israel's rate.

In any event, the source I cited was Haaretz, which published such statistics some time ago. From the article:

Reducing the number of civilian casualties in the attacks on Gaza was one of the first tasks Halutz's heir as IAF chief, Eliezer Shkedi, marked out for himself. The data improved commensurately. From a 1:1 ratio between killed terrorists and civilians in 2003 to a 1:28 ratio in late 2005. Several IAF mishaps in 2006 lowered the ratio to 1:10, but the current ratio is at its lowest ever - more than 1:30.

The data are not shown in the correct order. Perhaps, there is a problem in the translation. The last number is 30 terrorists killed to 1 civilian. That is a very good record.

You are correct that such statistics can be manipulated. Haaretz, of course, is generally pretty tough on Israel.

I do note that there are exaggerations and lies coming from parties who are at war. Such is normal in human history. However, I see no reason to doubt Haaretz on this issue.

As for US rates: how many civilians died in the blockade/embargo of Iraq? I believe the number bandied around is 500,000 that ended with the second Iraq war. I think the number is likely a gross exaggeration but, assuming that it is ten times the actual number, it is an extraordinary figure. Of course, this is not civilians killed in active fighting.

In the US invasion of Iraq - before things turned crazy, there was a report of 15,100 (and which, as many as 4,300 were civilians and 10,800 were soldiers). Other figures put the numbers much worse. So, the US figure is about 1.08 soldiers to .43 civilian, nowhere near the Israeli statistic. After that time, the civilian death rate escalated.

The rest of what you write is difficult to interpret. I take your assertion to be, in effect, that you deny that Hamas and the other Islamist movements are eliminationist movements. Such is a factual question, of course. However, your argument is with Daniel Jonah Goldhagen, who presents substantial evidence that such movements are, in fact, eliminationist and genocidal in their aims and actions. Read Goldhagen's book. Then you can decide what is going on.

joe said...

Okay, if I take those statistics at face value, than it would seem to suggest that as recently as seven years ago Israel was killing 30 times the civilians necessary for its objectives. Which, to keep us on the topic of David's post, would seem to be something that could create a lot of animosity toward any state, especially among the affected populations. But the US is worse, you tell us; besides, that was then, this is now. Well, most people have fairly long memories (Israel justifies its blockade by referencing events that happened years ago, for one obvious example) and don't consider themselves moral relativists, so what can you do?

I don't want to spend much time on your other point because David wouldn't like us going totally off the rails here. Suffice to say, you're leaving off some big logical links in your argument. Hamas can still be a very bad actor without your preferred policies being the correct course of action. Just like the Soviet Union being an authoritarian, murderous, and imperialist power doesn't automatically justify McCarthyism. Either argument takes it as given that X is the solution to Y, with nothing more in its premise than "Y is a problem."

N. Friedman said...


I do not have a solution. I merely note that if the Israelis walk away from the blockade with things as they are now, there will likely be not just occasional rockets fired into Israel but, in fact, a return to the way things were before the Gaza war, with rockets being the norm.

You misread the statistics. The rate was one dead civilian for about 30 dead terrorists. Of course, to the families of the dead, they are surely missed and that does fuel hatred. The same would be said of Palestinian Arab terrorism and rocketry used against Israelis. It does not exactly instill a feeling of love by Israelis for Palestinian Arabs.

More to the point, your analysis is ideology free. I am not sure whether that is because you have not familiar with ideological movements, such as the fascist and the communist movements and now the Islamist movement, or because you do not believe that people are sometimes motivated towards ends by means of ideological movements rather than merely reacting to immediate events.

For me, I think it is both. I think the Israelis and Palestinian Arabs are not merely reacting to events. Zionism is an ideology. Islamism is an ideology. Islamism - whether or not you wish to believe the words of Islamist leaders and preachers - is a genocidal/eliminationist movement. Its leaders seem to believe what they say and are able to motivate a lot of followers. So, I am rather skeptical that playing nice has sufficient meaning to the Arab Israeli dispute to mean a thing.

joe said...

"Walking away" from the blockade is a bit of a mislead when Israel never tried screening for weapons and only weapons, which would seem like a "third way" between no blockade and cilantro confiscation.

You misread the statistics. The rate was one dead civilian for about 30 dead terrorists.

Right, down from a 1:1 ratio. Meaning (proportionate to the intensity of the conflict) Israel used to -- within the past decade -- kill the 30 times the civilians.

N. Friedman said...


The nutritional value of cilantro, other than taste, is what? Why the fixation on something which, while tasty, has no real significance except as a counter-agent to, for example, uranium poisoning? That, no doubt, is why the Israeli ban cilantro.

