Forget that big massacre, we’re moving on to new ones

In my city it this morning’s headlines were about a local heat wave, not blown up children and ugly quotes from criminals about how determined they are to keep up the slaughter.

Which is not to say that children aren’t being blown up. Israel blew up a kid and and an adult in Gaza today with a missile. That’s 177 total killed in the “Summer Rains” side of Israel’s two front massacre. 40 of those are children.

Continue reading “Forget that big massacre, we’re moving on to new ones”

The biggest massacre so far

Israel just killed more than 50 people, mostly children, in a single bombing. Count on the silence of Stephen Harper, or some formulation encouraging to the bombers. Count on there being no consequences for the killers or their cheerleaders.

According to the story, the Lebanese government told Rice that she’s not welcome in Lebanon any more. Rice replied that she didn’t want to go anyway.

Continue reading “The biggest massacre so far”

In praise of moral equivalence

Rahul had a very good blog post discussing the doctrine of ‘collateral damage’ and the related doctrine of ‘moral equivalence’. The idea is that they intentionally kill civilians, and we accidentally kill them. So, even though we kill hundreds or thousands and they kill dozens, they are morally inferior. Indeed, they are morally inferior twice over, because first of all, they kill civilians on purpose, and second of all, they force us (poor us!) to kill civilians because we are trying to kill them, and they keep hanging around all these civilians all the damned time.

This is, as Rahul says, a jumble of racist and incoherent arguments. Let us try to disentangle this jumble.

First, let’s take the idea that they target civilians and we don’t. This is false. We target civilians all the time. Leave aside the bombing of civilian infrastructure and the wholesale destruction of civilian areas, like Jenin Camp in 2002, because we can still argue that we visited all this destruction while trying to get at people we didn’t like.

We deliberately target civilians for murder. Israeli snipers fire straight into the centre of the Red Crosses on Red Cross trucks. They have shot children and administered a coup de grace at close range, in Gaza. In Iraq, Rahul took a photo of ambulances in Fallujah with nice clean bullet holes through the driver’s side. And of course, there was the recent murder of the UN observers. Canadian Prime Minister Harper defiled the Canadian who died their as he defiled the other Canadians who Israel has killed by saying that he doesn’t think the UN post was targeted. He won’t pay any political price for making the statement. But it is still worth noting that he says so from Canada, and Robert Fisk, who is in Lebanon, described their killing this way:

In past years, I have spent hours with their comrades in this UN position, which is clearly marked in white and blue paint, with the UN’s pale blue flag opposite the Israeli frontier. Their duty was to report on all they saw: the ruthless Hizbollah missile fire out of Khiam and the brutal Israeli response against the civilians of Lebanon.

Is this why they had to die, after being targeted by the Israelis for eight hours, their officers pleading to the Israeli Defence Forces that they cease fire? An American-made Israeli helicopter saw to that.

Second, Rahul points out that evidence we offer that Hizbullah targets civilians is that they use inaccurate weapons.

This means either that

1) When we use our accurate weapons to kill civilians we are doing so on purpose, or

2) We are using inaccurate weapons and killing civilians, in which case we are condemning Hizbullah for doing something we do more of.

The third argument for the moral superiority of our killing of more people is that they are cowardly because they are around civilians, forcing us to kill them. About this argument, Jonathan Cook had this to say:

The UN head of humanitarian affairs, Jan Egeland, who is in the region, accused Hizbullah of “cowardly blending” among the civilian population, and a similar accuation was levelled by the British foreign minister Kim Howells when he arrived in Israel.

In 2002 Israel made the same charge: that Palestinians resisting its army’s rampage through the refugee camps of the West Bank were hiding among civilians. The claim grew louder as more Palestinian civilians showed the irritating habit of gettting in the way of Israeli strikes against population centres. The complaints reached a crescendo when at least two dozen civilians were killed in Jenin as Israel razed the camp with Apache helicopters and Caterpillar bulldozers.

The implication of Egeland’s cowardly statement seems to be that 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.

Of course, in the prison of Palestine, Palestinian fighters do exactly that. They have no cover and no way of hiding from Israel’s armaments and complete surveillance. So they fire their puny weapons in order to show defiance, and to ensure that Israeli soldiers cannot operate with complete impunity on the ground, but instead need to hide in their armored vehicles. They are then slaughtered. But this does not win them any points with us, either. Our reaction is every bit as vulgar and racist in that case as it is in others. Mitch Potter from the Toronto Star, a truly disgusting racist, was quoted by Dan Freeman-Maloy likening Palestinians to rodents, a standard racist analogy, for facing the Israeli army on open ground: ‘“Another batch of Palestinian militants drawn out lemming-like and falling by the dozen to higher-calibre Israeli fire, just like their predecessors.” [For Potter to call Palestinians lemmings is certainly ironic].’

I recently heard that a Canadian general named Lewis MacKenzie has said that yes, Israel has killed hundreds, but considering the weaponry that Israel has this is a low figure, and that if Hizbullah had this kind of armament, Israel would be a parking lot.

