Thursday, July 31, 2014

Edging Toward Moral Equivalence

Beware: It can happen to anyone, as is illustrated by this misstep from the usually more reliable Peter Grant:

I've found myself - yet again - nonplussed at the outpouring of emotion over the situation in Gaza. All over the world Israel is being condemned for defending itself against terrorist attacks, which aren't even mentioned by most of its critics. At the same time, many of those defending Israel are ignoring the fact that Palestinians have a legitimate grievance against being dispossessed of lands that were theirs and being treated like dirt by the 'occupiers'. [Emphasis added by FWP]

The remainder of Peter's article is far better. I exhort my Gentle Readers to read it in its entirety, if only out of fairness. But the emphasized portion above tripped my triggers in a way I would never have expected from the fairly intelligent and generally sensible "Bayou Renaissance Man."

The "dispossession" to which Peter refers occurred in 1947 and 1948, following a United Nations Partition Plan designed to end Britain's Mandate over Palestine. It included the establishment of a state of Transjordan (later simply Jordan) as the new homeland for the Arab Muslim residents of the region allocated to the Jews. Rather than accept the Partition Plan, the Muslims of the region chose to go to war. The Jews won that war, and in 1948 declared the formation of the state of Israel, the Jewish homeland they hoped would secure them against persecutions of the sort that had occurred throughout world history.

That makes the Palestinians' "grievance" sixty-six years old as of today. How long must we wait for that "grievance" to expire? Are American Indians still entitled to claim a grievance against the European colonists of North America? Incidentally, the newborn state of Israel offered the "dispossessed" compensation for the lands and homes it had claimed. Though some of the Muslims thus dispossessed stepped forward to collect said compensation, many declined to do so, believing that they could recapture by force of arms what they had lost. As anyone familiar with the history of the region will know, Israel's uniformly hostile neighbors made several attempts to do so, all of which came to an abrupt end with Israel's acquisition of a nuclear deterrent.

The argument against "reparations for slavery" here in the United States has always been that the relevant injustices occurred so long ago that there can be no accuracy in identifying either the persons to be compensated or the persons to be mulcted for that compensation. Must Israel wait 149 years before it can say the same?

Are the Palestinian irredentists "treated like dirt" by Israel? What about the surrounding Muslim nations, all of which have absolutely refused to allow the Palestinian irredentists to settle in their countries? Give the Palestinians weapons? Certainly. Use them as a stick with which to beat Israel? Of course. But nothing more than that. Israel, meanwhile, has provided the Palestinian autonomous zones with water, natural gas, electric power, medical services, and a great deal of other aid -- all while being under constant assault by missiles and a continuous threat of terrorist strikes, which have reaped many Israeli lives and many millions of dollars in economic harm. And as is often mentioned on the Right, Muslims in Israel proper have more political and economic rights than Muslims anywhere else in the Middle East.

Later in his article, Peter writes that "I don't believe for a moment that Israel is blameless in this fight." If his entire reason for believing thus is the original war that gave birth to Israel, I must oppose his position. However, he goes a little further:

One can condemn Israel's continued occupation of Palestinian lands, and its mistreatment of the Palestinian people. Those are undeniable realities that no objective observer can ignore.

...but provides no specifics. Yet Israel does not "occupy" either of the Palestinian autonomous zones in any sense. It maintains security fences that limit Palestinian access to Israel, thus greatly reducing attacks by suicide bombers and other terrorist squads. It forbids Gaza to have a functioning seaport, fearing -- quite reasonably, in light of recent events -- that such a port would be used to funnel heavy weapons to HAMAS, which controls that zone. What other "mistreatment...that no objective observer can ignore" can anyone cite? If such mistreatment is genuinely occurring, and is not in the nature of offenses done by one or a few private Israeli citizens rather than by the government of Israel, I've missed it completely.

The point to all this is that credence granted to a claimed grievance must have an objective basis. The evidence must be in plain sight, not merely a representation by the propagandists of a group known for implacable hatred of its adversary and an oft-stated desire to see that adversary destroyed to the last man, woman, and babe in arms:

Though glossed over in major media reporting on the Israel-Gaza confrontation, the Hamas conflict with the Jewish State remains deeply ideological. Hamas’s Al-Aqsa TV broadcast a sermon Friday reaffirming the Hamas ideology that according to Islam, it is Muslim destiny to exterminate the Jews.

