What’s the Difference Between Yitzchak Shamir (Israeli Terrorist and Prime Minister) and Marwan Barghouti?
I wrote a post recently contending that Marwan Barghouti, the Young Turk Palestinian leader, should be freed from an Israeli prison (Free Marwan Barghouti). Another one of my intrepid right-wing readers wrote back this nifty and dismissive reply:
He should be freed after America frees Scott Peterson, killer of his pregnant wife….sure: conspiracy on the part of Israel…everywhere, conspiracies! smell the coffee for a change.
In his own fuzzy way, he’s suggesting that Barghouti no more deserves freedom than Peterson. Just as Peterson is a common criminal and murderer, so too is Barghouti.
This begs an interesting and troubling question. If Barghouti is a common criminal, then what was Yitzchak Shamir whose Lehi terrorist faction (which he co-headed) assassinated Count Folke Bernadotte, the Swedish diplomat assigned by the UN to mediate the Israeli-Arab conflict in 1948? To be fair, Shamir denies involvement or prior knowledge of the operation, but I find this terribly hard to believe. Lehi also assassinated Lord Moyne, Britain’s minister of state for the Mideast, in 1944.
My right wing friends must explain to me how Shamir is a Zionist hero and former prime minister who was never punished for his alleged crimes; while Barghouti is a fiend and enemy of humanity. A bit of a discrepancy in their thinking, no?
In fact, the Wikipedia entry creates even more parallels between Barghouti and Lehi strategy:
It [Lehi] considered the British rule of Palestine to be an illegal occupation, and concentrated its attacks mainly against British targets (unlike the other underground movements, which were also involved in fighting against Arab militant groups). Lehi prisoners captured by the British generally refused to present a defence when brought to trial in British courts. They would only read out statements in which they declared that the court, representing an occupying force, had no jurisdiction over them and is illegal.
This was almost verbatim Barghouti’s approach at his own trial. He refused to present a defense and denied the right of an Israeli court to judge him for his actions. He too read and spoke statements of defiance in court.
Isn’t it interesting how one man’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter?
26 thoughts on “What’s the Difference Between Yitzchak Shamir (Israeli Terrorist and Prime Minister) and Marwan Barghouti? – Tikun Olam תיקון עולם إصلاح العالم”
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You draw *no* distinction between the murder of a political figure, despicable as it is, and aiding those who dispatched a suicide bomber to kill families in a pizza restaurant? Really?
Have you no shame?
Shame, shmame…give me a break.
Count Bernadotte was a diplomatic envoy assigned by the United Nations to mediate the conflict. Do I find his assassination a heinous, callous & despicable act? You bet I do. And keep in mind that Ralph Bunche, the fellow who replaced Bernadotte and negotiated a ceasefire won a Nobel peace prize for his efforts. So Shamir and his thugs murdered a man who might’ve won this prize had he lived.
Do I find Palestinian suicide attacks equally heinous, you bet I do. But do I choose to distinguish as you do between these two acts & say one is worse than the other? What’s the point?
And someone like you who chooses to say that killing Israelis is more heinous than killing an international diplomat…well, all I can say is I’m glad you’re not the UN secretary general. If you were, your diplomats would be killed & you’d think nothing of it.
> And someone like you who chooses to say that killing Israelis
> is more heinous than killing an international diplomat…
But I didn’t say that. I said killing “families in a pizza restaurant” was, to use your term, more heinous. You don’t see the difference?
> What’s the point?
The point is that there’s a difference between assassination and murder. Between actors on the world stage, and civilian bystanders. Not for the dead victim obviously, but in terms of history & geopolitics, there’s a difference.
Two other things. As for the Nobel Peace prize, Kissinger won one. Later, Arafat won one. It doesn’t have much meaning anymore, wouldn’t you agree?
And about the UN Secretary General … not an organization whose exploits in the Middle East, or elsewhere, are worthy of much respect. After Rwanda, Sudan, Zionism=Racism … again, it doesn’t really mean anything anymore.
I firmly believe that an international organization LIKE the UN is necessary … but the UN itself has proved itself a failure. A new model is needed.
NO, NO. Count Bernadotte was not a military figure. He did not choose to live by the sword (just as Israeli civilians killed & injured by suicide bombers do not). He was attempting to be a peacemaker in negotiating an end to hostilities between Israel and the Arab states. Killing him was a crime against international law and justice. Today, Lehi’s crime would have come under review by the Internation Court of Justice (if the U.S. hadn’t tried to torpedo its establishment). As it is, a few Lehi henchmen were briefly incarcerated for this crime. But none received any punishment to speak of. To this very day, Sweden has rather frosty relations with Israel almost solely based on the fact that Israel has refused to come to terms with what those speaking in its name did to Bernadotte in 1948. Shimon Peres made a rather tepid apology to a Swedish government minister in 1998. That’s it. I find that rather pathetic in terms of trying to come to terms with the black deeds of a nation’s past.
ALL life taken by suicide bombers or assassins is equally precious. So I make no distinction between these crimes.
I don’t much like Kissinger or Arafat as Nobel winners either. But at the time of their award less was known or appreciated in terms of the heinousness of their crimes. Nowadays, neither could win such an award. There are many examples of Nobel awards (remember Pearl Buck winning the Literature award in the 1930s?) that appear laughable in retrospect. But your comment neglects all those winners who richly deserved the award of whom there are many. You, again are in the vast minority in denying worth or value to the Nobel Peace Prize. I completely reject your view of it.
As for your views of the UN, wrong again. I’m sure you’re comforted that you’re in accord with all the Republican right-wingers who view the UN as a den of vipers, thieves and international terror mongers. I see you wish to include in your list of particulars against the UN the fact that they did little to stop the Rwandan genocide. You again conveniently neglect to mention that the ENTIRE WORLD COMMUNITY failed miserably including our own country. More than enough blame to go around for that one.
Also, you conveniently neglect all the of fabulous achievements of UN bodies like UNICEF, WHO etc. How about the role of the UN in resolving the East Timor genocide? The UN is a valuable asset to the world community. If member states like the U.S. would truly support it by paying their own dues assessment in a timely manner and participating constructively in its work, then it’d be an even more effective body than it is now.
Mazel tov on the twins, Richard.
First, I don’t condone the acts of the Lehi. I think what they did was wrong. Lots of Israelis think what they did was wrong. Members of other Jewish defense groups (like the Palmach and Haganah) turned in Lehi members to the British authority.
(And I think the King David Hotel has some of the best hot chocolate in Jerusalem.)
That being said, Marwan Barghouti is a terrorist mastermind. Whether or not Israel chose to use his trial for public relations purposes, there’s pretty convincing evidence (that I’ve yet to read a rebuke of) that he had a hand in planning attacks that killed dozens of Israeli (including Israeli Arab) civilians. The guy belongs behind bars.
If there was convincing evidence that Shamir killed innocent civilians (or took part in the planning of their murders), then I’d be in favor of throwing him in jail too. But there’s not. You say:
“To be fair, Shamir denies involvement or prior knowledge of the operation, but I find this terribly hard to believe.”
Well, I’m sorry you find it hard to believe. I don’t particularly believe him either. But people get thrown in prison based on evidence, not based on the fact that you and I don’t believe them.
I think Shamir’s Lehi past is troubling, and if I were an Israeli voter, I’d vote against his party. And I’d be the first one to support jailing any former Lehi members who we can prove killed innocent people.
But that doesn’t mean Barghouti doesn’t belong in jail. It’s unfortunate, since, as Bennett points out, he actually has a chance to represent a somewhat moderate home-grown voice in the PA. But a court of law — one in a democratic country with an independent court system — found him guilty. Why in God’s name should killers be freed?
Josh: first, welcome back to my blog. It’s been a while & it’s good to hear from you (though we never seem to agree on much!).
You have to be careful about the generalizations you make about relations among Lehi, Palmach, etc. When it suited them they could cooperate. When it didn’t they could be brutal toward each other. The research I looked at in preparing my post says that there is evidence that Ben Gurion himself may have tacitly approved the Bernadotte murder. If so (& that’s a big ‘if’ I realize) it would mean that Israel, at this embryonic stage of its existence was resorting to terror to advance its political objectives (killing Bernadotte because his position insisted on the return of Palestinian refugees to the homes they were ejected from during the War of Independence). A very troubling, but unsurprising revelation.
