Just war theory

by Chris Bertram on June 8, 2010

Alan Dershowitz never disappoints, does he?

It is a close question whether “civilians” who agree to participate in the breaking of a military blockade have become combatants. They are certainly something different from pure innocents, and perhaps they are also somewhat different from pure armed combatants.

I like that “perhaps”, as if it might turn out, after further legal cogitation by the professor, that torpedoing or bombing the convoy would be a legitimate act.

{ 208 comments }

1

Dennis Ashendorf 06.08.10 at 6:23 am

I would look at the “activists” as “voluntary hostages,” whatever that means. To put it differently; since the hostages can unvolunteer themselves given time; then planting explosives on a hull with a noisy ticker with a long delay, and both before and afterword offering to remove the hostages from the vessel, may be a middle ground (albeit crazy or very different). Hostages refusing this offer are not activists, but voluntary martyrs, like Rachel Corrie. They don’t deserve to be considered innocents in any sense of the word, but that’s another story.

2

Ian Whitchurch 06.08.10 at 6:43 am

On the topic of blockade-busting, AP are reporting that Egypt are opening the land crossings into Gaza.

http://www.salon.com/news/israel_flotilla_attack/index.html?story=/news/feature/2010/06/07/gaza_blockade_3

3

sg 06.08.10 at 6:54 am

I like this new world where advocating the murder of protesters, a la Ashendorf, is acceptable.

I can only assume Ashendorf is trying to be funny, because the claim that Rachel Corrie was a voluntary martyr has to be a joke.

4

alex 06.08.10 at 7:23 am

If only we could assume that Dershowitz was trying to be funny.

There’s no just war; there’s just war. Forever, in this case, it seems.

5

dsquared 06.08.10 at 7:28 am

I maintain that even if Prof. Dershowitz (who has something of a history with unpopular defendants) does not actually end up defending Omar Al-Bashir in the Hague, he will find that his legal arguments on the “continuum of civilianity” will be heavily cited by defendants in respect of the massacres in Darfur.

Also, I think he may have come up with a definition of a “combatant” which includes Gandhi’s Salt March. Which would be an achievement of sorts.

6

leederick 06.08.10 at 7:29 am

I don’t like it. But I think the orthodox answer is that civilians are protected from direct attack unless they directly participate in hostilities; and this includes when you aim to support one party by directly harming the military operations or capacity of the other. So, yes, if peaceful protesters are trying to interfere with the war effort of one side, and are doing so in support of the other side, it would seem that under the laws of war it’s legitimate for combatants to directly target them. Just war theory’s a lot less just than many people think.

7

Henri Vieuxtemps 06.08.10 at 7:38 am

Under this theory, could the populations of the US and Israel also qualify as voluntary martyrs, perhaps somewhat different from pure armed combatants? Certainly, defining the status of Prof Dershowitz, who agreed to participate in the propaganda effort, would be a close call, according to his logic.

8

dsquared 06.08.10 at 7:40 am

btw:

I like that “perhaps”, as if it might turn out, after further legal cogitation military action by the professor IDF, that torpedoing or bombing the convoy would be a legitimate act

I think my adjusted version may describe the decision process more accurately, because we’re not actually seeing a forward process of reasoning from ethical principles to permissible actions here – it’s a backward process starting from the answers in the back of the book. If someone had, two weeks ago, suggested that Israel might be about to massacre unarmed protestors on those ships, Dershowitz would quite likely have said that this was ridiculous and would never happen. Now that it’s happened, of course it was inevitable. (I’ve actually seen this reverse-ferret happen in real time on a couple of occasions)

9

Pete 06.08.10 at 9:23 am

sg: my understanding of Rachel Corrie is that she voluntarily stood in front of a bulldozer from which she could have fled, and was killed as a result. Furthermore, she came to Gaza deliberately to do this sort of thing. That sounds a lot like voluntary martyrdom to me.

(What is the status of someone who voluntarily makes themselves a “human shield”? I’m not saying that’s specifically what’s happened here, but it’s close)

10

FlyingRodent 06.08.10 at 9:41 am

my understanding of Rachel Corrie is that she voluntarily stood in front of a bulldozer from which she could have fled, and was killed as a result.

I’m reminded of that bloke standing in front of that Chinese tank column, for some reason. Of course, it wouldn’t have been acceptable for the tanks to run him over, because China is a dictatorship, or something.

11

John Meredith 06.08.10 at 9:41 am

“Under this theory, could the populations of the US and Israel also qualify as voluntary martyrs,”

I think that if a contingent of unarmed Israeli or US civilians attempted to breach a Hamas military cordon in Gaza and refused to turn away when told, they would be legitmate targets, wouldn’t they? It would still be wrong to shoot them when you can just arrest them, but then I don’t think many people claim that the Israelis meant to shoot the protestors either (that that was their prior intention).

If this happened, if a peaceful anti-Hamas protest group of Israelis illegally entered Gaza, refused to turn away when ordered to by Hamas gunmen and then defended themselves against arrest using sticks and clubs until a number of them were shot in the ensuing melee, I wonder if the condemnation levels would be quite as shrill.

12

sg 06.08.10 at 9:51 am

but then I don’t think many people claim that the Israelis meant to shoot the protestors

execution-style bullet wounds to the back of the head notwithstanding.

13

belle le triste 06.08.10 at 9:54 am

Well no the “levels” in that extraordinarily silly counterfactual wouldn’t in fact be “shrill”: shrill is a technical term only ever used by the powerful and their toadies of those they wish to dehumanise.

14

John Meredith 06.08.10 at 9:55 am

“execution-style bullet wounds to the back of the head notwithstanding. “

I don’t think anything like this has been convincingly shown, has it? I mean I don’t think any serious person is suggesting that these were execution?

15

belle le triste 06.08.10 at 10:00 am

“serious” — another technical term there

16

John Meredith 06.08.10 at 10:01 am

“Well no the “levels” in that extraordinarily silly counterfactual “

I thought it was quite plausible. Why is it so silly? I think that even in the most technical sense some of the reaction to the flotilla tragedy has been somewhat shrill. We have heard words like ‘execution’, ‘massacre’, ‘kidnap’, and ‘piracy’ bandies pretty freely. Surely we can agree that there is some shrillness there?

17

John Meredith 06.08.10 at 10:02 am

“serious”—another technical term there”

Well, choose your own term if you prefer. Which people, that you take seriously, are suggesting that these killings were executions?

18

belle le triste 06.08.10 at 10:13 am

I really don’t have your chops, or your industriousness, John, in respect of loaded manipulative rhetoric and the largescale weaving of misdirectional what-ifs. So I myself will leave you to what you “think”. Others with the time and the mind can take you up, if they think there’s much purpose to it.

19

FlyingRodent 06.08.10 at 10:16 am

I don’t think there’s any evidence they were executions John. If there is, we’ll certainly never see it anyway.

No doubt it’s possible to shoot somebody in the back of the head in self-defence – say, if they’ve got you around the midriff and a bunch of their pals are coming for you – but I’d have thought there would be an upper limit to the number of people you could shoot in the back of the head before the “self-defence” part starts smelling a little whiffy.

20

Henri Vieuxtemps 06.08.10 at 10:26 am

I think that if a contingent of unarmed Israeli or US civilians attempted to breach a Hamas military cordon in Gaza and refused to turn away when told, they would be legitimate targets, wouldn’t they?

A better analogy would breaching a Hamas-declared cordon of Israel. Supplying Israel with arms, for example, against Hamas’ instructions. Would that make US citizens legitimate targets?

21

Bunbury 06.08.10 at 10:33 am

John M. if the Met Police had taken a similar approach to those involved in the G20 demonstrations there certainly would have been outrage and condemnation. There is rightly anger over the death of a passerby from a heart attack shortly after being pushed by a policeman. As for lying in front of bulldozers, the Newbury bypass would have been built much more quickly if you gave up your right to life by doing that.

It comes to something when complaining about people being shot by a state is shrill. Execution seems sensible as a way of drawing a distinction between killings plausibly in an act of immediate self defence and those performed with control and deliberation as indicated by wounds in the back of the head. Only 7 died in the St. Valentine’s day massacre. Were complaints about that shrill? The ships were commandeered, their cargoes confiscated and passengers held in jail without access to consular support. Doesn’t seem way off beam.

22

John Meredith 06.08.10 at 10:35 am

“A better analogy would breaching a Hamas-declared cordon of Israel. Supplying Israel with arms, for example, against Hamas’ instructions. Would that make US citizens legitimate targets?”

I preferred mine because I thought it really was plausible, I mean I think it could happen just like that. But if Hamas did have a military blockade of Israel in accordance with the rules of war and a group of US peace activits tried to breach it ignoring warnings etc etc, they would be legitimate targets, wouldn’t they? I mean, it would still be wrong to shoot them, but still. I can’t see any way round that.

23

The Raven 06.08.10 at 10:44 am

Well, more food for corvids.

Can a non-violent movement can ally itself with a violent movement without compromising itself beyond redemption? Or can it redeem the violent movement?

None of this is intended to support the blockade, or Israel’s other abuses.

24

ptl 06.08.10 at 10:47 am

what about Tom Hurndall, Ashendorf? Why is his case different?

25

The Raven 06.08.10 at 10:50 am

John, civil disobedience involves accepting the consequences of the act. Those can be death. If people who pursue a cause without violence are willing to risk, or even accept, death in their cause wholeheartedly, and without the secret reservation that they have allies who will avenge them, surely it is better to listen to them than kill them or provide justifications for killing them? That is the point, is it not?

26

John Meredith 06.08.10 at 10:58 am

Raven, I don’t support the blockade and I think the attampt to run it by unarmed activists was a good aand legitimate way to challenge it (and it may be successful too). I certainly think it is tragic that anyone was killed (although I will take some persuading that anyone was ‘executed': why on earth would that be ordered?). But I do think that Israel was acting within its rights in boarding the ships.

27

alex 06.08.10 at 11:03 am

This kind of discussion proceeds on the basis that if some unspecified third party recognised that Israel is not nice, then something would materially change about the situation in the Middle East. As far as I can see, such a basis is utterly fallacious. There is no act, I suspect, up to and including the use of nuclear warheads, that certain groups would not loudly proclaim to be self-defence on Israel’s part; and there is no group not already persuaded of Israel’s iniquity that could be made to give a damn because of one more such act added to a long list going back decades.

Counter-arguments willingly considered, but optimism in short supply.

28

rea 06.08.10 at 11:09 am

Torpedoing or bombing the convoy would be a legitimate act, if the blockade were legitimate.

29

The Raven 06.08.10 at 11:09 am

“Israel was acting within its rights in boarding the ships.”

I suppose, though I am not an expert on international law. However, the ability and legal permission to do a thing does not mean that one must undertake it!

30

The Raven 06.08.10 at 11:15 am

Alex, isn’t that the problem, though, and the motivation for non-violent protest? Violence only sinks people deeper into the moral swamp. Can non-violent action on the part of outside parties change the violence of any of the involved parties, even a bit?

31

Matt 06.08.10 at 11:16 am

My understanding is that this convoy was done with at least some conscious imitation of the SS Exodus, where Jewish Zionist groups loaded a boat full of kids to intentionally provoke the British, who were running a blockade of Palestine that was at least as legal as the current Israeli one, probably more so, into either letting them through or acting in such a way that would bring sympathy to the Zionist cause. It seems that Dershowitz should have to say that the British could have rightly sunk the boat or killed the people on it, but somehow I think he doesn’t actually think that.

32

John Meredith 06.08.10 at 11:35 am

“the British, who were running a blockade of Palestine that was at least as legal as the current Israeli one, probably more so”

The British were not blockading Palestine, they were occupying it. I don’t see any parallels at all between an attempt to run a blockade in order to bring it to international attention and an act designed to persudae a state to accept refugees.

33

John Meredith 06.08.10 at 11:37 am

“and there is no group not already persuaded of Israel’s iniquity that could be made to give a damn because of one more such act added to a long list going back decades.”

An iniquity that only stretches back decades? How innocent it seems compared to, say, the iniquitous history of Great Britain.

34

Tom Hurka 06.08.10 at 11:44 am

As several have said, a lot depends on whether the blockade is legitimate. If it’s not, as I suspect Chris thinks it’s not, then even boarding the ships is illegitimate.

But if the blockade is legitimate, the civilians participating in it do lose some rights but aren’t equivalent to combatants. In particular, they don’t have the right to kill combatants on the other side and therefore are still protected to some degree by the principles of necessity and proportionality. If the Israelis had a way of stopping the ship without killing the people on it, they’d have a duty to do that and torpedoing the ship would be a crime, as it wouldn’t be if the ship contained only soldiers.

At the same time, civilians who knowingly place themselves near a military target do lose some rights, so, in particular, harms to them count less in the assessments of proportionality and necessity. (If you could attack either of two military targets, one surrounded by voluntary shields and the other by people unwittingly in the vicinity, wouldn’t you have a duty to attack the first target?) I think this is why it”s legitimate to kill munitions factory workers while they’re working in the factory but not in their homes. When they’re at work they’ve voluntarily placed themselves near a legitimate military target and therefore taken some of the responsibility for their deaths on themselves. When they’re at home, that’s not true. And civilians voluntarily on a ship engaged in military action would be like munitions factory workers in the factory.

To repeat, though, none of this is relevant if the blockade itself isn’t legitimate.

35

Laleh 06.08.10 at 11:48 am

“The British were not blockading Palestine, they were occupying it.”

As opposed to Israel, which is doing what to Gaza?

36

P O'Neill 06.08.10 at 11:57 am

How long before the Dershowitz ambiguity is extended to the Palestinian boycott of settlement products?

37

Matt 06.08.10 at 11:58 am

John, the British were both occupying Palestine (rightfully, under international law), and running a blockade to keep out Jews who wanted to move there. That was also legal. The two actions are, of course, not incompatible.

38

sg 06.08.10 at 12:09 pm

FFS John, the Turkish inquests found several of them shot in the back of the head, and one through the top of the head. Do you have some argument as to how several people can be shot through the back of the head and it not be an execution?

39

John Protevi 06.08.10 at 12:13 pm

P O’Neill, many thanks for that link. I’m going to violate a long-standing policy of mine of not commenting on Palestine-Israel to recommend a read of that article, and especially the phrase “economic terrorism” found within.

40

Chris Bertram 06.08.10 at 12:39 pm

“economic terrorism” – that is so lame, so far behind the curve. The latest is “cultural terrorism” with the Pixies as the main offenders:

http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5jnuiLTovjxjwSwo415F9qITUTsZA

41

Chuchundra 06.08.10 at 12:46 pm

FFS John, the Turkish inquests found several of them shot in the back of the head, and one through the top of the head. Do you have some argument as to how several people can be shot through the back of the head and it not be an execution?

It’s very possible that the victims got caught in a crossfire or that they were attacking one soldier and were shot in the back by another or that they got caught with an errant bullet or that they were shot in the front, were spun around by the impact and got shot in the back as the soldier continued firing.

42

FlyingRodent 06.08.10 at 12:50 pm

It’s very possible that the victims got caught in a crossfire or that they were attacking one soldier and were shot in the back by another or…

Let’s not forget the magic bullet theory here, either.

43

Anderson 06.08.10 at 1:00 pm

As several here have noted, IF the blockade were legit, then interdiction by force would not be unlawful per se.

One wonders what the Royal Navy would’ve done with a shipload of German-American civilians running foodstuffs to Germany in 1917?

I think the blockade is so disproportionately punitive as to be illegal, but given that Israel disagrees, I didn’t find the use of force surprising. What surprised me was the dumbasses landing one at a time in an armed mob. They should’ve told the people to clear the deck via loudspeaker, or else have some holes punched in their hull.

(Since the flotilla was a demonstration to highlight the ongoing blockade, I suppose they would’ve preferred to be sunk, which might have killed more or fewer than 11 people. But sinking would at least have been competent behavior by the IDF … along the lines of what I’d expect from the RN in my example, if boarding were refused.)

