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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

A single word that denies us our very right to live

Within hours of the massacre at Merkaz HaRav in Jerusalem I noticed more than a few lefty blogs here and abroad popping up with their 'spin'. 

You're probably asking yourself, 'How do you spin the pre-meditated slaughter of innocent students in the library of their school?'  Well the answer is simple; you take away the presumption of innocence.  Once you've done that, anything is plausible.

Here's a perfect example of the kind of people who are out there flacking for our 'peace partners':

March 08, 2008

Murdered Israeli Settlers

There can be no justification for the murder of eight Israeli students, studying in the library of their yeshiva.

But an explanation of why now, and why students at a particular yeshiva were selected as targets, could help us understand the seemingly never ending cycle of death in the Middle East.

Sadly, the American press is far too intimated to give us the full story.

You have to go to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz for the first blunt assessment of the tragedy, which they classified as "revenge."

"The Israel Defense Forces' attacks in Gaza, which caused the death of many civilians, provided the legitimacy for yesterday's brutal attack."

Earlier in the week, the I.D.F. had attacked a number of targets in  Gaza, murdering a minimum of 19  Palestinian civilians (four of whom were children.) in one operation alone.

The Israeli students killed were studying at a particularly militaristic yeshiva - one that sought to provide a religious justification for the illegal occupation of territories in the West Bank. As the N.Y.Times wrote:

The yeshiva is famous, a symbol of the national religious strain of Judaism that provides the backbone of the settler movement.

It is closely linked with both "Religious Zionism" and Gush Emunim.

In fact at least four of the young students killed came from settlements in the West Bank. One was from Shiloh, in the West Bank, while another was from Kochav Hasahar, a settlement even Israel recognizes as illegal.  As the BBC has reported, "the international community regards all settlements in...the West Bank... as illegal under international law." Another of those killed was from Elkana, a town whose enlargement was of concern to the Bush Administration:

White House spokesman Scott McClellan said the US "will be seeking clarification from the government of Israel" over the plan for new homes in Elkana.

"Israel should not be expanding settlements," he said.

A fourth was from the illegal town Neveh Daniel, an outpost from which Israeli settlers "severely" beat a 65 year old Palestinian farmer back in 2005.

The implication left by reporting in our press was that a random act of murder occurred in a Jerusalem school last week.  The truth is more complicated.

When people of good faith such as Kofi Annan and Jimmy Carter are mocked by the likes of a Marty Peretz and a Fausta for planning a trip to the region in search for peace, the lives of more Israeli and Palestinian children are endangered.   But then one of the tragedies of the Middle East is how far Israel's "supporters" are willing to go to undermine peace.

This was by no means the worst of the lot... Believe me.  But I wanted to quote this here because it contains a common thread that you'll see whenever innocent Israeli civilians are deliberately targeted.  That common thread is some variation on; "There is no excuse for the killing of innocent civilians, but..."

With that single word - 'but' - the ardent supporters of our enemies begin the evil process of stripping the victims of their presumed innocence ... and us of our very right to live.

Posted by David Bogner on March 11, 2008 | Permalink

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Yeah, a commenter on my blog wrote something to the effect of "what else do you expect, you Zionist Nazis?"

I just deleted it. As you know, I'm very open to liberal/left wing politics, but I'm not open to unthinking, unfeeling, hypocritical idiots.

Posted by: Sarah | Mar 11, 2008 1:08:27 PM

Ok David, I know why you wrote this and I know why you are quoting him - but why give him the satisfaction of a link from your very popular blog? Why don't you just spell out the url (without the link)? I hate it when people reap benefit from spewing hatred.

Posted by: westbankmama | Mar 11, 2008 1:20:04 PM

Sarah... I had one of those too, but he stopped just short of of triggering Godwin's Law.

Westbankmama... While I'm flattered that you trust me to have quoted the source accurately, nobody can take such a thing for granted. Linking to sourced/quoted material is about more than good manners... it is about acknowledging that someone else owns the words and ideas. That is a sword that cuts both ways. Besides, I was also hoping that a few of the more, er, enthusiastic treppenwitz readers might go over and give the site owner a good talking to. :-)

Posted by: treppenwitz | Mar 11, 2008 1:55:09 PM

I gave the site owner a good talking to!

Posted by: shira | Mar 11, 2008 2:31:15 PM

"There can be no excuse for murder, but..."

That's where I stopped reading. No point.

Posted by: psachya | Mar 11, 2008 4:00:25 PM

shira... I went and checked. Nice work, but I think 'putzwad' is spelled with only one 'T'. ;-)

psachya... which was exactly my point! I must be getting good if you got the gist of the post in the first few lines. :-)

Posted by: treppenwitz | Mar 11, 2008 4:06:33 PM

Trep -- I can appreciate the effort you expend to face up to that "strain" of person out there who ever seeks to justify strolling into a school with weapons blazing... it is bad enough for me, a goy on the sidelines, to contemplate such intellectual (if that is the word I should be using) disconnect from the soul. You have my respect. And support.