MacKenzie’s argument, restated, is that the imbalance in numbers killed is actually much less than the actual military imbalance. Lebanese and Palestinians should take comfort, then, because Israel could be killing many, many more of them. And Israelis should be afraid, because even though they can’t, Hizbullah really wants to kill us all. MacKenzie is, in addition to being a general, a mind-reader. Jonathan Cook’s answer to this:

In fact, although no one is making the point, Hizbullah’s rockets have been targeted overwhelming at strategic locations: the northern economic hub of Haifa, its satellite towns and the array of military sites across the Galilee.

Nasrallah seems fully aware that Israel has an impressive civil defence program of shelters that keep most civilians out of harm’s way. Unlike Horowitz I won’t presume to read Nasrallah’s mind: whether he wants to kill large numbers of Israeli civilians or not cannot be known, given his inability to do so.

Rahul’s blog post concludes with the idea that the doctrine of “collateral damage” must be discarded because it is incompatible with the rules of war and the Geneva Conventions.

The jumble of “moral equivalence”, meanwhile, when unpacked, is false on every single count.

Kill some Canadians? Kill some UN observers? No problem…

Israel bombed a UN post and killed some observers.

They’ve also stated that if an international force is to go to the newly-leveled Lebanon in order to protected those who leveled it from the people who have been slaughtered, displaced, and whose city has been leveled, they’d prefer it not be the UN. Eloquently reinforced by the bombing: a bombing is worth a thousand words.

Continue reading “Kill some Canadians? Kill some UN observers? No problem…”

Buzz Hargrove and Terrorism

ZNet just posted an exchange between a unionist from the Canadian Auto Workers’ union and the union’s president, Buzz Hargrove. Given the amount of democracy in Canadian unions, it wasn’t exactly an “exchange”, so much as the unionist’s reaction to the Official Position laid down by the President, who also spends an awful lot of his time cavorting with Canada’s wealthiest and most powerful people. Joe Emersberger, who has appeared in this blog in the past and who I respect a lot for his letters, is the unionist in question. And while I thought his letter was good, I felt a point-by-point response to Hargrove’s letter is in order. Here it is, below. My comments are in bold.

Dear Prime Minister,

The crisis in the Middle East cannot be allowed to escalate and I believe Canada can take a leadership role in finding a diplomatic resolution.

Unfortunately, Harper has already squandered Canada’s diplomatic credibility by his pronouncements of unconditional support for Israel and for the United States, and his military operations in Afghanistan. While the Martin liberals were headed in this direction, Harper has accelerated matters to the point where Canada’s credibility is close to zero.

The potential of provoking a much wider conflict, plummeting the entire region into chaos, is a real danger. Up to 200 people in Gaza and Lebanon have been killed and thousands more may die because of the destruction by Israeli bombings of power plants, homes and hospitals.

At least Israel’s agency in the bombings has been acknowledged here. But the passive voice appears in this letter “Up to 200 people… have been killed…” as it does throughout the media, when Israel is doing the killing.

Hamas and Hezbollah must assume responsibility for this latest crisis, but this does not give Israel the license to kill innocent citizens and destroy the infrastructure in Gaza and Lebanon.

Hamas: the elected government of the Palestinians, who had held a unilateral ceasefire for months while Israel attacked and provoked, while Canada, the US, Israel, and the rest of the world imposed tremendous suffering on the Palestinian population by embargo – an embargo that has over 1/4 of the children of Gaza starving, while Israel dropped bombs and sent death squads to assassinate Palestinians, must assume responsibility for the latest crisis. Hizbollah: the political movement with elected members in the Lebanese government, that didn’t want to disarm, arguing that they needed to maintain their arms in the event of an Israeli invasion, and has no arms that are any match for the US/Israel military machine, after constant low-level incursions and conflict with Israel on the border, must assume responsibility.

The continuing killing of Israeli soldiers and over 25 innocent citizens alike cannot be ignored by the world community.

Although the world community can, and has, ignored the continuing killing of Palestinian civilians. As Hargrove has, in his letter. Palestinians are not qualified as “innocent citizens”. They simply do not exist in Hargrove’s world.

We are extremely concerned about the recent killing of 7 Canadians in the bombing of Lebanon.

Hargrove here follows the media in using the passive voice, referring to the Canadians as if they were killed by a natural disaster. Israel bombed the place they were vacationing in, as it has bombed so many civilian areas over the past several months (years) and killed so many civilians – thousands, since 2006.

Certainly Israel has the right to defend itself against attacks on its citizens by extremist forces such as Hezbollah and Hamas.

But the Lebanese and Palestinians do not have such reciprocal rights. The Palestinians do not have the right because, in Hargrove’s world and Hargrove’s letter, they do not exist. The Lebanese, perhaps, because in Hargrove’s world and his racist calculus, because to exercise a right of self-defense against Israel is the same as “terrorism”.

Countries like Lebanon, Syria and Iran that harbour extremist forces must expect that there will be consequences to their complicity in the attacks on Israel.

