If correct, Bernard-Henri Levy has excavated a most inconvenient truth for certain sections of the BDS movement, when he says, in the article above:
“What’s the point of drawing tears over the supposed “massacre of civilians”, even “genocide” of the war of Gaza when the Palestinians themselves estimate (as recently as this November 4th, according to the declarations of Fathi Hamad, Hamas’s Minister of the Interior) that 700 combatants–I underline the word–were killed in January 2009 during this war, thus corroborating the Israeli figures?”
Of course, many will still rant on about civilian deaths, but they may find little to comfort them here.
Richard, I would never wish to diminish the problem of (in that appalling contemporary usage) “collateral damage”, nor to diminish the terrible suffering of non-combatants caught in a war zone (but do note the appropriate parts of Levy’s article on this issue, re human shields). However, I wrote a comment (published, I believe, on 4 March 2010 – but I’ll check and repost if the date’s wrong) on military proportionality on the thread attached to the “Collectivizing Atonement” article. Inter alia, I argued there that for most political and military leaders (Roosevelt, Churchill & their respective Chiefs of (military) Staff, as well as Israeli equivalents), civilian deaths were a dreadful side effect of the need to fight wars. Note that the French, despite the something like 70,000 French civilian deaths suffered during the liberation of France, still welcomed the Allies with open arms.
If that is correct, one question would be: who killed them? I submit: it was Hamas, who used them, quite intentionally, as human shields, with the goal of having as many civilians killed as possible. Why does this still need pointing out, after all this time?
Richard, correction: the original “Collectivizing Atonement” article was posted on 28 September 2009 & my comment on “military proportionality” was published on 1 October, 2009, about halfway down the comments. The date above is probably a date when I edited my saved comment.
PS – One of the choice quotes from Abulhawa’s article:
“Instead of upholding the best of Jewish ideals that champion justice and the uplifting of the oppressed, Mr. Levy rushes to Israel’s defense, repeating the tired mantra of “the only democracy in the Middle East.” Apartheid South Africa, too, called itself a democracy, while it mowed down little boys in Soweto (with arms, incidentally, supplied by Israel).”
Ah… so Israel is ultimately to blame for the death of Hector Pieterson?
The article is full of this effusive, over-emotive, sob-story bluster.
And once again, we see Abulhawa and company doing the one of the worse things one can do with the Palestinians while claiming to act in their favor. Calling out the rent-seeking and damning “eternal/indispensable victims” canard.
“Indispensable=Unpromotable” is as true when applied to Human Rights as much as it is the rule in Human Resources. Just as you can’t be allowed to rise through the ranks when you are the only one who can fix the copy machine, the Palestinians are not being permitted to achieve self determination within the lot they have rolled for themselves (and into which their “benefactors” have hockey-checked them).
[To the moderator: whoops…please append this to my previous comment]
Surprisingly, or perhaps not so, Hamas does not even get a mention in her piece. The only mention of Palestinian violence is:
“And worse, the real victims, who are trying to resist their own extinction, are depicted as the aggressors?”
Palestinians targeting Israeli civilians is merely “resistance” against “their own extinction”? A disingenous comment to say the least, especially as the Palestinian population has increased dramatically over the past 60 years, “oppression”, “genocide”, “ethnic cleansing” and all.
There are still Jewish intellectuals and liberals of my acquaintance who defend the Goldstone report to the UN as legitimate.
The accusatory conclusion of the report was based on the idea that Israel deliberately targeted civilians and this was ‘proven’ by the information supplied by Hamas that they lost only a few hundred fighters and the other 1,200 or so were civilians.
Now by their own admission, the actual losses by Hamas activists were the same as those originally claimed (and ignored) by the IDF, approximately 700. This is a standard ratio of collateral damage in warfare of this nature, regrettable as any innocent life lost is in any circumstance, and on a par with NATO forces working in Iraq and Afghanistan.
This admission by Hamas negates the concept that Israel went after only civilians, and should therefore result in the retraction of the Goldstone Report.
