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Israel: The occupation is not so moral either

03/16/2007

Recently, I discussed the morality (or immorality) of Palestinian "resistance,", which expresses itself as blowing up innocent people, shooting children with sniper rifles, machine-gunning residential neighborhoods and aiming rockets at random at towns.

The idea behind what I wrote is fairly simple, "Killing kids is wrong." Forget international law which says it is a crime against humanity and all the other complex arguments. Killing kids is wrong. The amount of "resistance" to this simple idea is astounding, especially when it comes from those who claim to advocate peace, and the vehemence of reality denial is likewise amazing. People insist that Palestinian "resistance" is non-violent, despite the suicide bombings and rockets. They insist that the "resistance" that the Hamas government is talking about is only nonviolent "resistance." If it were so, it would be easy enough for the Hamas and the Palestinian authority to announce that they support only non-violent resistance, and thus conform to the conditions of the Quartet, but that is NOT happening.

The most frustrating and absurd aspect of the debate, is that killing civilians is keeping Palestinians from reaching their ostensible goal of obtaining a state. Israel will not assent to a Palestinian state or withdraw from the occupied territories until and unless there is some guarantee that Palestinians are willing and capable of stopping the terror, nor will the international community force Israel to do so. So the terror serves only the internal political ends of the terror groups.

There are forms of resistance that are legitimate and that would be understandable. Suppose for example, that the PNA, the Hamas or the Fatah, were to announce that if illegal outposts are not removed by a given date, they would organize forced, orderly evacuation of the outposts. What could Israel do? These outposts have been declared illegal by the international community and the Israeli government. They are due to be removed at an unknown date that keeps moving. Israel has not fulfilled its commitment to the quartet roadmap in that regard. The sole "virtue" of Amir Peretz as Defense Minister, the solution of the mystery of why he is kept on, just might be that he is so incompetent and powerless that everyone understands that he will never remove any outposts. If the Palestinians were to threaten to remove the outposts, it would call attention to the situation and generate pressure for removing them.

Neither side, unfortunately, has a monopoly on immorality. Israeli measures are supposedly justified by security concerns, and some of them are. But there was no security value at all in the proposed settlement of Maskiot, or in shutting Palestinians out of the Jordan valley. Nor is there any security value in the illegal outposts, built by misappropriation of Israeli government funds and by circumventing legal channels.

The security fence may be necessary as an interim measure to control terrorism, and likewise the odious checkpoints and the raids and incursions. Yet all these measures generate a totally unnecessary endless series of complaints by human rights groups like Machsom watch, about behavior of Israeli soldiers, humiliation of Palestinians, arbitrary barring of access and humiliation. Settlers throw rocks at Palestinian children on the way to school, so the children require an IDF escort. The escort doesn't arrive or is late more often than not. When one settler in Hebron who insults Palestinian Arabs is caught and punished one time, it is headline news. Unfortunately, that settler, Yifat Alkobi, is not alone, and the incidents described are typical of every day interactions between the Jews and Arabs living in Hebron.

The Breaking the Silence group has documented the dehumanization of Israeli forces in the occupied territories. The cumulative stink is delegitimizing Israel day by day. It is getting Israel labeled as an "apartheid" state in increasingly respectable places. However unjust and vicious the label might be, there is no denying that the occupation as implemented, and the implementation of security measures are defective and careless of lives, property and dignity of Palestinian citizens, and that the uncontrolled and unpunished antics of the settlers are intolerable in a state that supposedly prides itself on the rule of law.

