Tuesday, August 01, 2006

You knew it was coming

Richard Cohen, who's already called anyone who's looking for Israel to be proportionate an anti-semite, just goes and jumps the shark:
Before Gibson there was Kofi Annan. I do not accuse the United Nations secretary general of anti-Semitism -- a slam-dunk in Gibson's case -- but here again there is a rush to judgment, an impatience, an anger and a general vexation that, at best, is worrisome. When an Israeli airstrike in southern Lebanon killed four U.N. observers last week, Annan was quick to say Israel had done so deliberately. Why Israel would do such a thing -- what's the benefit to it? -- went unexplained or even, it seemed, unconsidered. Annan, who later said he would await an Israeli report on the incident, was having a mini-Mel Gibson moment.
Yes, because the fact that the IDF had been told - repeatedly - that it was shelling a UN compound, and did so anyway, obviously shows that Annan was being unreasonable in assuming it was deliberate.

(Note that Gibson is not just an anti-semite, but a holocaust denier as well. So Cohen, by extension, has just called anyone who opposes Israel an anti-semite and a holocaust denier. But don't forget - it was Stephen Colbert who was rude to the President!)

And this is a funny argument:
The world has a responsibility here. If it can no longer put up with Israeli excess, with its (understandable) policy to strike back disproportionately, then it has to put an end to the slow bleeding of that country. The world -- the United Nations -- created Israel. It ought to safeguard it. It is the only way.
First off, the "world" had relatively little to do with the creation of Israel. British imperialism and anti-semitism incubated Israel, and then the Israelis-to-be carved Mandate Palestine in to their own state. Whether you think that was a good thing or not, "the World" had very little to do with it.

But let's humour Cohen for a moment. If the world created Israel, wouldn't the onus then be on Israel to obey international law - more so than other countries? Shouldn't Israel abandon all of the Occupied Territories, for a start? Shouldn't Israel obey the dictates of the World Court regarding its security barrier? Shouldn't Israel obey repeated Security Council resolutions?

In all this crap, there is one interesting point that Cohen makes, and I agree with:
War is a nasty thing, and in this war Israel has most of the firepower. Having most of the firepower means that it can do most of the damage. The consequences can be horrendous and almost unbearable to see on television. What's more, Israel has an almost mythical reputation for military prowess, a supposedly magical ability for battlefield precision, so it's all the harder to accept the fact that it, too, can make awful mistakes. The United States, after all, has done similar things in Iraq and Afghanistan.
This is actually a good and important point, one that too many people are avoiding. It is quite possible that, compared to what the US is doing in Iraq, Israel is being proportional and humane. And yet the Lebanese victims of war are getting more air time than the Iraqis ever have.

I confess to being surprised that even CNN has spent a lot of time dealing with the victims of this war - the same network that questioned whether dismembered Iraqi children understood that it was all for a good cause, didn't they see that?

At the risk of repeating myself - the point is not that Israel is being needlessly cruel. In war, trying to put cruelty on a spectrum is a dodgy game at best. The point is that all wars - defensive, pre-emptive, whatever - are by definition cruel, and we have spent way, way too long pretending that our bombs don't create victims.

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