Cutting through the bullshit.

Monday, 14 August 2006

Reductio ad absurdum

I seem to be falling behind, and as I will be on the road for the next several weeks, this situation is likely to persist. A few days ago, I received a link to this analysis by Michel Chossudovsky ("Triple Alliance": The US, Turkey, Israel and the War on Lebanon). The paper was in my view much too long and didn’t really contribute much, but concludes with an interesting approach to ‘international law’, which I interpreted as a reductio ad absurdum argument, although I’m not at all confident it was intended that way.

Worth reading however, is ‘War now, peace later: Israel’s doves line up behind war Part one’ By Jean Shaoul in the 12 August WSWS. I’m looking forward to part 2.

Last night while subjecting myself to CNN, there was a long interview with Israeli ambassador to the US, Daniel Ayalon. I could hardly believe how cynical and mendacious he was. When asked whether he thought Hizb'allah would abide by the ceasefire, and he went on about how you couldn’t trust people who…and went on to spin a buch of crap about alleged Hizballah atrocities. Until, that is, they broadcast FM Tzipi Livni’s statement on the Israeli cabinet’s ‘acceptance of the UNSC resolution. She blathered on about how they would never consider a prisoner swap and effectively said that while the cabinet accepted the resolution, they weren’t about to comply with it in any meaningful sense, even though Israeli officials had drafted it and it was very advantageous to Israel. It was amazing how self righteous Ayalon and Livni sounded about how important it was to ensure that every UN resolution was implemented to the letter. CNN is a real education. Meanwhile, they've been dropping as many bombs as they can on Beirut before the ceasefire takes effect in what was then about 16 hours' time – now about half an hour off. It’s a funny way to prepare for a ceasefire. I'm not optimistic. Hizb'allah says they'll go on fighting until the last Israeli soldier leaves, apparently, and Israel says it will only fire in self defence. But then, when has Israeli ever done anything that was not in self defence?

A friend wrote the other day:

In your True to Form article, you say:

And they have united the Arab ‘street’ across the Middle East, undermining the Sunni-Shi’a split and threatening the ‘moderate’ Arab monarchies and dictatorships beloved of the US. You’d almost think these were unintended consequences. But can they really be so stupid as not to have anticipated these outcomes?

All the evidence I've seen indicates that Israel didn't anticipate things to fall out this way. The military promised the Government that it would all be over in days, and the Government promised Bush it would, too. What they got, however, was a war against an opponent who knew how to fight & had the arms to take out some of Israel's high price-tag equipment.

They definitely weren't bargaining on losing an F16, or on losing 15 tanks on Thursday 10 August alone.

From what I understand, Bush is ropeable with Olmert, and the press are full of stories about the backbiting going on in Israel about this developing disaster. And make no mistake - this war is a disaster for Israel. The illusion of invincibility generated by the 6 Day War & the Yom Kippur War has been blown to smithereens. There will now be a lot more pressure for a faction of "realists" to emerge amongst the Zionists, people who recognise that Israel cannot be a new Sparta, and who decide that a deal of some sort with the Palestinians is a necessity. The longer this war goes on, the greater the repurcussions will be. Unless Israel suffers even more serious military setbacks, however, the fallout probably won't be seen until afterwards.

In Solidarity,


"Who was that?" "Oh, just a bloke I met."

And here is my response:

As for the substance of your comment, there have been reports that the Israeli military has been planning just such a 'retalliation' ever since Hizb'allah evicted them in 2000 and that this specific campaign was planned over a year ago and divulged in confidence to the US government and even the media and has been simulated and trained for. That plan is purported to have been for a campaign of several weeks' duration. If so, then I don't think it is correct that they expected it to be over in days, although media reports at the time, before the existence of the plan became public knowledge, certainly suggested that.

