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April 09, 2010


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Ian Thal

They can give up things they're entitled to under international law (like the Right of Return which let's not forget we fought a war in Eastern Europe to enforce).

Wow Isaac, you really need to study your European history. (I also wonder, who you mean by "we?" the Soviets, who were making a power grab the moment they had smashed the Germans? The U.S. didn't have troops in Eastern Europe.)

Both the German right (and some on the German far-left) complain that the Germans didn't get "right of return" (they didn't) in Eastern Europe after WWII, when much of the Eastern part of the Reich was either annexed or reannexed by various Eastern European countries and the ethnic Germans (some 14 million) were made refugees (most fleeing advancing Soviet military forces, some deported after the war.)

The other thing with the principle of "right of return" (as international law) is that it's only supposed to apply to individuals that actually lived on the land. (Which Israel, already in principle, agreed to in the Oslo Accords.) Part of the breakdown in peace talks in 2000 was that Arafat insisted that "right of return" was to apply to all descendants of people who lived there.

In fact, most of what has been leaked to the press as "The Obama Peace Plan" (including a return to 1967 borders) is pretty much what Israel already agreed to (the only really controversial item is the status of East Jerusalem), even if Netanyahu isn't eager to move forward and risk losing the right wing fringe of his coalition-- there is a prior commitment made by previous governments.

In the meantime, since you seem to view anything that the IDF does as "overreaction," how do you propose Israel defend itself from rocket attacks? I think you have to offer a counter proposal, otherwise, you're not being serious, because, these non-violent resisters aren't candidates for leadership of either Hamas or Hezbollah.


I think you both underestimate the nonviolent option for both sides. The NYT editorial blended two things together that are somewhat distinct - Fayyad's state building plan and nonviolent Palestinian demonstrations. The Fayyad plan is, I think, more likely to bear fruit than Isaac insinuates.

As for rocket attacks, Isaac is correct that things like Operation Cast Lead have negative effects on elite international opinion. Israel fully acknowledges this problem. After Operation Cast Lead, the NYT quoted an Israeli military official saying that Hamas "understands that he needs to get bloodshed and delegitimize us in the international arena." Netanyahu confirmed the gravity of this danger by dubbing the Goldstone Report one of the top three threats to Israel.

Additionally, Operation Cast Lead did not lead to a cessation of rocket attacks - over a hundred rockets have been fired at Israel from Gaza since January 2009. Hamas does seem, since Operation Cast Lead, to view rocket attacks as contrary to its interest, but Israeli officials will be quick to claim that Hamas is just exploiting the lull to rearm.

So there's a strategic tradeoff between the benefits of military action and the political costs. The events of the past few weeks also demonstrate this tradeoff. Ansar al-Sunna fired rockets at Israel from Gaza. Hamas condemned the attack and announced it had opened an investigation. Israel responded by invading Gaza, hitting some weapons sites but also increasing political pressure among Gazans to push Hamas back toward violence. The case can be made that, in this instance at least, the Israeli invasion's costs outweighed the benefits. Ansar al-Sunna is a Hamas enemy. Hamas has every incentive to get them to halt rocket attacks. Why not leave it to Hamas to deal with the perpetrators?

Ian Thal

Rob, I support non-violent solutions when they avail themselves. In fact, I've repeatedly pointed out elsewhere that Fatah's work of building civil society and a functional government in the West Bank demonstrates their legitimacy despite the fact that it's not as "sexy" in the eyes of international opinion as Hamas' dysfunctional attempt at totalitarianism.

Israel and Fatah have been dealing with one another non-violently for years (even if the results have been less than a final settlement.)

However, I don't see how non-violence is yet an effective manner of dealing with groups like Hamas or Hezbollah-- since the economic embargo on Hamas ruled Gaza that had been tried earlier, also did not lead to an end to rocket attacks but also drew international condemnation as well. That however, has more to do with the prejudices of much of the international community-- which appears to follow the line that Israel doesn't have the right of self-defense that other nations take for granted.

Yes, the Goldstone Report is a problem, but as pointed out in an http://parabasis.typepad.com/blog/2010/03/were-not-serious.html>earlier conversation, it was also prejudiced due to the inclusion of Christine Chinkin (who is on record denying Israel's right to self-defense) as a co-author and by the cherry-picking of evidence and selective application of international law.

