Wednesday, January 7, 2009

A Thought on the “Bombing Tics” Post Below

When I posted on how Israel devalues the lives of the Gazan civilians, and I claimed that at least part of that could be explained by Israeli racism, I knew that I would get a lot of reaction. I also knew that some reactions would be by Israeli racists and their supporters. But I also thought – or hoped -- that I would get at least some reactions from people who would reject the premise that Israelis are racist, and that the IDF devalues the lives of the Gazans not only because they are enemies, but because they are Arabs.

But I didn't.

This confirms my views that Israel and its supporters (except, perhaps, for the professional hasbarah folks) simply don't care any more about the accusations of racism. Their feeling of the Gazans as "tics" is so engrained that they aren't offended by people saying, "How can you treat innocent human beings in this manner" And, of course, one didn't have to wait until the current Gaza campaign to know how Israel and its supporters view Arabs – not just militants, not just Islamic fundamentalists, but all Arabs -- including Jewish and Christian Arabs.

But Israel is concerned about its image in the world. So when Israel bombs a school killing 40 Arab civilians, including children, the IDF felt the need to invent a story that Hamas militants were firing from within the school. (It is possible that the IDF is telling the truth; however, as they routinely lie about such things, and as they have been censured by the High Court for their fabrications, and as their story has been denied by the UN, which has a much better track record than the IDF spokesman, we can assume that this is just another lie.) When that turned out to be false, they produced an archival film that they claim shows that once there were militants there.

Of course, even Hamas gives moral arguments. The claim that are fighting for the liberation of Palestinians from a cruel Occupation (true), their people in Gaza are suffering under Israeli siege (true), they harm far less civilians than Israel (true), they have far fewer military options than Israel (true), and their firing into civilian populations is no less indiscriminate and far less lethal than Israel's (true). While all this is true, they still commit war crimes, although their war crimes are much less deadly than Israel's

Well, as we sow, so shall we reap. When Jewish children are blown up by a terrorist' bomb in Hadera (or Baltimore or Paris), Israel will cry out – rightly – against the terrorism that it has done its utmost to foster. And there will be some who will justify the blowing up of Jewish children as the price one must pay for the security of living in a Jewish state.

We shall have given Hitler a posthumous victory, to use Emil Fackenheim's phrase.

Some people have said, "Well, what do you want; this is a war." But what happens when you have a state, whose very existence ensures that there will be a war, who is, intermittently, always at war. No other state in the Middle East (in the world?) has lived in a state of war for over sixty years.

Maybe it is time to rethink a better arrangement for the Jews and the Arabs?



ben Azzai said...

Hi Jerry,
I first want to say that I really appreciate what you are doing through your blog: both in terms of the conscientious questions and issues you raise, and in terms of your insights and observation regarding them.

However, with regard to granting Hitler a “posthumous victory,” a phrase which you attribute here (and in some of your earlier posts as well) to Eliezer Berkowitz, I think may be misattributing the source. It was used not by Berkowitz, but by Emil Fackenheim (see, e.g., “The 614th Commandment” in his The Jewish Return into History, p.22).

I wouldn’t have bothered to comment if it was just a matter of switching up the names, but there is also a problematic moral aspect to the “posthumous victory to Hitler” quotation/idea. You use the phrase in the sense of “the destruction of the Jewish moral soul”—i.e. we grant a posthumous victory to Hitler by giving up morality and resorting to a mafia mentality that justifies the dehumanization of non-Jews, as well as the blowing up of Jewish children, as the price to pay for a “Jewish state.”

However, Fackenheim used the phrase not to emphasize the importance of Jewish morality, but rather primarily to emphasize the importance of Jewish survival. That is, in his sense of the “614th commandment,” the Jews are obligated to survive and to continue ‘being Jews,’ since the disappearance of the Jews would complete Hitler’s goal.

While the idea “Jewish survival” may not be inherently or necessarily at odds with “Jewish morality,” it often seems to be so, at least among barkers of the former. Thus, Fackenheim himself strongly linked his “614th commandment” with near-unconditional support of the State of Israel and its supposedly ‘necessary’ military objectives, even (or especially) after the 1967 war. Indeed, much of the mafia mentality exhibited by commentators (on this site as well as in many contemporary Jewish institutions) is often uncomfortably close to Fackenheim’s notion when it manifests itself in assertions like “Jewish survival takes priority over everything else, and we must sadly de-prioritize petty things like morality.”