Again, you fail to address my argument about the significance of ideology. I am never surprised by the fact that Israel's opponents elide Palestinian Arab ideology entirely. With that in mind, you may want to read Christopher Hitchen's article which addresses my exact point. He writes:

Let me give another case in point: Hamas' charter and many of its official proclamations announce that it endorses the so-called Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a dirty anti-Semitic fabrication produced by Christian and czarist extremists and adopted by the Nazis. Would you, if you wanted to help Gaza and the Gazans, knowingly augment the power of such a flat-out racist organization by helping make it the proud and exclusive distributor of food and medicine?

Staying with this fascinating point for a moment: What if the international community put one simple question to the Hamas leadership? We will consider lifting the sanctions if you will renounce a barbaric and discredited concoction of lies that identifies all Jews everywhere as targets for murder. (The name notwithstanding, the Protocols have nothing to say about Palestine.) And what if the journalistic community—just once—was to ask a similar question of the "activists"? Do you endorse the Protocols: Yes or no? We would instantly be much closer to understanding what was meant by humanitarian.

How about an answer, Joe?

joe said...

And the medical application against uranium poisoning is bad because... why? Well Israel claims to allow medicine through the blockade, but there's no Gaza nuclear program so I guess there's no need for... wait, how silly of me, Israel uses depleted uranium in its munitions. Well, I'm sure no civilians ever get exposed to that and its just nasty bad terrorists who have to worry about poisoning. Oops! Guess not. Well, Israel's still a great humanitarian power because it says it is, I guess.

But even if it were nothing more than a tasty treat, the onus isn't on the people shipping or receiving it to justify that transaction; it's on the interdicting party to justify why it's being stopped. As vocal as you are about the free flow of settlers being a "liberal value," I don't see how the free flow of goods can be "illiberal."

And of course, earlier I was using cilantro as shorthand for the many, many goods subject to seizure that are not weapons by any stretch of the imagination.

I have nothing to say to Mr. Hitchens, save perhaps to give him a fitting but juvenile nickname on those rare occasions when I am as inebriated as he is on the average weekday morning. I will answer his agitprop/strawman questions (which, if you want to talk about racism, are in the same vein as David Horowitz's) when he answers whether or not he's stopped beating his wife.

I will, however, demonstrate how tortuous his formulation is by adding another twist: Would Hitchens, if he wanted to help hungry children in the US who happen to have bigoted parents, knowingly augment the power of those parents by allowing them to buy food and medicine, thus associating bigotry with parental love in the minds of impressionable youth?

I will answer Hitchens' question when he answers mine.

N. Friedman said...


I was looking for an answer to his point, not to his narrow question. I assume that you do not endorse the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Maybe that is naive of me.

His point, for the upteenth time: that Hamas is an ideologically committed group, which espouses eliminationist genocide. How, on this God's Earth, could you possible endorse doing anything that helps Hamas?

As for the cilantro: the goal is to weaken Hamas. That a tasty herb is cut off might cause some Gazans to think, just maybe, that it is bad to support Hamas because food tastes bad. Or, maybe there is concern that Hamas might obtain some radioactive material and build a dirty bomb. I do not see how it is important. The important thing is that undermining the blockade help the forces of eliminationist genocide. I realize that you refuse to see the need to undermine the ideologically genocidal Hamas.

Here we have, for all the world to see - at least, if this blog were read by more than David and a few others -, the eyes wide shut blindness of today's pseudo-liberals, who see no troubling ideology, just as many people chose to see no troubling ideology in other genocidal eliminationist, ideological movements, such as the Stalinist movement and the fascist movement and related race based genocidal movements.

Again: Joe, does ideology play an important part in the Palestinian Arab cause? Does it matter, if you want to help Palestinian Arabs, whether you support a group of ideological supporters of genocide?

Or, is nothing beyond the pale for you when you can worry more about cilantro and the like than about a eliminationist genocidal hate movement, thinking it better to support a movement that favors genocide as a top priority? That last question is a serious question for you. My view is that your point of view is in bed with an eliminationist genocidal hate movement.

joe said...

That's because your view takes an absolutist "with us or against us" stance. You take as an article of faith that the blockade will weaken Hamas and weaken it to a greater degree than it will harm the people of Gaza. Since Hamas is evil, you reason, every measure designed to weaken Hamas must be good.

