An Eye for a Thousand Eyes
Arabist reader and friend Ryan Oâ€™Kane sent me the following piece he wrote:
An Eye for a Thousand Eyes
The Political Morality of Supporting Israel
Israelâ€™s carefully managed escalation game is sucking the world into political chaos. But its success depends on the worldâ€™s moral confusion and paralysis. If we are to act in time to end this unfolding catastrophe, we need clarity â€“ now.
In some ways, the strategy for beginning this war was similar the buildup to the 1967 war. The well-documented Mossad and CIA (under Richard Helms) operation to spread rumours of an impending Israeli war on the region was intended to deliberately heightened tensions and provoke Israel's neighbours into pre-emptive action â€“ i.e. the mobilisation of Nasserâ€™s troops in Sinai .
Over the past 3 years a similar campaign of unsubstantiated intelligence estimates, paranoid rumour mongering and public sabre rattling has pushed towards the international isolation of Iran and forced US/UK/Israelâ€™s enemies to make military preparations for an impending attack.
This strategy is extremely effective for, even though its targets understand that such pre-emptive actions or preparations will serve as the public pretext for US/UK/Israelâ€™s war, failing to make preparations would expose them to an untenable risk of national martyrdom.
The regional parties targeted in this conflict - Hamas, Hezbollah, Syria and Iran â€“ all claim that they had predicted and planned for the enemyâ€™s aggression. Hassan Nasrallah and Iranâ€™s Revolutionary Guards claim that Israel had originally planned the war on Lebanon to take place in October, and that Hezbollahâ€™s â€œcross-borderâ€� raid was intended to draw Israel into the conflict before their war preparations were complete . This is, of course, a rational public stance to defend their moral superiority in the conflict. Offence must always be portrayed as defense.
At first glance it seems ironic that the destabilising precedent set by Americaâ€™s doctrine of pre-emption gives Nasrallahâ€™s claims increased international legitimacy. But for the US/UK/Israel this is a price worth paying. They understand that the battle for moral superiority is not won in the UN or international courts but through the â€œinformation warâ€� for â€œhearts and mindsâ€�.
The pro-Zionist â€œspin and spamâ€� machine - the â€œhasbaraâ€� - believes that it has the technological, financial and ideological superiority  to counteract international diplomatic pressure with the â€œhuman shieldâ€� of public opinion.
But it is not the â€œlegalityâ€� of Hezbollahâ€™s â€œkidnapâ€� of Israeli troops that is the subject of public debate. If it were, we would have to investigate the claims by the Lebanese Police that the Israeli soldiers were confronted and captured in Aitaa al-Chaab, a village on the Lebanese side of the border , or that kidnapping civilians for bargaining purposes has been practised systematically by Israel throughout the middle-east conflict. Instead, the battlefield assigned to the â€œhasbaraâ€� is that of political morality, in order to focus on the â€œsuperior legitimacyâ€� of their cause and the â€œdebasedâ€� values of their enemies.
This is a battle that Israel must not be allowed to win, for tribalism and racism are the only values that could legitimate the lack of â€œmoral equivalenceâ€� (to use John Boltonâ€™s favourite phrase) between Israelâ€™s 60-year â€œlow/high-intensityâ€� warfare against its Palestinian and Arab neighbours and the occasional risks to which Israelis are exposed by the sporadic and largely ineffectual military resistance to occupation.
This is not a blurry line. This is not some dinner party ethical conundrum, or complex â€œmoral mazeâ€�, about between humanityâ€™s responsibility to â€œthe planetâ€�, the rights and wrongs of euthanasia, or the abstract concept of â€œproperty as theftâ€�. The morality of Israelâ€™s rampage is not complex at all. It is deafeningly simple.
For the moment letâ€™s put aside the historical-political abstractions of â€œthe middle-east conflictâ€�, of â€œthe cycle of violenceâ€�, and of â€œreligiousâ€� or â€œethnic tensionsâ€�. Just once, let us unclothe reality from its banal words - its â€œcollateral damageâ€� and â€œsurgical strikesâ€�.
Draw a line around the events in Lebanon and Gaza and fix your gaze on human consequences in the raw. Since June 28, Israeli cluster bombs, chemical weapons, guns and soldiers have killed more than 700 people, forced almost a million people to flee their homes in terror and subjected at least 4 million others to a level of deprivation, fear and psychological torture that very few middle-class suburbanites could describe from their own experience â€“ and that includes those in Tel Aviv. The amount of Israelis killed in the same period â€“ 51.
Maybe the â€œnumbers gameâ€� is crude. As if balancing the books on this morbid balance sheet could cancel the debt of revenge. Unfortunately, as death cannot be â€œexchangedâ€� for life, â€œbalancing the booksâ€� only means only one thing, more killing. But ethics are all about â€œproportionalityâ€�, about ensuring that the consequences of your actions are â€œproportionateâ€� to your human needs. Only a racist ideology such as Zionism could conclude that the consequences of Israelâ€™s attacks on Gaza and Lebanon are â€œproportionateâ€� to the need of Israelis for â€œsecurityâ€�. Indeed, Olmert confirmed at the outset of the conflict that the â€œlives, security and well-beingâ€� of Israelis is â€œmore importantâ€� than those of Palestinians .
The tribal exceptionalism of Zionism is therefore perfectly suited to the ideological demands imposed by the modern doctrine of â€œasymmetric warfareâ€� â€“ i.e. the crushing of the weak by the strong. Universal values, such as â€œhuman rightsâ€�, are therefore the real â€œexistential threatâ€� to the â€œJewish Stateâ€� and to US foreign policy. The hijacking of the United Nations by the US and other â€œfriends of Israelâ€� has served to discredit not only the UN, but the very viability of a universalist system of political morality. The â€œliberal mythâ€� of Western democracy has been debased by a long history of hypocrisy, but no issue has been so corrosive throughout the short lifespan of the UN than its defense of Israelâ€™s colonial apartheid state.
The murder of 4 UN soldiers by targeted Israeli strikes on the Lebanese border is the lethal injection for this terminally ill institution and the utopian dream of political universalism that it represents. The UN and Israel were twins, both born out of the â€œnever againâ€� urge following the catastrophe of World War II and the Nazi holocaust. As has become all too clear, these two dreams â€“ one of a world based on universal human rights, international law and political consensus and the other on a hierarchy of racist â€œexceptionalismâ€� â€“ are entirely incompatible.
The unilateral imposition of a â€œNew Middle Eastâ€� will effectively end the 60-year stalemate between Israel and the United Nations and consign the UN and its naÃ¯ve fantasies to the dustbin of history.
Despite the precedent Israelâ€™s exceptionalism sets for the emergence of rival â€œtribalâ€� movements, the Zionists seem to believe that the death of universalism is in their interests. Simply put, in a world system debased to the level of â€œsurvival of the fittestâ€�, many friends of Israel believe it to be the â€œfittestâ€� nation in history - more so even than the United States. But the exposure of naked power at least brings clarity. It is self-evident that preventing the fulfilment of this fascist prophecy is the most important moral duty to face political progressives since the 1930s.
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2. SITE Institute. 2006. A Speech from Hassan Nasrallah, Leader of Hezbollah, Speaking of a New Middle East Project and Attacks of Greater Intensity Than in Haifa. In, SITE Institute, http://www.siteinstitute.org/bin/articles.cgi?ID=publications197906&Category=publications&Subcategory=0. (accessed July 28, 2006).
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5. Macintyre, Donald. 2006. Olmert: Israeli Lives Worth More Than Palestinian Ones. In, Independent, http://news.independent.co.uk/world/middle_east/article1095841.ece. (accessed July 29, 2006).