If Hamas now sees rocket attacks as contrary to their interest in staying in control of Gaza, it took Cast Lead for them to reach that conclusion. On the other hand, their official rhetoric still supports such actions-- which points more to the idea that they are primarily opposed to unauthorized rocket attacks.

I still have a problem with Isaac's weird misrepresentations of European history.

Ian Thal

Just an added note, Isaac, I was giving thought to your rhetorical style in the above post:

1.) Only days after you rightfully object to Governor Bob McDonnell's attempts to falsify the history of the Civil War for ideological purposes, you have the chutzpah to falsify European history for your own purposes. Classy.

a.) Now, at first thought I'm thinking you mean World War II, since you say something about how "we fought a war in Eastern Europe to enforce [the right of return]" but that makes no sense since American forces did not have a significant presence on the Eastern Front, in which case, I was guessing you were referring to the Soviets, which sort of makes Stalin out to be some sort of liberal (Hint: he wasn't.) Then I realized that the only folk claiming "right of return" in Eastern Europe during WWII were the Germans, since it was their whole excuse for starting the war and was their complaint after the war (though I'm pretty sure that's not who "we" are.)

b.) Then it occurred to me that maybe you were referring to NATO's actions against Serbia during the Bosnian War and later the Kosovo campaign, but those were arguably not about "right of return" as opposed to "halting genocide" and "shutting down rape-camps." Besides: "right of return" makes no sense in that case since the Milosevic regime (and its proxies) did not hold on to the territory where they were a-raping and a-massacring.

c.) If a.) I say "way to go! Falsifying WWII history has too long been the provence of Fascist-sympathizers and Communists! It's about time some liberals got into the action!"

2.) You make a weird invocation of militaristic patriotism when you say "let's not forget we fought a war in Eastern Europe." So, are you suggesting that the U.S. declare war on Israel? What are you saying?

3.) You neglect to mention is that the non-violent approach in the West Bank has been netting results despite the personal dislike that Fatah and Israeli leaders have for one another-- There are fewer Israeli check-points in the West Bank than before, and there's greater commercial activity between the two. This isn't a new thing.

4.) You present steps towards peace that Israel has already officially endorsed as somehow radical steps that Israeli society will not take no matter what the Palestinian side does. (I don't know if this is about your ignorance on the issue or if you are counting on your audience being ignorant on the issues.) Israelis, believe it or not, prefer to keep their troops safely at home, so they actually prefer to deal with non-violent Palestinians.

5.) You typify Israel's reactions to any attack on its citizenry as "overreacting and behaving monstrously" and you can't seem to identify what an appropriate reaction might be. Note also that you use adverbs and adjectives that show either a moral or normative judgement rather than state facts.

Too bad that there isn't a "progressive" equivalent to FoxNews yet-- because you've mastered the rhetorical tropes they use.


I'll let you guys work out this Eastern Europe issue. I'm not sure what Isaac was referring to, but I'm certainly willing to hear him flesh out his case.

I think you're misstating the self-defense issue. The letter that Chinkin signed didn't claim that Israel had no right of self-defense. The letter said that Israel's actions did not fall within the parameters designated for the legal use of the right of self-defense. Legal self-defensive action, the letter notes, must be necessary and proportionate. Israel's actions in Operation Cast Lead, the letter asserts, were not necessary and proportionate. This is very different than asserting that Israel has no right to take any actions whatsoever in self-defense. You clearly disagree with the letter's assessment but the disagreement is about the legal contours of the inherent right of self-defense, not whether the right of self-defense exists at all.

As for different actions Israel could take... As I stated above, Israel could have let Hamas deal with Ansar al-Sunna after the recent rocket attacks. As the Chinkin letter states, Israel could have renewed the truce with Hamas instead of invading Gaza. Israel could have invaded but taken much greater care not to inflict civilian casualties. This route is being taken by both the U.S. and the Taliban in Afghanistan, as both sides realize the detrimental political effects of killing and wounding civilians. These political effects often outweigh the military advantages. I believe this holds true for Gaza.

Ian Thal

Thing is, Rob, that Chinkin and Goldstone (and you) dismissed any evidence that Israel had made an effort to minimize civilian casualties even though it had been reported by many journalists operating on the ground-- and that's a point I made earlier.