How very vogue, if you're George Bush in 2003. Meanwhile, we in the "reality-based community" need to take notice that it's a very speculative benefit you're trading for a tangible, immediate humanitarian cost. There's no guarantee the blockade forces Hamas out of power. Plenty of brutal regimes survive sanctions. For all you know Hamas capitalizes on the situation, successfully telling the Palestinians that the whole affair clearly signals that Israel doesn't give a damn about peace and just wants Arabs to suffer. A nuanced worldview? Of course not. But I think it's been amply demonstrated that in times of conflict nuance goes right out the window for a lot of people, and they close ranks around whoever is in leadership against a perceived external threat.

Or, to be succinct, you take no account of blowback.

N. Friedman said...


Let's examine your supposition. You claim that the blockade is counterproductive. I suggest that the success of the blockade is something that can be measured.

I note that polling taken in Gaza shows that Hamas's popularity has dramatically declined. At least that was the case before the flotilla, which may have lifted Hamas's fortunes at least for now. If the blockade is counterproductive, it would not follow that Hamas's popularity was in decline prior to efforts now being made to undermine the blockade.

Here is a different proposition, one that is consistent with the known facts. The blockade was very successful. Here is speculation that is also consistent with such facts. The success of the blockade is the reason why Hamas wants it to be lifted. That is the reason why Islamist front groups allied with Hamas are trying hard to break the blockade.

In the end, this is about an ideologically driven movement that favors eliminationism - and, more particularly, genocide. Your view is that there is "nuance" to be seen. My view is that there has been nuance to be seen in all movements involving human beings. However, eliminationist groups are beyond the pale. And, making believe otherwise, making delivery of cilantro more important than uniting against a group which openly advocates genocide, is loathsome and something that no real liberal could support.

N. Friedman said...


And by the way, here is how people can be "nuanced" without losing their souls, as those who demand Israel to abandon the blockade have lost them.

joe said...

So nuance to you is allowing people to believe all sorts of things as long as they express vague facebook opinions in agreement with you on the one issue (or group of related issues) you ever see fit to talk about around here?

The religious connotation of the very language you use ("losing their souls") suggests one-dimensional ideological rigidity. As does the fact that you treat asking people out of the blue if they believe in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion -- treating it as a presumption they should have to rebut -- as a legitimate debating tactic.

You made the analogy to communism, so I won't mince words. You are rhetorically engaged in the modern day equivalent of McCarthyism/Bircherism. "Have you now or have you ever been..."

But that's a general critique, and if I want to follow up on it any more I guess I'll take it to the "shout at each other" discussion. As far as the blockade goes, there's a lot more being blocked than cilantro; second, a few polls does not prove success of a policy, especially since you've just conceded that the blockade may have played into Hamas's hands with recent events. And you definitely need more than a few polls (which are open to interpretation) to prove everyone who disagrees with you is "in bed with an eliminationist genocidal hate movement." How would you like it if I picked out a few polls of Israeli public opinion to show you are "in love with a deeply racist society"?

Not very much, I'm guessing. No one likes being caricatured.

N. Friedman said...


I am sure you do not like that your views place you supporting the same policy that Hamas supports.

It is fascinating that rather than answer a few simple questions, you prefer to call me a McCarthyite. That is a pretty wild charge, Joe, by the way. And, it is pretty pathetic, most especially since you are altering what I asserted in order to avoid answering my fairly simple questions.

I am aware of no poll that shows Hamas gaining in popularity since coming into power. Are you? So, how can you hold your opinion that the blockade is counter-productive? At least I have polling data for my views. What do you have?

You will find the polling data are mostly negative among Gazans. Whether that is due to the blockade or not is, of course, a real question. But, you would think that the Gazans would, if your theory were correct, have been rallying behind Hamas all along in protest to the blockade, something for which there is no polling evidence at all, at least to my knowledge.

I do not know how Gazans will react to the effort to break the blockade. However, that Hamas wants to break it suggests that Hamas thinks it helps their cause. Otherwise, if they were being helped by the blockade, why are they trying to fight it? They surely could not predict that the Israelis would botch the enforcement of the blockade, a blockade which had, up to just recently, been kept out of the news.

Joe, my contention that Hamas is a genocidal, eliminationist group comes from reading their writings. It comes from reading their leader's speeches. It comes from reading their preachers' sermons. It comes from the fact that Islamist movements in other countries have engaged in actual genocide. It comes from the fact that Hamas employs the tactics that genocidal groups would be expected to employ - i.e., they attack civilians as their targets of first choice.

Contrary to your assertion regarding polls, there is no Israeli group that rules any territory which asserts any intention to kill off all Palestinian Arabs. However, that IS the publicly stated position of the Hamas movement.

Again: how is it that you favor the same policy favored by Hamas, allowing shipments that would benefit them? How can you call yourself a liberal while siding with Hamas? How can you not see how loathsome a movement Hamas is?