44

Barry 06.08.10 at 1:04 pm

Laleh 06.08.10 at 11:48 am

John Meredith: “The British were not blockading Palestine, they were occupying it.”

Laleh: “As opposed to Israel, which is doing what to Gaza?”

Not occupying it. Surrounding it, shelling it, strafing it, raiding it and quite deliberately choking it for the immiseration of the people. But if you accuse the Israelis of ‘occupying’ Gaza, you will have hurt their feelings, and hurting their feelings is morally equivalent to [REDACTED – GODWIN VIOLATION].

45

John Meredith 06.08.10 at 1:06 pm

I haven’t read the inquests but as far as I know none of the eye witnesses claim that there were any executions.

I thought you were of the view that if there were any evidence of executions the Israelis would not allow it to see the light of day, FD?

46

Barry 06.08.10 at 1:23 pm

John Meredith 06.08.10 at 1:06 pm

“I haven’t read the inquests but as far as I know none of the eye witnesses claim that there were any executions.”

Just to help you out here, the point is that a bunch of people being shot in the back of the head by pistols is sorta suspicious – to honest people, at least.

47

FlyingRodent 06.08.10 at 1:34 pm

Well, yes. The joke about the magic bullet was this – if a person has given the issue so much thought that they’re willing to consider the possibility that “the victims got caught in a crossfire or that they were attacking one soldier and were shot in the back by another or that they got caught with an errant bullet or that they were shot in the front, were spun around by the impact and got shot in the back as the soldier continued firing”…

…Well, why wouldn’t it occur to such a person that they might have been, say, running away, for instance? It seems at least as likely as any other theories, and has the added Ooomph of making sense, i.e. lots of people would run away from soldiers firing guns.

48

Glen Tomkins 06.08.10 at 1:56 pm

Strategic bombing

Until and unless the world retrenches from the excesses practiced by “the good guys”, the Allies, in WWII, there is no non-hypocritical standard for exempting anyone from combatant status. If it was kosher to drop incendiaries on residential areas of German and Japanese cities, if a starvation blockade of Germany and Japan was as legal as church on Sunday — then the 9/11 attacks, the blockade of Gaza, and the flotilla killings are all examples of moderation and relative humanity in the conduct of war.

Such retrenchment has happened before, and it’s not visionary and hopelessly idealistic to expect it to happen again. Europe recoiled in utterly justified horror from the excesses of the 30-Years War, and states imposed limitations on themselves with respect to the “strategic warfare” that had gotten out of hand in that war.

You sometimes hear the excuse made for our unwillingness to observe the civilian/military distinction in our own day, compared to general practice from the late 17th Century until WWII, that we now have the means, lacking before air power, to hit enemy populations and enemy economies directly, bypassing their armed forces. This is nonsense, of course, since before WWI there were no continuous fronts in war. The tactic of sending small bodies of horsemen around any enemy armed forces, to get deep into their territory and destroy homes and farms, and kill civilians indiscriminately, was always available until WWI and the continuous front. These small cavalry forces were too agile for any lumbering army to catch, so they could murder and pillage freely and indefinitely, living off the land as they devastated it. The rationale to do this, that the enemy land and civilian population supported the war effort of the enemy by paying the taxes that allowed war to be waged, was as true then as it is now. This is exactly what happened systematically in the 30-Year’s War that made Europe recoil and retrench.

Europe quit waging war this way (well, against other Europeans, anyway) after 1648 for the same reason it quit using judicial torture. It doesn’t work. It doesn’t do anything but make wars bitter and interminable. Limited wars are disaster enough, without the completely unnecessary layer of civilian destruction, which actually makes the enemy military harder to defeat by radicalizing the enemy civilian population in support of the war effort.

We aren’t any less civilized, any less capable of throwing off intellectual inertia and the blind hatred of the Other of the moment in order to pursue enlightened self-interest, if not morality, than the people of 1648. We need to try to be at least as rational as the set of petty tyrants and religious fanatics who ran Europe in that day.

49

Chris Bertram 06.08.10 at 2:11 pm

It is always a bit dangerous to have this sort of conversation with philosophers about because there’s always the danger that they will be so seduced by the intellectual game of getting the principles right that they’ll fail to grasp what it reveals about a person when they say with a note of triumph (not to say glee):

“Aha! But according to _the rules_ , specifically section 6 para 15 subclause 29 [as interpreted in {insert obscure precedent} – we are *entitled* to napalm small children in such circumstances, and *their parents*, not us, are the ones responsible!”

50

dsquared 06.08.10 at 2:12 pm

It is really totally consensus, particularly among European liberals, that strategic bombing was a war crime. Slaughterhouse-5 is not really an obscure book.

This idea of a “starvation blockade” on Germany during the second world war is very strange, by the way. Germany had food rationing, but it was significantly more generous than that in Britain. There was starvation in Germany after the war, but this wasn’t because of a blockade. In any case, how do you “blockade” Germany? Particularly during a period in which it was occupying Poland, France and Ukraine?

51

John Meredith 06.08.10 at 2:18 pm

“It is really totally consensus, particularly among European liberals, that strategic bombing was a war crime.”

It really isn’t. In fact I would say that this is one of the most controversial topics in WW2 historiography, unless we have a scotsman-like definition of ‘European liberals’.

52

Barry 06.08.10 at 2:18 pm

And for those who are, well, possessed of a Derschowitzian view of history, it should be noticed that the blockades were called off when the wars were over. In the case of Israel and Gaza, it’s a deliberate act of Israel that this war will never be over.

FlyingRodent 06.08.10 at 1:34 pm

Well, yes. The joke about the magic bullet was this – if a person has given the issue so much thought that they’re willing to consider the possibility that “the victims got caught in a crossfire or that they were attacking one soldier and were shot in the back by another or that they got caught with an errant bullet or that they were shot in the front, were spun around by the impact and got shot in the back as the soldier continued firing”…

Flying Rodent: “…Well, why wouldn’t it occur to such a person that they might have been, say, running away, for instance? It seems at least as likely as any other theories, and has the added Ooomph of making sense, i.e. lots of people would run away from soldiers firing guns.”

Yes, but the goal here is to exonerate Israel, to come up with some justification for these people who all had what used to be called ‘Russian heart attacks’.

53

John Meredith 06.08.10 at 2:21 pm

“In the case of Israel and Gaza, it’s a deliberate act of Israel that this war will never be over.”

I don’t think there is much sign that either side is trying to bring this war to an end. But while it is a war, a naval blockade of the enemy is legal, even if we prefer if it didn’t happen.

Oddly, though, a blockade is only legal if it is enforced, so Israel really would have broken the law if it hadn’t raided the Marmara.

54

PHB 06.08.10 at 2:23 pm

Under this ‘theory’ what is the status of propagandists and apologists for the combatant regime?

Are they legitimate military targets? If it is an allowable act of war for Israel to torpedo unarmed ships in international waters, are they permitted to bomb their offices and assassinate their staff.

Starts to sound remarkably like the definition of terrorism. I am pretty sure that if the offices of AIPAC were destroyed along with all the staff that Dershowitz would be describing it as a terrorist act rather than a legitimate act of war.

Dershowitz is of course correct that the attack on the ship could be legal, but only if the blockade is a blockade of a belligerent state as opposed to a non-state actor. That particular point of international law was used by the British as the basis for their recognition of the Confederacy. Their argument being that by blockading the confederacy the US had in fact de facto recognized it as a state. Likewise the blockade of Gaza by Israel is a defacto recognition of Gaza as a state.

There is a reason for the distinction between acts that are allowable against state and non-state actors. If unrestricted warfare was legal against non-state actors there would be no incentive for recognition and affording rights such as recognition as prisoners of law.

55

cjcjc 06.08.10 at 2:24 pm

And if “European liberals” say that it’s so, well, then so it simply is.

56

Barry 06.08.10 at 2:24 pm

John Meredith: “I don’t think there is much sign that either side is trying to bring this war to an end. But while it is a war, a naval blockade of the enemy is legal, even if we prefer if it didn’t happen.”

Got proof that it’s legal?

57

John Meredith 06.08.10 at 2:27 pm

“If it is an allowable act of war for Israel to torpedo unarmed ships in international waters, are they permitted to bomb their offices and assassinate their staff.”

Um, no. It is an allowable act of war to sink ships in international waters in certain circumstances. The U-Boats of the Atlantic run were not comitting war crimes. But it is never allowable to target civilians acting as civilians in offices.

58

John Meredith 06.08.10 at 2:29 pm

“Got proof that it’s legal?”

I think the law is quite well established that a defensive naval blockade of a combatant’s coastline is legal (so long as it is enforced). We might agree that Israel’s intention is ot only defensive, but I think everyione would concede that it is also defensive and so legal.

59

Chris Bertram 06.08.10 at 2:29 pm

_But while it is a war, a naval blockade of the enemy is legal, even if we prefer if it didn’t happen._

That’s a rather confident assertion. What make you sure that it is a “war” in the sense that would entitle participants to make use of such measures? Some discussion here:

http://opiniojuris.org/2010/06/02/why-is-israels-blockade-of-gaza-legal/

60

Jacob T. Levy 06.08.10 at 2:33 pm

Yeah. Even though I’m at least ambivalent about the legality of the blockade in a way that I suspect Chris isn’t, I take it that the point of the post wasn’t “look at the mistaken argument that Alan Dershowitz has made,” but rather, “look at the repellent and obvious exercise in bullshitting Dershowitz is engaged in, and indeed seems to revel in.” And, *regardless* of whether the blockade is legal, Dershowitz is engaged in repellent and obvious (and gleeful) bullshitting– he’s just happy that people he understands as bad guys got kilt.

61

y81 06.08.10 at 2:34 pm

The rights and wrong of the Mideast, or even World War II, are outside my purview, but it is serious misleading (or maybe just wrong) to say, as does PHB (@54), that the British “recognized” the Confederacy. The British recognized the Confederates as belligerents, meaning, most notably, that Confederate privateers or commerce raiders were not pirates, but they did not accept the Confederate government as the legitimate rulers of the American South, or exchange ambassadors with it, or make treaties, or generally acknowledge its power to do the acts and things which independent states may of right do.

The relevance of this precedent to Gaza has been exhaustively debated at opinio juris, to which the reader is referred.

62

Jacob T. Levy 06.08.10 at 2:34 pm

whoops– 10 new posts went up between Chris’ post that I was “yeah”-ing and my own reply.

63

qb 06.08.10 at 2:35 pm

Shorter 49: “Don’t bother arguing, it’s obvious I’m right.”

64

dsquared 06.08.10 at 2:36 pm

I think the law is quite well established that a defensive naval blockade of a combatant’s coastline is legal

It is a point quite important to Israel that it isn’t Gaza’s coastline.

65

y81 06.08.10 at 2:39 pm

I see that Chris Bertram referred the reader to the same source while I was writing my comment above. Note that the discussion at opinio juris continues in subsequent posts and their appurtenant comments.

66

John Meredith 06.08.10 at 2:46 pm

Well it is obvious that the armed conflict between Israel and Hamas is not an armed conflict exactly like others that have gone before, and there is lots of room to argue the toss about the legality of the blockade from that point of view, but if you accept Israel’s argument that they are in an international armed conflict of some kind (and it really does look like one to me), the blockade becomes legal. You might still think it is wrong (I do), but that is a different matter. I guess nobody here would object to a quarantining of Gaza.

67

dsquared 06.08.10 at 2:55 pm

if you accept Israel’s argument that they are in an international armed conflict of some kind

Israel doesn’t argue that it’s in an international armed conflict. Which is the other nation that it would be in an IAC against? Whatever the answer, Israel certainly doesn’t want to countenance the legal implications of recognising Hamas as belligerents in an international armed conflict.

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Chris Bertram 06.08.10 at 3:03 pm

See under “cakes: having and eating therof.”

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y81 06.08.10 at 3:11 pm

The Union government didn’t accept that it was involved in an international armed conflict either. There wasn’t another nation involved in the Civil War. For this reason, Lincoln refused to meet with Confederate peace commissioners who sought peace between the two nations, and the United States indicted Jefferson Davis for treason, though he was never tried and eventually pardoned.

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roac 06.08.10 at 3:16 pm

I think dsquared at 50 and John Meredith at 51 are not talking about the same thing. “Strategic bombing” is bombing intended to cripple an enemy’s capacity to make war by impeding the production of weapons and other war materiel (as opposed to tactical bombing, which is directed at enemy forces actually engaged in combat). Civilian casualties are an inevitable result, but are historically regarded as legitimate as long as the attacker takes reasonable steps to limit them.

The RAF started off WWII with the best of intentions about restricting its bombing to factories engaged in war production, but quickly found that it was unable to hit those targets or even consistently come within miles of them . So it switched its strategy to “dehousing the civilian workforce,” because that was something it could do. (The USAAF was slower to switch its approach, but eventually did so with enthusiasm.) “Terror bombing” is as good a name as any for that, and yes, there is a broad consensus that it amounts to a war crime.

There may not have been a starvation blockade of Germany in WWII, but the US Navy submarine force enforced a very effective one against Japan. I just finished this book, in which the author argues that if the strategy of destroying Japanese merchant shipping had been pursued sooner and more vigorously, the Pacific war could have been ended, not only without the atomic bomb, but without most of the costly island battles of 1944-45.

From a humanitarian point of view, however, the thing about blockade is that it is inherently a weapon directed against noncombatants, because the target nation is going to give priority to feeding its military.

The truth is that war is a war crime, and just war theory is the thinnest and patchiest of hardened crusts over a lake of magma. Sherman had it right.

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politicalfootball 06.08.10 at 3:19 pm

It’s very possible that the victims got caught in a crossfire or that they were attacking one soldier and were shot in the back by another or that they got caught with an errant bullet or that they were shot in the front, were spun around…

Have we given due consideration to the suicide hypothesis? As I recall, multiple bullet wounds to the head was a common suicide technique in the old Soviet Union.

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Glen Tomkins 06.08.10 at 3:20 pm

dsquared,

While I don’t claim to have examined any studies that might quantify the relative shortage of food in WWII UK vs the Third Reich, everything anecdotal I have seen and read suggests that Europe under the Third Reich had a much more serious problem. Look at pictures of Germans from late in the war, and they are notably thin, with exceptions that prove the rule (I recall one picture of Werner von Braun and his family taken upon his internment by Allied forces. The rocket scientists and their families had special rations to allow this research on “wonder weapons” to proceed unhindered, so von Braun and his family stand out amongst the others in the picture as being the only ones who look well-fed.) You read primary sources, and they keep mentioning that one of the big draws to enlisting in the Wehrmacht, or not actively trying to evade service, was that at least they tried to feed the troops enough to live and fight on. And the book you cite, Slaughterhouse Five, mentions the huge problem the baby formula factory in Dresden (that the hero worked in) had keeping workers from spooning a bit of the product on the side. Yecky as it tasted, it was presented as an alternative to starvation that made it irresistable.

Was it this bad in the UK, ever, during WWII? What I read about conditions in the UK is that people had to make do with very limited sugar, limited butter, limited eggs, limited meat. But were people spooning baby formula from the vats at their workplaces?

As to why the Reich would have trouble producing food despite being in occupation of rich agricultural lands, that is less reliant on anecdotal evidence. Sure, the UK and the US raised large armies in WWII, relative to their peacetime establishments. But Germany and the USSR were in an entirely different league. The US raised 92 divisions in that war, Germany over 500, from a much smaller population base, and their divisions required replacements at levels not experienced by US forces. This was a manpower drain we have no basis of comparison for. By the end, the Germans were going back over their medical draft exemptions and calling in even the frankly disabled. They had to put the digestive disorder people all in one battalion, the famous Magen Battalion, because many of them needed special diets to be able to function at all (I’m guessing from this that many of them had celiac disease, but haven’t read any history detailed enough to be sure.)

Agriculture in Germany suffered greatly as a result of this diversion of manpower, and even worse from the diversion of draft animals. Again unlike the UK’s and US’s forces, most of the Wehrmacht relied on horse-drawn logistics, and even horse drawn artillery pieces, at a time when, again unlike the UK and US, German agriculture was still heavily reliant on draft animals. As with manpower, the needs of the army increasingly trumped the needs of agriculture, which saw production decline.