Of course that will never happen. The UN would never allow it.
At least the publication by so distinguished a writer as Henri-Levy on this issue and his referring to the lies of Hamas and the naivete of Goldstone and bias of the UN may make some of the Jewish critics of Israel reassess their priorities, ‘wake up and smell the coffee’ of religious intolerance.
“This admission by Hamas negates the concept that Israel went after only civilians, and should therefore result in the retraction of the Goldstone Report.
Of course that will never happen. The UN would never allow it.”
Well, the UN, as a whole General Assembly, might: unlikely but possible. However, the report was commissioned by the UN’s Human Rights Council: have you seen the members of that august body? Among them are Libya, Bahrein, Jordan, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabis, Cuba, and Malaysia. The likelihood of this body retracting a report it had commissioned, and whose Chair it had, presumably, carefully chosen, is close to nil.
‘I suspect that Mr Levy feels, as most Jewish supporters of Israel do, that he is more entitled to my grandfather’s farms than I am. After all, that is really the foundation of Israel, isn’t it? ‘
I thought the basis of Israel was Zionism or Jewish nationalism, the national liberation movement of the Jewish people, assuming a right of return of Jews, as a matter of justice and need, to the land whence European, North African, Asian and, above all, Palestinian Christians and Muslims have held Jews to be a people dispossessed for their rejection of Jesus and the prophets, treating them accordingly.
The hallmark of the nationalism of Palestinian Arab Muslims and Christians has been Resistance to Jews living in the land of Israel/Palestine in other than the tiny numbers against whom the former felt themselves divinely entitled to discriminate. They evolved their pre-modern apartheid effected against Palestinian and other Jews into a policy of excluding, expelling or eliminating them. In the case of the PLO until at least 1988; in the case of Hamas, until this day.
A recurring theme in Ms Abulhawa’s writings is the casting of Israelis as European or American imposters with no history in the Holy Land, and who have stolen Palestine – its land and culture – from its rightful native people. Here are some excerpts from her novel:
“… (the) Israelis already know that their history is contrived from the bones and traditions of Palestinians. The Europeans who came knew neither hummus nor falafel but later proclaimed them ‘authentic Jewish cuisine.’ They claimed the villages of Qatamon (a Jerusalem neighborhood) as ‘old Jewish homes.’”
She also does her share of rosey-eyed, “blood-and-soil” romanticising that would be derided as sentimental tosh if it did not come from the pen of a Palestinian:
“They had no old photographs or ancient drawings of their ancestry living on the land, loving it, and planting it. They arrived from foreign nations and uncovered coins in Palestine’s earth from the Canaanites, the Romans, the Ottomans, then sold them as their own ‘ancient Jewish artifacts.’ They came to Jaffa and found oranges the size of watermelons and said, ‘Behold! The Jews are known for their oranges.’ But those oranges were the culmination of centuries of Palestinian farmers perfecting the art of citrus growing.”
If anyone had written the above passage about any other ethnic group besides Jews, they’d be courting accusations of racism. Yet the “righteous” anger of a Palestinian justifies all sorts of scurrilous claims and slurs.
‘I suspect that Mr Levy feels, as most Jewish supporters of Israel do, that he is more entitled to my grandfather’s farms than I am.’ Quite rightly. In all likelihood, her grandfather sold his farm to Jewish immigrants in a legitimate commercial transaction.
‘Why should Jews from all over the world be entitled to enjoy dual citizenship, both in their own homeland and in mine, while we, the natives of Palestine, languish in refugee camps, a diaspora, or patrolled ghettos and bantustans? ‘
Because (leaving untreated certain premises of the (rhetorical) question which I do not accept):
a) Jews have been regarded, and discriminated against, by European and Arab Christians and Muslims as ‘Palestinians’ exiled or dispossessed in their diaspora for nigh on 2000 years; resulting in their elimination or expulsion from Old World Christendom and Islam in the 19th and 20th centuries;
b) most Palestinian refugees still reside within the borders of originally British ruled Palestine and
c) while Palestinian or Israeli Jews undoubtedly committed acts of ethnic cleansing, the same or worse was threatened against them by Palestinian and other Arab Muslims and Christians.