That said, I'm sure you're right that the steadfastness of the resistance has taken a lot of people by surprise. As I've written somewhere recently, probably in this blog, I consider it imprudent to underestimate the adversary's intelligence. So I tend to operate on the assumption that they have thoroughly thought things through and that whatever the actual turn of events, it is a scenario they have considered and planned for, if only as a contingency. So what surprises me is that to all appearances, Israel's brilliant military planners are on the back foot and were not ready at all for the entirely predictable eventualities.

Unfortunately, the pan Arab uprising that looked like a real possibility a few weeks ago has not happened yet and with the passage of time, I think the likelihood is fading. I'd like to think another Qana or the like might be the last straw, but the bombing of the civilian convoy near Sidon the other night doesn't seem to have triggered anything.

The realistic Zionists know that a Jewish majority cannot be maintained in "Israel proper', much less in the expanded Israel they yearn for, over the long term. If there were a just resolution of the refugees' plight, a Jewish majority would not be sustainable even over the short term. That's what they mean when they speak of the right of return leading to 'national suicide' - with a non Jewish majority, the Jewish state cannot survive.

For a Zionist - for someone who believes that a sectarian Jewish state in Palestine has 'a right to exist' as such - this has certain consequences. A couple of years ago, in an interview in Ha’aretz, prominent revisionist historian, Benny Morris, who was among the first to document the ethnic cleansing that lies at the heart of the Jewish state, was honest enough to enunciate these:

…this place would be quieter and know less suffering if the matter had been resolved once and for all. If Ben-Gurion had carried out a large expulsion and cleansed the whole country - the whole Land of Israel, as far as the Jordan River. It may yet turn out that this was his fatal mistake. If he had carried out a full expulsion - rather than a partial one - he would have stabilized the State of Israel for generations.

If the end of the story turns out to be a gloomy one for the Jews, it will be because Ben-Gurion did not complete the transfer in 1948. Because he left a large and volatile demographic reserve in the West Bank and Gaza and within Israel itself.

The Israeli Arabs are a time bomb…They are a potential fifth column. In both demographic and security terms they are liable to undermine the state. So that if Israel again finds itself in a situation of existential threat, as in 1948, it may be forced to act as it did then…If the threat to Israel is existential, expulsion will be justified.

Obviously, this is not the kind of realist you are talking about. My point is that this is what reality entails for those intent on the survival of Israel as a Jewish state. Maybe you define Zionist differently?

The suggestion that ‘a deal of some sort with the Palestinians is a necessity’ opens a bit of a can of worms. Since the Oslo fiasco in 1993, ‘the Palestinians’ has always been taken to denote the corrupt, morally and financially bankrupt, quisling Palestinian Authority. But, just like a real state, the PA doesn’t even represent its own constituency. And just like Israel, it purports to, but absolutely does not, represent the diaspora.

In my view, the election of a Hamas led government in January had the potential to address at least in part the corruption and the quisling nature of the PA, but I think the Israelis have now rendered that moot. Hamas might have even considered the needs of the refugees in a way that the old Fatah PA never did. But that is not the same as representing them. They don’t even get to vote in PA elections, much less have any real sway over the PA’s actions. In any case, I think you will agree that the right to return is not negotiable. In principle, if rights of this kind have any meaning, they are individual rights, so nobody can negotiate them away on behalf of each individual refugee. Furthermore, if you believe that a right is inalienable, even the individuals who ‘possess’ them can’t negotiate over them.

There can never be peace without justice. And in this situation justice transparently entails redress for the refugees, including the right of return, which would at least erode the Jewish majority as an immediate consequence and certainly terminate the Jewish majority in due course, if not immediately. So even if the existence of a sectarian Jewish state in some distorted way could be seen as consistent with justice, there is no way it can survive what justice requires.

Leaving aside the substance of ‘a deal of some sort with the Palestinians’, the question arises of who will endorse any deal negotiated with, say, the PA? Would there be a global referendum that all Palestinians can participate in? If so, how could you be sure that nobody was disenfranchised? Would it be good enough just to canvass the views of those living in the camps? If not, in what sense would the deal be with the Palestinians, other than in the restricted and meaningless sense of the PA?

