Sunday, February 27, 2005

The International Solidarity Movement

While checking out my "favorite" pro-Palestinian website, I read an article about a member of the ISM named Brian Avery who was shot in the face by Israeli soldiers in 2003. Whether the shooting was legitimate or not is an issue for Israel's military investigators to decide. That's not the point of this posting.

But it got me thinking. One of the most common questions asked about the ISM is why they don't protect Israeli civilians. So common, in fact, the ISM even answered it in one of their FAQ's. I don't think their answer makes a whole lot of sense; in fact it implicitly diminishes their underlying argument.

The site notes in a question about their position on suicide bombers that

"[w]e oppose the tactic of suicide bombings, especially those that have been carried out against civilian targets. We don't however think that it is a more brutal tactic than dropping a bomb from a fighter plane on a civilian-occupied apartment building, firing a tank shell down a crowded city street, or placing dynamite in a family home. They are all brutal and repulsive acts."

A fundamental problem with this answer is that it ignores intent. It conflates an act designed to kill indiscriminately and maximize the number of deaths with an act designed to target a specific person or group, but carried out in a negligent way. Even if we assume that the acts they ascribe to the Israeli army are commonplace, that does not prove these acts are designed to maximize the number of deaths of innocents. The soldiers could very easily be responding to fire or laying a trap for some terrorists. There is no conclusive evidence that Israeli soldiers purposely target civilians. Suicide bombings in Israeli cafes, however, can have no other purpose but to kill as many people as possible.

For the time being let's assume the two actions are morally equal. Why protect Palestinian civilians over Israelis? Their answer is two-fold:

1) We believe the root cause of the violence in the region is the illegal seizure of Palestinian land and the violent oppression of the Palestinian people in the occupied territories. We are working to end this so that counter-attacks against Israelis may also stop.

2) Furthermore, the Israeli public is protected by a modern, well equipped and highly professional security apparatus, which includes sophisticated intelligence, surveillance and counter-terrorist units in addition to regular military and para-military units. The Palestinian people have none of this protection.

They also point out how they do go into cafes and ride buses, so to a certain extent they are protecting Israeli civilians (I guess that's their point in mentioning this fact).

The first part is wrong. But let's assume it's true for now. If they believe that protecting Israeli civilians is just important as protecting Palestinians, which can be the only reason why they would want "counter-attacks" to end, would they not be as successful by placing their members in Israeli cafes so Palestinian suicide bombers would know that detonation there would kill ISM members? Let's take a look at this point. Obviously they assume that the IDF will not commit these brutal acts if they know the ISM is there watching them. If the ISM did not deter the IDF, why would the ISM be there at all?

If the assumption is that putting the ISM in the territories will deter the Israeli army from acting with impunity, and we also assume that the Palestinian "counter-attackers" are equally moral, couldn't we conclude that Hamas will be deterred from sending operatives to blow up Sbarros? They could hang a big sign in Arabic outside of all major Israeli cafes "ISM members inside!!!" Surely this will deter Hamas, right?

Would this be more effective than just trying to stop the IDF? Even if we assume that Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and the others only attack because of Israeli actions, we still have to admit that the IDF responds to these actions. Palestinian leaders like Abbas often complain about how such attacks give Sharon an excuse to attack more Palestinians. If this statement is true, a goal of the ISM should be to minimize Sharon's excuses, right? Stopping Hamas will lead to saving Israeli lives, and will also take away Sharon's excuses and will save Palestinian lives as well. The current approach merely saves Palestinian lives. A moral approach should focus on saving the most lives. So why not use this approach?

That brings us to Number 2. The Israelis already have protection. Why do they need more? But if Hamas will really be deterred by the presence of ISM members in Israeli restaurants, that would save more lives. The amount of lives already saved by Israeli security forces practicing defensive measures in Israel proper (which I assume even the ISM would not criticize), is immaterial. They can save more. So instead of, for example, 100 lives being saved a month, now 150 lives could be saved. The net gain is 50. How is this any different than saving 50 Palestinian lives? In one case we start at 0 and in the other we start at 100, but the difference is still the same.

Both these reasons are red herrings. If you ask me, there are two real reasons why they don't help Israeli civilians. One, they don't care about them. Honestly, they just feel that Israeli civilians are equally culpable, either because they elect these leaders and sanction their actions or because every member of Israeli society is part of the army. I've heard both these ideas before from Palestinian apologists. The ISM just chooses not to admit this reason because they know that they'd have zero legitimacy if they supported killing babies because their father or mother voted for Sharon.

Two, they know Hamas couldn't care less if they kill them. Hamas won't actively kill people like Adam Shapiro because that would go against their interests, but every rational person knows that the presence of ISM members on Israeli buses will do nothing to stop a suicide bomber. Implicit in this idea is that the Hamas is less moral than the IDF because the IDF will be deterred but Hamas won't. The ISM can't admit this because that should make a moral person support the Israelis.

But the ISM doesn't claim to be moral. It admits that it's pro-Palestinian. So why does anyone grant this group any legitimacy?

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Terror Strikes Again

So the Sabbath comes to an end and I turn on my computer only to find out that the certain elements of the Palestinians want to see them live under Israeli dominion forever. Just another attack on occupation forces, right?

I want to say that these Palestinians are working hand and hand with the fanatics on our side (albeit unintentionally). But there's absolutely no moral equivalence between the crazies on the Israeli side and the Palestinian terrorists. Palestinian extremists murder innocent people. Israeli fanatics just say dumb, hurtful things. Until Israeli extremists start murdering Palestinians at random, there's no comparison between these two groups.

Apparently Islamic Jihad took responsibility, although one of their leaders denied it. The rationale is they gave Israel a month to give into their "demands" and Israel didn't live up to their "obligations." So they decided to derail any chance of Palestinian self-control. Right on point, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz decided to delay transferring some Palestinian cities to PA control.