A question you should ask yourself regarding Israel’s kidnapping & trial of Barghouti (and this is assuming Barghouti is guilty, which no one has proved to my satisfaction–if you can point me to solid, incontrovertible evidence of his involvement in such a conspiracy I’d like to see it): Israel has assassinated outright many Palestinian leaders both senior and junior to Barghouti. Also, there are other Palestinian leaders with “blood of their hands” which Israel doesn’t seem to feel the need to pursue. So why did they choose this course with Barghouti? Clearly, because they view him as a much greater threat in the long term than any Hamas operative. So Israel has engaged in what I’d call selective prosecution here. This is purely a political, rather than criminal trial. In a U.S. court, proving a case of selective prosecution would tend to undermine the credibility of the prosecution case. And IMO the same should hold true in this case.
Even if you find there isn’t convincing evidence of Shamir’s complicity, there IS convincing evidence tying many others to the act. They even know who the trigger man was (read the Wikipedia article I link to). One of those connected explicitly to the plot was elected to Israel’s first Knesset. So you reward a man for being a cold blooded killer in service to his nation? Those accused of involvement were hardly touched, let alone punished. And we fault the Palestinians for not “rooting out terror in their midst!” What hypocrisy! And please don’t misinterpret what I’m saying to condone Palestinian terror. I believe both societies should root out terror in their midst and that neither has.
What in God’s name gives Israel the right to kidnap Marwan Barghouti from territory it ceded to the PA, try him and convict him? I think it’s the height of presumptuousness and begs the fact that another nation might (nay, WILL) feel emboldened to kidnap an Israeli citizen (say, a ‘security consultant’ working with rebel groups or a Mossad operative) and treat him the same way. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” as our tradition says. Israel is asking for trouble and their are many nations who’d be only happy to oblige. Beware Israelis (especially government officials) traveling to foreign countries.
Lehi and the Stern Gang *certainly* did kill Palestinian civilians, as well as British and international civilians. The King David Hotel is the most well-known example, but there were plently of Irgun and Stern Gang attacks on Palestinian civilians from the late 1930’s up until the Arab invasion. Shamir’s Lehi Gang also helped carry out the Deir Yassin massacre, which should be considered no less an act of terrorism than any of the suicide bombings carried out by Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades.
Peter and Richard:
Agreed that terrorist attacks specifically targeting civilians for political purposes is henious.
Agreed therefore that if Richard is correct about Shamir, he should be vilified.
Equally, therefore, Barghouti belongs in prison.
If, however, (and this is a huge “if”) his release would somehow actually lead to a real peace between a Jewish Israel and a free and valid Palistine, I suppose it would be acceptable just as so many others with heinous pasts have somehow managed later to contribute positively in larger causes. But to release him simply as a gesture would be a serious mistake likely to cause the deaths of more Israeli children and other citizens.
Leaving aside the debate on Lehi for the moment, I would like to address your questioning of Israel’s right to arrest Marwan Barghouti (“What in God’s name gives Israel the right to kidnap Marwan Barghouti from territory it ceded to the PA, try him and convict him?”) and the apparent moral equivalency that you see between Israel’s actions and the actions of Palestinian terrorists: (“I believe both societies should root out terror in their midst and that neither has”).
Israel has the moral right, nay the duty, to arrest or kill those who are trying to kill her own citizens. In Jewish law, one has the OBLIGATION to stop a rodef (one that is on the way to kill someone else). Israel, as a sovereign nation, has the right to defend herself under the UN charter. It therefore seems non-sensical to me to argue against a moral basis for her protecting her citizens from the threat of terrorism. Israel should arrest these people and put them on trial for the crimes that they have committed on sovereign Israeli soil against Israeli citizens. Some of the attacks that Barghouti was convicted of orchestrating took place on sovereign Israeli soil (never mind those against Israeli citizens that took place in the Territories). How does Israel not have the right to arrest and try someone who committed crimes on her territory? Did the USA not have the right to try Timothy McVeigh?
This leads on to the moral equivalency argument. Clearly if Israel is able to arrest terrorists and bring them to trial, she should. However, if Israel knows that somebody has previously and continues to murder her citizens, surely she has the duty to stop them, by killing them if necessary. How, morally, can she sit back and let her citizens be murdered? The question then comes to whether innocent bystanders will be caught up in the assasinations. This is a very complex moral question, but it is clear that Israel thinks long and hard before any assasination operation for precisely this reason. Many operations have been aborted because of fears of unnacceptable civilian casualties. This does not mean that mistakes are not made (for example with Saleh Shehada). However, in my mind it is clear that Israel must stop those who are trying to kill her civilians.
Contrast Israel’s situation with that of a Palestinian terrorist. Israel’s army places great emphasis on protection of civilian life (I spent 2 months on an IDF programme and learnt about “tohar haneshek [purity of arms] and have witnessed this emphasis myself). Furthermore, investigations, trials and convictions have been conducted when unnacceptable civilian casualties have occured. Palestinian terrorists DELIBERATELY target civilians. They put go to buses, seder tables, pizza parlours, markets where there will be large crowds of innocent civilians, so larger numbers of casualties. They pack their bombs with nails (to cause greater carnage) and rat poison (to slow the blood of injured people from being able to clot, thus increasing the liklihood that they will die). The unintentional (but clearly still awful and disastrous) killing of a Palestinian civilian IS NOT morally equivalent to the deliberate killing of and Israeli. Swap the words Palestinian and Israeli around and that statement is still true. However, the fact is that terrorists target innocents, while the IDF targets those who seek to murder.
First, let’s explain what the Rodef theory is which you advance in your comment. The Talmud tells us that if someone rises early in the morning to kill you, you should rise earlier and kill him first. By which the Talmud tells us that commiting murder in self-defense can be a legitimate legal response to a threat.
The Rodef theory which you advance is absolutely invalid in this case. Rodef is meant to apply to a situation in which an INDIVIDUAL is being pursued by another individual. The Talmudic rabbis made no analagous pronoucements about a situation in which one nation is engaged in war with another (which is essentially what is happening now between Israel & the Palestinians). Second, Rodef is also meant to apply to a situation in which the potential murderer is in ACTIVE PURSUIT of his victim. This is absolutely not what Israel is doing in hunting down Hamas leaders and assassinating them. Israel murders these individuals on the street, in their cars, etc. while they are pursuing ordinary everyday life. I would grant that Rodef might apply if Israel bombed a terror lab and killed a Palestinian as he planned a bombing or built a bomb. But this is almost never how Israel operates. And on top of all these differences, Israel invariably kills and injures innocent Palestinians in the course of such extrajudicial killings. Does the Talmud say that the person being pursued by a murderer has the right, in killing his would-be murderer, to also kill innocent bystanders?
If you know Jewish law, you will understand that our rabbis would never have countenanced this. They would never say that in order to kill someone who deserves killing that you may also kill those who don’t. Your whitewash of the murder of civilians by saying Israel thinks long and hard about such actions if innocents may be killed and has even aborted some operations for this reason is almost laughable. In one instance, in order to kill a major militant, Israel bombed an entire apartment building killing 12 civilians. What was there excuse? Oops, they weren’t supposed to be there? Pitiful–and a terrible schande! And such “mistakes” are far more the rule than the exception. If you are saying that Israel values the lives of innocent Palestinians as much as it values the lives of its own citizens, well, I’d venture to say that even you would admit this is not the case.
Israel has many avenues available to it to protect its citizens. It can protect its borders so that terrorists cannot enter. It can provde heightened security to detect bombers within Israel before they attack. And if Israel was willing (which it is definitely not willing to do) to join the International Criminal Court, it could turn people like Marwan Barghouti over to it to receive international justice. The benefit of doing this for Israel would be that it in convicting Palestinian terrorists before an international tribunal this would legitimize Israel’s cause before this community. When Israel kidnaps the Marwan Barghoutis of the world, puts them on trial and imprisons them for lengthy prison terms, the world community automatically considers such actions illegitimate.
Israel is doing nothing more or less than what the U.S. does in declaring individuals to be enemy combatants and holding them indefinitely & providing them none of the rights of ordinary prisoners. Few if any countries in the world recognize the legitimacy of what we’re doing. Hell, even our own citizens, legal scholars and military attorneys don’t recognize this as a legitimate form of justice. So let’s welcome Israel to the exclusive club of the few nations in the world who thumb their nose at the normal standards of international justice. Now, we have something to be really proud of!
The West Bank, where Barghouti was kidnapped is not “sovereign Israeli soil.” No one in the world (except portions of Israeli society including its right wing government) acknowledges that the Territories are part of Israel. Israel has not even annexed them. So how are they sovereign Israeli territory? I suppose you may be arguing that the terror attacks that Barghouti planned took place on Israeli soil. But even if Barghouti helped plan them (and I’m not even conceding this to be true), He did not execute the attacks himself and never stepped foot within Israel. So this means that Israel has to justify kidnapping him from an area beyond the Green Line. The only other time I remember Israel doing this (before the various intifadas began) was in the case of Adolph Eichmann. So are we saying that Barghouti is in the class of a mass murderer like Eichmann?
