Sunday, July 6, 2008

Sane People in Sodom

I spent my Shabbat troubled by the fact that I hadn't heard people speak up against Israel's intentions to destroy the house of the Palestinian tractor-driver from last week. Oh, sure, the usual suspects on the left (guilty as charged) will raise their voices sooner or later, but I wanted people who were a bit more mainstream than the human-rights advocates to weigh in. And I wanted the arguments to be moral ones.

My wife told me that the voices would emerge, that people were waiting a bit for the lynch mood to die down. She is usually right, so let's hope so.

In the meantime, here are some voices that qualify for the "Sane People in Sodom" award, not the "Righteous People in Sodom" award. Their arguments are not moral ones, but if they can save the family's house from the mob, I will give them two cheers.

On Friday Haaretz had a "carefully balanced" editorial whose bottom line was: "Politicians, stop acting like a mob." You can read it here. The crumbs the editorial threw to the mob was painful, such as criticizing the perpetrators' family for suggesting that the whole thing was an accident, as if any of that is relevant. The editorial is not what I would have written, but If it helps save the house…

Then there was a well-meaning piece by Haggai Efrati in NRG Judaism (in Hebrew here). Efrati is a member of an organization, if it still exists, called "Realistic Religious Zionism," which is moderate on the issue of the territories and whose members have more moral qualms than your average Israeli religious Jew. The article blasts rabbis who rush to declare in the name of Jewish law that it is a mitzvah to destroy the houses of the famlies of perpetrators, or wipe out the villages, etc. In my opinion, the article illustrates well the confusion of "Realistic Religious Zionism." Instead of attacking the rabbis as moral monsters, they basically attack them for speaking out on matters over which they have no special expertise. That is an argument that resonates well with the modern orthodox community, which loves to bash its rabbis when they interfere with their autonomy, and I am sympathetic to it. Not what I would have written, but if it helps save the house….

I certainly don't count among the righteous people folks like Amnon Straschnov, retired chief military judge advocate who argues in today's Haaretz that legally Israel has the right to tear down homes, only that practically it is a bad idea. See here. When he writes,

House demolition, both as a punitive gesture aimed at the perpetrators of acts of terror, as well as for military needs and deterrence, are based on extremely firm legal foundations, such as regulation (1)119 of the defense regulations in times of emergency, 1945, and the Fourth Geneva Convention

that's the sort of bullshit argument that one expects of lawyer, a fortiori military lawyers. Note the qualifier "extremely" in the phrase "extremely firm legal foundations," (mistranslated in the English version as "fairly") Anybody familiar with the Fourth Geneva Convention knows that this is wrong. Wikipedia says it best:

The use of house demolition under international law is today governed by the Fourth Geneva Convention, enacted in 1949, which protects non-combatants in occupied territories. Article 53 provides that "Any destruction by the Occupying Power of real or personal property belonging individually or collectively to private persons ... is prohibited, except where such destruction is rendered absolutely necessary by military operations."[11]

Israeli use of house demolitions has been particularly controversial. However, Israel, which is a party to the Fourth Geneva Convention, asserts that the terms of the Convention are not applicable to the Palestinian territories on the grounds that the territories do not constitute a state which is a party to the Fourth Geneva Convention.[12][13][14] This position is rejected by human rights organisations such as Amnesty International, which notes that "it is a basic principle of human rights law that international human rights treaties are applicable in all areas in which states parties exercise effective control, regardless of whether or not they exercise sovereignty in that area."[1]

So much for the "extremely firm legal foundations" that may allow Strachnov to sleep at night and to write an article to salve his guilty conscience. It's certainly not what I would have written.

But if it helps save the house….



Anonymous said...

I don't think you are framing the question properly. Both Olmert and Barak came out and called for destroying the terrorist's home, yet we all know perfectly well they don't mean it. It has been 4 months since the Mercaz HaRav attack and nothing has been done. Both Olmert and Barak are counting on the courts or Mazuz to block it. The question is why do they lie to the public and demand something they know will not be carried out.
This is similar to the demonstrations the captured soldiers families are carrying out against the gov't, insisting that the demand of HIZBULLAH and HAMAS be met, no matter the price. The gov't WANTS these demonstrations in order to justify their capitulations which they intended to do even without such pressure. "We have to give in, public pressure you know".
Another example of a totally cynical political ploy is that of the Likud's Limore Livnat, in demanding that Arabic be removed as an official language of Israel, which is one of the most inane proposals I have ever heard in Israel. She also knows it has no chance of being adopted, and I am sure she couldn't care less about it...the only reason she adopted this position is because she fears that her support for Sharon's destruction of Gush Katif may have damaged her support among hawkish potential Likud primary voters. Thus she came up with this trick in order to burnish her "nationalist" credentials in order to once again pull the wool over the voter's eyes.
I don't believe anything that any political leader says at all. Everthing they say is stated for spin, nothing more.

Anonymous said...

The question has always been not "Are there sane/righteous people in Sodom?", but "Are there enough?"

The bargaining continues ....


Ben Bayit said...

I agree with your criticism of Efrati. If she believes that the Rabbis are moral monsters, she should say so. Unfortunately the religious left has been so poisoned by the brainwashing of their rabbinical leadership - largely of the Har Etzion school and satellites - that they have adopted the clap-trap of "rabbis should not get involved in politics" or "rabbis should leave these decisions to experts" that they can no longer think for themselves. Basically they just repeat these mantras over and over again without ever thinking when it is appropriate to apply the above ideas (if at all ever) and when it is inappropriate. They simply can't think for themselves anymore.