Sunday, July 30, 2006

The IDF is Out of Control and Must Be Stopped

The Israeli Defense [sic] Forces keep secret the details of where Hezbollah rockets land. Why? They claim that publicizing the information would help Hezbollah improve its targeting.

Question: if the IDF is really about defending the right of Israelis to exist, as so many of its supporters falsely claim, shouldn't Hezbollah be encouraged to improve its targeting? Or is the IDF defending something else? Jonathan Cook, an independent British journalist based in Nazareth, wrote recently:
It is obvious to everyone in Nazareth, for example, that the rockets landing close by, and once on, the city over the past week are searching out, and some have fallen extremely close to, the weapons factory sited near us.
When Hezbollah misses an intended target---a weapons factory or military installation, for example---Israeli and Palestinian civilians pay the price. Does this work both ways? Not really. While Hezbollah's targets are meant to be kept secret, Israel's targets in Lebanon are widely known and have included the UN. I suppose that when one conducts crimes it is better for there to be no witnesses, and the Israeli government has never really been a friend of international law.

Friend or no friend to international law, aggressor nations in the conflicts in Lebanon (and Iraq) (and Palestine) (and Afghanistan) will always claim that military personnel (variously called enemy combatants, insurgents, terrorists, militants as contrasted with US or Israeli "soldiers") use civilians as human shields. Cook writes in the same article about Western expectations of its adversaries:
any Lebanese fighter, or Palestinian one, resisting Israel and its powerful military should stand in an open field, his rifle raised to the sky, waiting to see who fares worse in a shoot-out with an Apache helicopter or F-16 fighter jet. Hezbollah’s reluctance to conduct the war in this manner, we are supposed to infer, is proof that they are terrorists.
So there is the deliberate targeting of civilian infrastructure. The free movement of the people has been prevented in the name of hampering Hezbollah's ability to transport weapons and troops. But do the ends justify the means? Is the terror struck in millions of people in Lebanon---and the destruction of families, cities, livelihoods, and now ecosystems as well---worth the highly questionable damage the Israeli army is inflicting on Hezbollah? Is it worth the international outrage at the Israeli government's crimes? Is it worth the comparatively mild retribution (for lack of a better phrase) inflicted on Israel's civilian population?

This is the part where I make an obligatory reference to the fact that Hezbollah is doing bad stuff too. It is. Supporters of Israel's appalling policy of continual violence often point to its right to defend itself from terror. That would be fine, if the IDF was not a terrorist organization itself. How else can we explain what happened today in Qana? True, leaflets were dstributed to warn the people there that to remain at home was to become a target. But how to leave home when Israeli F-16's have already indescriminately destroyed roads and bridges throughout the country?

Before a single rocket was launched on either side, the apparently bad people in Hezbollah offered to negotiate a prisoner swap.

So what else beside leaflets has the IDF distributed? There is the allegation of white phosphorus use. White phosphorus has been in the news lately---the US has used it on people in Iraq and Lieutenant-Colonel Barry Venable of the Defense Department [sic] had this to say in November 2005:
Yes, it was used as an incendiary weapon against enemy combatants...[T]he combined effects of the fire and smoke - and in some case the terror brought about by the explosion on the ground - will drive them out of the holes so that you can kill them with high explosives.
So: leaflets, chemical weapons. And cluster bombs. Meanwhile, the US is shipping weapons containing depleted uranium to Israel.

When they do it, it is called "terrorism"; when we do it, it is defending one's right to exist. Unconscionable. As I write, the BBC reports that Israel has proclaimed a 48 hour limited halt to air strikes over the south of Lebanon. A ruse, this, and only after Army Chief of Staff Dan Halutz has apparently succeeded in his goal---stated immediately following Hezbollah's taking prisoner of two Israeli soldiers in Ayta ash Shab (Lebanon)---of "turn[ing] back the clock in Lebanon by 20 years". Indefensible.

So: what is preventing the US government from insisting on an unconditional ceasefire from both sides? Lebanon is asking for it. All of Israel's neighbors are demanding it. We've reached the end of this here fact-filled article of mine, and it is time for the punchline. Here it is.

Thanks to Justin Podur and Leila Mouammar for inspiring this post.

Friday, July 21, 2006

All Bombing is Terrorism

All bombing is terrorism. All wars are wars against children. These photographs document two war crimes, though I admit that "war crime" is a term that can only exist in an insane culture, in which war can be something other than a crime.