In the occupied territories, the manpower and draft animal situation was at least as bad, with the effects of partisans avitivity and other forms of resistance to occupation thrown in for good measure. Speer’s book talks about this issue of food production, he does cite figures quantifying shortage and decline within the Reich, not anecdotes, so that part of this matter really is prety solid (subject to the limitations of Speer’s credibility).

At any rate, proven shortage or not, if there are any limits whatever on what a blockading power is allowed by law to declare contraband, then food meets the criteria as something that cannot be considered contraband. Limitations on what is legitimate contraband are much wider, if any limits are being respected, and the US went to war with Great Britain in 1812, threatened to do so early in WWI and then went to war with Germany in WWI, precisely because we claimed that these powers stepped over the line in declaring items beyond war materiale as contraband.

When the US, early in the war, first started to plan for what to do with the captured Axis leaders, they assembled the leading experts in international law to draw up an outline of what potential war crimes the Axis leadership could be charged with. Top of the list were unrestricted submarine blockades and the bombing of civilian targets. The panel of top experts was quietly dismissed, since, of course, we couldn’t very well prosecute their side for what our side was doing with greater avidity and success.

I’m suggesting that it’s time to reconvene that panel of experts on international law. Let’s go back to common sense and common decency. Let’s try to be at least as reasonable and moral as Cardinal Richelieu. It’s something to shoot for.

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Anderson 06.08.10 at 3:26 pm

Until and unless the world retrenches from the excesses practiced by “the good guys”, the Allies, in WWII

I believe that happened in 1949, when the new Geneva Conventions were signed.

(The more contentious issue is whether carpet bombing was a war crime pre-1949, under Hague for instance. I think yes, but it’s complex.)

if the strategy of destroying Japanese merchant shipping had been pursued sooner and more vigorously, the Pacific war could have been ended, not only without the atomic bomb, but without most of the costly island battles of 1944-45

Probably true, but it’s not immediately obvious how starving civilians to death is all that much superior to burning them to death. I mean, I’d rather be starved personally if those are the choices, but either way, you’re killing people. Blockade especially targets children and the old.

I would remind all that the RN blockade of Germany in WW1 was so severe that Herbert Hoover became famous for leading the relief effort to keep the country from starving to death. (Then he became president and showed rather less compassion for his countrymen.)

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Planeshift 06.08.10 at 3:27 pm

“I think the law is quite well established that a defensive naval blockade of a combatant’s coastline is legal (so long as it is enforced)”

That does seem a bit absurd. So Israel is allowed to blockade Gaza, provided they actually enforce the blockade, but is illegal for them to blockade it in a half-arsed or unenforced manner?

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Anderson 06.08.10 at 3:27 pm

… Glen, I think Germans ate pretty well until 1944 or so.

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Barry 06.08.10 at 3:28 pm

politicalfootball: “Have we given due consideration to the suicide hypothesis? As I recall, multiple bullet wounds to the head was a common suicide technique in the old Soviet Union.”

No, multiple bullet wounds would clearly be murder. One bullet wound to the back of the head, while kneeling in front of a pit, *that* would clearly meet the Dershowitzian criteria for suicide. Or should I call it ‘asymmetric warfare’, as one US Navy maggot of an admiral said about some prisoners commiting (or attempting) suicide in Gitmo?

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Tom Hurka 06.08.10 at 3:29 pm

Well, some people think it’s more important to get the principles right, which they don’t think is just a game, than to say with a note of triumph (not to say glee) “Look what he says with a note of triumph (not to say glee).”

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Barry 06.08.10 at 3:32 pm

Tom, could you please clarify – for example, to whom are you replying?

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dsquared 06.08.10 at 3:32 pm

The Strategic Bombing Survey (p34 http://aupress.au.af.mil/Books/USSBS/USSBS.pdf has “Food, though strictly rationed, was in nutritionally adequate supply throughout the war. The Germans’ diet had about the same calories as the British”.

Notoriously, not only did the German war economy not mobilise the female labour force, they didn’t even get rid of domestic servants until well into the war.

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Jack Strocchi 06.08.10 at 3:34 pm

Chris Bertram quotes Alan Dershowitz:

and perhaps they are also somewhat different from pure armed combatants.

I like that “perhaps”, as if it might turn out, after further legal cogitation by the professor, that torpedoing or bombing the convoy would be a legitimate act.

Talk about loading supposition upon supposition to score a lame point.

Dershowitz is speculating that “perhaps” the evidence might show that the “civilians” were “somewhat different from pure armed combatants”. Evidence is what it is, independent of “legal cogitation”. So far the evidence prima facie shows that the “civilians” were attempting to run a lawful blockade, were armed with lethal weapons and used them to prevent a lawful arrest.

Which would supports Dershowitz’s conclusion that the “civilians” were closer to “combatants” than pure “innocents”. The sort of thing that happens all the time when irregular forces and their supporting elements confront a regular military.

Even then its another stretch to suggest that Dershowitz would contemplate the sinking of the blockade runners. Although then again maybe he would, he does not seem to have been to cut up about the sinking of the USS Liberty.

None of which is to suggest that the IDF’s behaviour was beyond reproach. It behaved legally, but not wisely. These kinds of incidents are inevitable when one people’s military force occupies another peoples territory.

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tom bach 06.08.10 at 3:35 pm

Anderson,
I think you are confusing Germany and Belgium; Hoover led the Committee for the Relief in Belgium, which — as the name suggests — aided the Belgians, until the US entered the war. He did, it is true, led a more general relief effort after the war’s conclusion.

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Anderson 06.08.10 at 3:39 pm

Sorry to be unclear — I did indeed mean the relief after the war. The blockade continued for some time after Nov. 1918, since there was no “surrender” just an “armistice.” Cats in Berlin were served up as “roof rabbit.”

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Chris Bertram 06.08.10 at 3:53 pm

I think Tom is replying to me. But Jacob has it right. By all means enter into arguments about principles, but don’t mistake Dershowitz (and his ilk) for someone who is sincerely engaged in an argument about principles.

(Even with argument about principles, though, I confess to a sort of Bernard Williamsy/Anscombish queasiness – I can’t put it more articulately than that – about the morally corrosive effects of trying to work out an elaborate system of exceptions, excuses etc in the matter of killing people.)

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chris 06.08.10 at 4:02 pm

As I recall, multiple bullet wounds to the head was a common suicide technique in the old Soviet Union.

Aren’t a substantial number of Israelis recent immigrants from the Soviet Union? Maybe they learned the technique there and provided on-the-spot instruction to the blockade runners.

Anyway, IIRC the dispositive issue in cases like this isn’t the fact that the entry wound is on the back of the head (since that can also occur when shooting fleeing targets), but the presence of gunpowder residue on the back of the head, which indicates point-blank range, leading to an inference that the target had already been immobilized or had surrendered.

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Anderson 06.08.10 at 4:05 pm

I understand Chris Bertram’s queasiness — just imagine being the guy who coined the word “overkill” — but the alternative to principled killing is unprincipled killing.

And surely ethics has to have something to say on such a subject, if it’s good for anything.

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John Meredith 06.08.10 at 4:15 pm

“That does seem a bit absurd. So Israel is allowed to blockade Gaza, provided they actually enforce the blockade, but is illegal for them to blockade it in a half-arsed or unenforced manner?”

As I understand it, yes, that is right. A blockade is legal (if it is legal) only if it is enforced.

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Sebastian 06.08.10 at 4:18 pm

We’re mixing ‘legal’, ‘just’, and ‘wise’ all together as if they were three identical concepts.

Blockades between combatants are *legal*.

Sinking or killing the people on the ship was at that point in the encounter *unwise* and *unjust*. It was unwise because of the propaganda value. It was unjust because Israel could have disabled the ship instead and is not in a U-boat situation where they would have been unable to make certain that the boat did not make it to Gaza.

The blockade itself may or may not be *unjust*. There are about a million things we could talk about in the never ending circle of Palestinian nastiness and Israeli nastiness to weigh that out. I’m not getting sucked in to a general weighing of which side is nastier/stupider/less willing to engage in peace. Suffice to say that they have both been very nasty/stupid/unwilling to engage in peace.

I’m not nearly so sure as d-squared claims to be that blockading a non-state combatant is *illegal*. But it certainly *isn’t unjust* as an abstract proposition. (The justice value of this particular blockade is of course subject to my previous paragraph). Gaza and Israel are clearly at war with each other whatever the *legal* niceties are. If Israel declared Gaza a state, demanded that they stop attacking Israel, and blockaded we would be in exactly the same situation we are in now with all the same *justice* implications that we have now (and which I am fully aware that people disagree about).

Whatever side you come down on about the justice of the blockade, I’m pretty sure that a vast majority will come down on the exact same side whether or not Gaza is characterized as a state. So it apparently is a distinction without a difference in this discussion.

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Yarrow 06.08.10 at 4:23 pm

the alternative to principled killing is unprincipled killing.

The alternative to pretending your murders are principled is admitting that they aren’t.

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John Meredith 06.08.10 at 4:28 pm

“The alternative to pretending your murders are principled is admitting that they aren’t.”

I know this is probably just middle east stridency (every discussion about that part of the world gets infected with it) but it does seem that some people in this discussion think that Israel actually sent troops out to the flotillathat night expressly to murder protesters but luckily decided, somewhat arbitrarily, that nine victims would be about enough. Is that really what you think Yarrow and ilk? I am really curious (no, not in that sense).

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Henri Vieuxtemps 06.08.10 at 4:33 pm

Gaza is not a state. It’s a refugee camp.

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Henry 06.08.10 at 4:44 pm

Briefly – on dsquared’s discussion at #5 of Gandhi’s salt march – I’d independently made the same comparison when I read Christopher Caldwell’s “nearly equally repellent apologia”:http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/46af7dca-7007-11df-8698-00144feabdc0.html in the _FT_ on Saturday.

bq. The boats, sponsored by a Turkish charity with ties to Islamist radicalism, had a humanitarian objective: to deliver aid to Gazan ports. But as the flotilla leaders themselves acknowledged, they also had a military one: to break the blockade of Gaza that Israel imposed in 2007. When participants in a conflict blur the line between civilians and combatants, good options disappear. Under the circumstances, the raid was neither stupid nor botched. It successfully repelled an attack on Israel’s borders, albeit at considerably higher cost than Israel would have wished.

It’s quite clear that some of the people on the flotilla were spoiling for a fight. But it’s equally clear that those who who were there because they rightly considered Israel’s blockade on Gaza to be a morally abhorrent exercise in collective punishment are military targets under the Caldwell criterion, and their deaths would at best constitute moderately regrettable “considerably higher costs.”

And there’s some evidence for dsquared’s suggestion at #8 that

bq. I think my adjusted version may describe the decision process more accurately, because we’re not actually seeing a forward process of reasoning from ethical principles to permissible actions here – it’s a backward process starting from the answers in the back of the book.

From an “article”:http://harmonicminor.com/2007/12/09/a-million-little-writers/ from the defunct _02138_ magazine.

bq. Several of his researchers say that Dershowitz doesn’t subscribe to the scholarly convention of researching first, then drawing conclusions. Instead, as a lawyer might, he writes his conclusions, leaving spaces where he’d like sources or case law to back up a thesis. On several occasions where the research has suggested opposite conclusions, his students say, he has asked them to go back and look for other cases, or simply to omit the discrepant information. “That’s the way it’s done; a piecemeal, ass-backwards way,” says one student who has firsthand experience with the writing habits of Dershowitz and other tenured colleagues. “They write first, make assertions, and farm out [the work] to research assistants to vet it. They do very little of the research themselves.”

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Yarrow 06.08.10 at 4:54 pm

John Meredith @ 89:

I see no reason to call murder by state action something other than murder. This has very little to do with the Middle East.

As to the current topic, depraved indifference to human life might be the most accurate description. Yes?

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dsquared 06.08.10 at 4:57 pm

A blockade is legal (if it is legal) only if it is enforced

this is there to stop someone like North Korea declaring a blockade on the whole world and using it as an excuse to randomly harass any ship that takes their fancy.

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dsquared 06.08.10 at 5:09 pm

And further to #93, this is why the state of relations between Israel and Gaza matters a great deal with respect to the blockade. Because the injured party when Israel boards a Turkish ship in international waters and kills nine Turkish citizens is Turkey, not Gaza. Turkey, and any other nation, has the right to assume that their ships can go about unmolested in international waters in all but extraordinary circumstances.

If the “blockade” was enforced by Israel in its own territorial waters (which include those waters which would be territorial to Gaza if it was a state, which it isn’t), then Israel can basically do what it likes to interdict shipping, because it is sovereign over its territorial waters and if it wants to stop ships going to Gaza it’s allowed to.

But that’s not what happened. The Turkish ship was raided in international waters. Turkey (and anyone else who cares about international navigation) has the right to expect that this won’t be done, except in cases of a proper, legal blockade. One of the characteristics of such a blockade is that it occurs in the context of a conflict between parties that recognise each other as belligerents. Thus, the position in international law is that if you’re going to claim the right to mess other people’s ships around in international waters, you have concomitant responsibilities which are inconvenient to you.

The point is that if you’ve got a purely domestic conflict against insurgents, you have to keep it domestic, which means not messing around in international waters. If your conflict is international, then you have to recognise that it is actually a war, not a domestic counterterrorist campaign. You can’t have your cake and eat it (that’s for Israel – for Gaza, the rule is “you can’t have your cake at all, because of the blockade”).

And once more, the whole problem arises because the legal argument has been constructed backwards, from what the IDF did, to something that looks like a legal justification for it. If it had been constructed forwards (from the relevant law, to what it’s permissible to do), then they would have waited until the ship was in their own territorial waters. I don’t know why they didn’t, but they didn’t.

I suspect that Sebastian’s response would be that the difference between “Israel’s territorial waters” and “International waters” isn’t really one of justice. But actually I think this it’s a very important one.

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y81 06.08.10 at 5:42 pm

“The point is that if you’ve got a purely domestic conflict against insurgents, you have to keep it domestic, which means not messing around in international waters. “

That is not what Lincoln did, nor is it what the Supreme Court said in the Prize Cases. (It’s not even exactly what Prof. Heller is arguing on opinio juris.) The fact is, no foreign government recognized the Confederacy, and the conflict was purely domestic.

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dsquared 06.08.10 at 5:48 pm

blah blah recognised as a belligerent, blah. Apparently you’ve read the Opinio Juris post, so have I, so can our readers and when they have they can make up their own minds about whether you’re being honest here, y81.

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y81 06.08.10 at 5:51 pm

Gosh, dsquared (@96), why the ad hominem aspersion? Is it truly impossible for an honest person to disagree with you?

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praisegod barebones 06.08.10 at 6:20 pm

Maybe everyone else is aware of this, but someone other than d squared who is fairly sure the blockade is illegal is Craig Murray.

http://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2010/0/why_san_remo_do.html#comments

Unlike a lot of participants in thnis debate, he seems to have had soem claim to knowing about international maritime law before this incident; which may conceivably count for something.

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Glen Tomkins 06.08.10 at 6:36 pm

dsquared,

Well, if the food blockade of Europe didn’t succeed at causing actual starvation-level food shortages, and that surely was the USSBS’s point (part of their wider contention that strategic bombing had very limited and selected utility at helping win the war), does that make starvation, either as merely attempted unsuccessfully or as actually achieved, a reasonable and decent war measure? If the blockade was not intended to at least threaten starvation, then why would the Allies have gone against the international law of the day and made food contraband?