And of course, getting back to Isaac's rhetoric, it's apparently "monstrous" that IDF coordinated with ICRC to arrange for lulls in fighting so that food, medical supplies, and water could be brought into Gaza, and that wounded civilians could be brought out and treated in Israeli hospitals, and it's also "monstrous" that Israel used text messaging and flyering to give advance warning to civilians to clear out of targeted areas (thus also putting their own soldiers at even greater risk.)

Israel made huge efforts to minimize civilian casualties: far greater effort than the U.S. (or the U.K.) has done in either Iraq or Afghanistan.

Now we also have to point out that in the years leading up to Operation Cast Lead, Israel, tried a ceasefire, economic embargoes, non-invasive weapons interdiction, and very limited counter attacks to rocket attacks-- none of these actions stopped rocket attacks, and most of these actions drew unfavorable "international opinion." So Israel did attempted alternatives to invasion without success, and without the support of the international community.

So with the question of proportionality: the critique is only valid if the critic can suggest a potentially effective alternative strategy. So Israel provides food, water, medical care, and warnings to the civilians living in enemy territory in the midst of combat operations (something no other nation does to that extent) while at the same time attempting to destroy the military infrastructure of the forces that are attacking their civilians, and their actions are "disproportionate?" I wonder what these mostly British letter signers think of their own government?

Of course, Chinkin joined an investigative mission after she had made public her intended conclusion in the open letter. This act is unambiguously prejudicial (even fits the dictionary definition.) UNHRC was made aware of her prejudice and refused to unseat her from the mission (and note, she was the actual author of the Goldstone Report.)

How great a military threat does Hamas have to pose before international opinion decide it's okay for yids and kikes engage in self-defense? Sorry for the crude language, but judging by the blatant double standard, it's pretty apparent that when Chinkin and company talk about Israel, they really mean "yids and kikes" and the thing about yids and kikes is that they're supposed to die so that the goyim can be self-satisfied in their feelings of pity. Yids and kikes who defend themselves complicate matters.

And Chinkin needs simplicity, which is why she and her compatriots had to ignore the humanitarian aid and the history the conflict in order to make the claim of disproportionality.

Did I attribute (possibly subconscious) racism to a bunch of British intellectuals? Sure. I'll cop to that. I must say that I do admire the Times for breaking the story regarding Chinkin's prejudice prior to the issuance of the mission's report.

Ian Thal

Oh, and just to be fair, here's the petition to remove Chinkin from the fact-finding mission, it points out that quite apart from what Rob is saying, Chinkin does argue that Israel is not entitled to self-defense, since she considers the fact that Hamas had attacked Israel to be utterly irrelevant:



What do you mean by "double standard"? Some of the letter signers have been equally critical of their own countries' self-defense claims. John Quigley, for example, has argued that the U.S.'s invocation of the right of self-defense going into Afghanistan was illegal.

As for the self-defense issue, I think we're just being tripped up by language. We agree, it seems, that a legal self-defense argument must be based on necessity and proportionality. We agree, I assume, that if a state fails to meet that criteria, that state cannot legally invoke the right of self-defense. The Gaza letter argues that Operation Cast Lead did not meet that criteria. You argue that the operation did meet that criteria. That's what the self-defense debate is about, as I understand it.

I'll also note quickly that I never claimed that Israel made no attempt whatsoever to minimize civilian casualties, as you suggest. I merely suggested that making an even greater effort to reduce civilian casualties might have better served its strategic interests.

Ian Thal

I'd like Chinkin's opinion of the British response to the London Blitz, please.

Chinkin's argument is that Israel, in striking at the military infrastructure of a de-facto state that had been targeting Israeli civilians, after economic sanctions failed, after arms interdiction had failed, after a ceasefire led to no peace agreement, let alone truce, does not count as self-defense and that providing an unprecedented amount of humanitarian aid to the civilian population in enemy territory amounts to a war crime, shows animus towards Israel and animus towards the facts.

If that's not a clear cut case of proportionate self-defense, then there is no legal right to self-defense for anyone (except of course, the goyim.)

It demonstrates that she, as the author of the Goldstone Report was prejudiced. This prejudice is such that any attempt by Israel to minimize civilian suffering will not be seen and any security concern of Israel will be dismissed.

