Friday, January 16, 2009

Historical pretext of genocide in Gaza

Marc Lord :

"[...]All the way back to Zephaniah chapter 2, verse 5:
For Gaza shall be forsaken, and Ashkelon a desolation: they shall drive out Ashdod at the noon day, and Ekron shall be rooted up.

Woe unto the inhabitants of the sea coast, the nation of the Cherethites! the word of the LORD is against you; O Canaan, the land of the Philistines, I will even destroy thee, that there shall be no inhabitant.
The scripture above was written circa 630 B.C. by one of the most obscure prophets of the Old Testament. "Philistines" is a Hebrew term derived from the root p-l-sh, or פלש‎, which means to invade, divide, or overwhelm.[...]"


Jeff Tone said...

You're going too far here. We can talk about whether Israel's actions in Gaza are disproportionate; indeed, there are Israelis who have raised the same point. We can also talk about war crimes by both Israel and Hamas, giving as examples Sderot, Israel, and Gaza City. Palestine.

But to speak of genocide, the deliberate attempt to completely exterminate an entire group of people, crosses all red lines. If Israel desired to do that, why bother sending in ground troops? It could have carpet-bombed the entire area in a day or two. And if all Israelis are bent on genocide, what were 10,000 of them doing in Tel Aviv protesting the war when it started? What is B'Tselem and other Israeli human rights groups doing studying the actions of the IDF?

Further, when you talk about the "historical pretext of genocide" by citing Jewish scriptures, you are doing the same as those who cherry-pick a few passages from the Koran as so-called "proof" that Islam is a "murderous" religion.

The following is cited in Hamas' charter:

"The Day of Judgement will not come about until Muslims fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Muslims, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him. Only the Gharkad tree, would not do that because it is one of the trees of the Jews."

Am I now to conclude that Islam is a murderous religion because of this passage? Of course not. It does say something about Hamas, though, that it is in their charter. One of the things it says is that they desire to kill Jews per se (I'm speaking here about Hamas, not all Muslims). Why not cite that? At least if you had done so, you would be more even-handed.

None of this is to say that Israel is beyond criticism. In fact, some of the sharpest criticisms of the war have come from the pages of the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. But I don't believe your criticisms will be taken seriously if you use terms like "genocide" and cite scriptures as proof of the murderous "pretext" of the Hebrews.

Israelis and Palestinians need to get down to the serious business of two states for two people. That solution, the only one possible, is not helped by trading bloody actions and bloodcurdling charges.

Naj said...

Dear Jeff,

Wholeheartedly agreed with you and I am happy that you have posted this comment.

Unfortunately both Islamic fundamentalism and Zionist racism are realities which we cannot afford to ignore. right now, however the Muslims are the underdogs; and it seems to me that an entire world is defending Israel; just as an entire world is deamonizing Muslims.

In defense of my post; I can say that it is important for people to see the other side of the SAME coin and to stop pointing blame finger at one versus the other.

As for genocide; I wish I had a better word to describe the fact of closing off borders on people who are trapped; starving them; leaving them in dark; assassinating their "elected" political leaders; and then killing 1000 of them in 20 days. Perhaps Israel is not intent on "genocide" but has a quota to fill to be able to declare victory and announce unilateral ceasefire to 'show how humanitarian they are!!'?!?!!

I wonder, if those 10,000 Israelis had NOT protested against this war, if people within and outside of Israel didn't rise; if UN hadn't decried IDF's war crime, WHAT would have prevented Israel from declaring: "carpet bombing is the only solution to get rid of Hamas?"

Jeff Tone said...

Dear Naj,

Thank you for your comments. I do not believe that the entire world is defending Israel. You implicitly acknowledged that in your last paragraph.

I'm aware of the conditions in Gaza. I call them a humanitarian catastrophe. Genocide, though, is the deliberate extermination of an entire group. If that is one's intention, one does not stop until everyone is dead. Literally. It has nothing to do with the UN or demonstrations.

Again, you can criticize Israel's actions, but it did not have a "quota" or the intention to carpet bomb. In fact, Israel ultimately did not want to "get rid of Hamas," because a Gaza without any government at all would lead to even more chaos.

If we want to show both sides of the coin, we must also acknowledge Hamas' stated intention, in its charter, to destroy Israel, and, for that matter, kill Jews. If Hamas is unable to reap more destruction on Israeli towns, that is only a matter of the quality and availability of its weapons.


While we cannot exactly equate Israel actions in Gaza as genocide, I do think there is an attempt by the Israelis to eliminate a huge part of the population of Gaza.

The Israelis cannot pretend to hold some moral high ground when they themselves practice what is morally untenable.

MarcLord said...

Mr. Tone,

you seem a reasonable and courteous man, so I hope you will admit your error when you see the legal definition of genocide:

a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

That is the U.N.'s definition of genocide. Aside from its latest Gaza invasion, Israel has forced 25% or more of a population to flee, and inflicted conditions on them calculated to cause an overall deterioration in health.

Second, while you stated that removing Hamas from power was not a goal, nor rational, it is the official and repeatedly stated goal of Israel. Indeed it was featured as logic for invasion.