It is true that the USSBS has a reputation for impartiality gained by its overall finding that strategic bombing, at least as thrown indiscriminately at civilian populations rather than targeted at, say, rail or oil, was ineffective. But I have some doubt as to whether the adequacy of the food supply in the waning days of the Third Reich, or its comparability to that of the UK during the war, is something that lends itself as well to quantitative analysis of production and distribution as, say, the German ball-bearing industry. As you correctly point out, the peculiarity of National Socialism’s infatuation with free markets left some strange lacunae in govt control of industry that Western govts whose parties did not have the word “Socialism” anywhere on the label had no trouble filling ruthlessly and efficiently. Did the Reich keep careful enough control, and careful enough records, of food production and distribution, actual deliveries and not just quotas and ever-optimistic projections, that anyone could say with confidence that it was able to deliver a UK-comparable diet even up to the full year before the end that Anderson suggests was the “only” time they fell short? Of course quantitative evidence is to be preferred to qualitative, where it is available. But do we really have quantitative evidence that answers the same summative question, “Did the system get an adequate diet to end-users?”, as the anecdotes that overwhelmingly suggest that it didn’t, especially in that last year of the war?

But even if the USSBS finding of equal quantitative, calorie-for-calorie, outcomes of the UK’s self-imposed food rationing, and the blockade-constrained rationing of the Third Reich, were absolutely true, are these two really the same? I signed up for Ranger School, and, predictably, lost 35 pounds that I did not, at that time, have to lose. Several “jounalists” have very publically undergone voluntary water-boarding. But, you know, these journalists and I, had this over the victims of the Allied food blockade. We were all fit and young at the time (Well, physically fit, as the mental competence of people who sign up for Ranger School or to be water-boarded is obviously open to question. ), no infants, pregnant or old people in the lot of us (I could stand to lose that 35 lbs today, but am quickly deterred from trying the Ranger School regimen by the certainty that I would be dead in a week if I did that at my age.)and knew all along that we could call a halt when we had had enough. Two thirds of my class did just that, call it quits. People in Europe under the Third Reich didn’t have that option. People in Gaza today don’t have that option.

It’s a diet when you control the food spigot, it’s starvation when someone else does. The UK put itself on a diet in WWII, to free up resources for the war effort. German-occupied Europe was starved. Olmert and his intended audience may no longer recognize the difference, but I think most of us can.

There’s a reason that international law developed to deny blockading nations the right to make any and everything contraband. To destroy an economy without discrimination between civilian and military use, is to destroy civilian and military without discrimination. People can’t live without a functioning economy.

You either respect the distinction between military and civilian, or you don’t. I can’t see how the fact of an incomplete, unsuccessful, stab at mass starvation, in any way erases the importance of making that distinction, if you think it’s a valid distinction to even try to make.

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ScentOfViolets 06.08.10 at 6:41 pm

Can a non-violent movement can ally itself with a violent movement without compromising itself beyond redemption? Or can it redeem the violent movement?

Are you implying that trying to get humanitarian aid to the Palestinians in Gaza is the equivalent of aiding Hamas? That actually seems to be the logic some people are pining their hopes of legitimacy on – anything that helps the civilian Palestinians helps Hamas, which means people who do so are actively aiding a terrorist organization, and so they are terrorists themselves and can be dealt with accordingly.

I don’t think many people would agree with the premise, except insofar as it was constructed as an after the fact justification for certain actions.

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praisegod barebones 06.08.10 at 6:43 pm

Chris @83

While I think I understand what you’re getting at here, there seems something odd about describing your current queasiness as Anscombean. Wasn’t Anscombe something of a champion of Just War Theory. And isn’t JWT precisely ‘an elaborate system of exceptions, excuses etc in the matter of killing people.’

the alternative to principled killing is unprincipled killing

This isn’t true. It’s an alternative. There is another one.

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chris 06.08.10 at 6:52 pm

But it certainly isn’t unjust as an abstract proposition.

If you’re going to distinguish between justice and legality, wouldn’t you have to conclude that all blockades are unjust because their impact (both in terms of enforcement, and in terms of the effect on the blockaded territory if the blockade is successful) falls primarily on noncombatants, who, by definition, aren’t perpetuating the conflict that allegedly justifies the blockade?

As an abstract proposition you can ignore the things that may or may not make this blockade worse than any other, but as an abstract proposition blockades in general are pretty damn bad. Arguably right up there with firebombing and nuking of cities. (Blockades are to bombing as slow strangulation is to a bullet to the head: the result is the same, only the schedule is different.) They’re a collective punishment, and not even in the “you’re wearing the same uniform and thus supporting the same organization” sense.

it does seem that some people in this discussion think that Israel actually sent troops out to the flotillathat night expressly to murder protesters but luckily decided, somewhat arbitrarily, that nine victims would be about enough

The deaths of some flotilla members were completely foreseeable results of sending troops to attack the flotilla. If you don’t want people to get killed in a firefight, don’t start a firefight. Israel’s disregard for this fairly obvious concept could support an inference that whoever gave the go-ahead for this attack *did* want people to get killed in a firefight, or at least didn’t care.

Accepting responsibility for use of deadly force makes it hard to blockade if you’re not prepared to kill people, but since Israel clearly is prepared to kill, that’s not really an obstacle for them.

I’m a little amazed that people are willing to twist themselves into such knots in attempts to justify willingness (not necessarily eagerness, but willingness) to kill one set of civilians in order to perpetuate the pointless misery of another set of civilians. Raw tribalism triumphs over all, I guess, but I didn’t expect its triumph to be quite this complete.

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Barry 06.08.10 at 6:57 pm

“Can a non-violent movement can ally itself with a violent movement without compromising itself beyond redemption? Or can it redeem the violent movement?”

Do you realize that this pretty much d*mns all supporters of Israeli settlers, which means (a) the entire state of Israel (until such time as the Israeli people toss out thier settler governments, which will be never) and (b) all supporters of Israel in the USA?

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jre 06.08.10 at 7:01 pm

This is the perfect opportunity to hark back a few years, when Alan Dershowitz reminded John Rogers of a bar story.

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Glen Tomkins 06.08.10 at 7:04 pm

Anderson,

Sure, we added some provisions to the Law of Land Warfare in ’49. The outward forms continue — enhanced even. One of the offshoots of ’49 was that we did some things that purported to specifically disallow the “I was only following orders” defense of otherwise indefensible acts, because some of the Axis people tried for war crimes tried that defense.

My point is that, while we closed doors like the “only following orders” thing, which really were already closed, but which were things we could characterize as Axis wrong-doing, we failed, conspicuously, to address the sins of the Allies, things that, unlike the Good German thing, urgently needed correction.

I’m not aware that ’49 did anything to address law governing blockades. The Allies ignored all restricitions on blockading powers in WWII, but did not recognize and acknowledge that in ’49 by repealing those provisions of earlier law. You could argue that submarines were a new technology perhpas justifying some loosening of some standards (of notification of the target ship, for example), but, to my knowledge (would be happy to be instructed otherwise), we just pretended there were no issues to be addressed. We’re free to complain in the future if some other blockading power abuses the designation of contraband, but I guess we reserve the right to abuse away without restriction. This has always tended to be the stance of the power with the biggest fleet, so no changes there.

In terms of strategic bombing, obviously we needed an update to allow for technological changes, from earlier law, which, to my knowledge was arrived at before even Big Bertha, much less strategic bombers. An entire new set of delineations has to be drawn up to allow distinction between military and civilian, what can and can’t be targeted. But we don’t want to make this distinction. Just to cite the obvious, we rely on MAD as settled, stated, national policy, and MAD obliterates all hope of such distinction. The very idea is to threaten genocide, and therefore to carry it out if required, to make MAD work for the future (if there would be any future after any failure fo MAD). Even if you don’t take it to that extreme, no way was the US going to restrain in any way even its conventional advantage in “strategic” delivery systems, not even by submitting to any distinctions that might keep it from civilian targets.

So, yes, we still have laws governing warfare. We even continue to write new ones. It’s just that they’re dead letters in all the important respects, in all the cases that are still relevant.

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ScentOfViolets 06.08.10 at 7:20 pm

Well it is obvious that the armed conflict between Israel and Hamas is not an armed conflict exactly like others that have gone before, and there is lots of room to argue the toss about the legality of the blockade from that point of view, but if you accept Israel’s argument that they are in an international armed conflict of some kind (and it really does look like one to me), the blockade becomes legal. You might still think it is wrong (I do), but that is a different matter. I guess nobody here would object to a quarantining of Gaza.

The problem is – this is false. Israel claims that it’s actions were legal under something called the “San Remo Manual on International Law Applicable to Armed Conflict at Sea”, already referenced by several people. The problem is, the SRM claims that boardings in international waters to enforce a blockade, but only if the blockade allows humanitarion aid through, ie, blockades to prevent arms and war materiel from reaching the enemy is permissible. Blockades which inflict suffering on the civilian populace through denial of nonmilitary items is not.

As in so many other things, Israel and it’s apologists are reserving for themselves the right to define words and terms like “occupation” and “humanitarian aid”. They are unwilling to let a third party make the determination of what counts as humanitarian and what isn’t, so that say, seeds, fishing rods, children’s toys etc are considered weapons or war materiel of some sort. This isn’t a hypothetical, btw. When the Rachel Corrie was captured, it was inviting Israel to let the UN inspect the shipment for anything like ammunition, small arms, etc. Israel, of course, refused.

I’d say that it’s pretty much a sure thing that this blockade is illegal under the SRM and only apologists would think otherwise.

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roac 06.08.10 at 7:29 pm

I was raised on the belief that strategic bombing is a bad thing and ineffective, but there is a persuasive argument that it did win WWII: Not by shutting down the German economy, but by drawing the Luftwaffe up to try to stop the bombers, and destroying it (by means of P51 escort fighters newly fitted with drop tanks). A necessary condition to the success of the Normandy invasion.

(I have also seen it argued recently that, after years of promising to do it and failing, the strategic bomber boys were actually succeeding by late 1944 in shutting down the German war machine — by going after synthetic oil production, which was all Speer had left after the Red Army overran Romania.)

108

Bloix 06.08.10 at 7:39 pm

“It’s a diet when you control the food spigot, it’s starvation when someone else does. The UK put itself on a diet in WWII, to free up resources for the war effort. German-occupied Europe was starved. Olmert and his intended audience may no longer recognize the difference, but I think most of us can.”

It’s starvation when people, you know, starve.

The situation in Gaza is very bad. But it’s not famine. No observers have reported starvation. Food insecurity, yes, but not starvation.

The Nazis killed several million people, including millions of Jews, by manufacturing famines in Poland and Ukraine. When you compare Israeli actions to those of Nazis in “German-occupied Europe” you really should be sure that the situations are comparable.

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bianca steele 06.08.10 at 7:53 pm

Bloix,
Why is Gaza allowed to import frozen fish but not dried fish?

110

Jeremy A 06.08.10 at 8:05 pm

In his piece June 7, Elie Wiesel just comes out and calls the activists combatants:

http://www.nydailynews.com/opinions/2010/06/07/2010-06-07_the_activists_wanted_violence.html

…because it was in a war zone, the activists were armed and lying in wait for the IDF, etc. And he knows all this because he’s checked out “video clips made by both Israelis and their prisoners, and also from their testimonies.”

Well, if you can’t trust the IDF’s video editors, who can you trust?

Also, I’m sad to say I share Glen Tomkins’ cynicism about JWT in practice. (Or is it pessimism? I’m not sure of the best adjective.) Witness Obama’s twist on the “just obeying orders” defense: he’s given CIA torturers a pass not on the grounds that they were ordered to do blatantly illegal and bad things (and hence might have faced harsh punishments if they had refused), but merely because they believed it was legal.

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ajay 06.08.10 at 8:43 pm

99: It’s a diet when you control the food spigot, it’s starvation when someone else does. The UK put itself on a diet in WWII, to free up resources for the war effort. German-occupied Europe was starved

Wow, I’ve come across Holocaust denial, but I don’t think I’ve ever actually seen Battle of the Atlantic denial before.

Maybe I should become a Guadalcanal denialist.
“There’s no evidence that the battle happened! All those rusting helmets and M-1s could have been planted there after the war!”

112

Kaveh 06.08.10 at 8:53 pm

John Meredith @89 and others who are curious about how much this was premeditated:

I’m finding conflicting reports in English about the autopsy results. The Guardian says 4 shots total, 2 to the head, and gives more detail. I’d like to find a link to the original. According to ABC News and WaPo, the autopsy of Furkan Dogan, the 19-year old US citizen killed in the attack, found that he was shot four times in the head with 9mm bullets (most of the bullet wounds examined in the autopsies were from 9mms) from a distance of <0.45m. If I understand right, 9mm bullets are used in handguns, not automatic weapons. Hence the description of his killing as an execution.

Also, one person was shot on the top of the head, which corresponds to an eyewitness reports that the IDF helicopters were firing onto the Mavi Marmara before boarding, which is also presumably why the crew resisted the landing party.

I think multiple eyewitness reports talk about the helicopters laying down suppressive fire before boarding, which is how one person was killed before the boarding.

I think this is part of a pattern of the IDF using defensive tactics or weapons in an aggressive way, so that people get killed. Hence the repeated instances of demonstrators being shot in the head with teargas cannisters–these shots must have been aimed to hit their targets in the head, and not to release teargas at their position, because to actually release teargas you aim for the ground where you want the teargas cloud, not at head level.

ABC report: http://abcnews.go.com/WN/Media/american-killed-gaza-aid-flotilla/story?id=10814848

eyewitness account:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0cQ69oKFtVg&feature=player_embedded

As to whether the assault was premeditated, and not simply a bungled attempt to capture the boats, an article in Maariv 3 days before the raid shows that the IDF and Netanyahu were publicly talking about how there could be a need to use deadly force on the boats, which they were afraid would participate in terrorist attacks. Caption for the article reads: "On the way to violence; one of the boats is on its way."

Max Blumenthal quoting the Maariv article:

This operation was approved by Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defense Minister Barak and will be led by the commander of the Navy, Lieutenant Colonel Eliezer Maron, who is nicknamed “Cheney.” If the people aboard the boats will not agree to turn around, the operation will transfer to the stage of force. “We are afraid that there will be a terror attack by the boats,” said a high ranking officer. “If terrorists have gotten on the boats or if there is an intention to use hot weapons against our forces, we will use full seriousness and caution. We want to avoid using force but as soon as there will be danger to the life of our forces we will be forced to use live fire as a last resort.

http://maxblumenthal.com/2010/06/the-flotilla-raid-was-not-bungled-the-idf-detailed-its-violent-strategy-in-advance/

I think all of this, especially the Maariv article, supports the claim made up-thread, that the Israeli gov’t is trying to maintain a permanent state of war with Palestinians that gives cover to their attempts to confiscate land, water, and so on. Shouting “war” raises the stakes and drowns out any questioning of the appropriateness, necessity, or proportionality of particular actions. In other words, “we’re at war, our existence is threatened, so anything goes.” Which works out great for them, because the longer their existence is threatened, the longer they can go on receiving US military aid, taking Palestinian land, and so on, and this has the added benefit of acknowledging a real fear by Israelis and some segment of the diaspora, while also creating more justifications for that fear.

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Bunbury 06.08.10 at 8:59 pm

Wiesel’s piece is the last nail in the coffin of my contention that repeating Bloody Sunday won’t win you a peace prize.

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Anderson 06.08.10 at 9:01 pm

Re: principled killing, I admire those who call on states not to kill anyone ever again, but I see that as rather a long-term goal.

drawing the Luftwaffe up to try to stop the bombers, and destroying it (by means of P51 escort fighters newly fitted with drop tanks).

This is I think a touch ex post facto, like the argument that German AA batteries would otherwise have been used on the Russian front, etc. Legitimate targets would still have required defense. The P-51s were actually an argument *against* terror bombing, because they made daylight raids feasible, so that targets smaller than “a city” could be attempted.

the strategic bomber boys were actually succeeding by late 1944 in shutting down the German war machine—by going after synthetic oil production

*This* was the way to shut down the Luftwaffe, and the Wehrmacht too, but was largely an American preoccupation. Arthur Harris screamed bloody murder (so to speak) when anyone tried to get him to bomb something other than civilians.

Randall Hansen, Fire and Fury:

Area bombing not only failed to win the war, it probably prolonged it. * * * After both the ball bearings and the dam raids, Speer waited in fear for repeat attacks. That they did not come was in large part thanks to Harris.