"strain." Meh.

;o/

Posted by: Wry Mouth | Mar 11, 2008 4:12:42 PM

A good friend once said to me "ignore everything before the 'but' " I apply this rule to everything from compliments to meeting my kids teachers.

Posted by: Skaj | Mar 11, 2008 4:19:15 PM

this justification is very similar to the older version of "every israeli being a target because no israeli is simply a civilian." so even if one does not live in a "settlement," the very act now of identifying with gush emunim in some way is enough to "justify" murder.

feh! (as my grandmother is wont to say)

Posted by: nikki | Mar 11, 2008 5:23:05 PM

This infuriated me when I read it in mainstream newspapers on Friday morning. When I also saw the BBC 'interviewing' the Israeli ambassador to the UK with a similar line of questioning/rhetoric, I was furious. Fortunately, Bradley Burston over at Ha'aretz was there to save the day:

http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/960745.html

Ender

Posted by: matlabfreak | Mar 11, 2008 5:38:02 PM

Wry Mouth... Meh indeed.

Skaj... a wise person, your friend. I'll have to adopt that rule.

nikki... Wow, between Wry Mouth's 'meh' and your 'feh', I think I see a trend developing here. :-)\

matlabfreak... I think I can safely say that that is the most refreshingly honest and accurate thing I have ever seen in Haaretz.

Posted by: treppenwitz | Mar 11, 2008 5:58:48 PM

Ummm.... honey, I am sorry to chime in with an off-topic comment here, but if we adopt Skaj's rule, some of the parent teacher meetings will be hard to take.....

In those situations I'd prefer to ignore everything AFTER the but.

I'm just saying.... (and guessing a few other parents might jest be noddin' their heads in agreement)....

Posted by: zahava | Mar 11, 2008 7:41:45 PM

I blame it squarely on Ignorance Trep, Yosef’s brothers did not “see” his purpose until he became “useful”.


Posted by: Rami | Mar 11, 2008 10:27:30 PM

While I OBVIOUSLY agree that there can be no excuse for murder, any sophisticated, high-level analysis would require acknowledging that Mercaz Harav is the father of the settlement movement and particularly the more militant settlements (I'm not talking Efrat, and I live in Jerusalem so I'm not making this as a value judgement per se). So not to say "but" but rather to understand a political conflict (perhaps trying to step myself out of the neighborhood, only a few miles away from the shooting), objective analysis does require acknowledging that Yeshivat Mercaz Harav has accepted militancy, even now apparently approving of murder (Yeshiva student planned revenge attack - http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1205261307604&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull)

Of course, as Zionists, we must both defend the State of Israel and its morality

Posted by: amechad | Mar 11, 2008 10:57:05 PM

Crap like that leaves me infuriated.

There is NO morally justifiable connection between Gaza and Mercaz HaRav. Period. No buts. No ifs. No relativizing, waffling, socialist bleeding heart bafflegabbing.

Because if there is, and only if the buts, ifs, relativizing, and SoBleHe-bafflegabbing is valid, then I can shoot the local Palestinian liquor store owner. In righteous anger over what some of his folks have done. With just as much validity.

I am not that kind of person. We are not that kind of people.

Posted by: Back of the Hill | Mar 11, 2008 11:30:54 PM

Of course we can't retaliate in kind; we can't shoot off rockets to land somewhere in Gaza, perhaps a hospital, or a orphanage. But we should take a lesson from Dr. Strangelove. There should be missiles on Israeli territory pointed at Gaza, primed to take off upon a missile strike on Israel. No decisions involved-- it would be automatic, like the Doomsday plan in the movie. Any action by Hamas would itself trigger the response. One missile hits us, the computer sends one missile back. And unlike the Soviet Prime Minister, Dmitri Kissoff, we should tell Hamas about it before it is put in place.

Posted by: Barzilai | Mar 11, 2008 11:51:43 PM

I interviewed a pro-palestinian student for an anthropology project of mine (and did my best not to let on my bias). The project was on perceptions of violence in the conflict, and we spent a few minutes trying to define who was "responsible" for violence on each side.

After Thursday I kept remembering her response about who was responsible for Israel's "violence." "The government, the IDF, and the Israeli people." I asked her about Israeli Arabs, who she said were "obviously not responsible," and so I asked about Israeli kids. She paused, said no, but they are once they become soldiers.

I can't help but wonder if she would make the same argument about these kids, most of whom supported the things she most detests but never actually served in the army.

I think it's intellectually dishonest to say that there were no reasons for the attack, but the critical difference lies in whether those reasons are justifiable. My guess is, if you asked the murderer of our eight brothers, he would give a justification all of us would find absurd and morally bankrupt.