The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) carries a new video of an official television broadcast in which a Hamas cleric states:

Our belief about fighting you [Jews] is that we will exterminate you, until the last one, and we will not leave of you, even one. For you are the usurpers of the land, foreigners, mercenaries of the present and of all times. Look at history, brothers: Wherever there were Jews, they spread corruption... (Quran): "They spread corruption in the land, and Allah does not like corrupters." Their belief is destructive. Their belief fulfills the prophecy. Our belief is in obtaining our rights on our land, implementing Shari'ah (Islamic law) under Allah's sky.

[Al-Aqsa TV (Hamas), July 25, 2014]

Killing Jews as religious practice is a basic message of Hamas, which believes that Muslim struggle against Jews—not only Israelis—and eventual extermination of Jews at the hands of Muslims is intrinsic to Islam. Hamas includes this message in its charter:

Hamas Charter Introduction: "Our struggle against the Jews is extremely wide-ranging and grave..."

Article 28: "Israel, by virtue of its being Jewish and of having a Jewish population, defies Islam and the Muslims..."

Article 7: "Hamas has been looking forward to implement Allah's promise whatever time it might take. The prophet (prayer and peace be upon him) said [in a Hadith]: 'The time (of Resurrection) will not come until Muslims will fight the Jews; until the Jews hide behind rocks and trees, which will cry: o Muslim! there is a Jew hiding behind me, come and kill him!'"

In the case of Israel and the Palestinians, it's well to remember that the Jews of that region were driven out of it in the first centuries after the rise of Muhammad, by Muslim armies resolved upon conquest under the banner of Islam. Indeed, Muhammad hated no other group nearly as much as the Jews, who were the first to reject him and his pseudo-religion. He was determined that they submit to him or die, despite truces he had made with them. The ferocity of the Muslim armies of those years got him his wish. Is it not ironic that Jewish arms should have redressed that ancient wrong -- and more ironic still that it's the far more numerous Muslims crying foul over it?


Mark Philip Alger said...

I agree and am dismayed that Peter embraces this stance. It is a matter of objective fact that, in sum, there is no virtue or substance in any of the Palestineans' claims. I am convinced that the simplest and cleanest solution to the situation would be for Israel to expel all Palestineans from Gaza and the West Bank. And I think that, for good measure, Israel should retake the Sinai and conquer Lebanon -- for the benefit of humanity.


T. Paine said...

I admit right up front that I am not familiar with Mr. Grant and his opinions. However, this piece makes it appear he is either co-opted into something he disagrees with (unlikely) or he's ill informed, which I think is likely. From his perspective it appears every person, every tribe, every state in every nation should be at war over something that happened a long time ago.

bryan in vt said...

what gave the un the right to violate the property right of anyone living in palestine in 1947?

principles have a moral foundation or are nothing.

you're conquered, get over it. in this era, given what you've claimed to stand for? really?

Francis W. Porretto said...

It wasn't the Jews who wanted war, Bryan. But above and beyond that, every square inch of habitable land on the surface of this planet has been wrested from some previous holder by force. I don't like that any better than you -- but I also concede that after enough time has passed, the thing becomes a fait accompli.

The formation of Israel was in some ways more morally based than other, comparable states. After the 1948 hostilities were over, Israel did offer compensation to any landowner displaced by the fighting. Some accepted it; others didn't. Arab Muslims who had remained in their homes, rather than joining in the fighting, became citizens of Israel on an equal basis with the victors. It's the Muslims who are the implacable ones, who demand that Israel cease to exist -- and some of them demand that every Jew on Earth be exterminated, as well.

Don't take my word for it; look it up. If you still feel the same afterward, you might want to start thinking about where you'll move, so you can give your parcel back to the Indians.

bryan in vt said...

so in all honesty, where do you draw the line? how much time is enough? is my person, property or liberty safe from the likes of an advocate of that argument? for how long? tomorrow, next week, in my children's lifetime?

your words ring hollow. i'm less interested in the particulars than of the quick reversion to realpolitik when convenient.

i may be part native american, or jew or arab. it doesn't matter. if we can't set high standards and hold them, then we are all morally different.

every on of the points your raise is arguable, but not on the basis of morality, so i'd rather reach you directly at the core of the matter.

you are on a slippery slope, arguing from some relativistic basis i don't understand.

be well regardless, and thanks for the insights, as it were.

