Two wrongs do not make a right: The case for ending Israel

Update, August 28, 2014: Mostly unnamed U.S. military sources have apparently confirmed my characterization of the Israeli attack on Gaza, specifically in the Shujaiya neighborhood of Gaza City, and characterized the shelling as disproportionate[1]:

“Eleven battalions of IDF artillery is equivalent to the artillery we deploy to support two divisions of U.S. infantry,” a senior Pentagon officer with access to the daily briefings said. “That’s a massive amount of firepower, and it’s absolutely deadly.” Another officer, a retired artillery commander who served in Iraq, said the Pentagon’s assessment might well have underestimated the firepower the IDF brought to bear on Shujaiya. “This is the equivalent of the artillery we deploy to support a full corps,” he said. “It’s just a huge number of weapons.”

Artillery pieces used during the operation included a mix of Soltam M71 guns and U.S.-manufactured Paladin M109s (a 155-mm howitzer), each of which can fire three shells per minute. “The only possible reason for doing that is to kill a lot of people in as short a period of time as possible,” said the senior U.S. military officer. “It’s not mowing the lawn,” he added, referring to a popular IDF term for periodic military operations against Hamas in Gaza. “It’s removing the topsoil.”

“Holy bejeezus,” exclaimed retired Lt. Gen. Robert Gard when told the numbers of artillery pieces and rounds fired during the July 21 action. “That rate of fire over that period of time is astonishing. If the figures are even half right, Israel’s response was absolutely disproportionate.” A West Point graduate who is a veteran of two wars and is the chairman of the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation in Washington, D.C., he added that even if Israeli artillery units fired guided munitions, it would have made little difference. . . .

Senior U.S. officers who are familiar with the battle and Israeli artillery operations, which are modeled on U.S. doctrine, assessed that, given that rate of artillery fire into Shujaiya, IDF commanders were not precisely targeting Palestinian military formations as much as laying down an indiscriminate barrage aimed at cratering the neighborhood. The cratering operation was designed to collapse the Hamas tunnels discovered when IDF ground units came under fire in the neighborhood. Initially, said the senior Pentagon officer, Israel’s artillery used “suppressing fire to protect their forward units but then poured in everything they had, in a kind of walking barrage. Suppressing fire is perfectly defensible. A walking barrage isn’t.”[2]


Israel’s war—I will deploy a harsher term for it—on the Gaza Strip must be especially disheartening for a former colleague of mine. We crossed paths at California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS), where we were both enrolled in the Transformative Studies Ph.D. program (we are both now in other programs). I remember talking with her about Israel at a week-long gathering held at the beginning of each semester. She talked about going to Israel and working to build bridges between Jews and Arabs. I thought she seemed naïve but, to her credit, she has gone and has been doing just that.

The hope, of course, is that Israel will honor the heritage I learned about from Richard Shapiro in my final semester at CIIS when I hoped to transfer into the Social and Cultural Anthropology program (Shapiro was, at least at that time, the department chair, and I wound up, much more happily, at Saybrook University in the Human Science program, where I am now on the cusp of candidacy.) The heritage he lectured us on is of social justice, of a realization that justice can never be achieved but always must be striven for, and must be a goal never to be abandoned. It is a heritage of compassion for, in Shapiro’s oft-repeated words, “the poor, the widow, and the orphan.” It is a very real and longstanding heritage that has itself been abandoned in Israel’s actions against Palestinians.

Israel’s preferred representatives in the US media – Oren, plus the Israeli ambassador to the UN, Ron Prosor, and Netanyahu’s spokesman, Mark Regev – all project the country as a liberal democracy, an unwilling occupier that is thirsting for peace.

But that does not fit with the views of leading politicians back in Israel. Naftali Bennett, the economy minister and leader of the most powerful political party on the right, has said: “I will do everything in my power to make sure [the Palestinians] never get a state.”

Danny Danon, the increasingly powerful chairman of the central committee of Netanyahu’s Likud party, openly opposes a Palestinian state and has said the prime minister doesn’t believe in it either. “I want the majority of the land with the minimum amount of Palestinians,” Danon, whom Netanyahu just fired as deputy defense minister for being critical of opposition to a ceasefire, told me last year.