You say you studied the Israeli practice of tohar neshek (purity of arms) while studying at an IDF “program.” Yet did you study how the IDF acts not just in theory, but in PRACTICE? Tohar neshek is a wonderful theory and if implemented would make all Jews proud of the restraint shown to Israeli’s enemies. But tohar neshek is little more than a nice sentiment which IDF soldiers and Israeli citizens are taught as an ideal. You can’t claim Israeli moral superiority based on ideals and theories. The validity of such theories may only be determined by real behavior by real soldiers. And here Israel falls far short. Even thousands of Israelis who’ve served in the Territories have publicly spoken of excesses they participated in or witnessed. Do many Israeli soldiers live by and exemplify the principle of tohar neshek in their interactions with Palestinians? I have no doubt this may be the case. But is this the prevailing principle by which soliders actually behave there? Alas, no.
Finally, your statement “The unintentional (but clearly still awful and disastrous) killing of a Palestinian civilian IS NOT morally equivalent to the deliberate killing of an Israeli” is amoral on its face and morally indefensible. An innocent is an innocent is an innocent. When you start making moral distinctions between which person’s murder is worse on a moral continuum, then you cheapen and debase the value of all of the murdered souls. I make no such distinctions. God rebuked the celebrating angels as they witnessed the destruction of the Egyptians at the Red Sea (if I recall this passage correctly): “My creatures are dying. Why do you rejoice?” And in another passage the Talmud indicates that we have not right to value our own life ahead of our neighbor’s: “For is your blood redder than his?” The answer our tradition gives is clearly: “No.”
I welcome your comments about the rodef argument. I do not claim to be an expert on the matter. Israel does frequently foil terror attacks when they are in the final stages of planning or even once the suicide bomber is on his way. However, this was not the crux of my case.
I realise (and alluded to the fact) that the West Bank is not Sovereign Territory. The point is that Marwan Barghouti was charged, tried and convicted of crimes against Israelis carried out both on Sovereign Israeli Soil and areas of Military Jurisdiction (ie the West bank). This is in no way analogous to American actions at Guantanamo Bay. At Guantanamo Bay suspects are held indefintely, without charge, without lawyers and without the opportunity of appeal. Marwan Barghouti was tried in a court in a democratic country, was offered lawyers (which he refused) and can appeal his case. The two are very different!
You then argue that “Israel has many avenues available to protect its citizens”, which is of course true. It certainly works very hard to protect its borders and provide security to its civilians. Indeed, Israel is probably the world leader in these fields. It seems strange to say that Israel is allowed to arrest a terrorist once they step over the Green Line, but that the terrorist has immunity in the West Bank or Gaza (“He [Barghouti] did not execute the attacks himself and never stepped foot within Israel”). Once a terrorist is within the Green Line, they are minutes from carrying out their attack and it is very difficult (though not impossible) to stop them. The government would be neglecting its duty to protect its citizens if it greatly increased the risk of attack by only arresting people within the Green Line.
Also, the argument that “he did not carry out the attacks himself” is absurd. He did not pull the trigger, so he is not responsible? Planning the attacks, funding them, choosing the targets, providing the weapons are all fine, just so long as you do not pull the trigger? On this logic only the exploited, brainwashed suicide attackers can be arrested, not those that orchestrate their campaign. On this logic Osama Bin Laden is completely free from wrongdoing.
Now we come to the main clash between us. You state that “an innocent is an innocent is an innocent”. On its face this seems a clear moral argument. However, when explored more deeply its flaws are seen. Of course, a Jew’s life is no more valuable than a Palestinian’s life or a Christian’s life or whoever. That is why I said that you can swap “Israeli” and “Palestinian” in my statement: “The unintentional (but clearly still awful and disastrous) killing of a Palestinian civilian IS NOT morally equivalent to the deliberate killing of an Israeli” and it remains true. That was not my argument. The moral difference is between the targeting of combatants and the targeting of non-combatants. There is a difference morally and legally between 1st degree murder and culpable homicide. That is the difference between Palestinians targetting Israeli civilians and innocent Palestinians being killed when Israel targets terrorists.
It is still a tragedy. Israel must do its absolute utmost to prevent it. I do not for one minute deny that Israel has made (too many) mistakes. I do, however, believe that Israel does more than any other country in her position to try to avoid civilian casualties. I recommend that you read Alan Dershowitz’s “The Case For Israel” for a more detailed analysis of this.
It is a travesty to blur the moral distinction between the actions of the IDF and those of Palestinian terrorists.
Only you and the Israeli court which convicted Barghouti claim his culpability for these crimes has been proven. You may not be aware that while Israeli justice can be of quite a high standard in normal civil and criminal matters, there is an entirely different standard applied to “security cases.” Always in such cases the presumption of guilt is preponderant and the state has a much lower threshold to prove guilt in such cases. In fact, Israeli courts with very few exceptions are known for their deference to the security services. It is in this context that Barghouti was convicted. If you add to this fact that Barghouti does not accept the right of Israel to try him, has not cooperated in his defense, and indeed has not put on a defense–then this is not justice in any sense. For you to say that because Israel is a democratic country and offered him an attorney–that therefore his conviction & imprisonment is legitimate is patently ridiculous.
Now, as to your argument that it is acceptable for Israel to kidnap non-Israelis outside of Israel proper–this is an interesting argument. That would make it valid for Spain to kidnap ETA terrorists within France in order to bring them to justice in Spain; or it would justify the British kidnapping IRA terrorists within the Republic of Ireland to bring them to justice in Britain; or it would justify the CIA kidnapping foreign nationals outside the U.S. in order to try them within the U.S. (something we have done). You will also recall that Qatar captured, tried and imprisoned two Russian agents who were attempting to assassinate a Chechen rebel leader on Qatari soil. Seems this didn’t go over too well with the Qataris. If you countenance such roguelike behavior you will quickly see international relations degenerate into a maelstrom. I don’t know many countries that would stand for this outrageous behavior. Do you consider it legitimate for one nation to violate the sovereignty of another by kidnapping its citizens in broad daylight & whisking them off to foreign soil for trial? If you do, then how would you feel if a future Chilean government came to this country and kidnapped Henry Kissinger and whisked him off to Chile in order to try him for his culpability in the 1973 Chilean coup?
Sorry, but your continuing attempt to make moral distinctions between Israel’s attempt to only kill “culpable” Palestinians (and making lots of “mistakes” in the process resulting in hundreds of innocent deaths) and the Palestinian militants attempt to kill indiscriminately is bullshit (I don’t usually speak in such terms here, but I’m exasperated with your feeble attempt to make this dead horse rise to life again). These are dead people, murdered people–plain and simple. What are you–a district attorney to argue between levels of murder? I’m not. I’m just a plain old person who sees dead people before my eyes. I don’t make the distinctions you do. Argue your case till the cows come home. It will never move me.
Please don’t bring up Alan Dershowitz’ name in this blog. He is an out and out apologist for some of the worst behavior by the IDF and the Israeli government. Besides that he is an intellectual blowhard, showboat and egomaniac. He has no credibility at this site.
I do not accept that my argument about lack of moral equivalency is “bullshit”, but we will have to agree to disagree (though it isn’t the best argued refuataion that I’ve ever seen!).
The analogies that you draw between Spain arresting ETA terrorists in France and British arresting IRA terrorists in ROI are not valid for two reasons. Firstly there are extradition arrangements between these countries and secondly France and ROI are both sovereign territories.
When the PA used to arrest and imprison terrorists, Israel did not have the need to go and do so. If they cracked down on them now, Israel would not need to fight against them. However, when they are given free reign to plan and carry out their attacks, Israel has to act.
Secondly, the West Bank and Gaza are not sovereign territory of any state. Jordan and Egypt both relinquished any claims that they held to them in their respective peace treaties with Israel. They are currently a mixture under military government, civil administration and PA administration. Therefore Israel is not “violat[ing] the sovereignty of another [nation]” by arresting terrorists in the West Bank and Gaza.
What you are suggesting is that Israel should allow the West Bank and Gaza to become terrorist haven from which the terrorists are free to orchestrate and launch murderous attacks, while Israel has no right to stop them. So, you arguing (unintentionally) for the support of international terrorism.
Colin: More disingenuousness… I provided many different reasons why your arguments claiming that Israelis murdered were on a higher plane of outrage than Palestinians was false. So don’t tell me that the phrase “bullshit” was the only one i used to refute your outrageous theory. It is a putrid & disgusting permise which is why it deserves my opprobrium & that word in particular.