In this case, I would think that David, who may prefer we not go at it over and over again, may want to know how you elide the Hamas ideology from your analysis. I think it is fascinating how you go through Herculean efforts to avoid addressing that ideology, throwing names at me like McCarthyite, etc.

joe said...

This is a farce. You are taking some supposed narrow area of agreement, ignoring that it's not agreement at all since the Hamas position is that the blockade must be lifted in its entirety, and trying to pass it off as proof that I'm some sort of "fellow traveler" with the preferred villain of the day. Sounds like McCarthyism to me.

The logic here is entirely threadbare, of course. A says C. B also says C (or really, something that can be mischaracterized as C). Therefore A is B.

As an intellectual argument, it's about on par with calling global warming a hoax because Al Gore ismade of carbon. I think you should know better.

N. Friedman said...


Please point me to where you stated you favored only a partial change in Israel's blockade policy. I think that your comments suggest you do not favor the blockade at all. In any event, if that were not the case, why did you wait until now to state otherwise.

Assuming that you are telling the truth, what is your position on the blockade, nuance and all?

joe said...

From the very outset I believe I differentiated between seizing weaponry and seizing other cargo, because that's the key difference between defensive action and, yes, collective punishment. Which is a perfectly fine nuanced take.

And we see, once again, in the question "why did you wait until now to state otherwise?" an implicit assumption that dissent is disloyalty or hostility.

N. Friedman said...


I also differentiate between cargo and weaponry. What of it? Did you previously say that you support blockading anything? I do not think so.

By the way, I have nothing against dissent. What I have something against is failing to recognize eliminationist politics for what it is. That is the point I have made repeatedly.

joe said...

Did you previously say that you support blockading anything? I do not think so.

I'll try to better anticipate future straw man positions that may be attributed to me.

N. Friedman said...


Your argument objected to the blockade because cilantro was blocked. To be generous, you noted that cilantro was symbolic of other similar items blocked. My response, from the beginning, was directed at the entire blockade - which I noted repeatedly. Now, you make believe that such was not my issue.

I have to ask you something, with the above in mind. If, as you put it, cilantro was only representative, does that not suggest that your objection was limited to the blocking of trivial matters?

joe said...

I'm sure you'd call him a useful idiot (or whatever new buzzword is), but Peter Beinart addresses this:

The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations greeted news of the flotilla disaster by repeating a common “pro-Israel” talking point: that Israel only blockades Gaza to prevent Hamas from building rockets that might kill Israeli citizens. If only that were true. In reality, the embargo has a broader and more sinister purpose: to impoverish the people of Gaza, and thus turn them against Hamas. As the Israeli newspaper Haaretz has reported, the Israeli officials in charge of the embargo adhere to what they call a policy of “no prosperity, no development, no humanitarian crisis.” In other words, the embargo must be tight enough to keep the people of Gaza miserable, but not so tight that they starve.

This explains why Israel prevents Gazans from importing, among other things, cilantro, sage, jam, chocolate, French fries, dried fruit, fabrics, notebooks, empty flowerpots and toys, none of which are particularly useful in building Kassam rockets. It’s why Israel bans virtually all exports from Gaza, a policy that has helped to destroy the Strip’s agriculture, contributed to the closing of some 95 percent of its factories, and left more 80 percent of its population dependent on food aid. It’s why Gaza’s fishermen are not allowed to travel more than three miles from the coast, which dramatically reduces their catch. And it’s why Israel prevents Gazan students from studying in the West Bank, a policy recently denounced by 10 winners of the prestigious Israel Prize. There’s a name for all this: collective punishment.

My way of putting it is this: the free flow of goods is not a trivial matter. The US would be up in arms over far more minor restrictions than the one I have listed. (Reminder that we live in a country where people pitch a fit at the prospect the government might issue a recommendation against excessive salt consumption. Where we have to spend billions of dollars hiring people to go door to door to count people because half of us are too lazy or childish to even mail a form every ten years. And then the same right-wing nutters who didn't bother to fill out that form have the gall to complain about the government wasting money when it sends Census workers door to door, as is required by the dead words of the same Constitution said nutters purport to worship. So I'm thinking if a foreign entity tried to keep us from importing even one ounce of rotten fruit we'd never hear the end of it.)

N. Friedman said...


Mr. Beinart write: "In reality, the embargo has a broader and more sinister purpose: to impoverish the people of Gaza, and thus turn them against Hamas."

I gather you agree with Mr. Beinart that it is sinister to want to turn the Gazans against Hamas. Why is that a sinister purpose?

joe said...

Let me answer your very rhetorical question with a counterpart.