The top photograph documents a girl who has been brought out of an underground shelter in Northern Israel long enough to inscribe messages on bombs that will later be used by the Israeli army in their murderous attack on the people of Lebanon. Language is important here: the overwhelming majority of the casualties of Israel's aggression are Lebanese civilians, not members of Hezbollah's army. Who brought the girl to this artillery position in the north of Israel? Who taught her to smile at war? Shouldn't she be taken far away from the hideous people who staged this scene, who encouraged her, who allowed her? Can anyone give me a reason why the people responsible for the physical and emotional welfare of this child should be permitted to maintain custody of her? Why should they be forgiven?

The bottom photograph shows a Lebanese girl. Dead. Murdered. Weapons made in the United States of America killed her. They were used by young Israeli people who were forced by insane laws and rabid societal pressures to join their country's belligerent army. Maybe the weapons had been inscribed. People make fortunes from the production and sale of weapons like the one that killed this girl. It is also quite profitable to invest in the companies dedicated to killing children. Who knows, maybe your stock portfolio includes a company making the machinery that turns little girls into statistics for Israeli generals to gloat over.

Turning our attention away from the sunny Mediterranean for a moment, I would like to point out that the Bush Administration, but more importantly the entire United States Senate, has officially backed the Israeli government's despicable violence. The entire goddamn Senate, and perhaps most notably that bloodthirsty political demon angling for a shot at the presidency, Hillary Clinton. The House of Representatives [sic] is expected to do the same. Why the hell not?

How dare they? What a bunch of indescribably horrible people. What do we wish for them when we turn out the lights and try to sleep while others, elsewhere, duck into shelters or have their families blown into a thousand little pieces? Should we say the prayer these vile excuses for human beings say at the end of their inane political speeches? Should god, their God, their Christian God, their God formerly of forgiveness but now marching in lockstep to murder the meek, rape women, poison water and steal land and construct on it bases, prisons and weapons factories---should their God bless America and the thugs running it?

The violence must stop. We (if you're reading this it doesn't matter where you're from) have a hand in the violence and a responsibility to stop it. You paid for the bomb that destroyed that little Lebanese girl (and hundreds of thousands like her from Lebanon to Gaza to Iraq to Afghanistan). Perhaps you even invested in it.

We have to put ourselves between the next little girl and the bullet or the bomb aimed at her.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Don't Wait. Don't Hope. Do.

Herman Hesse says...
We kill when we close our eyes to poverty, affliction, or infamy. We kill when, because it is easier, we countenance, or pretend to approve of atrophied social, political, educational, and religious institutions, instead of resolutely combatting them.
This is true, and obviously so. But having our eyes open to the horrors of our time, or theoretically disapproving of the institutions which propogate these horrors, is not the same as acting on what we see or what we know.

Opportunities for acting conscientiously abound, and begin the moment a sensitive individual wakes up in the morning. They present themselves as exchanges with others, as chances to be decent, to be what Vonnegut calls courteous and Martin Luther King called a "creative extremist". Failure to see, failure to disapprove, failure to act, are as easy. So easy they're commonplace. They're what almost everyone seems to do. All the time.

Someone asked me this week "what can I do?" Again. We were talking about local versus global action, and human beings as inherently compassionate and striving toward peace versus human beings as inherently thugish and striving toward violence. I didn't really know, specifically, what he ought to do. I still don't. But I know he can do something, which is the imperative. He doesn't need me to imagine his path to action.

(An aside: of course we could talk about strategies and tactics, and about positive vision, but only if he had one. Discussions of positive vision only go so far with those who have yet to get beyond opening their eyes, or yet to recognize that, beyond the horrors, there are alternatives. Or yet to allow for the possibility that rape, murder and torture are not necessarily hallmarks of the human condition.)

And yet I see in myself something akin to the "what can I do" line of questioning: a kind of waiting for the "go ahead" to do some truly meaningful work--not that it would be very meaningful if it were officially sanctioned. I see in others, as in myself, a tendency to wait for the best moment to "resolutely combat" atrophied social, political, educational, and religious institutions. I realized this only recently. I don't know what I'm waiting for. I don't know what we're waiting for. Waiting is getting us nowhere.

I'm reminded of a question posed by Israeli commentator Tanya Reinhart: "Is it more ethical to refrain from trying to save anyone until it is possible to save everyone?"

Answer: it is not.

Waiting--for a movement, for a bright idea to come along, for a leader--implies hope, and hope can be a bad thing. Whatever it will be, it will not be hope that will get us beyond the horrors. On this subject there is an important little essay, Beyond Hope, by Derrick Jensen. I recommend it without reservation (and thank Mickey Z. for bringing it to my attention). I recommend not waiting. I recommend not hoping. I recommend being a movement of your own.

PS: for an apparent work of art relating to the Reinhart quote above, click here.