And Israel’s ultranationalist foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, wants a good chunk of Israel’s Arab population stripped of citizenship.[3]

Meanwhile, “back in Jerusalem, where sixteen-year-old Muhammad Abu Khudair was burned alive by Jewish vigilantes in a ‘revenge killing’ incited by Israeli politicians early this month, right-wing lynch mobs continue to roam the streets in search of Arabs to attack.”[4] And it appears that 95 percent of Israelis support this war[5] on the Gaza Strip—which I will label more accurately as an attempt to exterminate the Gazan population. Israel’s government has used the killing of three Jewish-Israeli boys as a false pretext for this extermination.[6]

“Some are shamelessly accusing Israel of genocide and would put us in the dock for war crimes,” [Israeli ambassador to the United States Ron] Dermer said during a speech that was repeatedly interrupted by protestors. “But the truth is that the Israeli Defense Forces should be given the Nobel Peace Prize … for fighting with unimaginable restraint.”[7]

Let there be no mistake. This is a war on civilians. Israel has attacked water and sewer systems.[8] It has probably committed war crimes in its use of experimental weapons that, like land mines, seem principally effective against non-combatants. These are DIME bombs, which “contain tungsten, a cancer-causing metal that helps to produce incredibly destructive blasts which slice through flesh and bone, often decapitating the lower limbs of people within the blast radius.”[9]

The Times of Israel published and then removed from its site an essay by Yochanan Gordon that openly called for genocide against the Palestinians of Gaza. A cached version is still on the internet as of this writing.

Gordon’s logic, if one wants to dignify it with that term, is that Hamas calls for the destruction of Israel, and therefore the only way to deal with them is to obliterate them entirely. He used the words “obliterate entirely.”

Nor is he alone. Israel nationalists have been arguing for war crimes at an alarming rate.[10]

Over 1500 Gazans, the vast majority of whom were non-combatants, are now dead.[11]

So it seems that the victims of genocide would now commit genocide. Cole even invokes the words “Final Solution” in his title, a pointed reference to the Holocaust.[12]

But as awful as this situation is, I can no longer criticize my former colleague for being naïve. If anything should be apparent from the now nearly seventy years of conflict between Palestinians and Israelis, it is that a non-Final Solution will never be found in anything like the realpolitik of pragmatic national self-interest.

I have criticized borders before. They embody a Manichean notion of “us” versus “them” that assigns undeservingness to human beings on the wrong side of an arbitrary line. Moreover, they are something for elites to squabble over, all too often at the cost of very real bloodshed.[13] And yet, in the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, we see the “hope” of a “two-state” solution, that is, a solution entailing more borders. In the case of Israel and Palestine, this “solution” is complicated not only by a political obstinacy in which any move forward is seen as a concession to the Palestinians, but by the facts on the ground of ever-expanding Israeli settlements, settlements which, if allowed to remain, would leave Palestine with almost no territory at all.[14]

Indeed, the prospects for a two-state solution seem so bleak that some Palestinians are even calling for a “one-state” solution. In the Palestinian version of this plan, the single state would be secular, with equal rights guaranteed for all citizens.[15] This, of course, is not at all what Zionists had in mind in advocating for the creation of Israel.

But one thing we need to understand is that by its actions, Israel forfeits the rationale for its existence as a sovereign state. The country was founded as a refuge from the many pogroms that Jews have suffered, embodying a notion that Jews could only be safe in a place controlled by Jews.[16] But, in Israel, the oppressed have become the oppressors as victims of fascism have themselves become fascists.

To maintain the moral high ground, and thus the rationale for its existence, Israel could never have enabled accusations that it might become an apartheid regime, let alone that it implements apartheid policies,[17] let alone that it emulates Nazis.

For both moral and practical reasons, then, the idea of a Jewish state must now be abandoned as a failed experiment. This is not anti-Semitism. It is rather the application of simple and longstanding dictate that “two wrongs do not make a right.”