The Gaza letter that Chinkin signed is sophistry-- and racist sophistry at that.

The U.S. and U.K., on the other hand engaged in an imperialist war to exploit Iraqi natural resources, by invoking a false causa belli and then violating the terms of the United Nations Security Council mandate that they authored (And note that there was no claim of self-defense.) So singling out of Israel is a double standard since the cases against George Bush, Tony Blair, Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, Colin Powell, and Condi Rice, are far stronger-- but Chinkin et al. are only really passionate when they can go after yids and kikes.

I merely suggested that making an even greater effort to reduce civilian casualties might have better served its strategic interests.

Problem is, that even though Israel made an unprecedented effort to reduce civilian casualties (compared to other nations' rules of engagement) they were still lambasted by nations who do not operate with similar humanitarian standards.

After all, it's still politically correct to be an anti-Semite.

Ian Thal


Glad you finally clarified the foot in your mouth: the reference to Eastern Europe amounted to a scary jingoistic non-sequitur. "Right of return" wasn't being invoked in Kosovo, because Serbian sovereignty over Kosovo ended with NATO involvement. It shifted to becoming a protectorate and is now an independent state in its own right. Serbia was in no position to recognize or disregard the right of return. Israel, has long recognized right of return (despite your claims) for those Palestinians who resided in the 1967 borders of Israel prior to the 1967 War, but many on the Palestinian side want to expand right of return to include many millions who never lived within those borders (which is also not how right of return is typically interpreted in international law.)

This stems from your reluctance to understand legal principles like "right of return," "collective punishment," or "proportionality" before you start invoking them.

Being charming and personable might make one popular but does not make one a public intellectual.



I'm glad you finally 'fessed up to what you've been doing here. It's disgusting and offensive. Critical of Israel's actions does not equal anti-Semitic. And it's antithetical to the ideals of free speech and good discourse to make that connection. It also wholly undermines your entire argument. But really, it's just another smear.

Being an obnoxious creep with internet access doesn't make you a public intellectual. It makes you a troll.


The Quigley opinion to which I referred above was not about Iraq, but Afghanistan. Quigley does not believe the U.S. intervention in Afghanistan was a legal exercise of its right of self-defense.

Also, the U.S. offered two legal rationales for entering Iraq. One was previous UN Security Council resolutions. The second was a self-defensive rationale based on a broad interpretation of the right of self-defense (and Article 51 of the UN Charter). The Bush administration offered this self-defense rationale repeatedly, announcing it as policy in the 2002 NSS and applying it specifically to Iraq in legal opinions written by Bush administration lawyers.

I agree that the Iraq example is not an example that is comparable to Gaza, which is why I didn't offer it as such. The debates surrounding Afghanistan's jus ad bellum issues, though, are informative, as they too hinge on necessity and proportionality in ways resembling the Gaza arguments.

Ian Thal

Critical of Israel's actions does not equal anti-Semitic.

I'm with you on this, J.. Criticism of Israeli policy isn't anti-Semitic (I've made several such criticisms) but telling lies about Israel's actions and applying double standards to Israel's behavior is-- and that is what Chinkin and company do.

In fact, Chinkin's rhetorical strategy in the open letter she signed is very much in line with the http://99seats.blogspot.com/2010/04/this-is-rich.html>definition of antisemitism you, yourself, use. Point is that I made the case that Chinkin is a.) cherry picking facts; b.) deliberately lying; c.) using a legal argument that pretty much eliminates any state's right of self-defense, even though she only limits it to a Jewish state; d.) Was so obviously prejudiced that she should have been removed from the UNHRC Fact Finding Mission.

You see, I presented a sustained argument, which means, I'm not a "troll" as the term is used in internet parlance. In fact, that's exactly how free discourse is supposed to work in the political sphere. If Chinkin's misrepresentation of the evidence, misapplication of international law, and craven excuses for not recusing herself from the UNHRC mission are protected speech, so is my criticism of her, and criticism of anyone whose arguments are derivative of hers.

My problem with Isaac is that his rhetoric on this issue is so excessive that it's often hard to determine what he means beyond an attempt to be inflammatory, and that he relies on less than credible sources for his arguments.

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