Speer of course is not a 100% trustworthy source, but Adam Tooze agrees at least that German industry was crippled by “severing the rail links and waterways between the Ruhr and the rest of Germany,” not by burning down cities, and that Bomber Command erred in 1943 by shifting its focus from western German industry.

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Anderson 06.08.10 at 9:03 pm

Why is Gaza allowed to import frozen fish but not dried fish?

Should be the other way around. I’d much rather have Hamas fire dried fish at me than frozen fish. Ouch!

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roac 06.08.10 at 9:13 pm

Did the post from which Anderson quotes suggest that I was defending area/terror bombing, as opposed to attacks against war production and transportation? That was certainly not the intention.

(The argument for the importance of the latter to winning the war is from Richard Overy’s Why the Allies Won Anderson has evidently read it. Overy may of course be wrong, but he’s highly regarded.)

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Anderson 06.08.10 at 9:17 pm

Re: Geneva, Convention IV prohibits “violence to life and person” against “persons taking no active part in the hostilities.”

… Btw, Arthur Harris cited the ww1 blockade as justification for his own contribution to the war.

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Anderson 06.08.10 at 9:19 pm

That was certainly not the intention.

And I certainly didn’t mean to imply that. I was rebutting the “persuasive argument” and what you had “seen argued.” Sorry for any mistake on my part.

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roac 06.08.10 at 9:24 pm

Harris makes a splendid villain, of course, but the fact is that to get his way, he had to convince Churchill, and Churchill always bought what he was selling.

Of course, one thing that was always on Churchill’s mind was the need to show Stalin that Britain was doing something.

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leederick 06.08.10 at 9:28 pm

Leaving aside the argument about the state of relations between Israel and Gaza, I’m not sure it’s right to argue that some form of blockade would be legal and leave it at that, without agreeing that any actual blockade which is being enforced in practice is lawful. Blockading powers don’t have very wide discretion. There are plenty of specific rules on aspects like diversion, the treatment of the ships, the materials which should be allowed to pass through the blockade, and the treatments of their crews, which have to be observed for a particular blockade to be lawful. And I’m not sure they were in this case.

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Anderson 06.08.10 at 9:30 pm

Churchill is indeed at fault for giving Harris free rein. Indeed, Churchill’s notorious backpedaling after Dresden shows that Churchill knew better but did nothing.

That does not exculpate Harris of course, any more than Hitler is an excuse for Himmler or Heydrich.

Mass killing of civilians was of course a plausible way to impress a Stalin, but that has never struck me as a sound excuse. Particularly after 1942.

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Bloix 06.08.10 at 9:38 pm

Bianca Steele – It’s the nature of these sorts of lists to be irrational. I don’t know about the dried fish/frozen fish reasoning, but many of the distinctions are efforts to draw lines between things can be consumed only by end-user consumers and things that would be useful as an input into a value-added operation – so that things that can be used in an office, a bakery, etc. are barred. It’s a conscious effort to cripple the economy.

A good discussion of the blockade is here: http://gisha.org/index.php?intLanguage=2&intItemId=1798&intSiteSN=119

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ScentOfViolets 06.08.10 at 9:45 pm

It’s a conscious effort to cripple the economy.

According the SMR that Israel wanted to use to justify it’s actions, This is illegal. End of story. So do you now agree that what Israel did is not legal? Or are you going to drop the SMR as a source and try to adopt something else?

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ScentOfViolets 06.08.10 at 9:49 pm

It’s a conscious effort to cripple the economy.

According the SMR that Israel wanted to use to justify it’s actions, This is illegal. They’ll have to find some other quasi-official documentation to shore up claims of legality.

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y81 06.08.10 at 9:52 pm

Don’t underestimate pettiness, venality, and the possibility that the frozen fish marketers of Israel want Gaza as an export market, whereas the dried fish marketers don’t have the ear of the appropriate bureaucrat.

126

James Allen 06.08.10 at 10:11 pm

Apologies in advance if these points have already been made (I made it through about 75% of the comments – then got tuckered).

1) 9mm ammunition is the standard of the Israeli Uzi. The wounds don’t sound at all surprising considering the nature of the (automatic) weapon, the close range of the encounter, and the chaotic positioning on deck. You can see the soldiers carrying Uzis as they were lowered onto the deck, by rope, from helicopters.

2) Israeli soldiers were being assaults with lead pipes before their feet even hit the deck (one was even thrown overboard). You can reference footage of the boarding released by the IDF. Claims that this was a “peaceful protest” are either errant, or are employing a strange definition of the word “peaceful”. Countless other ships have been boarded by the IDF without incident.

3) The floatillas were not blocked. They were directed to a port where they could unload their “humanitarian aid”, but refused to do so. There have been complaints that the amount of humanitarian aid reaching Gaza is inadequate, and is possibly being hampered by IDF rules, but this is a separate issue.

4) It is irrelevant whether the impetus or motivation for a blockade is legal with regard to running a blockade. What matters, only, is that the blockading nation has announced that a blockade exists. Once a nation has announced that they have established a blockade (they must do this), civilian ships are obligated to avoid the blockade (no matter the underlying justifications for the blockade). Running the blockade, particularly when aware of its existence, is not a legal action. The blockading forces must first tell the ship to turn back, then fire over the bow, then they can board, defend themselves if necessary, and finally can sink the ship if boarding fails and the ship still refuses to turn back.

I make these points because they are, roughly speaking, the facts – at least, to the best of my knowledge.

Portraying this event as a “massacre” requires, I think, grand speculative leaps of imagination. Many ships have been boarded, and this was the only violent incident. The IDF had nothing to gain from a “massacre”. The crew assaulted the boarding party. Considering the weaponry at the IDFs disposal and the number of attackers on deck, casualties were light. There is nothing at all that indicates a massacre.

We might, depending on our political dispositions, imagine that the floatilla was merely making a protest; however, even if this was their intention, they failed to accomplish it the moment they attacked the boarding crew. We might be tempted to grant them a pass on that, after all, everyone makes mistakes, and it must be frightening to see soldiers descending on one’s head, but it doesn’t change the fact that, at best, at the very best, it was a botched protest.

At worst, in the process of manufacturing an incident, the foatilla “protesters” have potentially damaged the credibility of real humanitarian groups. You know, the kind that maintain political neutrality. Remember those?

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dsquared 06.08.10 at 10:14 pm

Wow, I’ve come across Holocaust denial, but I don’t think I’ve ever actually seen Battle of the Atlantic denial before.

Indeed. Just as much to the point, how do you blockade Europe? The UK is a medium-sized island. Europe is a continent. Having Europe surrounded is very different from having the UK surrounded. Starvation of occupied populations was the fault of the Nazis, not us.

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nick s 06.08.10 at 10:30 pm

Why is Gaza allowed to import frozen fish but not dried fish?

Because frozen fish spoils when the power goes out, which, in Gaza, it does quite a bit. (File under ‘petty venality’.)

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The Raven 06.08.10 at 10:33 pm

“Do you realize that this pretty much d*mns all supporters of Israeli settlers?”

That is why I talk about a “moral swamp.” Both sides are in the “wrong,” and sinking deeper.

“Are you implying that trying to get humanitarian aid to the Palestinians in Gaza is the equivalent of aiding Hamas?”

It is not, so far as I can tell, possible to aid a civilian population and not also aid its political leadership and military arm. Will Hamas give civilians priority over its troops in the distribution of food? If not, then the “humanitarian aid” becomes logistic support. The first time I heard the phrase “humanitarian aid” in a similar context was in the Reagan administration’s provision of logistic support–that is, food, water, and medicine–to the Nicaraguan contras.

The Israelis would be well advised to stop. There is no way they can win this without committing great atrocities. If the shock from this massacre leads them to repudiate atrocities then it will have been successful. But I doubt that outcome. I think the biggest victor here is the Islamic Turkish Justice and Development Party.

And us corvids, of course.

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Chris Bertram 06.08.10 at 10:35 pm

Praisegod@101 Yes, I can see why you find that odd. I’d just say that both in what Anscombe says about consequentialism and in Mr Truman’s Degree there’s a rejection of an algorithmic approach to moral decision-making. JWT, as we find it in a lot of commentary is a matter of box ticking, abstracted from the real exercise of judgement.

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Bruce Baugh 06.08.10 at 10:39 pm

I’m wearily disappointed that all of Bloix’s analyses of the Balkans, central Africa, and the like turns out to basically be supporting rationalizations for arguments in favor of Israel’s policy toward Palestine.

Not hugely surprised, but bored and disappointed.

132

James Allen 06.08.10 at 11:25 pm

“Why is Gaza allowed to import frozen fish but not dried fish?” – bianca steele

Dried fish can be more easily stockpiled. Mind you, if you can import salt and frozen fish, you can dry your own with some extra effort. Still, it’s not exactly arbitrary.

133

Sebastian 06.09.10 at 12:34 am

“The point is that if you’ve got a purely domestic conflict against insurgents, you have to keep it domestic, which means not messing around in international waters. If your conflict is international, then you have to recognise that it is actually a war, not a domestic counterterrorist campaign. “

I would tend to agree with you if the ship doesn’t have the stated intention of running the blockade.

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ScentOfViolets 06.09.10 at 12:58 am

2) Israeli soldiers were being assaults with lead pipes before their feet even hit the deck (one was even thrown overboard). You can reference footage of the boarding released by the IDF. Claims that this was a “peaceful protest” are either errant, or are employing a strange definition of the word “peaceful”. Countless other ships have been boarded by the IDF without incident.

The overwhelming evidence indicates that the IDF fired on this ship before attempting to board. You don’t think the fact that Israel admitted the footage was edited was maybe a clue that it was useless as to indicating what the context was?

3) The floatillas were not blocked. They were directed to a port where they could unload their “humanitarian aid”, but refused to do so. There have been complaints that the amount of humanitarian aid reaching Gaza is inadequate, and is possibly being hampered by IDF rules, but this is a separate issue.

This is precisely the issue. Are you seriously saying you’re just hearing about this for the first time – and from one side only. Very few people are against a blockade that keeps out arms and war materiel. Quite a few people are concerned that this blockade is a punitive response against a civilian population and that not enough is passing through.

4) It is irrelevant whether the impetus or motivation for a blockade is legal with regard to running a blockade. What matters, only, is that the blockading nation has announced that a blockade exists. Once a nation has announced that they have established a blockade (they must do this), civilian ships are obligated to avoid the blockade (no matter the underlying justifications for the blockade). Running the blockade, particularly when aware of its existence, is not a legal action. The blockading forces must first tell the ship to turn back, then fire over the bow, then they can board, defend themselves if necessary, and finally can sink the ship if boarding fails and the ship still refuses to turn back.

Again, this completely false . . . by the rules Israel has said it is abiding by, the SRM for international conflict at sea. It states – and this is Israel’s official justification mind you – that boarding a vessel in international waters is legal if it is suspected of attempting to run a blockade. It also states – and this is the part that is not cited by Israel – that boardings are legal unless the blockade does not permit humanitarian aid through and if the blockade is punitive in nature towards a civilian populace.

As I said, this has been covered extensively over the last several days, so you should have no trouble checking these facts out for yourself.

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ScentOfViolets 06.09.10 at 1:03 am

“Are you implying that trying to get humanitarian aid to the Palestinians in Gaza is the equivalent of aiding Hamas?”

It is not, so far as I can tell, possible to aid a civilian population and not also aid its political leadership and military arm. Will Hamas give civilians priority over its troops in the distribution of food? If not, then the “humanitarian aid” becomes logistic support. The first time I heard the phrase “humanitarian aid” in a similar context was in the Reagan administration’s provision of logistic support—that is, food, water, and medicine—to the Nicaraguan contras.

Sigh. You must know you’ve at one stroke made everyone into a combatant. I don’t know if you’ve done this deliberately or not, but you’ve just removed deliberately starving a civilian populace from the list of war crimes. Let me rephrase then: Are you implying that trying to get humanitarian aid to the Palestinians in Gaza is the equivalent of aiding Hamas by giving them arms and war materiel?

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ScentOfViolets 06.09.10 at 1:06 am

“Why is Gaza allowed to import frozen fish but not dried fish?” – bianca steele

Dried fish can be more easily stockpiled. Mind you, if you can import salt and frozen fish, you can dry your own with some extra effort. Still, it’s not exactly arbitrary.

Is this like the chemicals found under my kitchen sink and in my garage that make me into a suspected terrorist bomb maker? By that logic, I’ve “stockpiled” a couple of weeks worth of food in the pantry.

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ScentOfViolets 06.09.10 at 1:08 am

Let me try again:

“Why is Gaza allowed to import frozen fish but not dried fish?” – bianca steele

Dried fish can be more easily stockpiled. Mind you, if you can import salt and frozen fish, you can dry your own with some extra effort. Still, it’s not exactly arbitrary.

Is this like the chemicals found under my kitchen sink and in my garage that make me into a suspected terrorist bomb maker? By that logic, I’ve “stockpiled” a couple of weeks worth of food in the pantry.

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sg 06.09.10 at 1:20 am

The book Architects of Annihilation has some interesting things to say about Nazi food policy and starvation in Europe – Germany was definitely running out of food by the end of the war and the leadership were terrified of their own population starving. That book argues that exterminationist policy was partly driven by the fear of domestic starvation. It’s quite interesting. It’s also interesting to compare the bland and venal way people in the Nazi hierarchy talk about conquered populations with the language of the modern-day defenders of starvation, blockades, etc.

Japan was definitely starved, the US didn’t just sink ships either – it bombed canals within Japan, roads, farms and any infrastructure supporting food distribution (I read about this in Dresden I think). Those of you lucky enough to visit Matsue in Japan can see at the Matsue Whitehouse an example display of the kind of food that Japanese civilians ate near the end of the war – a large bowl of miso soup, a rice cake, a few shreds of dried fish and half a bowl of rice a day, for example.

The US also practised starvation in Vietnam. John Kerry got one of his purple hearts for a comic incident involving throwing a grenade into a rice barrel. I wonder if part of the reason the American left is having difficulty dealing with issues like Gaza might be connected to these aspects of their own history. I mean, if your much-admired and decorated war-hero lefty Presidential candidate is also a war criminal, your discussion of just war theory must surely be a little fraught.

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James Allen 06.09.10 at 1:44 am

“The overwhelming evidence indicates that the IDF fired on this ship before attempting to board.” – ScentOfViolets

The IDF is required by international maritime law to fire on the ship before they board it. I should hope they fired upon it. As for the “doctored” footage: I’m more suspect of doctored memories.

“Are you seriously saying you’re just hearing about this for the first time – and from one side only.” – ScentOfViolets

I’m not saying that, as evidenced by the fact that I did not say that. Either way, the blockade itself, or the handling of humanitarian aid, is still a separate issue.

“Again, this completely false.” – ScentOfViolets

No, it’s not. That’s how boarding at sea works. However, if you would like to form an argument with reference to the SRM, you might want to read it first. Have fun! Note: it doesn’t say what you seem to think it does. But maybe I’m wrong. I’m happy to find out.

“Is this like the chemicals found under my kitchen sink and in my garage that make me into a suspected terrorist bomb maker? By that logic, I’ve ‘stockpiled’ a couple of weeks worth of food in the pantry.” – ScentOfViolets

…more like if you had several tons of fertilizer in your kitchen. You know that aid usually comes in large quantities right? It’s not like it’s some guy with a couple salted fillets in his backpack, itching to cross the border.

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Bloix 06.09.10 at 1:50 am

” So do you now agree that what Israel did is not legal?”

I don’t think I ever argued that what Israel did was legal, not here or in the last thread. I don’t think I stated that I support the destruction of the Gazan economy. I simply pointed out that that is the unstated goal of the embargo. I do think I have argued that comparisons of Israel to Nazis, whether intentional or merely unintentional hyperbole, are invidious. It seems to me that what we have on this blog is the equivalent of George Bush’s line, “If not with us you’re with the terrorists” — i.e.., if you don’t support the destruction of Israel, you must be a Likudnik. The level of discourse here is utterly Bushian – there are evil people, and then there is us. Attempts to explain the motivations of real people — people who are behaving badly, but not insanely — are consistently met with hoots of derision from people who would rather inhabit the fantasy world of their own ideologies than make any effort at all to understand people different from themselves.

