Sunday, August 3, 2014

An Inconvenient Symmetry

Israel claims they have the right, in essence, to shoot through the civilians, because their enemy is hiding behind them. As hospitals and schools and UN shelters blow up, they say Hamas had assets in or near those places, and it is true often enough. Israel uses the best, most accurate weapons they possess to minimize civilian deaths, they say, and they regret the loss of innocent life, but Israel must defend itself. Israel has a right to exist.

I'm going to ignore the interesting question of whether Hamas represents an existential threat to Israel (if not, Israel is just taking its rage out on the helpless because they are helpless) and focus on the claim that it is permissible to kill civilians if you cannot strike your enemy without doing so.

Can't Hamas make a symmetrical claim? Can't they say their primitive rockets are one of a few, equally unsatisfactory ways they can strike their enemy? Surely they would prefer to do some damage to the IDF forces that surround and attack them, as opposed to, say, a cow, but it is difficult to do that with a weapon that can only be aimed at a compass point. Israel, I suppose, would object to giving Hamas better rockets, but wouldn't their claim that Hamas deliberately targets civilians scan better if Hamas had weapons that could target things?

(Human Rights Watch has declared that Hamas do target civilians. I am arguing that if it is wrong—or right—for one, it is wrong—or right—for both)

It is an inconvenient symmetry: If it is OK for Israel to kill Palestinian civilians because that is the only way they can strike their foe, then it is equally OK for Hamas to kill Israeli civilians for the same reason.

Of course, symmetry is symmetrical. If it is wrong for the Israelis to murder Palestinian civilians, then it is wrong for Hamas to murder Israeli civilians. The claims, in the first place, that billion dollar smart-weapons are insufficiently smart, and in the second that it's tough enough just to make a Qassam go north, excuse no one.

There is no symmetry of suffering; the slaughter is hideously lop-sided, against people who are not only helpless, but have already conceded everything that life permits. They have nothing more to give their tormentors than to die; to die in blood and fire and be cursed for being in the way; or to suffocate slowly, buried alive in Gaza and be forgotten.  That Israel merely stop suffocating them is their desperate demand. It is a demand they have every right to make, since it is the demand for life itself, the same right to exist Israel invokes even as it exterminates them—not because it must: because it can.

And that demands a symmetry only The Hague can supply, though I doubt the world will find it convenient.


  1. Fuck you, fuck terrorist supporing scumbag. Malloy is a terrorist. FreeGazaFromArabMuslimTerrorists.

  2. It's a good thing you specified "ArabMuslimTerrorists." Otherwise, the uninformed might have thought you meant the IsraeliJewTerrorists. It also shows an awareness on your part that not all terrorists are ArabMuslims. There's hope! Now, all you have to do is turn it around: Imagine, if you can, that not all ArabMuslims are terrorists. The little kids for instance, might be innocent. Can you do that? Do you think it's OK to burn little kids alive and blow them to chunks of seared flesh just because they are in the way? That was sort of the point.

  3. mcwbr,
    A well written piece. Said this in the Malloy chat last night.
    The Isrealis do not do it because they can. They do it because
    they love too. That is the sad sick truth.

  4. Thank you. Israelis attack civilians for the same reason terrorists do: because they are angry and attacking legitimate military targets is difficult, while group blame and punishment is easy. But if it is OK for the IDF to scrunch up its eyes and pretend Palestinian babies are Hamas, then it is OK for Hamas to to pretend Israeli babies are IDF.

  5. I heard your writing and about your site on Malloy (thanks Mike). I believe that until the Israelis and folks like your 1st commenter are able to feel that what they are doing to the Palestinians in Gaza is exactly what the Germans were doing to the Jews in Warsaw, there will be no peace. That Netanyahu is committing war crimes with the support of the Israeli people is fact and I hope that the Palestinian government with hold fast on seeking relief in the ICC.

    A note of hope was an interview that Amy Goodman / DemocracyNOW! did with an 85 year old Zionist named Henry Seigman after he wrote and op-ed in Politico titled "Israel Provoked This War - It’s up to President Obama to stop it". The article can be found here:

    The DemocracyNow! segments (two on different days) are here:


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