This is the most interesting aspect of the letter. Read this carefully. This seems to me to be tantamount to a military threat from the President of a Canadian union to the “countries” (NOT merely the governments) of Lebanon, Syria, and Iran. The words “harbour extremist forces” and “consequences”. This is pure Bush-language.

And the world knows very well what these “consequences” are – tremendous violence, against defenceless civilians, from the air. It is hard for me to see how this section of this letter is not supportive of terrorism. It amounts to a threat of violence against civilians, and Hargrove knows it. This is kind of posturing is unworthy and frightening from the president of the United States. From the president of a worker’s union in a small country, it is utterly revolting.

Finally, if these COUNTRIES are to face some dark and unknown “consequences” for their “complicity”, what “consequences” are WE going to face for ours, since theirs is a matter of speculation and ours a matter of public record?

However, Israel’s military response has been brutal and disproportionate to the provocation by Hezbollah and Hamas.

Emphasizing again the inversion of provoker and provoked, and removing the Palestinians from the equation.

The killing of innocent civilians and destruction of the infrastructure destabilizes the region and impedes advancing the goals of democracy and peace for Palestinian, Israeli and Lebanese people.

Ah, I was wrong. The Palestinians have finally appeared, as a people who need democracy. But what was Canada’s response to their democratic election? To cut aid to a starving, besieged people and then to describe their being bombed as a “measured response”. What does Hargrove say to Harper, the man who cut this aid and made this description, about it, in a letter to him? Nothing.

The CAW calls for:

the immediate return, unharmed, of captured Israeli soldiers. an end to the shelling of Israeli cities by Hamas militants. an end to the shelling of Israeli cities by the Hezbollah militants.

The demands of Hamas and Hizbullah in this are clear: Hamas wants, of the 9,000 Palestinians in Israeli jails, most of whom are there on “evidence” taken under torture, the 1,000 “administrative detainees” who have not been charged, plus the 400 children, plus the 100 women, returned, in exchange for the tank gunner they captured. Hizbullah wants the Lebanese prisoners and an end to Israeli attacks. These would be easy for Israel to grant, and easy for Canada to ask Israel to grant as part of a negotiated solution. But nothing on this from Hargrove.

Another interesting question is why Hargrove sees fit to make his first demand in a letter to the Canadian Prime Minister a demand to Hizbullah and Hamas, a demand Harper agrees with, and over which Harper (and now Hargrove) has absolutely no influence or credibility.

-an end to Israeli bombing of Lebanon and Gaza and all military operations including the immediate withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza and Lebanon.

This section at least acknowledges that Israel is bombing Gaza, for the first time in the letter. Withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza, while it would be a good thing, would not lift the siege. And Hargrove, who doesn’t acknowledge the siege, doesn’t acknowledge this need either.

-the release of the Palestinian ministers and parliamentarians arrested by the Israelis

But not the 400 children, 100 women, and 1000 administrative detainees, plus the Lebanese prisoners, who, if they were released, would lead immediately to the release of the Israeli soldiers.

-the immediate reinstatement of international aid to the Palestinian Authority under the leadership of President Abbas.

No mention of the elected government?

-expedite the evacuation of all Canadians who are caught in the war zone in Lebanon.

Canada must take a leadership role in bringing the parties to the table to find a resolution to this crisis, which has cost too many innocent lives.

In order for Canada to take a credible leadership role, the federal government must end its unsavoury attempts to mirror George Bush’s policies during this crisis and instead, reflect the strongly held Canadian values of fairness and justice – and to uphold our obligations to international law.

We propose the Canadian government withdraw our troops from Afghanistan and further propose they be reassigned to a peacekeeping role in the Middle East.

The last few paragraphs clash strongly with the previous content, so much so that they suggest a different writer. If Harper does what Hargrove suggests, Canada will be precisely doing “unsavoury attempts to mirror George Bush” and will have lost all hope of a “credible leadership role”.

Summer Rains

“I am sorry with all my heart for the residents of Gaza… but the lives and well-being of Sderot’s residents are more important than those of Gaza residents.” Ehud Olmert

“Better Palestinian mothers should cry and not Jewish mothers”
-Major General Aharon Ze’evi, Israel’s director of military intelligence 2003

“I wish Gaza would sink into the sea.” – late Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, 1992

Continue reading “Summer Rains”

Photo Exhibit in Toronto

Another great event at the Tinto Coffee House in Toronto, by my friend Jon Elmer.

A month-long photo exhibition, “The Children of Palestine: Images from the West Bank and Gaza Strip”, by Jon Elmer will open in our mezzanine starting Wednesday, February 1, 2006.

Jon Elmer is a Toronto-born photojournalist and writer; his images and articles have appeared in number of independent magazines and periodicals, including the Journal of Palestine Studies and the Progressive. The photos were taken while reporting from Palestine, on the intifada and developments in Gaza.

On Thursday, 9 February Jon will be at Tinto for an opening presentation and reception. He will screen a slideshow with a larger number of images. Please join us from 6:30 p.m. until 10 p.m.

For more details please click here to visit our website.