The security fence is not supposed to be an impassable barrier, just a device for directing human traffic to checkpoints. For a relatively small investment, there could be many, many more checkpoints, manned by many more security personnel to allow Palestinians to get to work and to get to vital health services. People who are denied medical attention can die. They are just as dead as if they were blown up by a bomb. For a relatively small investment, Israeli soldiers and police could be taught to behave in a humane and respectful way, and to carry out their duties without insulting people and occasionally causing needless property damage and bodily harm. Settlers who harass Palestinians could be arrested and punished. It would not hurt Israeli security if soldiers smiled, gave a helping hand to people who needed it and replied politely to inquiries of human rights workers and observers On the contrary, it would help Israeli security. Callousness, cruelty and arrogance of Israeli security personnel in day to day contacts with civilians, and the free-reign given to settlers are probably a greater long-term threat to Israeli security than suicide bombers. The incompetence, disorganization, deterioration of discipline and efficiency in the IDF that was illustrated in the Lebanon war is just another expression of the same problem. The oppression of the Palestinians is not due to Prussian efficiency and cruelty, but to incompetence, apathy and disorganization. It is kept in place by self-satisfied officers and government officials who are intent on defending their positions in power, rather than on getting the job done. Like Palestinian "resistance" it is counterproductive.

The "resistance" and the Israeli inhumanity continue because, in fact, nobody really cares about them. They are both used as "issues" to attract sympathy by Palestinian terror groups and interest groups on the one hand, and by settlers and right-wing Zionists on the others. The Palestinians use the occupation, the confiscation of land and the arbitrary rights violations to delegitimize the existence of Israel. Every settler who insults a Palestinian, every IDF soldier who insults a Palestinian at a checkpoint is a victory for the Hamas. The Israel advocates use Palestinian terror as an issue to delegitimize Palestinian rights. Every suicide bombing, every Palestinian rocket that lands in Sderot is a victory for the settlers. All the issues are "excuses" but they are real excuses. They are quite useful.

If the PNA, the Hamas and the Fatah really cared about getting Palestinian rights, they would make stopping terrorism a number one priority, because terrorism is the number one barrier to Palestinian rights. If the Israel government, the Yesha council, AIPAC and the ZOA really cared about Israeli security, they would make stopping rights violations and making a better life for Palestinian Arabs top priorities.

Ami Isseroff

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Original text copyright by the author and MidEastWeb for Coexistence, RA. Posted at MidEastWeb Middle East Web Log at http://www.mideastweb.org/log/archives/00000576.htm where your intelligent and constructive comments are welcome. Distributed by MEW Newslist. Subscribe by e-mail to mew-subscribe@yahoogroups.com. Please forward by email with this notice and link to and cite this article. Other uses by permission.

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Replies: 8 comments

Your essay on the current state of morality of the occupation by Israel's leaders and their minions is directly on point. And, as you clearly point out, the future is harmed immeasurably by the unintelligent and un-understandable behavior of Israel in all its functioning with the Palestinians. From the facts, I can only believe that Israel wants the confrontation to continue. Is there a possibility that indeed there are such forces in Democratic Israel that match those forces in the oligarchic Arab world who delight and benefit from the continuation of conflict? Are the Jews being misled by thier political leaders as are the Arabs?

Posted by Nachum Meyers @ 03/16/2007 05:50 PM CST

the following is from an interview w/Palestinian Information Minister Mustafa Barghouthi:

CP: What is your feeling about armed resistance vs.
non-violent resistance?

MB: I believe that while Palestinians in general have
the right to resist in every possible way according to
international law, there should never be any attack on
civilians, there should not be any violations of
international regulations, which, by the way, Israel
keeps violating. But even if Israel violates them, we
shouldn't. On the other hand, I believe that after all
these years, that military confrontation can only be in
the interest of Israel. There are no conditions for
military struggle, and I believe that the best approach
that we advocate, and I advocate, is a non-violent
approach of mass popular resistance against the
occupation.

CP: So, morally and ethically Palestinians have the
right to practice armed struggle but practically maybe

MB: Legally! Legally. We follow international law. We
follow what international law says. But, I believe
that our first approach should be non-violence. I don't
like violence. I personally don't like violence. I have
a problem with violence. It doesn't only include
military action. Even if I see a man beating his child,
I have a big problem with that. So, it is a personal
and moral issue. In principle, I think we always have
to retain the moral superiority against our occupier.

