Matt Rubenstein on the Gaza War

by Rich Rubenstein on July 13, 2014 · 0 comments

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The posting below is from my clear-sighted son, Matt, in Berlin:

It’s always 700:1 for Israel.

We’re only at the beginning of another horrendous Israeli military assault on Gaza, and already the Israelosphere, including people I know and respect, is trotting out all the familiar tropes: Israel is “the only democracy in the Middle East”; Israel is the victim of a “double standard” in the media; “no Democracy on earth” would just sit by and let its people get attacked by terrorists; and my favorite new addition to the litany: Israel loves gays, the Arabs hate them. As usual, this can pretty much all be boiled down to a single claim: “we” are better, so our violence is acceptable, regardless of the real-world proportionalities. So the fact that (as of now) not a single Israeli has been killed, but over 150 Palestinians have already died (mainly civilians, many children) is, at worst, “regrettable”. The facts of so many destitute people being made even more destitute, their homes and livelihoods wiped out (again), are just by-products of the unavoidable fight against “terror”.

Of all the debating points and press memes, the ones I find truly obscene are those that seek to blame Palestinians for their own suffering. The indefatigably mendacious Alan Dershowitz likes to quote Golda Meir’s famous one-liner about how Israel can never forgive the Arabs for making Israel kill Arab children. Now every pro-Israel hack on TV has a sound bite at hand about Hamas “ordering children onto the rooftops”, about how the IDF goes through contortions to protect the little Arab babies, about how the Palestinians just want to create martyrs for television. The evidence for all this is thin, at best. But even if there have been calls from some Hamas officials for Palestinians to defend their property with their own bodies, is that really so different from black protesters placing themselves in front of water canons and snarling German shepherds? As a strategy it may be unwise, in some cases even cynical, but the attack dogs are still the ones piloting IDF jets. The very logic of such claims is topsy-turvy anyway, since in making them Israel tacitly admits it’s bombing buildings it knows full well have children in (or on) them. Who “ordered” the children/civilians to remain in harm’s way is surely less significant than who perpetrates the harm in the first place. Outside the Israeli spin machine, this isn’t even arguable. (Of course, it has its equivalent in any number of conflicts–but I’m guessing Israel’s defenders don’t want to be caught sharing the debate-hookah with the friends of the Syrian Baath Party.)

It’s clear enough that, in the end, “our” (Israeli/American/”Western”) virtue doesn’t really depend on such earthly matters as who’s actually dying and suffering, or who’s actually dropping bombs. That’s because it’s not in this world that the moral game really gets played. For far too many “friends” of Israel, the real issue isn’t what’s happening in the streets of Gaza or the towns of southern Israel; all the important matters are on the plane of nationalist metaphysics, where the moral outcomes are determined in advance and by definition. Otherwise, what could the number of gay bars in Tel Aviv possibly have to do with the number of bombs dropped on Palestinian heads? How could any number of gay pride parades offset the number of children and old people bleeding in Gazan hospitals? Whether or not Israel really is the democracy it claims to be, a liberal who murders is still a murderer, and the chauvinism that makes harming and killing innocents seem OK is still just chauvinism.

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