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ScentOfViolets 06.09.10 at 1:50 am

“The overwhelming evidence indicates that the IDF fired on this ship before attempting to board.” – ScentOfViolets

The IDF is required by international maritime law to fire on the ship before they board it. I should hope they fired upon it. As for the “doctored” footage: I’m more suspect of doctored memories.

!?!?!?! This is bizarre to say the least, especially given that firing on a ship before boarding doesn’t seem to happen a whole lot, certainly not in the case of the Rachel Corrie, which was boarded about a week later.

In any event, if this is the case, then the video you are claiming as ‘evidence’ is only showing self defense.

This is, as I said, bizarre. Please tell me I’m not reading you correctly.

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ScentOfViolets 06.09.10 at 2:04 am

Whoops! Looks like we’ve been trolled by another glibertarian conservative. I’ve just done a search on “Will Allen”, and what I see does not make me think it’s worth the effort to engage in any further corrections. Let’s just say he lives in Megan McArdle country with everything that implies about the style of argument and leave it at that.

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The Raven 06.09.10 at 2:06 am

ScentOfViolets, read the next paragraph. Oof! That needed a lot of qualification. So here is qualification: I cannot see how there is any way to provide aid to the civilian population of Gaza without also resupplying the military of Gaza. My point is exactly that I can see no way Israel can win this without committing war crimes, and I wish they’d stop trying, instead of digging themselves deeper in.

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James Allen 06.09.10 at 2:17 am

“This is bizarre to say the least.” – ScentOfViolets

It is. Maritime law is filled with oddities. The idea, I’m told, is that there is an escalation. Something like this:

1) The blockading ship hails the foatilla. If the floatilla responds, the blockading ship can instruct it to follow them to a port, or turn back, or prepare for boarding. This is usually where it ends: with a diversion in course, or a peaceful boarding.

2) If the floatilla doesn’t comply, the blockading ship must fire a shot across the floatilla’s bow before boarding (I’m under the impression that this has been the case since the 19th century – I imagine cannon balls flying over a wooden mermaid).

3) If the floatilla still refuses to co-operate, they can be boarded by force (this is what happened).

This is why it is not controversial that the IDF fired at the ship before boarding. They were required to by law.

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James Allen 06.09.10 at 2:28 am

‘I’ve just done a search on “Will Allen.”’ – ScentOfViolets

Are you drunk? Open your city phonebook, and count the number of Allens in it. As long as you’re in North America, I guarantee you there will be more than one (if not a couple pages). Just for the record though, I’m not American – which plunges the likelihood of me being a libertarian to somewhere around zero.

Thank you for the cock-eyed denunciation though. It’s been so long. I’ve actually never been denounced based on my surname before. It’s like I’ve discovered a whole new form of bigotry.

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Jeremy A 06.09.10 at 2:58 am

@ James Allen: there’s some difference between “firing a shot across the bow”–a warning shot that’s intended to hit no-one and nothing–and firing at the people on the boat. It’s the latter we’re talking about here.

With some of what you’ve said I agree. Neither the caliber of weapons used to shoot the flotilla participants nor the range at which they were shot nor the number of bullets tells us whether the shootings were premeditated executions (“When I get on board that ship I’m going to blow away that guy”) or spur of the moment (“This guy’s swinging a pipe at me–got to stop him NOW”). It’s inconclusive. Even the shot which reportedly struck the top of the head is, in itself, inconclusive; it could have been a shot fired before the boarding started, or during the post-boarding fight (though that seems less likely due to the risk of hitting an IDF soldier in the melee; any eyewitness accounts of just when that happened?).

That’s one thing that’s so disturbing about the IDF confiscating all the recording devices afterwards: we don’t get what we need to discern the timeline and the tactics. That, plus the heavily-edited IDF video, plus the eyewitness accounts contrary to the IDF version, makes me suspect the IDF is hiding a lot. You?

However, when you say that violence against the commandos disqualifies the participants from being “peaceful protesters” you’re–as with the shot across the bow–confusing very different things. (And you’re not stating a fact, but giving an appraisal.) The flotilla was, as a whole, a peaceful protest against Israel’s blockade. To conclude that they became something else–something less legitimate seems to be your suggestion–is to expect them to behave as pacifists when attacked. Isn’t that a bit much? You don’t have to behave like Gandhi or King to be a peaceful protester; you just have to protest peacefully. It doesn’t mean you have to sit and take it when you’re shot at and raided for having protested.

147

sg 06.09.10 at 3:25 am

James’s account is completely at odds with the facts of what actually happened in the actual situation. Do we need to discuss it further? Similarly, Jeremy A’s when he states

Even the shot which reportedly struck the top of the head is, in itself, inconclusive; it could have been a shot fired before the boarding started, or during the post-boarding fight

Except that we have several accounts now of one person being shot dead from a helicopter.

The fact that the IDF confiscated all recording equipment and then released their own edited video, followed by that bodged-up fake of someone telling them to “go back to Auschwitz,” really tells us all we need to know about their account of the events – it’s a complete fiction.

The fact that they tortured some detainees and denied them food and water should also give a pretty clear indication as to how they were behaving after events, and should call into question attempts to dismiss close-quarters back-of-the-head gunshot wounds as part of the rough-and-tumble of ordinary combat on a boat. They may not have set out to kill the protesters on the boat but we now know that

- they intended to use force if the boats didn’t divert immediately (Kaveh has given the links to their own statements)
– they have a history of over-applying force (one of the boats is named after such an incident)
– they initiated force with live fire (multiple accounts support this) and killed one person and injured several before boarding
– they weren’t expecting resistance (though we only have the IDF’s audio to judge this by)
– the soldiers treated their prisoners inconsistently with a desire to minimise injury or suffering (multiple accounts support this)
– they have destroyed all physical evidence of their actions (including washing the boat)
– the govt released a very nasty youtube video making fun of the dead and stood by it, and claimed ordinary Israelis support it.

I don’t think this should leave much doubt in anyone’s minds as to what the intent of the soldiers and their commanders was, or what the obvious ramifications would be if anyone resisted. They are happy to kill and injure protesters, and if they get a bit of stick first they’re happy to execute them. These are soldiers from a country that has legalised torture and is running a policy of starving civilians, and is widely known to use indiscriminate force against civilians, and human shields.

I don’t see how they get the benefit of the doubt for execution-style killings.

148

James Allen 06.09.10 at 3:37 am

“And you’re not stating a fact, but giving an appraisal.” – Jeremy A

True; I tried to separate that claim from the rest, clearly without success.

What I am not saying, is that the floatilla crew stopped being peaceful protesters when they fought back. What I am saying, is that they stopped being peaceful protesters when they attacked. Possibly, they stopped being peaceful when they didn’t cooperate with requests to change course. I have no reason to think that they were acting in self defense, nor do I expect pacifism – from the crew or from the IDF.

Of course, there are always questions about evidence; however, the few members of the crew I’ve seen comment on the incident, were not only blissfully ignorant of the law surrounding their action, but their stories largely contracted the footage that has been released – including claims that the crew didn’t fight at all. Certainly it would be nice to have more information, including any material that may have been recorded by the crew.

You do pose an interesting question though: must one be a pacifist to be a peaceful protester? I would say yes, when the content of that protest includes illegal actions, or actions that could reasonably be considered aggressive. I say this because the only difference between military tactics and protest is a pacifist reaction to confrontation. Without pacifism, it’s simply baiting – a lure.

149

James Allen 06.09.10 at 4:01 am

What account? I have given an account of maritime law. How is that at odds with the facts? You’re letting your imagination get the best of you. I can do a quick roundup on your uncontroversial evidence though…

“they intended to use force if the boats didn’t divert immediately”
As they should, according to the escalation I posted above.

“they have a history of over-applying force”
There have been dozens of boats boarded by the IDF since the blockade began and this is the only incident that resulted in violence.

“they initiated force with live fire (multiple accounts support this) and killed one person and injured several before boarding”
Well, who could argue with “accounts”. The accounts I’ve heard, not only make these claims, but also claim that the crew didn’t fight back at all. Very reliable.

“they weren’t expecting resistance”
Which is why the IDF was so surprised when they were attacked.

“the soldiers treated their prisoners inconsistently with a desire to minimise injury or suffering”
I’ve heard some of those accounts too. Clearly people who have never been arrested before.

“they have destroyed all physical evidence of their actions “
Agreed. Access to more evidence would have been preferable. It’s hardly evidence of anything other than the IDFs desire to control the situation.

“the govt released a very nasty youtube video making fun of the dead and stood by it, and claimed ordinary Israelis support it.”
Really? Do you have a link?

There is also plenty of accounts that indicate the protesters intended to spark a violent confrontation. This all makes for very poor evidence. A more complete record would be great, but the evidence released so far is merely for public relations purposes.

It’s too bad that third-party investigation will probably never happen.

150

Jeremy A 06.09.10 at 4:29 am

sg, debating the point about whether the from-the-helicopter shot was, in itself, evidence of premeditation could be more gruesome than it’s worth. Suffice it to say I wasn’t disagreeing with your overall appraisal of the situation, just making a small observation about one bit of evidence.

James, whether the flotilla participants “attacked” or were “aggressive” is part of what’s at issue here. Actually, between us at the moment it seems to be the key issue. I’ve heard no claims that they didn’t fight at all, myself. Certainly the Israeli government is keen to convince us that everything the IDF did was legal and reasonable while all who opposed the IDF broke the law and were the aggressors, and were terrorists whose real goal was not humanitarian but to break the blockade and allow arms into Gaza to be used fiendishly against Israeli civilians, and on and on. If one buys that line, then the protesters of course look like the bad guys and there’s less (though still significant) reason to criticize the IDF.

For reasons such as those stated by others here (including some nicely summarized by sg in #147) I don’t buy that line. To me it’s more plausible to conclude, until further evidence supports revision, that the Israeli raid was aggressive and disproportionate and wrong.

That aside, there’s still the issue of whether those who use violence automatically disqualify themselves from being “peaceful protesters.” You say “the only difference between military tactics and protest is a pacifist reaction to confrontation. Without pacifism, it’s simply baiting – a lure.” I say that’s setting the bar unreasonably high, and the last part is false.

Imagine a peaceful march sincerely protesting racial discrimination. Suppose the police attack the protesters with clubs and dogs. Suppose that instead of following King’s advice to take blows without retaliating, the protesters follow Malcolm X’s advice to “kill that dog.” Killing the dog is not peaceful, but the protest was still peaceful. It was the response to the attack that wasn’t peaceful. And responding that way does not prove the initial protest was “bait” or in any way anything but a peaceful protest. It may simply show that the protesters were not pacifists about personal self defense.

Regardless of what qualifies as peaceful protest, there’s the issue of whether it much matters whether one is peaceful. Although peacefulness carries a cachet of moral high ground, surely it doesn’t by itself determine whether one is on the right side.

151

JanieM 06.09.10 at 4:32 am

Really? Do you have a link?

I believe this is the incident that sg was referring to. The video can be seen here.

Not that I expect it’s anything but a waste of time to someone who has a butter wouldn’t melt answer for everything.

152

Chris 06.09.10 at 4:39 am

What I am saying, is that they stopped being peaceful protesters when they attacked.

They didn’t attack. They *were* attacked.

I have no reason to think that they were acting in self defense

You mean other than the heavily armed people dropping onto their ships from helicopters? That’s an attack. And it wasn’t the flotilla that initiated it.

153

herr doktor bimler 06.09.10 at 4:58 am

Possibly, they stopped being peaceful when they didn’t cooperate with requests to change course.

So there are no such things as “peaceful non-cooperation” and “non-violent resistence”?

154

logern 06.09.10 at 5:02 am

Just an example of what is not known: a video of a group of protesters who are actually trying to intervene in the beating of another protester could easily be passed off as an unprovoked attack with simple editing.

How do you intervene against heavily armed individuals? You either submit to have your heads cracked like coconuts as a diversion, or you fight your way in, I suppose.

155

Jack Strocchi 06.09.10 at 5:07 am

Chrs Brtrm @ < hrf="http://crkdtmbr.rg/2010/06/08/jst-wr-thry-2/#cmmnt-320001" rl="nfllw">#63:

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– ws srrndd by rdcl fndmntlsts whs xplct m ws pclyptc thnc clnsng f yr stt

thn y mght nt b s sqmsh bt “th mrlly crrsv ffcts f tryng t wrk t n lbrt systm f xcptns, xcss tc n th mttr f kllng ppl”.

gly, brtl phrss lk “s r Thm”, “Wh, Whm” gt nt th lngg f pltcl thght fr rsn.

vn s Drshwtz s n n mrcn, nt srl, Jw. ndbtdly trmntd by dsprc glt. Thy tnd t b mr bllgrntly Blmpsh nd cynclly Mchvlln thn thr srl cntrprts, wh ftr ll hv t lv wth th rslts f thr hndwrk.

156

Jeremy A 06.09.10 at 5:19 am

Oops. I said, “If one buys [the Netanhayu] line, then the protesters of course look like the bad guys and there’s less (though still significant) reason to criticize the IDF.”

Not “significant”; tons. Which goes back to the Dershowitz bit. Netanyahu said that if this flotilla were not stopped, then the blockade would be broken, and then others–somehow, maybe–would ship arms to Gaza to aid in Hamas’ attacks on Israel. If that’s supposed to justify military force, in the form of a nighttime commando raid, it’s pathetic: the “threat” posed by this flotilla is distant, indirect, and uncertain. Treating the people on it as combatants becomes akin to bombing steelworkers because their output might go to the war effort. Next we bomb the taxpayers for their support. Or we invade Iraq.

157

derrida derider 06.09.10 at 5:49 am

“It’s too bad that third-party investigation will probably never happen.” – James @149

Yes, James, but the fact that the protesters want one and the Israelis don’t is precisely the reason you should believe the protesters’ accounts and not the IDF’s.

158

James Allen 06.09.10 at 6:13 am

“Not that I expect it’s anything but a waste of time to someone who has a butter wouldn’t melt answer for everything.” – Chris

Thin evidence merits a thin response. But read on. Clearly, there is work to be done. Oh, and thanks for the link. I was just curious.

“To me it’s more plausible to conclude, until further evidence supports revision, that the Israeli raid was aggressive and disproportionate and wrong.” – Jeremy A

See, that’s interesting, because, as I’m sure you’ve noticed, I see it exactly the other way around. Here’s a more detailed example of the kind of thing I find troubling: the claim that the IDF fired onto the deck, possibly killing and/or wounding several of the crew, before boarding. This is an extraordinary claim to me. I’m not a soldier, but if I try, for a minute, to pretend I am, I find it difficult to imagine firing into a crowd and then ordering a few of my men to drop from helicopters into the middle of that crowd. I think I would want the deck cleared before I dropped men onto the ship. We’ve already fired at the deck, I would say to myself, why not continue to do so until the deck is cleared? No. I don’t think that’s very likely. The IDF isn’t suicidal.

What I think more likely is that the IDF landed on the deck as soldiers not expecting confrontation, then were attacked. Defending themselves, with lethal force, is a proportionate response to the attack we’ve all seen the footage for. It’s tragic, but it isn’t wrong.

Anyway… more interesting stuff: violence and protest.

I see what you mean about the “whole”, and we’re in agreement except for one caveat.

“… when the content of that protest includes illegal actions, or actions that could reasonably be considered aggressive.” – me

What I mean here is the central content, or aim, of the protest; not some random occurrence. In the case of the floatilla, the central aim of the protest included running a military blockade. In the case of your average march, where a permit has been acquired and so on, it’s a different story. In the later case, the central aim of the protest is neither illegal, nor aggressive, in the former, it was both. Reason for this caveat to follow.