Palestinian and other Arab Muslims expelled all Jews from Hebron and East Jerusalem in the 1930s, the Old City in the 1940s. They terrorized 100s of 1000s of European Jews into remaining in Europe, where they died. Their leadership connived in or advocated the elimination or expulsion of the Jews of Europe and the Arab world, as well as Palestine (Mahmound Al Zahar, co-founder and leader of Hamas said something similar on November 14, 2010). They rejected two states in 1937 and 1947. The rejected recognizing Israel in return for territory in 1967.
Until 1988 the PLO fought to eliminate any kind of Israel, allowing only Jews resident before 1917 could become Palestinian citizens. Hamas says the same, or worse, today.
The way you tell it, Susan, Palestinian Arab Muslims and Christians are a kind of national Christ crucified-colonized by evil alien, Zionist Jewish interlopers, persecuted for being Christians or Muslims, no less.
In short, you insist that Israeli and other Jews recognize a Palestinian Arab Muslim and Christian right of return when the latter have never acknowledged, and repeat that they never will acknowledge, such a right for the former.
Conchovor’s comments are excellent and to the point, but I would seek to dispute the following from his (I presume) second comment:
“while Palestinian or Israeli Jews undoubtedly committed acts of ethnic cleansing…”
As ever, it depends whose “telling” one believes. I find most believable (but then I would, wouldn’t I) the evidence and conclusions drawn by the likes of Benny Morris, when he argues that from about 1870, Zionist Jews mainly from Eastern Europe were buying land with the permission of the Turkish rulers of Palestine (or Southern syria, as they termed it). This continued through the British Mandate, at a slower rate. It was the Palestinian/Arab population that resisted this wave of incomers, increasingly with violence: the Hebron massacre of 1929, the Arab Revolt of 1936-39, and so-on.
At the same time, it is argued that the general standard of living and the size of non-Jewish population rose, as the Jews started industry and other economic activities that demanded Palestinian/Arab labour. The Jews offered some violence, overwhelmingly reactive, to the Palestinian population.
However, as we all know (but the likes of Susan Abulhawa will not accept), the Jews of the Yishuv accepted, however reluctantly, the 1947 UN Partition Plan, while the Palestinians and their Arab nation backers did not. The results of that are known.
However, why should the Jews of the Yishuv and their backers be the ones accused of ethnic cleansing, when it was the Palestinians, etc, who rejected Partition and attempted, by their own admission and propaganda, to sweep the Jews into the sea? The Palestinian refugee “problem” is hardly of the Jews making, whatever meagre evidence can be gathered of the activities of Irgun and the Stern Gang. And for sure, the continued existence of the refugee camps in Gaza, the West bank and Lebanon are hardly the fault of the Israelis, any more than the astonishing growth in the size of that population is their fault. This is particularly astonishing when one notes that the much larger refugee population of Europe, created at about the same time, has vanished, and not because of ethnic cleansing or genocide either.
The ahistorical and unfactual approaches of the likes of Susan Abulhawa must not go unchallenged.
Actually, I do believe the Palestinian Arabs are justified in believing themselves to be perpetual victims.
The difference in my conclusions and that of Susan Abulhawa is that the perpetrators of their desperate state of affairs are their fellow Arab ‘brothers’ who never accepted the decision of the UN vote in 1948.
When their war was lost, the losers chose to keep the Arabs of that region (as ‘Palestine’ was just a twinkle in Arafat’s eye at that time, never based on historical reality) in refugee status for over 60 years rather than resettle them among their own states.
To them is the crime of refugee status for the disenfranchised Arabs, left to be ruled either by Arafat’s corrupt terrorist Fatah, or the radical Islamists of Hamas.