But being real commentators requires us to explain the motivation of those we most disagree with so that our opinions win out when a disinterested individual compares our writings to those with whom we disagree.
Read More: http://lashuv.wordpress.com

Posted by: datapolitical | Mar 12, 2008 1:46:51 AM

Aren't there three issues here? First of all, was the suicide terror symbolic? I think we could (plausibly) say that yes, it was. Except that the reasons for that symbolism the piously liberal around the world give us are the reasons they put in the attacker's head, so to speak; they are not reasons at all; they are rationalizations. But the attack was symbolic.

Qutb (the great authority for these human bombs) said for example: "The Surah tells the Muslims that, in the fight to uphold God's universal Truth, lives will have to be sacrificed. Those who risk their lives and go out to fight, and who are prepared to lay down their lives for the cause of God are honourable people, pure of heart and blessed of soul. But the great surprise is that those among them who are killed in the struggle must not be considered or described as dead. They continue to live, as God Himself clearly states." (In the Shade of the Q'uran quoted in Paul Berman's Terror and Liberalism, p. 101)

So there is clearly symbolism in the terror-suicide. The most potent symbolism is the death--it is certainly one of (if not the) the goal of the Islamist movements (as it has been of the Christian movements in times past).

Then there is the question of why those particular eight kids. Might as well ask why those particular 52 people on 7/7, why those particular 200 people on M-11 or why those particular 3,000 people on 9/11. The answer is the same--"Because they were there". There is no reason; no "why".

And then there is the question of why so many commentators are excited (I think excited is the right word here) by this act of symbolic to the Ilsmaists random mass murder. And here I want to quote Berman again because I think he says it best:

"The sinister excites, Camus observed. The transgressions of suicide murder arouse a thrill that sometimes takes an overtly sexual form. The readers of Baudelaire will find nothing surprising in this observation, not to mention the readers of Sade. One of the New York newspapers ran a photograph of women in Madrid parading naked in public, except for skimpy faux suicide-bomb belts worn as bikinins. Such were the titillations of murder and suicide. As long as the suicide bomb campaign was at its height in the Middle East, this sort of excitment could be felt around the world. The brazen called forth the brazen, and demonstrators ran into the street to commit their verbal or sartorial transgressions, and the heroes of the pen rushed into the newspapers clad in shockingly small number of tropes. But once the human bombs had begun to detonate less frequently, or had come to seem familiar, the thrill was felt less keenly. The brazen called forth the brazen less forcefully than before." (Terror and Liberalism, p. 143).

Regards,

Inna

Posted by: Inna | Mar 12, 2008 8:36:13 AM

zahava... In fairness, our older son is having a fantastic year academically (tfu tfu tfu). Let's not jinx it. :-)

Rami... I disagree. You need to be fairly well informed in order to make these tortured rationalizations. These people make it their business to know what is going on and then distort it to fit their worldview.

amechad... Using large letters and figuring out a way to avoid the word 'but' does not mean you haven't employed the same shameful technique as the person I quoted.

Back of the Hill... It's even simpler to prove than the example you mentioned (of taking out your local package store owner). If violent behavior of any kind is to be excused based on the beliefs and mindset of both the victims and the perp, then Israel should get a pass on its operations against terrorists. But since Israel NEVER gets a pass, one can't reasonably make a case for 'understanding' violent behavior in any other party to the conflict.

Barzilai... At a certain point we MUST respond in kind. It is the only thing that they understand or respect. They see our western values and codes of conduct as a weakness to be exploited.

datapolitical... This discussion isn't about trying to understand why the shooter picked that particular target. It is about condemning those who get confused between understanding a criminal thought-process and forgetting that the processes is criminal.

Inna... I agree that there are likely many people who experience thrills and even enjoyment from shocking displays of violence. But a more pressing issue is that both mainstream Islam and 'normative' Arab culture have fetishized death. In fact this death cult has become central to both.

Posted by: treppenwitz | Mar 12, 2008 12:37:22 PM

"I agree that there are likely many people who experience thrills and even enjoyment from shocking displays of violence. But a more pressing issue is that both mainstream Islam and 'normative' Arab culture have fetishized death. In fact this death cult has become central to both."

I am neither Arab nor Muslim--and am therefore not equipped to properly respond on behalf of the 1.4 Billion peoples around the world; a peoples whose personalities are (more often than not, at least in the West, at least the ones I know) hyphenated and whose cultures are likewise hyphenated. I cannot speak for a Morroccan and an Indonesian and a Frenchman and an American and a Jordanian quite so easily. I just don't know those people and I don't know their cultures. All I can tell you is that I have some acquaintance with some American Muslims and they are not as you describe.

However, my post was not talking about Arabs or Muslims at all; it was responding to your post. And your post was, in turn responding to a blog entry written by a person whose interests are "Blogs, Books, Civil Discourse, News, New York, Theatre" (http://bustardblog.typepad.com/about.html ). To a blog written by a New Yorker probably.

And so I was commenting on what might make a New Yorker (a Westerner, a person with a hyphenated personality and culture) comment so favorably and be so excited by a suicide murder on the other side of the globe.

Regards,

Inna

Posted by: Inna | Mar 13, 2008 9:31:23 AM

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