I believe you stated elsewhere you opposed the Iraq war... what's wrong with wanting to depose a tyrannical mass murderer like Saddam Hussein? What's the matter with you? (This was of course a very real "serious" argument used by the Christopher Hitchens of the world, except they would go on ad nauseum, accuse you of supporting "rape rooms," etc.)

So that's how your question looks on the other side of the screen. If you can't see what's wrong with this kind of argument I can't help you.

N. Friedman said...


I did not ask a rhetorical question. I asked a question about what Mr. Beinart wrote. Do you agree with him when he claims that it is sinister to try to turn the Gazans against Hamas? If so, why?

I was against the Iraq war. However, wanting to turn the Iraqis against Saddam would not be a sinister aim. In fact, it was more than likely the actual policy of the US after the first Iraq war, under Bush I, Clinton and Bush II.

The Israelis are not faced with a theoretical decision about Hamas. Hamas is at war against the Israelis. So, for the Israelis, the issue is one of strategy and tactics against Hamas. So, in the reality based world, Joe, how could it be sinister for Israel to want to turn the Gazans against Hamas?

Frankly, that Mr. Beinart thinks it a sinister thing suggests that he does not live in the real world. He is another person on the illiberal portion of the Left who refuses to acknowledge undeniable facts. Evidently, so are you.

joe said...

So, in the reality based world, Joe, how could it be sinister for Israel to want to turn the Gazans against Hamas?

What's sinister is the "impoverishing the people of Gaza" part. And we know they are impoverished. What's theoretical in this instance is the supposed benefit of that policy tool, the payoff for moving the Palestinians around like chess pieces in a game of strategy.

N. Friedman said...


Do you have a strategy which undermines Hamas? If so, what is it?

joe said...

Now we're going in circles. See "blockade weapons only."

N. Friedman said...


How does blockading Hamas's weapons get rid of Hamas?

N. Friedman said...


While you ponder how to explain how your strategy, whatever it is, undermines Hamas and make believe that Beinart actually agrees with undermining Hamas, you might want to read this article.

I agree with the author that this entire discussion about Israel's blockade is beyond hypocrisy, beyond even a double standard. It is the work of hate mongers.

joe said...

... Well, I'm glad we could keep this so civil.

N. Friedman said...

Dear Joe,

Reminder: you referred to my posts as McCarthyism/Bircherism.

In any event: I ask you, with all civil intention of having a discussion, to your explain your view of Hamas. I have asked this over and over, in one form or another. You, for whatever reason, refuse to answer, accuse me of McCarthyism/Bircherism and now complain about civility.

I am happy to be civil. How about engaging me on the issue of Hamas an eliminationism. Surely, you have something to say about that topic other than to change the topic.

N. Friedman said...


Dear Joe,

Reminder: you referred to my posts as "McCarthyism/Bircherism."

In any event: I ask you, with all civil intention of having a discussion, to explain your views regarding Hamas. I have asked this of you over and over, in one form or another. You, for whatever reason, refuse to answer, accuse me of McCarthyism/Bircherism and now complain about civility.

I am happy to be civil. How about engaging me on the issue of Hamas and eliminationism. Surely, you have something to say about that topic other than to change the topic.

joe said...

Well I already said it was fine to blockade for weapons. Call it a containment strategy. How does it weaken Hamas? Well, with all you've said about Hamas don't you think it's an organization that seeks to increase its own prestige through showcasing its ability to do violence? It follows, then, that less weapons lead to fewer attacks and reduced prestige.

Now, if you're demanding I have some magic "end-game" plan for defeating Hamas for all time, I'll have to disappoint you. I don't have a crystal ball, and I'm not arrogant enough to think I have some masterstroke to bring about peace. I just know enough to err on the side of caution instead of pouring gasoline all over a burning building.

If that's your gripe, than your argument should be with the architects of the blockade as well, since they don't have such a plan either. If you're looking for grand plans, perhaps you'd prefer the Ann Coulter Total War approach?

No? Than cut those of us who don't pretend to know everything some slack.

N. Friedman said...


For a change, you have presented a fair comment. I agree with you that there are no magic bullets.

On the other hand, I disagree with you when you write: "... don't you think it's an organization that seeks to increase its own prestige through showcasing its ability to do violence?" I do not think that this comment represents my view at all.

I think, instead, that Hamas is an ideologically driven revolutionary group with the agenda that is set forth in the group's covenant. I think that when Hamas uses violence - most particularly against a Jew -, Hamas's motive is (a) to kill a Jew, (b) to undermine Israel and (c) to advance the cause of ridding the world of Jews, which is what the Hamas covenant asserts as the group's aim.