Just as Israel gets all the blame for the blockade of Gaza, despite there being border with Egypt on Gaza’s south side, Israel gets all the blame for the plight of the Arabs living in the camps.
No one dares to blame any Arab states for the plight of their ‘Palestinian brothers.’
Much of this insoluble problem could be alleviated if the world started placing the blame where blame lies, with the Arab states that support terrorism and continue their wars against Israel through the proxy armies of Hezbollah, Hamas and Fatah.
Hundreds of thousands of Arab civilians are their human shields, to provide the civilian deaths these terrorist organizations rejoice in, as the gullible or spiteful or just plain anti-Semitic nations line up to condemn Israel for trying to defend herself.
If the UN and the EU and the US changed tack and started telling the Arabs states to start assimilating the refugees and stopped supporting financially and morally the odious behaviour of Fatah and Hamas, perhaps after a generation or two the Israeli Palestinian problem would go away by itself.
Sadly the lure of Oil and Gas is too strong, so it’s easier to follow the usual default position of always blaming the Jew.
Until then, only deprivation, deceit and death will be the future for these poor people.
“(as ‘Palestine’ was just a twinkle in Arafat’s eye at that time, never based on historical reality)”
Sorry, Stephen, but I have to disagree. After the final Jewish revolt against Roman rule, the Romans renamed Judea “Palestina”. While the Turks called the area “Southern Syria”, to designate the administrative area, the name Palestine was generally recognised; it was the British League of Nations Mandate of Palestine (1918-48); what is now “The Jerusalem Post” was, until 1948, “The Palestine Post”. While you may be right about the idea of a _state_ called Palestine (and the role of Arafat & Fatah in its creation as an ideological statement), it is certainly true that the name Palestine had traction long before either of them came on the scene.
While we rightly reject the ahistoricity of the writings of the likes of Susan Abulhawa, we cannot and should not substitute ahistorical interpretations of our own, just to attack or attempt to refute them.
Brian, I think we are possibly in agreement, but for the purposes of clarification, what I was saying is that Arafat was the man who gave the idea of a Palestinian state as opposed to it being a region of the former Ottoman Empire.
As I am sure you are aware the British Army called the Jewish regiments that fought with the 8th Army the Palestinians, so I am not denying the name or its geographical location.
I am simply saying that Palestine was never a nation or state for to be that it would have to have had defined borders, a passport, governmental infrastructures, a flag, a currency etc. which it never had.
Arafat created this concept, and foolishly (in my opinion) Israeli leaders recognized it in an attempt to have a leader with whom to negotiate and find a solution with.
Instead Arafat used it to create a de facto statehood which pre-dated Israel and thus was able to fool most of the world and certainly the Islamic states around the world that Israel occupies a land that was already legitimately in place, instead of the real truth, which is that Israel was legitimized by a UN vote in 1948, and that 70% of the Arabs that share common descent with the ‘Palestinians’ actually lived in the place where Jordan is now.
Thus was Arafat able to create a huge PR coup and also enrich himself and his fellow terrorists, while keeping his ‘people’ in a perpetual state of impoverishment and disadvantage, perfect fodder for a terrorist war.
As we know, later on, Arafat even tried to take Jordan back from the Hashemites who controlled it, but was defeated by King Hussein who slew more Palestinians than Israel has ever done, and created the name for the terrorist sub-group, Black September.
However, prior to 1967 and Arafat’s arrival on the scene, a Palestinian state was never mentioned by anyone on either side of the Jew/Muslim divide.
Is that your view or do you have a different take on it?
If victimhood is the only legitimate claim to statehood will the Palestinians lose their right to a state the minute they get one and are no longer victims? I ask because if Palestinians are the “eternal victims” which is why they need a state and Jews needed a state because they were “eternal victims” (but no longer deserve a state because now that they have one they aren’t victims any longer) then it seems to me that no people who currently has a state has a right to that state or any other. In short, the whole “victim argument” strikes me as if not hogwash then completely beside the point.