Your argument that Israel is entitled to kidnap, convict & imprison Palestinians on PA territory because it is not yet a recognized state is also interesting. It reminds me of the old Zionist delusion: “A people without a land for a land without a people.” Got news for you–the whole world except a minority of Israelis recognize the urgency & necessity of creating a Palestinian state (even Sharon accepts that Israel will some day have to recognize such an eventuality–though of course his timetable is so far into the future as to be meaningless). The ONLY reason why this has not happened is because Sharon & his right wing cronies refuse to allow it to. So for you to claim that the very same Sharon is justified in taking Barghouti because the latter is not a citizen of a state–well, it’s a nicely solipsistic argument that allow Israel to justify so much that is unjustifiable. Your claim that the Palestinians have done nothing to control terror within their jurisdiction is also interesting. Israel has destroyed all the prisons, security facilities and governmental infrastructure that could be used to govern Palestine. And you claim that all the Palestinians need to do is behave like a government and arrest the incorrigibles–nice try but that argument just won’t hunt or fly.
Your contention that I support international terrorism is the height of disingenuousness. First, you are profoundly ignorant of both the nature of international terror AND Palestinian nationalism/militancy. No Palestinian group has ever attacked anyone outside Israel. Yes, Jews have been attacked by Arabs outside Israel, but never under the auspices of Palestinian groups. So Palestinian resistance to Israeli occupation is NOT international terror. Al Qaeda IS international terror for obvious reasons.
What really burns me up about the lies, distortions & half truths of Bush, Rice et al. when it comes to discussions of international terror is that they (like you) subsume all manner of resistance under the same banner. Al Qaeda is ETA is the IRA is Hamas is Chechen rebels. This is a terrible reduction that will guarantee only one thing. That we will never understand the complexity of these movements and therefore never overcome them or resolve our differences with them. And the same holds true regarding Israel and the Palestinians. A sad thought.
Richard, I find it sad that you are doing your best to turn an intellectual argument into a personal one. Let’s argue the issues and not call each other names or put words into each other’s mouths. In fact, I support the creation of a Palestinian State (despite you hinting that I don’t). Personally I will not visit any Israeli settlements in the territories because I think that they are immoral. So please do not presume to place me in a political pigeon-hole.
I am trying to logically examine your case that Israel has no right to arrest terrorists beyond the 1948 borders. The West Bank and Gaza are under overall Israeli responsibility as the occupying power. There is no sovereign government in the West Bank and Gaza. You admit that the PA has been either unwilling or unable to stop the terrorists (hopefully Abu Mazen is trying to change this policy). At the same time you state that Israel has NO RIGHT to arrest terrorists who commit crimes against her citizens (either over the Green Line or within it) if they live over the Green Line. Who do you think should be arresting them? Following your logic to its conclusion, any terrorist that can find somewhere where they won’t be arrested by the administration there can live happily, orchestrating terror attacks in other territories, because nobody has the right to arrest him or kill him. That was what I meant by encouraging international terrorism. (Although I’m not convinced that no Palestinian groups have carried out attacks outside Israel. Black September, who carried out the Munich massacre, described themselves as Palestinian Arabs. Either way, it is not relevant to the argument.)
I think that you are making a somewhat unsubstantiated claim when you say that “The ONLY reason why this [the creation of a Palestinian state] has not happened is because Sharon & his right wing cronies refuse to allow it to”, but this probably isn’t the time for that argument, we’ll concentrate on matters at hand.
So far you have given one reason against my argument for lack of moral equivalency between “collateral damage” (a horrible, horrible phrase, I apologise) and deliberately targeted civilians. All other comments you have made have dismissed my argument without any reasoning.
This one argument that you have made was that you disagree with the statement that:”in order to kill someone who deserves killing that you may also kill those who don’t”. I do not believe that the situation is as black and white as you paint it. According to your argument if there is any risk of any civilian casualties then Israel cannot strike. That effectively rules out any strike, especially considering the fact that all of the terrorists take refuge amaong the civilian population, using them as human shields. However, this means that the terrorists are left free to pursue their aims of killing Israeli civilians. Therefore you are placing the lives of Palestinian civilians on a higher plain than those of Israelis, because the Palestinian civilains lives cannot be put at risk in any way, while Israelis can be exposed to terrorist whose stated aim is their destruction. My argument is that Israel must do her utmost to minimize civilian casualties. She should be criticised when she fails in this respect. However, expecting zero civilian casualties is not reasonable. Therefore before each operation Israel must weigh up the risks of civilian casualties against the danger posed by the terrorists. Sometimes the intelligence isn’t correct. Sometimes they make the wrong call. However, in the majority of cases they succesfully negotiate this moral tightrope. It is intellectually dishonest to claim a moral equivalence between this approach of valuing human life and the aims of terrorists which are to kill as many innocents as possible.
I eagerly await your response to these arguments.
I’m sorry if I presumed what your positions were on a variety of issues & am glad to hear about your view of the Territories. But I do find it odd that you are opposed to settlements (I’d be curious to know whether you oppose the Occupation as well) yet you maintain a disconnect when it comes to understanding why there is Palestinian terrorism. To me & those progressives like me in Israel & the Diaspora, terror is connected to Occupation. End Occupation & you end terror. Of course, it wouldn’t be quite that simple in reality, but this would eventually be the end result. And please make no mistake by presuming I support Palestinian terror. I don’t. But I understand resistance to oppression and that’s what Hamas is doing towards Israel.
You say the Territories are under “overall Israeli responsibility.” Who arrogated that status to Israel? An Israeli general (Yitzchak Rabin btw) and his troops who conquered it forcibly & against the will of both the Palestinians who lived there & the Jordanians who administered it with the approval of the world community. Which part of the world community endorsed Israel’s Occupation or “responsibility” for the Territories?? In addition, Barghouti was kidnapped from territory that Israel gave to the PA as its own administrative area of control. So by what right does Israel kidnap him from an area in which it has renounced control?
Do you feel that current Bush policy of arresting suspected terrorists within foreign jurisdictions & bringing them to Guantanamo for detention & possibly trial is an acceptable approach toward terrorism? You must feel this way otherwise you could not defend Israeli policy as you do. And if you do endorse it, then you are on a slippery slope to disaster. We have no right to do this. 200 years of judicial precendent do not endorse such a radical interpretation of constitutional/military law. The same holds true for Israel (though the problem with Israel is that it has no Constitution).
The truth of the matter is that if you honor the principle of the integrity of international borders and international law, then you must honor it in the case of terrorists who seek safe haven from pursuit. Do I favor nations using every legal means to prevent & punish terror? Yes. Do I favor violating national or jurisdictional sovereignty to prevent terror? No. Is that inconvenient? Is that an imperfect response to such a situation? You bet. But democracy as we all know is imperfect. Authoritariansm is so much more desirable in such situations. But should democracies revert to such rule when they face a crisis? Of course not. But this is the course that Israel chooses when it comes to dealing with its security situation. And it will not bring long term security but rather the opposite. Will such draconian measures stop a single attack or even a handful? Sure. But will they end or even curb terrorism? Not a chance. The only way terrorism will subsibe is if Israel engages in serious negotiations with the PA in which both sides are willing to compromise on the major issues. This will never happen under a Sharon/Likud government. Hence, Israel is forced to rely on its halfbaked, but brutal policy of assassinating or kidnapping both Palestinian terrorists and political leaders it despises (& make no mistake, Barghouti was kidnapped & arrested because Israel views him as a dangerous and uncontrollable future political opponent–not because of his alleged “crimes”).
Yes, you are right about Munich. But I think Munich (which happened in 1972) is more the exception that proves the rule. I can’t recall any other such incidents outside of territory under Israeli control)
Yes, my rules of engagement would be very strict & might cause cancellation of many Israeli strikes. I believe the respect for human llife and international consensus which Israel would exemplify would inure to Israel’s credit. Instead of the current situation in which the lion’s share of Israeli actions in the Territories are viewed as brutal and flaunting international norms. Might it mean that some Palestinian attacks that have failed would instead have succeeded? Hard to say but that’s a possibility. But to me, norms of international law and behavior exist to be honored in the breach as well as in the course of normal everyday life. If you start to argue that this situation or that justifies setting these rules of behavior aside then you’ve effectively argued that the rules are irrelevant for everyone in every situation. Then nations can basically do whatever is in their self-interest whenever it suits them. That’s a recipe for utter chaos (whcih I would argue is the situation now between Israel & the Palestinians).
