Monday, 5 January 2009

Easy Targets

I try not to offer too much commentary on the Israel/Palestine situation because I know so little about it (though far more than a lot of others who are continuously willing to spew their one-sided bullshit across the blogohedron, invariably IN CAPITAL LETTERS). Calling the situation "complex" is a lot like calling crack "moreish" (damn, but you have to love Super Hans).

On the other hand, some comments by prominent journalists or politicians are so unbelievably idiotic and/or hypocritical that even I feel comfortable slapping them down. I thus bring you the calm, measured words of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg:
"The concept of proportional response is one of the stupider things I've ever heard in my life. If it was your family, would you want a proportional response? No, you'd want every single resource to be brought to bear to stop those who are killing innocent people."
I've seen a number of people object to this quote on the grounds that discarding proportionality isn't something anyone should be particularly keen on doing. That is, of course, a reasonable point, but it gives this particular argument entirely too much credit. The sheer level of idiocy on display here is more properly countered by pointing out that claiming proportionality is really stupid when one's family is endangered justifies Palestinian rocket attacks as well. Every single person who has lost a family member in this current crackdown, by Bloomberg's argument, can then send a rocket into Israel. And of course, since this isn't the first such action by Israel, the rocket attacks that started the crisis now unfolding can be excused in exactly the same way [1]. The basic argument that the Gaza Strip is really sucky but that doesn't mean you can launch rockets into Israel, which I doubt many people would object to (certainly no-one who would consider themselves pro-Israeli) no longer holds.

I am well aware that there are differences in the specifics, though not so much as some may think. A Palestinian who believes firing a rocket will lessen Israel's stranglehold is no more deluded than an Israeli who believes the best way to starve an anti-Israeli political party of support is to kill a whole bunch of Palestinians. Both actions are self-defeating. There's also the matter of targetting, though as always the difference in morality between trying to kill X civilians and trying to kill Hamas leaders when knowing 10X civilians will be killed alongside is a thornier issue than many on either side is prepared to admit.

None of this is to come down on either side of whether I view the current actions of Israel to be disproportional or not; that's far too complicated a question for me to tackle, at least right now. All I'm saying is that arguing that a proportionate response is in itself stupid is to justify excess on both sides.

h/t to Hullabaloo (LOTS).

Update: Just to keep things fair and balanced, according to this link, the comparison above should actually be X casualties versus 129X so far, though it's not clear how many of the latter were civilians.

[1] And that's without getting into the murky water of how many Palestinian deaths over the years can be laid at Israel's door even if they weren't killed by the military.

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