Third, the Old Testament documents the Jewish people's struggles with enemies, and those particular scriptures aren't "cherry-picked." The tone and content is utterly consistent throughout the old bible when speaking of other peoples, although the imagery is less graphic than usual.

Fourth, it's difficult to imagine a more topical fact than Israelis and Palestians having fought each other for 2,600 years.

Fifth, Israel has officially rejected a two-state solution numerous times; the latest instance was yesterday.

Israel has shown its side of the coin. If you believe it bears any contours of proportionality, you have the advantage of not being alone.

Jeff Tone said...

Dear Marc,

Thank you for your message alerting me to your comments. Since the Gaza war, I have been involved in exchanges where I’m either accused of not supporting Israel or supporting it too much. You and others here are apparently in the latter category.

You left out a crucial part of the UN definition, the introduction: “In the present Convention, genocide means any act committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group as such:” (By the way, the U.N. has not attempted to charge Israel with genocide according to its own definition.)

Israel’s intent in invading Gaza was to strike Hamas. It did not invade with the intent to kill Palestinian civilians for the sake of doing so--though there were all too many civilian deaths. I was against the invasion, and I believe that it caused a humanitarian catastrophe. That does not mean that Israel committed genocide. We have to differentiate between possible war crimes and deaths to civilians in urban warfare on the one hand–as reprehensible as those are–and genocide on the other.

If Israel had such intent, there would have been many more deaths, as terrible as the toll was. I’m speaking, for example, about rounding up all the males in villages, forcing them to dig holes and wiping them out. That would certainly have been genocide “in part.”

I do not agree with your reference to “conditions…calculated to cause an overall deterioration in health.” The economic blockade was an attempt–misguided, in my view–to turn the population against Hamas. Further, removal of Hamas was not the goal of the war. Israeli spokespersons repeatedly said as such, and if some contradicted that, they were speaking for themselves. If Israel wanted to remove Hamas, they would have done so by today.

I am well aware that the Bible is replete with military conquest; in this case, I should have used the word “cite.” I object to the citation of a biblical passage as if that were proof of a Jewish disposition, whether genetic or cultural, to engage in genocide. That would be equivalent to citing a passage from the Koran and negatively applying it to contemporary politics, as is done on right-wing blogs.

Israel’s “official” position is not against a two-state solution. It is a fractious society most of whose people know that they must withdraw from the occupied territories. Unfortunately, there is a powerful group of settlers who have entrenched themselves on the West Bank. I hope that good sense will prevail and that the settlements will be removed within the next decade.

I’ll close by quoting your last paragraph in your message to me:

"There's a lot of history and "culture of honor" stuff on both sides, but the Israelis have the upper hand to the extent they have the ability to carry out genocide in the way which you (understandably) took it to mean. While they're not doing that, their aims for property beg for it, and what with the enmity they've stirred they may as well have gone for the whole enchilada. A la the US did with Native Americans."

What strikes me is your lack of condemnation of Hamas beyond a passing reference to “culture and honor stuff.” Isn’t firing rockets at southern Israeli towns without any idea where they will land genocidal? (They might land on Neve Gordon, Israeli professor and peace activist, who spent the war hiding in a shelter with his family.) Shouldn’t that at least be condemned too? Isn’t Hamas’ stated purpose to destroy Israel and kill Jews per se a genocidal intent? Surely they don’t get extra credit because they lack the means to do that right now.



Naj said...

Jeff Tone writes:

"I object to the citation of a biblical passage as if that were proof of a Jewish disposition, whether genetic or cultural, to engage in genocide. That would be equivalent to citing a passage from the Koran and negatively applying it to contemporary politics, as is done on right-wing blogs."

Jeff, in reality, those who have arrived from Europe to their "ancestral!!!!" home have done so under auspices of 'biblical truth!!!!'. In that sense, the so-called-Hamas-killing hawks of Israel are not very different from Islamic fundamentalists who think they have to fight to free "Ghods"!

Israeli right wing, Islamic right wing and American one ... are ALL genocidal entities for they believe their version of truth gives them a god-given right to push other over board.

Hamas is a resistant movement. It is, in my opinion, intellectual laziness to brand resistance movements as terrorist. I assure you that if Hamas was given military aid, to defend Palestinians against Israeli aggression, then they would have waged a "conventional war" and used radio guided missiles instead of petty rockets.

But, since they don't have the military might of Israel, they shall remain engaged in an asymmetric battle.

I don't know what part of this is so hard to understand? The world expects the "weak" to submit to power! Some of the "weak" beg to differ! Kudos to them!

MarcLord said...


From your blog, you're both liberal and knowledgeable, yet violence begets violence. It is human nature. Your stance and interpretation of the facts is baffling.

By its occupations and violence, Israel provoked the understandable creation of Hezbollah, as it did Hamas. And whether or not the UN is saying Israel is guilty of genocide, under its own definition of herding an ethnic population into a ghetto, blockading it and denying it food and electricity, the legal definition is met. Why would you choose to argue this? And what exactly would you have the residents of Gaza do?

If Israel kills your children in an airstrike, I hope you can find satisfaction in employing a good lawyer. This is not an ad hominem attack by any means. It appears to be what you're advocating, and along with Naj, I am sincerely puzzled.