Anonymous said...

I started reading your blog weeks ago and have been visiting daily to benefit from your well reasoned essays. I've been greatly impressed by what seems to be your ability to critique and support moral positions according to rules of non-contradiction.

I'm disappointed to read your views here, but considering the almost unanimous, a presumptive allegiance that Christians display towards Israel, and towards Jews in general, I'm not surprised.

Even men like yourself are conditioned by faith to immediately surrender moral authority to Jews. An ill-defined, symbiotic relationship between Jews and Christians demands that Christians defer to their "elder brothers" to interpret reality for them.

I think you have a brilliant mind, but you're also "Jew-blind".

I despair that those two qualities aren't mutually exclusive.

I'm not overly sympathetic towards the Palestinian people, per se. I'm sickened to see children and non-combatants slaughtered as much of the world is held numb and silent by way of media imposed, artificial consensus. But as you pointed out, all modern nations were formed by conquering/dispossessing prior inhabitants.

If Israel has the resolve to dispose of these people, let them do it without our blessings, without our arms and without our direct financing. Let them do it without insisting, as Jews always must, that THEY are the perpetual victims of the universe.

Francis W. Porretto said...

The "slippery slope" here is yours, Bryan. You are implicitly arguing that Israel has no right to defend itself because it came into existence through violence and war, rather than through a morally untainted process. That stance would deny the right of self-defense to every nation, man, woman, and child alive today.

At some point -- and I'm not prepared to say how much time must pass to reach it -- we must accept what has happened and move on, hopefully having resolved to do better in the future. Easements in realty law are made permanent legal rights after seven years' tolerance thereof. The standard in chattel law is twenty years' adverse possession. For something like the dispossession of persons by war, another standard might apply, but whatever it is, it will be as arbitrary as the numbers above.

Think about it before you question my morals again. I don't tolerate that sort of thing at all well.

Francis W. Porretto said...

Dear "Anonymous,"

Please read the comments above, made by "bryan in vt" and myself in reply to him. You might learn something from them. As for your use of the term "Jew blind," I find it extremely insulting, especially given that you don't know me personally and have no idea what sort of standards I maintain in the flesh. As it happens, I have no particular bias either toward or against the Jewish people. However, I do know history -- as it happens, very, very well.

The people of Israel are straining to maintain a state in which they will be safe from the sort of persecution that has afflicted them for many centuries. Indeed, Israel came into existence in response to the slaughter of millions of European Jews. Considering that their enemies have resolved for religious reasons to destroy them to the last man, woman, and child, I'd say they have reason and prudence on their side. Considering that Jews outside Israel are suffering exactly such persecution as we speak, they also have current events on their side.

There can be no valid moral equivalence between a civilized people striving to live in peace and security, who admit wounded Palestinians to their hospitals without conditions, and a gang of murder-minded savages whose sole aim is terror and slaughter, who deliberately shield their weapons with the bodies of women and children so as to garner support from "world opinion." So I reject your contentions utterly.

Finally, I have no respect for persons who insult and slander others from behind a cloak of anonymity. It's cowardice of the rankest sort. As I go by my full and correct name at all times, your behavior in this case is particularly contemptible. The next time you deem it appropriate to insult me, here at Liberty's Torch or anywhere else, kindly provide a name and Web address, so I can "return the compliment."

Francis W. Porretto

Michael Gersh said...

Moral equivalence is an interesting buzz phrase, but reality is a better teacher. Jews remember the last time, and have pledged to not have another. Morality is a personal thing, as we can see from the "morality" of the Palestinian savages. The morality of the Jews is, Never Again. Anybody doesn't like it, better bring some big guns. Meanwhile, everything I read about Gaza these days is a sideshow. The real show is - you kill Jews, you die. If Obama doesn't approve, if he makes economic life difficult for Israel, apparently the mass of the Hebrews has decided that is preferable to defeat, which means murder at the hands of the savages. Ain't gonna happen.