Now, within the Palestinian Arab community, Hamas does compete among other Palestinian Arab groups for control. However, this is not the same as seeking prestige.

You write: "I just know enough to err on the side of caution instead of pouring gasoline all over a burning building." I agree with this. However, I think that the Islamist movement - including Hamas - is gasoline poured on the dispute.

In that you claim not to have a crystal ball, why do you think you know better than the Israelis how to deal with groups like Hamas? Why not take the view that, perhaps, just perhaps, they are doing what they think, based on actual experience, is likely to abate the influence of Hamas?

I am not saying the Israelis are correct. I am saying - and, again, noting that you claim to have no crystal ball - that objecting to what the Israelis are doing is a bit rich, an arm-chair sort of activity in which you have nothing at stake.

My view - since I too have no crystal ball but have noted that, as Benny Morris has noted repeatedly, that, by conventional measures, Israel's ongoing existence basically defies all conventional theories (and he, who is no religious, uses the word "miracle" as in unexplainable to describe Israel's survival) - is that the Israelis know better how to deal with their problems than Americans do. And, while what the Israelis are doing is not pretty, it is well within what, for all other countries, is considered moral and proper.

I would, so that I better understand your view, be interested in understanding your view of Hamas. Do you disagree with my assessment that Hamas is an ideologically driven revolutionary group with the agenda that is set forth in the group's covenant? If so why? Do you agree with my assessment that Hamas's agenda includes genocide?

joe said...

Yes. And it's also a terrorist organization. Which is why the loss of the ability to launch rockets (which, to reiterate, is a function of rocket shipments, not toys and dried fruit) is a loss of prestige; frustration of purpose is a loss of prestige for any organization.

But none of that makes collective punishment fine and dandy. And it doesn't mean there can be no negotiation. In fact, polls show most Israelis are willing to accept some form of negotiation with Hamas.

That's no surprise, reprehensible groups are party to negotiations all the time throughout history. May I remind you every US president negotiated with the Soviet Union in spite of its support for global communist revolution and terrible violence and oppression. Countless leaders talk a good game about "not negotiating with evil," but it is always a disingenuous soundbite. They all go in for realpolitik.

Preconditions and all the rest of it are, as Churchill might say, merely haggling over the price.

You also ask who am I as an American to judge any of this? Well, for starters, the U.S. gives a lot of aid to Israel. We agree to commit our forces, if necessary, to defend Israel. And because of this relationship we increase our profile as a target for terrorism. Now, the U.S. gets some strategic benefit from that relationship as well, but my point is that we are very involved in the situation, which is not a mere internal matter for Israel, but part of its foreign affairs.

More importantly, just because enough Israelis for a coalition government think a certain foreign policy move is wise, does not make it so. In fact, the passions of a population in wartime can lead to some very poor, very heated decisions. You implicitly acknowledged this a while ago when you critiqued both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. I don't think that's some unique American blind spot. I don't see where we get the idea that Israel would be some unique hyper-rational actor relative to every other democracy out there.

Now, when some country is just shooting itself in the foot with an economic policy, that's one thing; I don't see a need to make it my business. But bad moves that target internal minorities or people outside the state's border (and the residents of Gaza are either one or the other of these) are another matter entirely.

N. Friedman said...

Joe, [Part I]

"... is a loss of prestige; frustration of purpose is a loss of prestige for any organization."

Maybe so in some generic sense that applies to all human organizational activities. On the other hand, I think that revolutionary groups like Hamas, while having, to be sure, organizational aspects, are seized by their agenda, which comes before its prestige.

Consider, in assessing your theory ...

The Hamas "contribution" to the second intifadah was to convince people not only to sacrifice for the cause but to kill themselves along with others - what most people called suicide attacks but others call kamikaze (or, to borrow Jonah Daniel Goldhagen's terminology, genocide) attacks. Fatah, in short time, lost prestige and, in time, adopted the suicide bomber strategy.

That strategy was a failure. Hamas, so far as I know, lost no prestige for advocating a losing strategy. Likewise, the rocket campaign, also a failure by any conventional understanding since it led to a lot of dead Gazans, did not harm Hamas's prestige although it did, in the end, make them less popular in Gaza due to Israel's strategy which, as you know, the world condemned. Nonetheless, despite two losing strategies, Hamas tightened its control of the Gaza.

Prestige is something that matters if one intends act consensually or to govern consensually. If, instead, you have a revolutionary agenda, as Hamas does, other factors dictate actions.