You are utterly wrong in saying “in the majority of cases they succesfully negotiate this moral tightrope.” In virtually every Israeli extrajudicial assassination there is “collateral damage,” meaning Palestinian civilians injured or murdered by Israeli airstrikes or tank shells or whatever. To make the statement you make above means that you read your Mideast coverage very selectively. And I would maintain that with every innocent Palestinians life snuffed out by Israeli warpower, this will lengthen the period it will take to create normalcy between Israel and Palestine by months or years. I’m thinking in the long term and you’re thinking in the short term.
Richard, I appreciate the more positive and constructive tone of this post and agree with some of what you say.
I do not want to dwell on my exact personal political views, but I do not believe in unilateral withdrawal from all of the territories (a la Shalom Achshav). I believe in withdrawal as part of negotiations and a peace process and also think that there will inevitably be deviations from the Green Line in the final borders between Israel and Palestine. I think that this is a pragmatic and realistic view of the situation.
I am somewhat perturbed by your equation of occupation=terrorism. Clearly many Israeli actions do not do it any favours in terms of support for the terrorists, it is false to believe that Hamas or Islamic Jihad are fighting against “the occupation”. The occupation that they are fighting against is that of Tel Aviv, of Netanya, of Eilat. The Fedayeen carried out raids before ’67. The PLO was founded before ’67. To describe Hamas’ actions as resistance to oppression is a vary dangerous step. It is clear to me that if Palestinians renounced terrorism then the Israeli people is ready for peace. Therefore if Hamas really wanted to stop oppresion they would turn their sword into ploughshares, as it were, and swap the bomb factories for the negotiating table. A suicide bomb at a Seder in Netanya (I was 300 yard down the road from it) is not resisting oppression. It is all out war against “the Zionist Enemy”.
In terms of the legal status of the West Bank, you are mistaken in some respects. Jordan was an occupying power which unilaterally annexed them with the recognition only of Britain and Pakistan. Israel conquered these territories in a defensive war and has agreed to the principle of a negotiated settlement, including a withdrawal from territories (not ALL of the territories) occupied in this war, pursuant to UN Security Council Resolution 242. You are right that under the Oslo Accords certain areas were given autonomy and PA control, but this is a long way short of making them sovereign territories. Until a final status agreement is reached, Israel remains in overall legal responsibility for the areas according to international law.
In terms of a country’s right to defend itself against terrorism, I disagree with you. According to the UN Charter, all states have the right to self-defence against aggression. That includes Israel’s right to respond against terrorists operating with impunity from with other states (like Hizbullah in Lebanon) and against those from the West Bank and Gaza (which are not technically separate states-yet!). That is international law. Your government is keeping people hostage in Guantanamo Bay, something that I do not think is acceptable because they are keeping them beyond scrutiny and suspending the principle of Habeas Corpus.
Your comment about the short term and the long term is true to an extent. In the short term, Israel must defend her citizens against terrorists. In the long term, this situation cannot continue. Please God Abu Mazen will have the strength of support amongst the Palestinians (and Israel will adopt a policy that also strenghens him) and the Palestinians will take responsibility themselves for (and actions towards) ending the Intifada. That is the only way that I can see things moving forward to negotiations and any type of final settlement.
I don’t care whether ending the Occupation happens unilaterally (no hope of that ever happening btw) or through negotiation. The essential question is when, if ever will an Israeli government enter into a negotiation in which it would seriously contemplate ending the Occupation as part of peace agreement. There isn’t a hope in Hell of this happening with the present government.
As for what are the true goals of Palestinian terror/militancy: we can argue this till the cows come home…but we don’t need to. Even if (& I do not concede the truth of this supposition) that Hamas would never agree to a cessation of hostilities against Israel until Israel is ‘dismantled,’ no one would stand for such intransigence. The Palestinian people themselves are overwhelmingly in favor of a two state solution (a joint Israeli-Palestinian survey came out this week confirming a majority within both peoples for such a position). Second, the Israelis themselves would not stand for such a maximalist position. Third, the world community would not stand for a situation in which everyone among the Palestinians accepts a settlement and Hamas is the lone holdout.
We saw a similar situation around the 1948 War of Independence in which Begin’s party attempted to establish its own power base by importing a shipload of weapons which would’ve allowed Herut to establish its own army in competition with the Palmach. Ben Gurion would not stand for such fragmentation within Israeli society and he used violence to stop the Alta Lena from unloading its cargo. I can’t say that the Palestinians would have the power or inclination to act in such a unified fashion against Hamas. But there are so many other major actors involved in this (EU, UN, U.S., etc.) that I have no doubt that Hamas will either wilingly relinquish its extreme views or be forced to do so.
Why is saying Hamas is resisting oppression “dangerous?” There are hundreds of examples of nationalist groups which used violence to resist their oppressors (some of which I’ve listed in my earlier comments here). Everyone acknowledges that even though their violence might be repulsive & counterproductive it is still resistance. Is it legitimate resistance? I can’t give as ironclad a reply to this as you would. I never favor taking a human life. But if you feel your own people are under seige and being decimated by an oppressor like Israel, you explore every avenue of resistance including violence.
So nice to see that you’ve figured out what Hama’ strategy should be in confronting Israeli oppression. Didn’t know you fancied yourself a Ho Chi Minh. Just turn their swords into plowshares–just like that?? What nationalist movement can you name which put down its weapons BEFORE its opponent expressed a willingness to consider a compromise that would at least partially satisfy the interests & needs of its people? If I were a Hamas leader (thank God I’m not!) I would not endorse your view. It would mean the end of Hamas because its own followers would wonder what it got for giving up the sword. And in Sharon’s case, they (& the Palestinians) would get nothing. Oh, maybe a bantustan here & there cobbled out of a few disparate territorial segments. But nothing like the viable, contiguous state that Palestine will need if it is ever to be a stable & prosperous place.
I believe you are clinging to phantoms like Hamas to justify never resolving the conflict. And this is a pernicious perspective to have on such an intractable conflict. It only prevents us from ever reaching a settlement.
You are the one who is mistaken in your recap of the 1967 War. This war was “defensive” for Israel in the same sense that the U.S. war against Iraq was “defensive.” They were both pre-emptive strikes that were not precipitated by enemy fire. I could argue that Israel might have slightly more justification for what it did in pre-emtpively striking the Egyptian air force & initiating the War since it’s very existence was at stake (& the U.S.’ existence was certainly not in jeopardy from Iraq). But nevertheless, the term “defensive” to describe the ’67 War stretches the meaning of the word far past acceptable limits.
In addition, Israel could have easily stopped its advance against the Jordanians once it conquered east Jerusalem & secured the Western Wall. It did not do so. And if you’ve ever read the remarkable Siach Lohamim, you will find that many Israeli soldiers at the time were opposed to the conquest of the Territories in this War. In fact, in this book several remarkably prescient fighters (one of them being Amos Oz, I believe) suggested that such conquest violated the concept of tohar neshek and would come back to haunt Israel. How true, how true!
When has Israel ever said “we are ready to sit down immediately with the Palestinians in a final status negotiation which will lead to territorial concessions under the aegis of Resolution 242?” When have they ever said, let alone done this? I maintain that such willingness on the part of Israel would be reciprocated by the PA. That might not have been so in the past. But it would be so now.
Finally, you place the onus on Abu Mazen to end the conflict with a parenthetical aside expressing your wish that Israel might make his job easier). You have put the cart before the horse. Abu Mazen cannot act in a vacuum. Even if he tried to do so (& he’s certainly not a fool & would not), his constituency would summarily reject him. No, the conflict must be resolved through reciprocity. And Sharon has shown no willingness whatsoever to reciprocate in a meaningful way. If you express a vague and feeble wish that Israel streghten Abu Mazen you are on a fool’s errand. This will never happen, as Sharon feels it is in Israel’s interest to put off such actions as long as possible (while appearing to all the world as a man who is willing to compromise).
Sharon is an out & out [former] butcher, but he has adapted diabolical political skills in fending off both his internal political opponents and the efforts of the international community to pin him down on what his real political commitments are.
The Oslo Accords and whole Peace Process were following the principles of negotiation and land for peace laid down by Resolution 242.
I reject your view of the Six Day War. It was clearly stated by the international community that the Straits of Tehran were an international waterway. It was clear that any restriction of passage in the Straits would be an act of war. Egypts blockade of Israeli shipping (and all other shipping bound for Israel) was a casus belli and the start of hostilities (making the six day bit a little untrue). I recommend you read Abba Eban’s autobiography for a detailed account of the assurances given to Israeli shipping following the Suez Crisis and the lead up to the Six Day War. In terms of the Jordanians, they were told that Israel would not attack them if they did not attack Israel. They clearly started the hostilities between the two countries. Straihht after the war (June 19th 1967) Israel offered to return the territories captured in return for peace. The Arab world responded with the famous 3 Nos of the Khartoum conference.