“Regardless of what qualifies as peaceful protest, there’s the issue of whether it much matters whether one is peaceful. Although peacefulness carries a cachet of moral high ground, surely it doesn’t by itself determine whether one is on the right side.” – Jeremy A

At what point did high moral ground stop relating to rightness? The reason I think pacifism is a necessary component of illegal and/or apparently aggressive protest isn’t because it gives one higher moral ground, but because doing otherwise is reckless, and gets people needlessly killed. Which, I think, is wrong.

159

dsquared 06.09.10 at 6:17 am

if the ship doesn’t have the stated intention of running the blockade.

Why would “stated intentions” make a difference? Do they make international waters less international?

160

James Allen 06.09.10 at 6:19 am

“Possibly, they stopped being peaceful when they didn’t cooperate with requests to change course.” – me
‘So there are no such things as “peaceful non-cooperation” and “non-violent resistence”?’ – herr doktor bimler

Hence my usage of the ever hedging word “possibly.” Ever heard of possibly? The hedging is for a weird reason though. I’m not sure a boat moving through a blockade can be considered peaceful. I’m torn on it though. Is refusing to divert a plane that speeding toward a building peaceful resistance? Certainly not. But a boat. I’m still not sure. So… possibly.

161

Sebastian 06.09.10 at 6:26 am

“Why would “stated intentions” make a difference? Do they make international waters less international?”

Blockades can be enforced outside immediate territorial waters. You make such a point of what does and does not count as ‘legal’ that you should know this.

The question then is “how do you know that they intend to run the blockade as opposed to going to some other port”. But that question isn’t very compelling when they openly state an intention to run the blockade.

Which again is NOT to say that the appropriate Israeli response was to board it and kill a bunch of people. But they could have disabled the steering and taken other less drastic steps.

162

James Allen 06.09.10 at 6:34 am

“Yes, James, but the fact that the protesters want one and the Israelis don’t is precisely the reason you should believe the protesters’ accounts and not the IDF’s.” – derrida derider

I wish it were that simple. Israel doesn’t trust the 3rd party, and the protesters, as far as I know, didn’t chime in about an investigation until after Israel had rejected one (regardless, it seems to me that many of the floatilla survivors have vivid imaginations). I really do think it’s unfortunate that a 3rd party inquiry wont happen, but it’s no reason to convict or exonerate anyone.

163

dsquared 06.09.10 at 6:42 am

Blockades can be enforced outside immediate territorial waters

In the context of international armed conflicts they can. That’s the whole point. Per the Opinio Juris points, enforcing such a blockade in international waters de facto recognises the other party as a belligerent and the conflict as a war (rather than the other party as terrorists and the conflict as a law enforcement operation), which is something that Israel doesn’t, won’t and basically can’t do. The whole point here is that you don’t get to mess around in international waters unless you are prepared to provide the international community with some show of good faith that you are taking this conflict seriously yourself; you can’t have your cake and blockade it.

164

Chris Bertram 06.09.10 at 7:03 am

OK, Jack Strocchi: last comment disemvowelled for ethnic stereotyping. I banned you from my threads for similar stuff before and now you’re banned permanently.

165

leederick 06.09.10 at 9:52 am

“In the case of the floatilla, the central aim of the protest included running a military blockade. In the case of your average march, where a permit has been acquired and so on, it’s a different story. In the later case, the central aim of the protest is neither illegal, nor aggressive, in the former, it was both.”

Running a blockade isn’t illegal or aggressive. I think you’ve misinterpreted things if you think it’s against any law or a belligerent act. It’s perfectly lawful to run a blockade and – even though there are limited right for other parties to try and prevent it – trading with a warring party is a neutral act not a hostile one.

166

dsquared 06.09.10 at 9:56 am

In the case of your average march, where a permit has been acquired and so on, it’s a different story.

In the case of Gandhi’s Salt Satygraha?

167

sg 06.09.10 at 10:52 am

James, you’re now making it very clear that you haven’t been following the facts of this story very well, nor do you care to. The youtube video was openly reported in major newspapers, as was the Israeli government’s response; the claims of people firing from helicopters were made on aljazeera tv as the assault unfolded, and transcripts are available online. There are also multiple accounts from the protesters of protesters fighting back, and from media sources too; their general claim is that after people started dying on the Mavi Marmara they decided to defend themseles. Similarly, the IDF’s attempt to claim that the protesters said “go back to auschwitz,” and their having been beaten and denied food and water after capture (which is not a normal consequence of arrest in most parts of the developed world) is also well documented.

If you don’t believe or care to believe these things, you either haven’t been reading very much about the situation or you have been getting your facts from some very biased sources.

Given that the IDF is known to have manipulated one audio report, to have destroyed all the protester’s evidence, to have attempted to jam all broadcasts from the ships during the attack, and to have made a video gleefully trumpeting the murder, why do you credit any of their accounts? They definitely attacked at least one journalist and shot the captain of a boat in which no combat occurred. Yet you still insist that it’s the protesters’ accounts you don’t trust.

This is indicative of a strong pre-conceived idea of what happened. Perhaps you ought to drop that.

168

James Allen 06.09.10 at 12:39 pm

“In the case of Gandhi’s Salt Satygraha?” – dsquared

A great example of my point. I’m glad you agree. (you do realize that these protesters did not response violently, I hope?)

“This is indicative of a strong pre-conceived idea of what happened.” – sh

Sure it is. You know, there’s a part of me that wants to cure you of all your delusions. It’s the philosopher in me, I suppose. But you clearly see and hear what you want to see and hear (then take it out on me – which, I assure you, is pure comedy). Your “well documented” evidence is not nearly as sound as you seem to imagine it is. Like much of what has been bandied about here, it amounts to a minor conspiracy theory. And a thin one at that. I mean really.. the video? That’s “evidence” in your mind? Stunning. Just stunning. Ok, ok, I can’t help myself. Just one.

QUESTION: How are there “transcripts” of a live event, if the IDF knocked out the satellite feed and confiscated all recording materials?
ANSWER: The IDF didn’t do that until after they were attacked.
CONCLUSIONS: is this a) indicative of a planned premeditated attack on the part of the IDF, b) a scramble to control the situation after the fact, or c) indicative of a strong preconceived idea of what happened?

I’ll let you figure out this complex puzzle all on your own.

Let’s see, I’ve been called delusional, denounced over the content of my last name, called ill-informed (for not knowing things I’ve given no indication of not knowing), and gleefully mis-interpreted by the reading-impaired. Yeah, I think I can conclude that this is not the home of academic excellence. Conspiracy theories, misdirected hostility, amateurish deflection, petty paranoia, condescending blowhards. Have fun people.

169

praisegod barebones 06.09.10 at 1:26 pm

The hive mind thanks you for your contribution to the debate.

170

Jeremy A 06.09.10 at 1:42 pm

James (assuming you’re not gone): considering other IDF uses of force, plus eyewitness accounts, I don’t find it that easy to dismiss the claim that Israel started shooting before they landed, even if the eyewitness accounts are doubtful. (They’re no more doubtful than some of the evidence you’ve given for your take.) But for argument let’s set that aside.

You in #158: “What I think more likely is that the IDF landed on the deck as soldiers not expecting confrontation, then were attacked. Defending themselves, with lethal force, is a proportionate response to the attack we’ve all seen the footage for. It’s tragic, but it isn’t wrong.”

Let’s also set aside the (huge) question of how reliable the video is and consider this in relation to:

“The reason I think pacifism is a necessary component of illegal and/or apparently aggressive protest isn’t because it gives one higher moral ground, but because doing otherwise is reckless, and gets people needlessly killed. Which, I think, is wrong.”

Replace “protest” with “action” and you have an indictment of the IDF right there.

Especially since this didn’t happen in a vacuum. It’s not like the IDF just happened to be walking down the street minding its own business when suddenly there was this unprovoked attack on them. Their commanders decided to put soldiers in a position where any resistance would lead to a use of force, and armed them to enable a lethal response which, surprise surprise, they used. This was needless, reckless killing waiting to happen.

I guess, like Wiesel, you might want to say it’s still the protesters’ fault for putting themselves in the midst of a military blockade. But that’s like saying “too bad your face got in the way of my fist.” It ignores Israel’s culpability for how it uses its forces.

171

Glen Tomkins 06.09.10 at 1:56 pm

ajay @111,

I guess it’s quite accurate to accuse me of Battle of the Atlantic Denialism, because the proponents of Holocaust Denialism have gotten to the point of including under “denialism” any acknowledgement whatever that the Allies in that war may have done anything at all wrong. From that point of view, there can be no reason to portray the Third Reich as in any way a victim of anything, except as part of a scheme to deny the victimhood of the Jews. So, yes, absolutely, my failure to mention, in every sentence in which I mention the Allied food blockade of occupied Europe, that the Axis tried to do some sawed-off version of it too, that their submarine campaign targeted all Allied shipping in its far from complete attempt at a blockade, with no distinction between war materiale and non-contraband such as food, makes me a Battle of the Atlantic Denier. I join the criminal ranks of all those commenters on this thread who mentioned Dresden without in the same sentence blaming it on the Blitz.

To be clear, of course the Axis, in establishing an indiscriminate submarine campaign against all shipping, were doing something just as wrong as the Allied food blockade. But, you know, my purpose is pretty clearly not to set the Axis up as the blameless victims. This isn’t, in my mind, shouldn’t be in anyone’s mind, about justifying one side or the other.

My point is that nations and individuals tend to behave stupidly and wrongly in proportion to how much they give way to the understandable tendency to make every issue about one thing, and one thing only — the wrongs done to them. Exactly that sense of national victimization was the entire appeal of National Socialism to Germans. Neither starvation blockade, the Allies successful and total one, nor the Axis’ ineffective one, did either party any good whatsoever in winning the war. These blockades were both, like both sides’ counter-value “strategic” bombing campaigns, effective only at hardening the other sides’ will to win. Both sides recognized the utter failure of such tactics, when employed on their side by the other side, to do anything but enhance the victim’s will to win. Yet both sides turned right around and themselves engaged in tactics they recognized, when applied to themselves, were counter-productive.

You could perhaps understand this sort of thing, especially when it arises on the spur of the moment in individuals, as a cycle of revenge, as a moral failing arising from failure to control emotions, without going any further. But these were great nations, acting in cool deliberation, whose policies exhibit every evidence of careful calculation in their execution. That they would spend huge resources, such as our side did on strategic bombing, or their’s did on killing Jews, when such resources were critical to victory, to obviously counter-productive ends, requires appeal to a massive cognitive failure. I think that this blindness created by the sense of victimization is that cognitive derailment.

It is certainly understandable that every nation looks at history through the prism of its own victimhood, the wrongs done to it. And when a great wrong such as the Holocaust has been done, it is understandable that it should encourage this tendency to an even greater degree than usual. But, understandable as it is to see the world through the prism of one’s own victimhood, that doesn’t make that prism any less harmful to the clear vision of things as they are that is necessary to act with common sense and common decency.

When the prism of victimhood, however real and even extreme the fact of that victimhood might be, is allowed to become such a total impediment to vision that a nation cannot admit that any nation but itself was ever or could ever be the victim, that there can only be one victim, then we reach a state of total moral blindness. This seems to be the process that is at work here in this blockade. The Palestinians cannot possibly be even imagined to be the vicitms of this starvation blockade by adherents of this religion that they’ve made out of the Holocaust, because the Holocaust established forever that there can be only one victim of history, the Jewish people.

That point of view is really quite understandable. That doesn’t make it any less destructive, self-destructive not the least. Sure, the Holocaust was infinitely more real than the largely mythical Dolchstoss. But the results are equally devastating of allowing either to establish in your own mind your own categorical and permanent victimhood.

172

chris 06.09.10 at 2:03 pm

What I think more likely is that the IDF landed on the deck as soldiers not expecting confrontation

That’s a completely insane thing to expect, that you could board someone else’s ship openly carrying deadly weapons and not start a confrontation by doing so. Why do you think they would expect it? Because they are used to dealing with a subjugated population that is cowed into meekly accepting anything the IDF chooses to do to them?

If they didn’t expect confrontation, it’s because they expected that their targets would not believe they have, let alone try to exert, any right to self-defense. And if they *did* expect that, it’s a pretty damning indictment of their normal MO, I think. That’s not the attitude of a policeman in a state with rule of law, it’s the attitude of an overseer or a medieval nobleman.

173

ajay 06.09.10 at 2:15 pm

171: you misunderstand me.
You said: “It’s a diet when you control the food spigot, it’s starvation when someone else does. The UK put itself on a diet in WWII, to free up resources for the war effort. German-occupied Europe was starved”.

This is not true. It ignores the fact that the UK was dependent on food brought in ships across the Atlantic; ships that were regularly sunk by German U-boats in an attempt to starve Britain into surrender.
Furthermore, if you think that this attempt was irrelevant and “effective only at hardening the other side’s will to win”, you’re a fool.

174

y81 06.09.10 at 2:16 pm

“Per the Opinio Juris points, enforcing such a blockade in international waters de facto recognises the other party as a belligerent and the conflict as a war”

I would urge the reader to read those posts and comments, and not accept dsquared’s rather tendentious summary. Prof. Heller sort of makes the point dsquared says he makes, but he gets a lot of pushback from people who have law degrees and who have read the Prize Cases, which separates that discussion from this one. dsquared seems to consider invoking doctrines and concepts from cases to be dishonest, but that is what lawyers do.

175

alex 06.09.10 at 2:45 pm

On an historical note, the German U-Boat offensive came perilously close to succeeding, and was only fought off at the cost of tens of thousands of lives, and frantic technical innovation in weaponry, electronics and cryptanalysis, among other things. To think that the population of the UK could just have tightened their belts indefinitely is absurd; as it is, incidentally, to claim that Allied bombing of Germany had no military effect. The fact that a country successfully accommodates itself to a threat does not mean that it could not have deployed those resources to greater effect elsewhere if left unmolested. An awful lot of Soviet T34’s weren’t blown up on the Eastern Front because the guns that would have stopped them were shooting upwards over German cities.

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Sebastian 06.09.10 at 2:53 pm

“Per the Opinio Juris points, enforcing such a blockade in international waters de facto recognises the other party as a belligerent and the conflict as a war (rather than the other party as terrorists and the conflict as a law enforcement operation), which is something that Israel doesn’t, won’t and basically can’t do.”

First that isn’t an accurate summary of the actual law. I also encourage anyone interested to read the Opinio Juris thread.

Second I’m not totally convinced that is an accurate summary of the situation. Israel doesn’t want Gaza. It hasn’t wanted Gaza for a long time. That is why we are talking about the Hamas government in the first place. If Israel was trying to maintain long term annexation or something, it wouldn’t have had non-Israeli election of a non-Israeli government. The main concern Israel has about Gaza is that it not be attacked from there. The main problem Israel has with recognizing Gaza is that if it does so now, it will just be forced to invade and occupy again because Gaza won’t stop attacking them. Israel would like to avoid that if possible. So yes, Gaza is a weird corner case.

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Phil 06.09.10 at 3:06 pm

The main problem Israel has with recognizing Gaza is that if it does so now, it will just be forced to invade and occupy again

Evidence for this reading: the way in which Israel’s dealings with the people of Gaza, and Gaza’s Hamas-led government, meet all the standards which it would be legally obliged to meet if it had recognised Gaza.

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bianca steele 06.09.10 at 3:19 pm

Glen Tomkins,
there can be no reason to portray the Third Reich as in any way a victim of anything, except as part of a scheme to deny the victimhood of the Jews

Did you really mean to write that? The Second World War was not fought between Germany on the one side and “the Jews” on the other. Contradicting established scholarship on a matter as much studied by people with excellent access to the sources as the tactics used on the western fronts of that war (which is all I thought ajay was “accusing” you of) is itself pretty audacious. You could portray the poor Germans as victims of American and French revolutionism, forced to suffer in concrete form the intellectual sins of modernity, and I don’t think you would be pushing things any less.