  1. [1]Mark Perry, “Why Israel’s bombardment of Gaza neighborhood left US officers ‘stunned’,” Al Jazeera, August 27, 2014, http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2014/8/26/israel-bombing-stunsusofficers.html
  2. [2]Mark Perry, “Why Israel’s bombardment of Gaza neighborhood left US officers ‘stunned’,” Al Jazeera, August 27, 2014, http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2014/8/26/israel-bombing-stunsusofficers.html
  3. [3]Chris McGreal, “American media’s new pro-Israel bias: the same party line at the wrong time,” Guardian, July 31, 2014, http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jul/31/american-media-israel-bias-netanyahu
  4. [4]Rania Khalek, “Merciless Israeli mobs are hunting Palestinians,” Electronic Intifada, July 27, 2014, http://electronicintifada.net/blogs/rania-khalek/merciless-israeli-mobs-are-hunting-palestinians
  5. [5]Chris McGreal, “American media’s new pro-Israel bias: the same party line at the wrong time,” Guardian, July 31, 2014, http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jul/31/american-media-israel-bias-netanyahu
  6. [6]Katie Zavadski, “It Turns Out Hamas Didn’t Kidnap and Kill the 3 Israeli Teens After All,” New York, July 25, 2014, http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2014/07/hamas-didnt-kidnap-the-israeli-teens-after-all.html
  7. [7]Elias Isquith, “Israeli ambassador to U.S. says IDF deserves Nobel Peace Prize for ‘unimaginable restraint’,” Salon, July 22, 2014, http://www.salon.com/2014/07/22/israeli_ambassador_to_u_s_says_idf_deserves_nobel_peace_prize_for_unimaginable_restraint
  8. [8]Mohammed Omer, “Israeli jets destroying Gaza water and sewerage systems: officials,” Middle East Eye, July 13, 2014, http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/israeli-jets-destroying-gaza-water-and-sewerage-systems-284613778
  9. [9]Rania Khalek, “Israel firing experimental weapons at Gaza’s civilians, say doctors,” Electronic Intifada, July 15, 2014, http://electronicintifada.net/blogs/rania-khalek/israel-firing-experimental-weapons-gazas-civilians-say-doctors (link is external)
  10. [10]Juan Cole, “Are Israelis and Zionists really talking about a Final Solution of the Palestinian Problem?” Informed Comment, August 2, 2014, http://www.juancole.com/2014/08/zionists-solution-palestinian.html
  11. [11]Eric Beech, “White House: shelling of U.N. facility by Israelis ‘totally unacceptable’,” Reuters, July 31, 2014, http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/07/31/us-mideast-gaza-whitehouse-idUSKBN0G026W20140731; Juan Cole, “Are Israelis and Zionists really talking about a Final Solution of the Palestinian Problem?” Informed Comment, August 2, 2014, http://www.juancole.com/2014/08/zionists-solution-palestinian.html
  12. [12]Juan Cole, “Are Israelis and Zionists really talking about a Final Solution of the Palestinian Problem?” Informed Comment, August 2, 2014, http://www.juancole.com/2014/08/zionists-solution-palestinian.html
  13. [13]David Benfell, “Humans Without Borders: A Paradox,” October 15, 2013, https://parts-unknown.org/wp/2013/10/15/humans-without-borders-a-paradox/
  14. [14]Ben Birnbaum, “Netanyahu Sure Looks Like He’s Getting Ready to Divide Jerusalem,” New Republic, October 16, 2013, http://www.newrepublic.com/article/115218/netanyahu-divide-jerusalem; Ethan Bronner and Christine Hauser, “U.N. Assembly, in Blow to U.S., Elevates Status of Palestine,” New York Times, November 29, 2012, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/30/world/middleeast/Palestinian-Authority-United-Nations-Israel.html; Christa Case Bryant, “Momentum builds for Gaza to secede, Israel and West Bank to become one,” Christian Science Monitor, October 24, 2012, http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Middle-East/2012/1024/Momentum-builds-for-Gaza-to-secede-Israel-and-West-Bank-to-become-one; Juan Cole, “Israeli Right: Obama Undermined Netanyahu, Endangers Israel with Call for Palestinian State,” Informed Comment, March 22, 2013, http://www.juancole.com/2013/03/undermined-netanyahu-palestinian.html; Democracy Now! “New Mideast Talks Hang on Old Question: Will U.S. Drop Support for Israeli Annexation of West Bank?” July 30, 2013, http://www.democracynow.org/2013/7/30/new_mideast_talks_hang_on_old; Michael J. Koplow, “No, Israel Did Not Just Vote for the Center,” Foreign Affairs, January 23, 2013, http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/138773/michael-j-koplow/no-israel-did-not-just-vote-for-the-center; Mark Landler, “Discussing Iran, Obama and Netanyahu Display Unity,” New York Times, September 30, 2013, Discussing Iran, Obama and Netanyahu Display Unity; Chris McGreal, “American media’s new pro-Israel bias: the same party line at the wrong time,” Guardian, July 