In terms of your apraisal of Hamas, I’m inclined to be optimistic and agree with you that they can be pressured into accepting Israel.
I do not expect Abu Mazen to “end the conflict”, but it is clear that serious negotiations cannot take place until a ceasefire takes place.
I also simply do not believe your complete demonization of Ariel Sharon. It is very popular in liberal circles to accept this view of him having some sinister plan of Bantustans or whatever. I don’t see any proof for that in his actions at present. I do not have time to explain this fully, sorry, I have a class!
“It was clearly stated by the international community that the Straits of Tehran were an international waterway. It was clear that any restriction of passage in the Straits would be an act of war.” I’d like to see you document the vague statement “it was clearly stated by the international community that the Straits were an international waterway.” I’m not doubting they were, but I’m asking you to document it. Are you also expanding your original statement to say the international community agreed with Israel’s interpretation that closing the strait was an act of war? No, of course you couldn’t make that claim because it wouldn’t be true. But you appear to infer it from yr. statement.
How is closing the Strait justified as an act of war? Is Eilat a major Israeli port? Was it then? No. How did it harm Israel for the Strait to be closed? Saying that this action on the part of the Egyptians was an act of war again stretches the meaning of “defensive” war which you used in your earlier comment beyond reasonable limits.
“Egypts blockade of Israeli shipping (and all other shipping bound for Israel)…” Wrong again. Did you forget about the Mediterranean Sea? You yourself claim that Egypt blockaded the Strait of Tiran. Are you now claiming they blockaded the Mediterranean as well? That’s an interesting rewriting of history. You oughta check your facts before you put out whoppers like that one. Perhaps it was just sloppy writing on yr. part…
The truth of the matter is that Golda Meir, Moshe Dayan & Yitzchak Rabin made a cold, cynical calculation that either they would eventually be in a war with the Egyptians & might as well destroy their air force before hostilities started; or they believed that even if there might not be a war, they wanted to destroy the air force so that it would not pose a threat to them for the years to come which it would take to rebuild it. Either way you look at it this was a pre-emptive war. A pre-emptive war is by definition an “offensive” war though usually the aggressors in such circumstance describe their actions as “defensive.” The fact that you cannot get your arms around this self-evident concept shows that you do not see clearly when it comes to discussing the Arab-Israeli conflict. You err on the side of always giving Israel the benefit of the doubt and always suspecting the motives of Israel’s “enemies” (a term you use & which I do not readily use). I too would love to be able to give Israel the benefit of the doubt. But so often she doesn’t deserve it.
The Jordanians started the hostilities against Israel? Yes, but only after Israel commenced hostilities against Egypt. The Arab frontline countries had an alliance and agreed that an attack against one would be an attack against all. So for Israel to think (if she did so, which I find unlikely) that they could knock off Egypt without facing the wrath of the other frontline nations was unrealistic. To now claim that Israeli conquest of the Territories was justified because Jordan attacked Israel is really ridiculous. Israel never stated a desire or need to control the West Bank before the war. All Israel wanted to do was unite Jerusalem. That would’ve been a strategic objective that all of Israel could’ve united behind. And such a limited conquest would’ve undoubtedly attracted much less opposition on the world stage. But the Israeli expansionist impulse represented by the conquest of all the Territories has come down to haunt Arab-Israeli relations for the past 40 years & will continue to do so until Israel withdraws from the vast majority of it.
I’m glad to read that you too believe that Hamas can be transformed into a political/religious, rather than military entity.
It is by no means “clear” that negotiations cannot take place until there is a ceasefire. That is the position of the rejectionists in the Israeli government who know that no Palestinian leader can deliver on such a promise. During many such iinterethnic conflicts serious negotiations have been conducted without a ceasefire being in place. Would I prefer a ceasefire to negotiating under the gun? Sure. But is it a realistic demand in this case? No. So your position mirrors the Israeli rejectionists though you claim to be have ‘moderate’ views when it comes to resolving the conflict.
You don’t see any proof that Sharon does not wish to have a Palestinian state or that if he were to accept such an eventuality he would arrange for such an entity to be discontiguous, fragmented & completely reliant on Israel economically? Come on. Where have you been hiding yourself? Because you certainly haven’t been reading the Israeli and U.S. publications I have which clearly delineate these views for all the world to see. Have you read Dov Weisglass’ interview in which he clearly states Sharon’s desire to squash a Palestinian state & in which he also boasts that Sharon has co-opted the U.S. government (Bush AND Congress!) into endorsing such a position? If you’re not aware of this brazenly cynical interview then you’re woefully misinformed about the conflict and the true nature of Sharon’s views. Sure Sharon denied Weisglass’ comments. But that’s his MO. He arranges for Olmert or Weisglass or some other flack to say something outrageous (but which he really believes) and then denies it publicly so that he can tell the world he didn’t really mean it. It’s a devious & cunning strategy of deflection but it doesn’t hide Sharon’s true intentions.
You state that Israel offered to return the territory in 1967. Fine, they get a few points for that offer. But what’s happened since then? When have they renewed the offer in a serious & credible way?
Richard, there are two matters for me to address: firstly the beginning of the Six Day War and secondly Areil Sharon’s view of a future Palestinian state. Let me answer them in order.
You request documentation of the international nature of the Straits of Tiran (and the connected Gulf of Aqaba). I apologise for its tedious nature, but I will go through the proof for you. First, however, let me address your questioning of the importance of Israel’s right of passage. It is completely illogical to condition whether closing the Straits is an act of war on whether “Eilat [was] a major Israeli port?” The size of the port and volume of the traffic did not affect Israel’s right to free and innocent passage. Even so, Eilat was and remains a hugely important strategic and economic port. It is Israel’s gateway to the East. Without it (and especially as Egypt blocked Israeli passage through the Suez Canal) Israel is closed off from Asia, much of Africa and Australasia. Israel received oil from Iran through Eilat-this was one of the reasons Nasser gave for closing the Straits! In Abba Eban’s speech of November 1st 1956 to the UN General Assembly he said:
“The blockade and interception have been extended, in the name of belligerency, from the Suez Canal to another international waterway, the Gulf of Aqaba. The State of Israel has had to distort the entire pattern of its economy, to bear illicit burdens running into tens of millions of pounds, in order to compensate for the impact of this piratical system which Egypt has established on a great artery of the world’s communications.”
I think that I have demonstrated the strategic and economic importance of Eilat. Now to Israel’s right to free and innocent passage.
In addition to Ambassador Eban’s speech (http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/History/ebansinai.html), US Secretary of State Dulles made the US position on the Gulf and the Sraits clear in his aide memoire to Ambassador Eban of 11th February 1957:
“With respect to (2), the Gulf of Aqaba and access thereto the United States believes that the gulf comprehends international waters and that no nation has the fight to prevent free and innocent passage in the gulf and through the Straits giving access thereto. We have in mind not only commercial usage, but the passage of pilgrims on religious missions, which should be fully respected.
The United States recalls that on 28 January 1950, the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs informed the United States that the Egyptian occupation of the two islands of Tiran and Sanafir at the entrance of the Gulf of Aqaba was only to protect the islands themselves against possible damage or violation and that, ‘this occupation being in no way conceived in a spirit of obstructing in -,my way innocent passage through the stretch of water separating these two islands from the Egyptian coast of Sinai, it follows that this passage, the only practicable one, will remain free as in the past, in conformity with international practice and recognized principles of the law of nations.'” (Full text http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/History/dulles.html)
We have therefore seen the views of both Egypt and the US (probably the two most important players) as to the international nature of the Straits. Other maritime powers (including the UK and France) also backed this American pledge. If this was not enough, there is also UN Security Council Resolution S/2322 which includes the passages:
“And further noting that the restrictions on the passage of goods through the Suez Canal to Israel ports are denying to nations at no time connected with the conflict in Palestine valuable supplies required for their economic reconstruction, and that these restrictions together with sanctions applied by Egypt to certain ships which have visited Israel ports represent unjustified interference with the rights of nations to navigate the seas and to trade freely with one another, including the Arab States and Israel.
Calls upon Egypt to terminate the restrictions on the passage of international commercial shipping and goods through the Suez Canal wherever bound and to cease all interference with such shipping beyond that essential to the safety of shipping in the Canal itself and to the observance of the international conventions in force.”
