The blog of Eric Lee - web design and internet consulting for the trade union movement.

Response to Freedland

[This article originally appeared on Engage.]

The worst thing about Jonathan Freedland's article is not the lyrics but the melody.

The article is song-like in its constant repetition of a refrain of “Palestinians say this” followed by “Israelis says that”, paragraph after paragraph, an unending rhythm, beautiful in its simplicity.

But Freedland describes symmetry where there is no symmetry. He equates that which cannot be equated.

Writing from the safety of chilly England, Freedland looks down upon the hot-tempered fools in the Middle East who can't see things as clearly as he does. He can't understand why the residents of Ashkelon, Beersheba and Sderot – and today, all Israelis – are cheering on the IDF. They must all be mad.

It's perfectly obvious to Freedland that both sides are responsible for this mess, that neither side is right, and neither side is wrong.

Despite the attempt at an oh-so-English even-handedness, the article bristles with contempt for Israel – and not for this or that Israeli politician, but for the whole country. Israel, he writes, is “dazzled by its own military might” and believes “that force is almost always the answer”.

Freedland believes that in this case, force is not the answer. The answer to the incessant Hamas rocket barrage – which consisted of some 6,000 attacks on Israel – should have been ... opening Gaza's borders. Hug your enemies and turn the other cheek. That obviously would have worked. I wonder why Israel didn't try that.

Freedland's carefully-chosen language betrays his own bias. He speaks of “supporters of the Palestinians” -- but Israel's “cheerleaders”. He asks if what Israel is doing makes any sense – but he doesn't ask the question of Hamas. He is neutral on the issue of who broke the cease-fire, but ignores the broader issue of what Hamas is (a fascist movement with genocidal intentions) and what it has done to Gaza since Israeli unilaterally withdrew its settlements and troops.

Freedland is convinced that if Israel does anything at all to defend itself it will only make things worse. He says that when Israel acts in self-defence, “Gazans blame Israel - and close ranks with Hamas”. He quotes approvingly a Palestinian who says "anything which doesn't kill Hamas makes them stronger."

What utter nonsense. Wars end when the losing side becomes convinced that the enemy cannot be beaten, and that the use of force is counter-productive. That lesson was clearly learned by the Germans and Japanese in 1945. Killing lots of Germans may well have enraged them and caused them to “close ranks” and so on. But in the end, that's how wars are won.

Jonathan Freedland is no enemy of Israel and certainly no fool. Yet he buys into the idiotic argument that Israel dare not defend itself for fear of angering its enemies. He's equating the fire-fighters with the arsonists and is doing precisely what he accuses Israel of doing: avoiding the tough questions.


What can I say?
Eric is 100% right. The UK fought a war near Argentina to protect English homeland and settlers.
EL Kaida style Chammas terrorists (a fascist movement with genocidal intentions) fires over 5000 rockets and mortars over 7, 8 years at civilian population and we are not supposed to protect ourselves?
Even -" oh-so-English even-handedness" people should understand that, in addition to the right of self defence - no country West or East can accept terrorist states on their borders firing ammunition over a period of years at their civilians. You don't have to be right wing or even smart to understand THAT!!!

Eric, can you please revisit what you wrote during the Russian offensive in Georgia?

There too, Russia acted to "defend itself" when its citizens were target of rocket attacks.
The difference is that hundreds of people, not single digits, were killed in these attacks.

There too, Russia bombed and invaded the territories where the rockets were coming from. The civilian suffering and devastation was, in that case, not remotely comparable to the one meted out by the Israeli army. The number of civilian casualties was not comparable.

And there, the likes of... you, were claiming that Russia's actions were some sort of inexcusable aggression.
Could you please explain this double standard?

I don't recall that Georgia fired rockets over the border into Russia. Georgia, in my view, was defending itself against a Russian attempt to tear away two parts of the country -- an attempt that has succeeded. I don't see the comparison between this conflict and the one taking place in Gaza today.

It fired rockets at civilians (a war crime), who were Russian citizens, in a territory Russia was bound (by a treaty signed also by Georgia) to protect, in an indiscriminate way, killing hundreds of them.

Russia had at least as much cause to respond as Israel now has.
And its use of force was unambiguously MUCH milder: far fewer Georgian civilians died, and far less infrastructure was destroyed.

So, once again: Why the double standard as far as these two conflicts?

Eric Lee has given the best explanation for why the left should support Israel's right to defend itself while of course calling on it to take all reasonable steps to avoid civilian casualties. The very fact that we can make the latter appeal to Israel without bursting out laughing, (which we would do if anyone suggested such consideration from Hamas), is reason enough to support a democratic ally against the forces of International fascism and intolerance.