31, 2014, http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jul/31/american-media-israel-bias-netanyahu; Barack Obama, “Remarks by President Obama in Address to the United Nations General Assembly,” White House, September 24, 2013, http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2013/09/24/remarks-president-obama-address-united-nations-general-assembly; Jodi Rudoren, “Before Palestinians Act at U.N., Israeli Officials Urge Other Steps,” New York Times, September 24, 2012, https://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/25/world/middleeast/opposite-israeli-views-on-palestinian-stalemate.html; Jodi Rudoren, “Tepid Vote for Netanyahu in Israel Is Seen as Rebuke,” New York Times, January 22, 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/23/world/middleeast/israel-votes-in-election-likely-to-retain-netanyahu.htm; Thaddeus Russell, “Does Israel Maek Us Safer?” Daily Beast, July 4, 2010, http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2010/07/04/thaddeus-russell-does-us-support-for-israel-threatens-american-safety.html; Harriet Sherwood, “Binyamin Netanyahu suffers setback as centrists gain ground in Israel election,” Guardian, January 23, 2013, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/jan/22/israel-elections-binyamin-netanyahu
  15. [15]Ilene Prusher, “Influential Palestinians Say It’s Time for a One-State Solution,” Time, May 24, 2013, http://world.time.com/2013/05/24/influential-palestinians-say-its-time-for-a-one-state-solution/
  16. [16]Avigail Abarbanel, “A change needs to come,” Electronic Intifada, May 25, 2008, http://electronicintifada.net/content/change-needs-come/7529
  17. [17]Peter Beaumont, “Israel risks becoming apartheid state if peace talks fail, says John Kerry,” Guardian, April 28, 2014, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/apr/28/israel-apartheid-state-peace-talks-john-kerry; Ethan Bronner and Christine Hauser, “U.N. Assembly, in Blow to U.S., Elevates Status of Palestine,” New York Times, November 29, 2012, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/30/world/middleeast/Palestinian-Authority-United-Nations-Israel.html; Christa Case Bryant, “Momentum builds for Gaza to secede, Israel and West Bank to become one,” Christian Science Monitor, October 24, 2012, http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Middle-East/2012/1024/Momentum-builds-for-Gaza-to-secede-Israel-and-West-Bank-to-become-one; Jimmy Carter, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2006); Juan Cole, “Top Five Reasons Israel is Losing the Public Relations Battle,” Informed Comment, July 12, 2012, http://www.juancole.com/2012/07/top-five-reasons-israel-is-losing-the-public-relations-battle.html;  Juan Cole, “Dear Mr. Romney: Palestinians are Poor Because You Stole from them and Kept them Stateless,” Informed Comment, July 31, 2012, http://www.juancole.com/2012/07/dear-mr-romney-palestinians-are-poor-because-you-stole-from-them-and-kept-them-stateless.html; Democracy Now! “New Mideast Talks Hang on Old Question: Will U.S. Drop Support for Israeli Annexation of West Bank?” July 30, 2013, http://www.democracynow.org/2013/7/30/new_mideast_talks_hang_on_old; Democracy Now! “Professor Ilan Pappé: Israel Has Chosen to be a “Racist Apartheid State” with U.S. Support,” July 28, 2014, http://www.democracynow.org/2014/7/28/professor_ilan_pappe_israel_has_chosen; Chris Hedges, “Israel Is Captive to Its ‘Destructive Process’,” Truthdig, July 14, 2014, http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/israel_is_captive_to_its_destructive_process_20140714; Jillian Kestler-D’Amours, “Israel Walls Itself In,” InterPress Service, July 20, 2012, http://www.ipsnews.net/2012/07/israel-walls-itself-in/; Daniel Politi, “Palestinians to Obama: ‘You Promised Hope and Change—You Gave Us Colonies and Apartheid’,” Slate, March 20, 2013, http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_slatest/2013/03/20/obama_arrives_in_israel_welcomed_by_palestinian_protesters.html; Ilene Prusher, “Influential Palestinians Say It’s Time for a One-State Solution,” Time, May 24, 2013, http://world.time.com/2013/05/24/influential-palestinians-say-its-time-for-a-one-state-solution/; Amos Schocken, “The necessary elimination of Israeli democracy,” Haaretz, November 25, 2011, http://www.haaretz.com/weekend/week-s-end/the-necessary-elimination-of-israeli-democracy-1.397625; Jordan Michael Smith, “The media consensus on Israel is collapsing,” Salon, December 21, 2011, http://www.salon.com/2011/12/21/the_media_consensus_on_israel_is_collapsing/; Attila Somfalvi, “Senior official: Netanyahu is driving us towards boycott,” Ynet, December 27, 2013, http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4470160,00.html;

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