Posted by xerxes @ 03/18/2007 11:16 AM CST

International law allows resistance to occupation in the form of attacks on soldiers, not intentional murder of civilians, which is a crime against humanity, regardless of propaganda. Moreover, when there is a negotiation process in place and the sides have committed to refrain from violence, the "right" of resistance has been traded for something better.

Posted by Ami Isseroff @ 03/19/2007 04:10 PM CST

Over the years I have listened to Israelis speak of the Occupation. Decades ago they hoped to trade it for peace. Then they dreamed of a Greater Israel in some vague way. Then they hoped for a negotiated peace with open borders. Then they were angry at the growth in violence against them.
But now they seem indifferent to the Occupation and the conditions for the Palestinians.
Once Israel aspired to be a Light Unto Nations - now it seems it has lost the will to find the matches so that it's light can be shone into the darkness of the Occupation. However I don't believe that the fundamental values that Israel aspired to have been discarded, I cannot believe it. For if it is so where will the example for the rest of the Middle East be in respect of all the things that Israel does so well in.

Posted by Rod Davies @ 03/19/2007 09:48 PM CST

"But now they seem indifferent to the Occupation and the conditions for the Palestinians."

That's unfortunatly true. I wish I knew what to do about it. Back in the 90's people cared about ending the occpation and acheiving peace. After the intifada started the fear from terrorism caused people to ignore the occupation. But eventually the reduction in terrorism, combined with pressure from the left, combined with pressure from the world, combined with terrorism, combined with time, had caused people to care about the occupation, although they didn't care about peace as much as they used to. But the events after the withdraw from Gaza have sent people (including myself) into a state of complete apathy and despair. Why care if nothing we do seems to go anywhere? Rationaly I know this is wrong, but emotionally, I don't know. We are caught up in a tragic situation where almost nobody is doing what they can or ought to change the situation. The Saudi initiative is good,but falls short, which does not excuse the failing of pretty much every other player on the field. It is gard to see a realistic (i.e. politically, diplomatically and militarily possible) way out of this trap.

Posted by Micha @ 03/23/2007 01:59 PM CST

woooooo muhammad is coooll and i have no clue wut this is about! :]

Posted by Muhammad Jolane @ 03/27/2007 06:23 PM CST

Hello again Micha.

Just one question this time. Don't you think the problem with the Gaza withdrawal was that it was so plainly a pragmatic strategic decision and not a principled (let alone moral) one? Essentially, Sharon made a hard-nosed military man's calculation that Gaza was not worth the trouble necessary to hang onto it.

At least that's how it looks to this hopefully impartial outside observer.

That being the case, Gazans have a choice between thinking they have successfully driven out the Israelis or that they have been consigned to a large prison camp, depending on their degree of realism. Either way, not particularly conducive to peace. And meanwhile settlement and wall building on the West Bank continues.

The task for Israeli peaceniks seems essentially unchanged to me - find people on the Palestinian side who will talk, talk to them, and try and sell the results to the Israeli public.

Regarding the initial article, surely the overall aim of much of the right wing is to make life for Palestinians so unpleasant that they will leave and allow Israel to colonise up to the Jordan river, as originally planned? Everything that's happening seems to fit comfortably into that overall schema.

Posted by Spike @ 04/10/2007 06:34 PM CST

Israel will make mistakes. Palestinians will also make mistakes. The world in general will support the palestinians because it is easier to see them as the oppressed. When the israeli government makes a mistake it sticks, but when a palestinian blows himself up and kills innocent people it may be seen as the action of somebody who is deperate enough to end his life. The Israeli government can certainly do a much better PR job. Consider for instance the recent war with Hezbollah. The Israeli bombings might appear to be moral if we assume that the Shiite localities share responsibility for allowing Hezbollah to flourish among them. Perhaps they are responsible. But the world in general does not think so and consequently the Israeli army ends up getting the villain tag.

Posted by David Shamgar Jeeves @ 08/05/2007 07:17 PM CST


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