While specifically mentioning the Suez Canal (the focus of the conflict), the mention of “unjustified interference with the rights of nations to navigate the seas and to trade freely with one another” also undoubtedly applies to the Straits of Tiran.
The most conclusive expression of Israel’s intentions and understanding of the situation comes in Ambassador Eban’s statement to the UN announcing Israel’s withdrawal from Sinai and Gaza. I strongly suggest that you read the whole text (http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/History/iswithdraw.html), but it includes the lines: “Israel is resolved, on behalf of vessels of Israeli registry, to exercise the right of free and innocent passage and is prepared to join with others to secure universal respect of this right.
Israel will protect ships of its own flag exercising the right of free and innocent passage on the high seas and in international waters.
Interference, by armed force, with ships of Israeli flag exercising free and innocent passage in the Gulf of Aqaba and through the Straits of Tiran will be regarded by Israel as an attack entitling it to exercise its inherent right of self-defence under Article 51 of the Charter and to take all such measures as are necessary to ensure the free and innocent passage of its ships in the Gulf and in the Straits.”
In light of the above, we should look at the words of Nasser’s speech of May 22nd 1967. Amongst his lies, propaganda and incitement, he discussed the expulsion of the UN Emergency Force from Sinai and then said:
“The Aqaba Gulf constitutes our Egyptian territorial waters. Under no circumstances will we allow the Israeli flag to pass through the Aqaba Gulf.
The Jews threatened war. We tell them: You are welcome, we are ready for war. Our armed forces and all our people are ready for war, but under no circumstances will we abandon any of our rights. This water is ours.”
I think that this can reasonably be taken to mean that Nasser fully understood and intended that closing the Straits constituted an act of war!
To summarise, I have shown conclusively that Egypt closing the Straits of Tiran to Israeli and Israeli bound shipping was seen by Egypt, the US, the Maritime Powers and the UN as an act of war. That is, it was a casus belli and, after exploring other avenues of breaking the Egyptian blockade, Israel exercised her legitimate right of self-defence in the Six Day War.
On to Sharon. You accuse me of always giving Israel the benefit of the doubt (of which I am probably often guilty). I think that you are far too eager to convince yourself that Ariel Sharon is part of an evil Zionist plot. Your whole argument is based around Dov Weisglass’ interview. I cannot 100% guarantee you that Weisglass was wrong. However, the facts of the situation are that Sharon has disassociated himself from the remarks. I have personally heard senior political figures state that what Weisglass said is not the government line. In addition, Weisglass’ interview came in the context of the political struggle against the right wing to pass the disengagement plan. His interview may well have been a political move to try to quell some of the right wing opposition to the plan.
Furthermore, as I write Sharon and Abu Mazen seem close to bringing a period of ceasefire and quiet that will permit serious negotiation. Sharon has fought a huge campaign against his own party and his traditional supporters to pass the disengagement plan (which is completely against his views and policies of 20 years ago). It is your right to disagree with Ariel Sharon’s policies if you desire. It is your right to be skeptical of his statements. However, I find it hard to believe your forebodings and conspiracy theories of “Sharon’s true intentions”. It is one of those things upon which we will just have to agree to differ.
So much verbiage to prove so little! I concede that Egypt, the U.S. and the UN agreed that the Strait was an international waterway and that Egypt’s blockade was a violation of the norms of international conduct. But no where in any of the reams of quotations you provide does anyone say that Israel would have been justified in using such a blockade as a justification for war.
So what if Abba Eban said that closure of the Strait would be considered by Israel as an act of war. So what if he continues by cloaking Israel’s pre-emptive strike in the protective garb of the UN Charter authorizing nations to protect themselves when attacked. I can say I’m the pope’s uncle. That doesn’t make it so. Nations says lots of things to justify their actions. That doesn’t mean we accept all of them as true & valid. The proof of the pudding would be having you provide us with evidence that members of the UN agreed with Israel’s interpretation of the Charter. Yeah, I know you can’t provide that because the UN never would’ve agreed to it.
Another think I find really funny–both Israel and her true blue supporters despise the UN (and most of the rest of the world community as well) claiming it is biased against Israel. Now, you wish to use the UN to cast an imprimataur of approval upon Israel’s conduct in the 1967 War. Interesting how inconsistent we human beings can be.
I’m surprised you quote Nasser on this issue. He was a notorious blowhard and no one either then or now knew what, if anything, he believed from his public statements. And you mean to tell me that every statesman in human history who made similar declarations concerning an enemy actually expected and wanted war? If you believe this you know very little about the history of international relations. Leaders of nations say many things they don’t believe or don’t want to happen. It’s all part of the dance of diplomacy. I could just as easily contend that Nasser was sabre-rattling and didn’t really want war. Israel on the other hand was also saber-rattling, the difference being that it DID want war (at least a war fought on its terms, which its pre-emptive attack against Egypt provided).
You say that I believe that Sharon is part of an “evil Zionist plot.” Who’s the one now who’s presuming to know the political views of his interlocutor? I consider myself a Zionist in the sense that I support a two state solution and am deeply committed to Israel’s security & well being. But in addition, I support Palestinian nationalism in its effort to create an independent state for its people. So pls. don’t put any such words in my mouth. Sharon IS part of an evil plot against the Palestinian people. I don’t care for those (Israelis and Palestinians) who use the term Zionist either in a jingoistic or dismissive way.
My proof of Sharon’s perfidy is certainly not based solely on one incident or one person’s comments. I have lived through all of his political career and read about his entire military career. He is a brilliant (but terribly rash, impetuous & brutal) military tactician and shrewd political operator. He is amoral, venal and besides being a potential future war criminal for his conduct in Beirut, he is an accused abettor of financial crime. But in some ways I could ignore all of that if I believed that he might lead Israel to a peace agreement with the Palestinians. If you believe that Sharon will agree to a viable, contiguous Palestinian state; if you believe that Sharon is not doing everything in his power to prevent this eventuality–then you are deluding yourself and future events will prove you utterly wrong.
I’m amazed at how optimistic you are about the possibiity of a lasting ceasefire between Israel and the Palestinians. All it will take is a single terrorist incident and a massive Israeli retaliation–then we will be right back in the same dismal situation we’ve been in hundreds of times before. I’ll believe a ceasefire when I see it. And even if there is a lasting ceasefire how does that prove that Sharon is willing to make peace with the Palestinians on terms that both sides will accept? A final status agreement is light years away from a ceasefire. Sure, he’s willing to make peace on terms favorable to Israel. And he believes that the longer he procrastinates the more desperate the Palestinian position becomes and the more likely that they will settle on his terms. What an utter delusion!
Richard, I do not think that you are being intellectually honest with regard to the outbreak of the Six Day War.
Firstly, Abba Eban’s statement of Israel’s position to the UN was in 1957. He was not trying to justify any pre-emptive strike-he made the statement 10 years before the war.
I agree with you that Nasser was full of propaganda. However, his May 22nd speech was not simply an isolated speech. It came in the context of: the closing of the Straits of Tiran to Israeli and Israel-bound shipping; the expulsion of the UN Emergency Force from Sinai; and the movement of huge Egyptian troop concentrations into Sinai. This was hardly all words and no actions! In his words he declared war and in his actions he launched war.
Now we come to your demand for a specific UN statement of Israel’s right to defend herself. This is a clear display of double standards. The whole world is able to act according to the provisions of the charter and defend themselves when their sovereignty is attacked. Apparently, however, Israel needs a separate, unequivocal statement of her right to self-defence. Why?
You said that: “I concede that Egypt, the U.S. and the UN agreed that the Strait was an international waterway and that Egypt’s blockade was a violation of the norms of international conduct.” According to law the closing of the Straits of Tiran was an attack on Israel’s sovereignty and rights as a sovereign state, every bit as much as an attack on her own territory. Israel proceeded to explore the posssibilty of the maritime powers standing by their commitment of 1957. France and Britain backed out when the heat was on and the US tried to organise an international armada to challenge the blockade. However, the US failed in this task. Israel was left alone. Her only option to defend her sovereignty and inalienable rights as a state was to force the opening of the Straits.
Israel does not demand more rights than other nations. All she demands is equal rights. You, however, seem to be denying her the right to self-defence when her sovereignty is attacked. Please show me some documentation saying that a country does not have the right to defend itself when attacked in this manner.
I do not deny for a single second that you are a Zionist. While disagreeing with some of your opinions, I respect your concern for the State of Israel, the Jewish people and their futures. I used the words “evil Zionist plot” to draw comparison with the hysterical and irrational anti-Zionism that is all too common these days, and particularly includes a dogmatic and irrational demonisation of Ariel Sharon. I apologise if I offended you, or implied that you are not a Zionist. That was not my intention.