Similarly, although Israel’s chosen strategy w/r/t Gaza and the West Bank are to say the least ridiculous, they seem to be based in a theory that international relations are a “war of all against all,” in which they need to exert more force than their opponents in order to survive. I don’t know what 21st century American rightwing Zionists like William Kristol, David Gelernter, and Abraham Foxman believe, and it’s more than possible I’m forgetting something, but I don’t remember hearing Israeli politicians talking a lot about the victimhood of the Israeli state vis-a-vis the rest of the world. What Likud and Kadimah do believe, I think, is that a government led by Hamas is objectively unacceptable to all responsible states and that they’re justified in preventing Hamas from attempting to govern an area in which they can exert “influence.”

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PHB 06.09.10 at 3:26 pm

“It is certainly understandable that every nation looks at history through the prism of its own victimhood, the wrongs done to it. “

Can’t remember that from British history lessons. Quite the opposite in fact. Britain was not a ‘victim’ in WWI or WWII. On the contrary, Britain joined both wars to defend its ally from an attack by the bullies in Germany.

US history indulges in a lot of victimhood round the revolution. But after that they stop teaching history entirely and do American Mythology instead.

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eddie 06.09.10 at 3:39 pm

I’d like to add slightly to what phil said:

“What Likud and Kadimah do believe, I think, is that a government led by Hamas is objectively unacceptable…”

I’d add ” …but they are not”. I don’t think we can take it for granted that one side is simply better than the other. The evidence does not support that.

181

Donald Johnson 06.09.10 at 4:01 pm

” they were shot in the front, were spun around by the impact and got shot in the back as the soldier continued firing.”

I’m waiting for Mythbusters to do an episode on this. Picture it–the Israeli commando hits someone with a 9 mm pistol bullet, obviously as far away from the person’s vertical axis as possible so that the angular momentum is maximized. The person begins spinning at a rate high enough so that the commando, still blazing away and correcting his aim as he does so, now hits him in the back of the head.

Must happen all the time.

182

Anderson 06.09.10 at 4:09 pm

Alex: An awful lot of Soviet T34’s weren’t blown up on the Eastern Front because the guns that would have stopped them were shooting upwards over German cities.

Sorry to be obsessional, but n.b. that those 88’s would’ve been shooting upwards over German factories, bridges, etc. had the Allies not opted for terror bombing.

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bianca steele 06.09.10 at 4:17 pm

Eddie,
Unless you mis-pasted, I think you are responding to me, not to Phil (or did you mean PHB?). On the assumption that you didn’t mis-paste, I feel compelled to say that I don’t understand your comment. Could you expand some more on what you mean?

I don’t think the addition of your suggested clause would make my writing better here, or would improve the articulation of my thought. For one thing, I have already made my position on this clear, both in the paragraph you’re responding to and in an earlier paragraph on this thread. You seem to be taking the one sentence or clause out of context and trying to evaluate it by itself, or else you didn’t understand what I wrote before and after it. For another thing, it should be well understood that Israel’s position matches the position of the American right, who accept a certain definition of “terrorism” that Hamas matches, and it should be well understood that Israel and the American Right stand pretty much alone on this position. (And, as I already said, if you think I have to state my disagreement with this in every single sentence, after having said it once or twice on the same page already, I don’t think you can be serious.)

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bianca steele 06.09.10 at 4:20 pm

To clarify: Hamas obviously engages in terrorism. The definition of “terrorism” in question seems to assume Hamas lacks (and will always lack) some metaphysical ich weiss nicht that prevents it from being a legitimate governing party.

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James Wimberley 06.09.10 at 4:51 pm

Terminological note – there was some confusion earlier on.
Blockading powers declare, establish, maintain, apply or enforce a blockade. (Source: San Remo manual, articles 93-104).
Challengers to a blockade breach (San Remo) or run it (Wikipedia).
Incidentally, 102(b) of San Remo appears to make the Gaza blockade Geneva-illegitimate if we consider Gaza as or relevantly similar to a state.

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roac 06.09.10 at 4:59 pm

On an historical note, the German U-Boat offensive came perilously close to succeeding, and was only fought off at the cost of tens of thousands of lives, and frantic technical innovation in weaponry, electronics and cryptanalysis, among other things.

Yes, but: While all of the factors cited contributed significantly to the defeat of the U-boats, the single most decisive (according to the book by Peter Padfield to which I linked upthread) was continuous aerial coverage of convoys by long-range aircraft (B-24 Liberators). The boats could only keep up with the convoys by running on the surface, and they couldn’t stay on the surface in daylight when aircraft were present; they were reduced to picking off stragglers. This could have been done significantly sooner than it actually was — the planes were there — but Harris wanted to keep every single one of them for his area-bombing campaign, and every time the argument went to Churchill, Harris won it (until, of course, he finally lost). So the bombing campaign has that to answer for as well.

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Sebastian 06.09.10 at 5:04 pm

“What Likud and Kadimah do believe, I think, is that a government led by Hamas is objectively unacceptable to all responsible states and that they’re justified in preventing Hamas from attempting to govern an area in which they can exert “influence.””

I think you are close, but it is closer to “so long as Hamas has the end of Israel as one of its stated governing principles, and when combined with the fact that hundreds of attacks per month originate from Hamas, there is war”.

If someone says they want to kill you every chance they get, and when they get chances they actually try to kill you, you have more reason to believe them than you have reason to believe many human propositions that we regularly act on every day.

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bianca steele 06.09.10 at 5:26 pm

Sebastian,
Then you’re saying Israel is at war with Gaza. That could be argued.

On the other side: IIRC Israel’s actions aren’t consistent with that idea. I believe they have stated explicitly that their intention is to get Hamas voted out of power and to punish Hamas (whom they consider a terrorist group hiding among a civilian population, not the government). In the same way, they appear to believe that the current Iranian regime is objectively illegitimate and thus needs to be rooted out.

Also on the other side: One state’s expressed ideology of hostility towards another is not a reason for the latter state to attack the former until the ideology changes.

Admittedly, the whole Gaza situation is stupid. Either it is its own state or it is part of another state. But, in fact, it’s neither its own state nor part of Israel.

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alex 06.09.10 at 5:34 pm

It’s always nice to know how someone else would have won WW2 with hindsight. Perhaps you could come back in 70 years and tell us how to sort out this particular mess here?

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herr doktor bimler 06.09.10 at 8:27 pm

Ever heard of possibly?
Vaguely. It is possible to point out the corollary of a hypothetical statement, a assertion that might possibly be made, even if that assertion is merely peeping over a hedge rather than being directly asserted.

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eddie 06.09.10 at 8:38 pm

Sorry Bianca Steele. I did mean to paste that I was adding to your quote. But I’m not criticising you, but using your phrase to articulate my understanding of how likud and kadimah believe. Sorry for any misunderstanding.

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roy belmont 06.09.10 at 8:53 pm

Pertinent, while possibly not quite apt to this thread:

After ten minutes, two injured, seriously injured, went inside and sat on the floor, and they died after a while. Then, after twenty minutes, another three came inside. One died after a while. They were hurt in their neck, in their head, and in their stomach, in their stomach [inaudible]. And a fourth and a fifth man didn’t die. They just bleeded ’til death. I approached the soldiers with a sign in Hebrew asking them for medicine for—to give us some medical help for the two injured who are bleeding. I just for twenty minutes tried to approach them and tried to—and to ask them, and I did twice, also verbally and also by writing this sign. They refused to—they refused just to give us this support. And the two men died after maybe half an hour.

from an interview with Hanin Zoabi at Democracy Now!
Zoabi’s the Palestinian member of the Knesset who, because of her participation in the flotilla and her subsequent public accusation of IDF criminality has inspired a Facebook page dedicated to a group entitled “execute the MK Haneen Zoubi”.

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Henri Vieuxtemps 06.09.10 at 8:57 pm

Sebastian: If someone says they want to kill you every chance they get…

Just like that, they want to kill you, for no reason whatsoever, and that’s all they say?

Surely that someone has got to be batshit insane. Certainly no one would take them seriously, let alone wining elections or anything.

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Donald Johnson 06.09.10 at 10:01 pm

“Just like that, they want to kill you, for no reason whatsoever, and that’s all they say?”

Welcome to Sebastian’s world, where one side just wants to steal land and oppress and shoot peaceful protestors in the eye, if only Hamas weren’t so violent.

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Sebastian 06.09.10 at 11:17 pm

Bianca, yes I’m saying that they’re at war with Gaza, and Gaza with Israel. There are people attacking Israel from within Gaza and those people are directly and overtly supported by the government (and vis versa Israel is attacking people in Gaza with the direct and overt support of the Israeli government). That is ‘war’.

“On the other side: IIRC Israel’s actions aren’t consistent with that idea. I believe they have stated explicitly that their intention is to get Hamas voted out of power and to punish Hamas (whom they consider a terrorist group hiding among a civilian population, not the government).”

I don’t think this is right. They aren’t willing to deal with Hamas because Hamas explicitly makes war against them. They are (at least allegedly) willing to deal with governments that don’t have the destruction of Israel as part of their governing documentation.

“Also on the other side: One state’s expressed ideology of hostility towards another is not a reason for the latter state to attack the former until the ideology changes.”

This would be true if the ideology didn’t come with about a hundred actual attacks against Israel per month. But when it does, you’re talking about war.

“Admittedly, the whole Gaza situation is stupid. Either it is its own state or it is part of another state. But, in fact, it’s neither its own state nor part of Israel.”

Right. And it is stupid for lots of other reasons on both sides.

Henri, “Just like that, they want to kill you, for no reason whatsoever, and that’s all they say?”

In war both sides have all sorts of ‘reasons’ for killing each other. Humans are great at self justification.

“Surely that someone has got to be batshit insane. Certainly no one would take them seriously, let alone wining elections or anything.”

You haven’t been around this election thing much I take it?

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roy belmont 06.09.10 at 11:44 pm

Sebastian 195:
“…a hundred actual attacks… “
Locution locution locution.
NPR presented the flotilla as “Pro-Palestinian”.
Locution.
Not false, exactly, but not truth-dedicated either, is it?
When the average American’s working with your hundred attacks against Israel per-Palestinian per day or whatever.
So. Pro-attack.
Because the truth is like the lives of the blockade runners on the boat, because the truth if it were allowed to escape and gain the light of day would support Hamas, in the same panicked illogic that sees musical instruments and newspapers, let alone chicken and donkeys, as potential support for Hamas.
People hate you when you hurt them. I know this from personal experience.
Calling what’s being done to the Palestinians “war” is no different than calling what’s been done, and is still being done to Iraq, and the Iraqi people “war”.
Invade, occupy, then call the resistance to your invasion “war”.
Locution.

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ScentOfViolets 06.10.10 at 12:34 am

I see this is still going on, so I thought I’d post the relevant passage from the SRM on what constitutes a legal blockade:

102. The declaration or establishment of a blockade is prohibited if:

(a) it has the sole purpose of starving the civilian population or denying it other objects essential for its survival; or
(b) the damage to the civilian population is, or may be expected to be, excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated from the blockade.
San Remo Manual on International Law Applicable to Armed Conflicts at Sea

There’s some other stuff in there too about the formalities of “declaring” the blockade which among other things means a list has to be supplied about what is and isn’t being passed through. Ironically, on NPR today there was some government representative who claimed Israel had such a list but couldn’t reveal it “because it would harm national security” . I think this tells you all you need to know about the legality of this particular blockade.

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Donald Johnson 06.10.10 at 4:24 am

“I don’t think this is right. They aren’t willing to deal with Hamas because Hamas explicitly makes war against them. They are (at least allegedly) willing to deal with governments that don’t have the destruction of Israel as part of their governing documentation.”

Actually, they had a working ceasefire with Hamas for six months in 2008–well, except that Israel never lifted the blockade, which is an act of war. Israel killed some militants on November 4 who were allegedly engaged in nefarious activity, which broke the ceasefire and in late December Hamas said it would reinstate the ceasefire if Israel lifted the blockade. Which Israel did not do.

I can’t remember if I linked to this before and the thread is too long to reread, but here’s a link that outlines the history between Israel and Hamas in the years leading up to the killing in early 2009. You will notice that Israel is responsible for most of the killing and was sometimes the one to initiate violence.

<a href="http://www.jeromeslater.com/2010/01/moshe-halbertal-and-goldstone.html"link

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Donald Johnson 06.10.10 at 4:26 am

Weird. My link vanished. Here is another attempt–

link

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Henri Vieuxtemps 06.10.10 at 5:58 am

In war both sides have all sorts of ‘reasons’ for killing each other. Humans are great at self justification.

Yes, and it’s completely impossible to sort them out; gives me a headache. We should make some simple rule, for example: whoever the US government declares Good Guy – is the good guy. And their opponent is A New Hitler.

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John Meredith 06.10.10 at 10:29 am

“We should make some simple rule, for example: whoever the US government declares Good Guy – is the good guy. And their opponent is A New Hitler.”

Which can be easily flipped for editorialists at the Guardian, of course.

202

geo 06.10.10 at 5:05 pm

Chomsky gave a statement last week to Al-Ahram, an Egyptian newspaper, reprinted on the Common Dreams website, which includes the following passage:

if Israel were interested in stopping Hamas rockets it knows exactly how to proceed: accept Hamas offers for a cease-fire. In June 2008, Israel and Hamas reached a cease-fire agreement. The Israeli government formally acknowledges that until Israel broke the agreeement on November 4, invading Gaza and killing half a dozen Hamas activists, Hamas did not fire a single rocket. Hamas offered to renew the cease-fire. The Israeli cabinet considered the offer and rejected it, preferring to launch its murderous and destructive Operation Cast Lead on December 27. Evidently, there is no justification for the use of force “in self-defense” unless peaceful means have been exhausted. In this case they were not even tried, although—or perhaps because—there was every reason to suppose that they would succeed. Operation Cast Lead is therefore sheer criminal aggression, with no credible pretext, and the same is true of Israel’s current resort to force.

http://www.commondreams.org/newswire/2010/06/02-8

As Chomsky has emphasized elsewhere, the right of self-defense through military force against some threat is not allowed by international law until all peaceful means of avoiding the threat have been exhausted. The application to Israel’s claim of self-defense in the present circumstances seems pretty obvious.

203

Darius Jedburgh 06.13.10 at 5:13 am

Hilarious editorial on the Mavi Marmara in today’s New York Times, by the way. Sample: “Israel has many questions to answer. But so does Turkey.”

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fred lapides 06.13.10 at 5:05 pm

Any explanation why 40 of those on the lead ship had neither IDs nor Passports?
that Israel reported and stated that those folks refused to give their names…

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piglet 06.13.10 at 6:14 pm

I think Craig Murray conclusively settled the legality of the blockade:

“Israeli apologists have gone on to say they are in a state of armed conflict with Gaza.

Really? In that case, why do we continually hear Israeli complaints about rockets fired from Gaza into Israel? If it is the formal Israeli position that it is in a state of armed conflict with Gaza, then Gaza has every right to attack Israel with rockets. But in fact, plainly to the whole world, the nature and frequency of Israeli complaints about rocket attacks gives evidence that Israel does not in fact believe that a situation of armed conflict exists.

Secondly, if Israel wishes to claim it is in a state of armed conflict with Gaza, then it must treat all of its Gazan prisoners as prisoners of war entitled to the protections of the Geneva Convention. If you are in a formal state of armed conflict, you cannot categorise your opponents as terrorists.”

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Darius Jedburgh 06.13.10 at 8:32 pm

I am surprised by Murray’s ignorance and obtuseness, piglet. Whether or not “a situation of armed conflict exists,” Gaza does not have “every right to attack Israel with rockets” if, as is the case, those rockets target civilians. On the contrary, those rocket attacks are therefore clearly war crimes.

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rosmar 06.14.10 at 3:20 am

Whereas Israel only kills civilians by accident, though of course Israel kills hundreds more civilians every year than Hamas does. The Israeli government has good intentions, and has no way of knowing ahead of time what those weapons will do. While Hamas is evil, and so the only culpable party.

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Darius Jedburgh 06.14.10 at 5:16 am

I didn’t say any of the things you seem to be sarcastically attributing to me, rosmar; nor does what I did say imply them; nor do I believe them. The Hamas rockets are war crimes even if what Israel does is much worse.

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