It's time for the PA to finally do something about these crazies. Abu Mazen won the PA presidency by a huge margin. If there is such a thing in that society, he has legitimacy. He has to start pretending he's a national leader and get these people to disarm. Truces are not enough. If they won't disarm willingly, he has to do it for them. Ali Abunimah of the Electronic Intifada constantly rails on about how the Palestinians cannot be expected to fight a civil war for Israel.

"If Palestinians feel that Abbas' Palestinian Authority is receiving international aid and support only to act as a proxy police force on behalf of a deepening Israeli occupation, it will rapidly lose what legitimacy it has. Abbas' problem was well illustrated by one Palestinian police officer in Gaza who told the Associated Press, "I will never raise my weapons against the [Palestinian] fighters ... I can only ask them not to fire." No Palestinian leader can order Palestinians to engage in civil war on Israel's behalf. "

If militias in the US decided to attack Canada for refusing to support us in Iraq, could the US government just hold their hands up and decline to stop them on the grounds that we shouldn't fight civil war to protect Canada? One of the functions of a security force is to protect other countries from one's people. If Abu Mazen cannot control Hamas, Islamic Jihad and his own Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade (or whatever they're called now), then Israel is wasting its time dealing with him. This is his test. Let's all hope he has the courage to pass.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Estrich vs. Kinsley

For those who haven't been following this controversy, here is a great article on Susan Estrich's hysterics. Estrich, a law professor, wrote a hysterical letter to Los Angeles Times’s op-ed editor, Michael Kinsley, about how there aren't enough women at the Times.

Like the Lawrence Summers flap, this is just another example of how contemporary Feminism has moved out of the mainstream. I'm far from an expert at what constitutes Feminism these days but from what I can tell, they all start with the a priori assumption that this society is a patriarchy governed by men who consciously or subconsciously wish to keep women in the kitchen. In their eyes, that's why there's so much discrimination against women. Here's a list of the contemporary forms of Feminism courtesy of Alas, A Blog.

They all agree that fighting "male supremacy" is important (although they disagree on what forms of supremacy are the worst). In that I whole hardily agree. If Feminism is defined as a belief that women should have legal and social barriers to equality removed, then call me a Feminist. But Feminism is about fighting discrimination, which as a de jure matter, just does not exist on the scale they assume it does. Obviously some exists de facto, but not to the point where we need to devote our lives creates classes between men and women. Just look at this post. It's as if "men" are responsible for rape, rather than "people." Men and woman are both responsible for stopping rape.

But back to my original point. The discrimination that Estrich alludes to is basically non-existent. Her argument is predicated on the assumption that a lack of women proves invidious discrimination is at work. But the issue is, and definitely should be, the quality of the writers, not their gender. Contemporary Feminism, with its emphasis on dividing and blaming , makes that impossible.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Jumped Right In

I kinda jumped right in with that last post. Not too controversial though, so time to move on to politics:

Apparently there was a big anti-disengagement rally in Israel today. And true to form the Holocaust was evoked. I'm really getting sick and tired of all these ridiculous allusions to the Holocaust. There is nothing facing the Jewish people in the world right now that compares in any way, whether in scope or nature, to the Holocaust. Nothing. Wearing orange badges to elicit comparisons to the Warsaw Ghetto is disgusting.

Let's leave aside for the moment the fact that these statements do nothing to help their cause. Don't these people feel the least bit guilty about trivializing the Holocaust in this way? We're comparing the transfer of millions of Jews with the intention of moving them to death camps with the evacuation and 7000 Jews from Gaza to Israel proper. These people will be paid at least market value for their homes and property. How, in any way, are these two situations comparable?

It's statements like these that moved me into the "let's just get out and leave them there" camp. Why go through all these problems, having to deal with massive civil and even possible armed resistance when the IDF can just leave? Let's be real. The vast, vast majority of settlers are normal people. I don't believe they want to have their last stand to fight for Gaza. Some fanatics will, but well, that's their choice. We can't be responsible for every adult who makes a choice.

For a good article on just getting out and leaving those who remain to fend for themselves see Hillel Halkin's article in the December 31, 2004 edition of the Jerusalem Post, titled "Treat Gaza Settlers like Adults." (costs money)

I understand that there are legitimate arguments against the withdrawal, many of which I am sensitive to. But legitimate political opposition should not lead ridiculous and insulting comparisons. The people who do this do their cause a great disservice.

Trades in the NBA

The Webber trade came out of nowhere. Sacramento basically traded their aging and gimpy franchise player for three Knicks forwards (and by that I mean undersized and under producing but overpaid power forwards). The trade is perfect for Iverson who always wanted a big man to play with. But what was Sacramento thinking? They got smaller and slower and didn't even gain any cap space. Kinda of sounds like what the Knicks did today....

So the Knicks traded for two undersized power forwards while gaining even more salaries. No surprise there. But apparently Isaiah never even inquired about getting Webber. Why not? Well let's look at what he says.

"For us to try to take players right now at this stage of the game who are making in excess of $19 or 20 million and are over the age of 30, those don't work for our strategic plan right now," Thomas said. "I don't think that's the healthy and secure way to go."

Oh, so Isaiah believes that taking on more aged, overpriced players in the Penny Hardaway mold is not the way to go? Well, great, can't disagree with that. But why take on Malik Rose and Maurice Taylor who are making a combined $13 million? How in the world do they fit into whatever "strategic plan" Isaiah has in his mind?

This team needs to be gutted and built again from scratch. Keep Marbury and get rid of everyone else. It's amazing how the Knicks actually managed to get smaller, older, less talented, and more over the cap.