You profess amazement at my optimism. I think that we have to be realistic about the situation, but equally with the momentum created by Abu Mazen and by the disengagement plan there is the possibility of a serious improvement in the situation. Only a possiblilty, but it should be given a chance. Comments such as “future events will prove you utterly wrong” are needless pessimism. You critcise the right wing for wanting to delay the chance of peace for as long as possible. Refusing to accept that Ariel Sharon is capable of at least bringing the intifada to an end, if not signing a final status agreement (this, I will concede, is unlikely, at least before a general election gave him, or a Labour leader a mandate to make peace), is just as negative and unproductive. I have no problem with people not liking Ariel Sharon. I do have a problem with the constant, blind, vitriolic criticism and demonisation many reserve for him.
I’m afraid it is you, Colin who is not being intellectually honest. You want me to agree that Israel’s dire position before the Six Day War justified its launching of a pre-emptive strike against its enemy. You want me to agree that such a strike was “defensive” in nature. I simply can’t and won’t do that.
That being said, do I believe that Israel was in danger before and during the War? Do I believe that Israel was justified in taking every military precaution in its own defense leading up to the war? Absolutely. But do I believe that Israel had the right to pre-emptively strike its neighbor in order to gain the upper hand in the future battle? No. I’m just one of those old fashioned guys who believe that there are norms for international behavior that hold even in extremis. Call me hopelessly quaint and out of date (and I certainly am in this age of unfettered bellicosity on the part of the Bush & Sharon regimes which know no restraint in pursuing their military objectives), but I’m just that kind of guy.
Wrong again in your interpretation of my comments about the UN Charter. EVERY nation is entitled to defend itself WHEN ATTACKED. Israel included. But that was NOT what Israel did in this case. Therefore, Eban’s invocation of the UN Charter to justify its attack is moot.
I just love it when people say that Israel is a poor hopeless victim and that its military actions are only done as a last resort because all the mean bullies of the world are arrayed against her & baying for her destruction. Puhleeze! If Israel had not attacked Egypt and there HAD been a Six Day War (by no means a given), I have no doubt that Israel would have prevailed in the ensuing battle. So to say that Israel had no choice but to start war first is disingenuous.
Israel doesn’t demand superior rights to those of others? Come on! Who has superior rights in its conflict with the Palestinians? Whose rights take precedence in this situation (& by force of might at that)? We both know the answer to that one. So don’t give me the shpiel about Israel only demands what is rightfully hers.
Oh, I don’t think anyone whether Zionist, anti-Zionist or whatever can demonize Ariel Sharon enough. He’s one bad hombre–something on a par with Augusto Pinochet IMO.
My pessimism is not “needless.” My pessimism is justified by 100 years of missed opportunities on the part of both sides to this conflict. But my anger is especially reserved for my own people since they had so many golden opportunities over so many decades to turn this conflict toward a peaceful resolution.
God, man!–Ariel Sharon started this intifada with his bellicose & deeply irresponsible little stroll on the Temple Mount. So don’t try to tell me that he’s just the man to peacefully resolve it. Like Hell he is. Ariel Sharon is one of Israel’s most divisive and hated politicians (yes, there are those who love him as well though many less now than earlier). He only gets the treatment he deserves both in Israel, the Diaspora, and the world at large. He is a man of war and not of peace. It will be ever so. If you wish to play your pipe dreams of peace under Sharon’s leadership, you’re welcome to them.
Richard,you are now trying to change the frame of our discussion about the legitimacy of Israel’s first actions in the Six Day War. Rather than providing any proof in terms of international law or anything else for that matter that Israel did not have the right to defend herself in the face of Egypt’s aggression against Israel’s sovereign right of passage in the Straits, you have turned the discussion into one of whether Israel would have won without a pre-emptive strike.
I’m afraid that is an argument for military strategists. The war certainly would have been much bloodier on both sides if Israel had still won (by no means certain considering the amount of Soviet arms the Arab armies possessed-just because Israel at present has a qualitative edge, doesn’t meean that she always did) and would certainly have been much bloodier on the Israeli side if she had lost (I dread to think).
You mentioned “the norms of international behaviour”. I have argued, with considerable documentary evidence, that the norms of international behaviour state that a country has the right to defend itself if it is denied its sovereign rights as a state in international waters. I ask once more: show me evidence to the contrary.
Moving on, don’t give me the nonsense about Sharon starting the intifada single handedly. Read the Mitchell Report. It wasn’t the wisest move, fine, but did it launch the intifada: no! I agree that Sharon is seen as a man of war. That is why the Israeli electorate voted for him, because the man they elected to make peace (Barak) had failed and they wanted a strong man to win the war. In the same way Churchill lead the UK during WW2, but was turfed out straight after. Israel may well turn again towards the left wing when they feel that there is once more an opportunity for peace. However, because Sharon was seen as a man of war does not necessarily stop him from being able to change into a man of peace. Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Rabin are two names which spring to mind… We can only wait and see.
I cannot stop you from demonising Sharon. I will say, however, that in my opinion your aggressive and vitriolic language undermines your other arguments which are (on the whole) in a measured and appropriate tone.
It’s getting quite tedious to have this back & forth with you repeating yourself & forcing me to do the same. It is not I who’s changing the topic at all. You began the entire topic claiming that the War was “defensive.” You mustered many basically irrelevant arguments attempting to prove it so. I pointed out that none of your arguments accomplished your goal of proving the war to be defensive. Let’s be done with this particular point of our argument.
Again you look at the Mideast solely with Israel in mind & completely lose sight of the suffering of other nations. “The war certainly would have been much bloodier on both sides if Israel had still won [without its pre-emtpive strike].” No, precisely wrong, the war was very bloody for the Arab states. Much bloodier than it was for Israel. Israel may’ve saved lives on its side but by doing so it set an international precedent that it was willing to set aside norms of international conduct when it benefited itself (actually the first time it did this was when it depopulated regions of northern Israel of Arabs during the 1948 war by expelling them). And this is the type of belligerent and bull-headed posture it has adopted ever since. As a result no Arab, no Palestinian and few international leaders trust anything an Israeli politician or government says, and for good reason.
You keep asking me to provide you proof of this or that (& usually this involves going over yet more territoriy that we’ve already covered). That’s not my responsibility. I don’t care what you believe. It’s not my responsibility to convert you to my point of view. Believe whatever misbegotten propaganda you wish.
You talk about all the arms the Arab armies possessed & how dangerous this made them. They possessed Russian armaments, but hardly knew how to use them. None of the armies except Jordan’s was a coherent fighting force. When you’re outnumbered 10 or more to one on the battlefield & you win practically in a cakewalk, your enemy is doing something wrong. Though before the War began most Jews (including myself–I was 15) were deeply apprehensive about the outcome, any military strategist who knew the real quality and nature of the Arab armies would’ve predicted the correct outcome.
I don’t need the Mitchell Report to tell me what happened. I read precisely the same documents, newspaper articles, etc. that he read in writing his report. Mitchell being the masterful politician he is felt he needed to be politic and even handed in expressing his views. I have no such burden. I can tell it exactly as I see it. Sharon incited & provoked that Intifada. You can believe whatever the Hell you wish to the contrary. Sharon is an inciter of hatred & violence in service to his bellicose ultra nationalist agenda. You call my comments about Sharon “aggressive.” What a laugh! It’s your Mr. Sharon who is the aggressive one. I merely describe the aggression which he has shown throughout his career. And I guess one man’s ‘vitriol’ is another’s truth.
You raise an interesting point about political leadership in wartime. However, it is ludicrous to compare Churchill to Sharon. It is far more apt to compare Churchill to Lincoln. Both led their nations from the jaws of defeat to victory. But neither believed in a victory that destroyed their enemy and eradicated their humanity. Both maintained their own humanity & dignity in the face of their nation’s suffering. One can argue that Rabin too saw war not as a be all & end all but rather as a means to guranteeing Israel’s longterm survival. He viewed the Territories as a means to attain peace not as the destiny of the Jewish people. That is why, had he lived, he would’ve achieved a final status peace agreement by now. And he would’ve been willing to dismantle a large portion of the West Bank settlements to do it. Each of these leaders was a statesman.
Sharon is nothing of the sort. As for Begin, he did surprise me in his willingness to end war with the Egyptians & return the Sinai. But there is a major difference between Begin’s task & Sharon’s. For Begin, possessing the Sinai was not a national imperative. Giving it back to Egypt was an easy political gesture. For Sharon, retaining the Territories is part of his deep ideological belief in Israel’s inalienable right to control this land, which is why he will never give it up and never recognize a Palestinian state.