To cut to the chase, it seems to me that anyone who is realistic about their Zionism ultimately has to agree with Morris that ‘it was a mistake to think that it would be possible to establish a tranquil state here that lives in harmony with its surroundings… We are doomed to live by the sword.’ In other words, a new Sparta is precisely what a ‘realistic’ Zionism means.

Morris envisaged circumstances in which he thought it would become acceptable to complete the expulsion of 1948:

If we find ourselves with atomic weapons around us, or if there is a general Arab attack on us and a situation of warfare on the front with Arabs in the rear shooting at convoys on their way to the front, acts of expulsion will be entirely reasonable. They may even be essential.

Sometimes I think that Israel’s most recent wave of bombings and shellings, particularly in the wake of the media construction of an ‘Iranian nuclear threat’, is an attempt to manufacture a situation where they can justify further ethnic cleansing to themselves.

A NYT editorial the other day opined:

The resolution that the Council finally passed last night will have to be put into effect as quickly and thoroughly as possible, and must lead to a lasting political solution that can avoid future conflicts. That will require more than just an immediate halt to hostilities by both sides and an early withdrawal of Israeli troops from Lebanon. It will also require the dispatch of an international military force with sufficient authority and firepower to guarantee that there can be no repeat of the Hezbollah provocations that set off this destructive conflict.

As hard as it will be to seal the border against Hezbollah infiltrations into Israel, that will not be enough. Hezbollah has rockets that can be fired from deep inside Lebanon at targets deep inside Israel. These must be stopped as well, ideally by the full disarmament of Hezbollah that the Security Council first called for in 2004.

Obviously, it is Hizballah that must be fully disarmed, in accordance with the UNSC’s dictates. One of the problems with the UN is that its membership is national states. ‘Non state actors’, like Hizballah, simply do not have standing. It is illegitimate for them to defend themselves or others, even where the state that claims jurisdiction does not possess the inclination or the capacity to do so, or as in the case of Lebanon, either the capacity or the inclination. The UN can pass judgement on a non state actor, provided that the US agrees, but the subject of the judgement has no say, no defence, no representation. By the same token, it doesn’t appear to occur to the UN, or most of the commentators, that the party that really needs comprehensive disarmament is the aggressor.

Washington, which rightly stood by Israel but wrongly refused to call for a cease-fire or engage in meaningful diplomacy with Syria, also paid a price that could further complicate problems in Iraq and Afghanistan. A rapid and effective follow-through on yesterday’s resolution could make up for some of these losses. Anything less will only compound the damage already done.

The real issue, as always, is problems for the US in its humanitarian work.

And on ‘The London Plot’, the NYT again:

Here is what we want to do in the wake of the arrests in Britain. We want to understand as much as possible about what terrorists were planning. To talk about airport security and how to make it better. To celebrate what worked in the British investigation and discuss how to push these efforts farther. It would be a blessed moment in modern American history if we could do that without turning this into a political game plan.

Now I’m going to be doing a lot of flying over the next few weeks and I don’t welcome the inconvenience of increased ‘security’ at the airports. I am not as distressed as some people I’ve been corresponding with about checking the laptop. But when you’re moving for a period of years, you really need the cabin baggage to stay under the 20kg checked baggage limit. None of the coverage I’ve seen has mentioned whether the airlines are relaxing their checked baggage weight limits to compensate when they insist you check your cabin baggage.

As for security, I’d feel a lot more secure if, for example, the US withdrew its troops from Iraq and stopped sending bunker busters and daisy cutters to Israel.

And speaking of daisy cutters, the Times reports:

State Department officials “are discussing whether or not there needs to be a block on this sale because of the past history and because of the current circumstances,” said the senior official, adding that it was likely that Israel will get the rockets, but will be told to be “be careful.”

Everybody knows that these cluster munitions contain a lot of duds that lie around until some child wanders along and picks them up, losing an arm, or an eye, or a life. As Israel has almost exclusively targeted civilians and civilian areas, why would anyone trust them with such stuff, unless, of course, Arab lives have no value.

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