You write: "But none of that makes collective punishment fine and dandy." Why not? The US effectively blockaded the USSR for decades. The US and UN blockaded Iraq for more than a decade. Collective punishment. Whether or not it worked is, of course, another story. In the case of the USSR, it probably did help undermine that country's revolutionary zeal

You write: "polls show most Israelis are willing to accept some form of negotiation with Hamas." That is for the Israelis to decide. So far, the Israeli government - Labor, Kadima and Likud - oppose the idea.

You write: "May I remind you every US president negotiated with the Soviet Union ..." Such occurred at a time when the revolutionary zeal of the USSR had already largely come to an end. While there were discussions with Stalin regarding his role in WWII and in the post-war settlement (Yalta), that did not alter his agenda, with his country ignoring most of the papers it had signed. Not so, however, with the post-Stalinist USSR, which better followed agreements.

The issue here has nothing to do with "evil." It is strictly a practical question. To speak with Hamas is to advance Hamas's ability to govern. So long as Hamas is a revolutionary group - and, thus far, Islamist groups in power have retained revolutionary zeal so we are not remotely in a "post-Stalinist" period -, the only advantage that is likely to come out of negotiations is to help Hamas stay in power. It would even, to note your theory, help the group's "prestige." And, I thought we should not help the group's prestige.

N. Friedman said...

Part II

You write: "... And because of this relationship we increase our profile as a target for terrorism."

That is propaganda. The US is a target because we stand squarely in the way of the Islamist agenda. And, if Israel disappeared, the US would still stand squarely in the way of the Islamist agenda. And, in that agenda, Israel is the "little" Satan, not the main enchilada. We are the main issue, not because we are supporting Israel but because the West's domination of the world depends, basically entirely, on the US's dominance. And, the main agenda of the Islamists is to restore Islam to being the world's dominating force.

Now, your discussion regarding the US role in the region notes US interests. Presumably, Israel has its own interest and, at the moment, since the vast majority of Israelis are none too happy with the US administration's agenda, which is reminiscent, in Israeli eyes, to the European policy to appease Muslim sentiments at the expense of Israeli interests, I am inclined to think that what you write confuses what is convenient for US with what is in Israel's interest. But, even if that is not so, I rather doubt that it is in the US's long term interest to appease Islamists. As you would say, it increases their prestige.

You write: "But bad moves that target internal minorities or people outside the state's border (and the residents of Gaza are either one or the other of these) are another matter entirely."

Are you worried about how India treats its minorities? What about Saudi Arabia? Sudan? France? England? The US gives a lot more money to European powers which, it appears, are treating their newly arrived populations poorly, fomenting unrest and, thus far, violence. In this regard, I recall that, of those involved in 9/11, a great many came to their hatred while in Germany. So, should we demand that Germany, etc., do better with its Muslim population? Or, is that not the explanation for what is occurring?

joe said...

So far, the Israeli government - Labor, Kadima and Likud - oppose the idea.

Really? So the Israeli government has not engaged in negotiations for the release of Gilad Shalit?

The parties are already haggling about the price. Negotiations always happen. They are the natural state of world politics, so there's really no prestige attached unless a party to them gets a good deal it can point to.

Are you worried about how India treats its minorities? What about Saudi Arabia? Sudan? France? England?

Yes, yes, yes, yes, and yes. I don't believe I've said otherwise.

I am inclined to think that what you write confuses what is convenient for US with what is in Israel's interest. But, even if that is not so, I rather doubt that it is in the US's long term interest to appease Islamists.

I never said the US was not self interested. I said that the US is involved.

That is propaganda. The US is a target because we stand squarely in the way of the Islamist agenda.

The US is a target for a lot of reasons. Anyone who claims there's only one is being duped by whatever ideology he happens to subscribe to. I never said the US is a target solely because of Israel, but anyone who thinks this kind of alliance does nothing to increase exposure really has no business talking about geopolitics. The whole purpose of these alliances is the spreading of risk. The US doesn't make Israel accept its friendship, self-interest does. When Netanyahu says he's no longer interested in maintaining the special relationship, then we can talk as if the US has nothing at stake. If, in the meantime, Israel has recommendations on US policy (such as Sharon asking Bush not to invade Iraq), that is part of the two-way street.

This is all too much of a generic Israel discussion though. The focus in this thread (for me at least) is the blockade. And we've amply established our differences on that. I've explained my position, providing detail, though I can't help but wonder if you really want to argue that no food or medicine should be allowed into Gaza at all, and maybe that should even be accompanied by a Dresden-level bombing. Why limit the means by which we undermine Hamas? After all, you've made numerous comparisons to World War II and the Nazis.

And if those measures would not be justified, why not? Is it because you acknowledge that was then and this is now and historical analogies only go so far?

N. Friedman said...


You write: "The US is a target for a lot of reasons."