So, while I support your own use of the phrase, it does have a morally questionable past, which should also be kept in mind.

Joshua said...

Jerry, it's been reported that both Israel and Hamas have agreed to have talks for a ceasefire. Maybe this bombing can end for now.

Mikha'el said...

The only accurate definition of racism to me is the dictionary definition--a belief that the human species is divided into biological subdivisions we call "races"-- that we can always easily discern who belongs in which sub-category, and that all such biological sub-division has inherent, immutable and insurmountable advantages and disadvantages with respect to each other. People who devoutly believe such things are the only people who are truly "racist", in my view.

Anonymous said...


I understood your post and I even agreed with parts of it. But I found your remark about the IDF lying about hamas shooting from the same building very out of place.
if you think they did it on purpose because they are evil than
its not even in Israel's interest to bomb children/school they want to continue the war and they know things like that will get the world against them, and hence bring an end to the war.
Further more its a fact (yes a fact) that hamas sends rockets from places with many citizens, so idf wont hurt them.
I am not justifying the war i just thought that that comment weakens your claim and shows an absence of judging the whole complex situation.
Too bad, because you had some good points.

-- Shira

Jerry Haber said...

ben Azzai,

Sorry for the senior moment and the haste to post. Of course it was Fackenheim, of course it was the the 614th commandment, etc.

The "problematic moral aspect" is really my own bit of intellectual deception. Fackenheim was a particularist, a nationalist, and an apologist for Israel's behavior. He was very much on the right end of the political spectrum and would not have approved of appropriating his line for the purpose I did. That is why I don't write, "As Emil Fackenheim said," but rather "to use his phrase." I am coopting his phrase for a very different purpose than what he had in mind.

Jerry Haber said...

Mikhael, your point is well-taken but there may be some justification for expanding the definition of racism to include ethnic discrimination, depending upon the context. That is because "ethnicism" doesn't have the same purchase, and, frankly, to discriminate on the basis of ethnicity is still discriminating not on the basis of one's personal achivements, but on the basis of one's ethnic group.

"According to the United Nations conventions, there is no distinction between the term racial discrimination and ethnic discrimination."

(From the wikipedia article on racism)

Lots of times you hear Jewish racists (bigots?) say that Jews can't be racist against Arabs because if they converted to Judaism, they would not be discriminated against (lol!) But even if you grant that, the moment you propose legislation banning Arabs from using Jewish beaches, as Kahane wished to do, you are, in effect, proposing racist legislation.

Jerry Haber said...

Shira --

You never did something by mistake and then lied to cover it up afterwards?

It's called in Hebrew "covering one's ass" (kisuy tahat), and it's done all the time, and not just by the army. I have reported about it in the past.

Of course the Army didn't want to target a school, but they screwed up and then probably rushed to do damage control. They have a track record of doing that, and it's perfectly understandable, especially when such incidents have stopped wars in the middle

Anonymous said...

and you dont think its possible that they actually used the childrens school to "cover THEIR ass"???


Jerry Haber said...


Historians -- and responsible bloggers -- don't deal with "possibilites" but with probabilities. And when the UN representative in Gaza claims that he is 99.9% there were no Hamas operatives in the school; when Israel first produces the names of two dead Hamas activists without revealing how they knew they were dead, and how they knew they were in the school; when there were no eyewitnesses who claimed to have seen it -- AND when the IDF has been known to lie in the past and reverse its story when faced with counterevidence, or when caught in the lie by the judiciary, as I have reported here in the past --

I think it is reasonable to
conclude that it is the IDF that is trying to cover its ass. Why havent't they produced evidence for their claim?

And Shira, if you mean be "covering ass" hiding behind shields of all kinds, then the IDF is the biggest offender there. Because most of their fighting has been from the safety of some of the best protected and most advanced military machinery in the world. One thing they are not doing in this "war" is taking risks. That is why I call this operation a turkey shoot.

Read about the UN denial in the latest issue of Time magazine.,8599,1870087,00.html

Religion and State in Israel said...

Noticed that you ended quoting Prof. Fackenheim.

Has anyone hear more about this news item?

Israel Rabbinical Court rules noted Jewish philosopher Emil Fackenheim’s son is not a Jew