I agree except to note that all of the reasons, apart from that related to who dominates the world, are truly minor "causes." It is like writing about the Cold War and asserting that it is about US support for West Germany.

I certainly do not deny that Arabs dislike Israel. However, the reason for the dislike of Israel is not much different, if at all different, from the reason for disliking the US, other than to note that, for Islamists, it is less important. Again: there is a reason why Israel is called, by Islamists, the "little' Satan while the US is the "big" Satan.

I have not argued on this page that the Israelis should employ draconian means to deal with Palestinian Arabs. I have argued that the blockade is moral and an appropriate response to the existence of the Hamas. As such, much of your comment is a straw man argument. I have not argued that no food or medicine should be allowed into Gaza. The Washington Post, to note, indicates: "During a typical week in May, Israel allowed in 637 truckloads ferrying 14,069 tons of food, medicine and other supplies." Moreover, to get some idea of how cynical this humanitarian problem in Gaza supposedly is, Hamas refused to allow into Gaza the supplies brought by the Flotilla. So, I think this is all, to be blunt, hypocrisy.

There are people in the world who really are and have been subject to terrifying conditions. Look no further than to Sudan and Congo. In Rwanda, back in the 1990's, France, which is so indignant with the Israelis, even supplied arms to Hutus to massacre the Tutsis. In the case of the Gazans, their government refuses the International community's not unreasonable demand that the Gazan government accept past agreements made by the PA, swear off terrorism and recognize that Israel is to be a permanent presence in the region.

So, what we now have the International community basically teaching the world that it was not serious about agreements between Israelis and Palestinian Arabs and that, if dressed in phony concern for humanitarian troubles - the supposedly in need people refusing the aid - it will give a victory to the forces of barbarism, which is what any group that espouses genocide is.

Somehow, you do not notice the phoniness of the supposed humanitarian crisis. People really in need take aid.

joe said...

I have not argued on this page that the Israelis should employ draconian means to deal with Palestinian Arabs. I have argued that the blockade is moral and an appropriate response to the existence of the Hamas. As such, much of your comment is a straw man argument. I have not argued that no food or medicine should be allowed into Gaza.

No, you haven't. But my question to you, in light of the WWII comparisons (among others), is why not? Would Hamas not be undermined, in your view, by even harsher measures? Where exactly do you draw the line at what is a moral and appropriate response? What is the standard you use to make that determination?

Moreover, to get some idea of how cynical this humanitarian problem in Gaza supposedly is, Hamas refused to allow into Gaza the supplies brought by the Flotilla. So, I think this is all, to be blunt, hypocrisy.

Or maybe there is a humanitarian problem and Hamas is turning the shipments back out of concern for the interests of Hamas, not the people of Gaza. After all those condemnations, surely you can't say that you expect such a group to put the people first. And the fact that it's not letting the shipment in just reinforces my point that the blockade doesn't undermine Hamas nearly as much as you think.

N. Friedman said...


You write: "Would Hamas not be undermined, in your view, by even harsher measures?"

Perhaps. Perhaps not.

The WWII issue is not about a blockade. To the extent that I may have spoken of WWII, it was to note the nature of Hamas, not to determine appropriate strategy. In any event, the strategy for dealing with Germany was a failure, leading to the deaths of tens of millions of people.

The one analogy with Germany that I can see pertains to the Islamist movement as a whole. If that movement is allowed to arm fully, you can assume that there could - although not necessarily would - likely be a major war, perhaps a world war involving millions of deaths on both sides. But, the Israelis are, for now at least, sufficiently in control of the situation with the Palestinian Arabs that, absent foreign intervention, the Israelis do not need to employ the draconian measures used by the allies.

If you want a really good measure of how the war was felt by civilians involved in WWII, read William Hitchcock's stunningly brilliant book, The Bitter Road to Freedom: A New History of the Liberation of Europe. I guarantee you will learn a lot from the book. And, it is not a partisan rant. It tells the story of how the war impacted on civilians, from bombing campaigns by the allies in already captured territories to gang rapes committed by Russians, to forced marches by Nazis, etc., etc. It is truly an astounding book.

I mention the book to note that, compared to anything employed by the allies in WWII, the Israelis have been as gentle as can be imagined. The allies treated those on our side of the war worse than the Israelis treat the Gazans.

I note: while defeating the Hamas is vital, it is not the only thing. Someday, unlikely to be in the our lifetime or that of our children, the Arab regions might outgrow their current patterns of thinking and decide it makes sense to bury the hatchet with Israel and the rest of the world. Presumably, there could be more men (or even women) with vision of a Sadat to lead the way.

N. Friedman said...


I'm off for the next week. Family vacation.