One of the most unfortunate (and oft-observed) aspects of the blogosphere is that, in discussing events that require actual expertise to understand, genuine insight tends to get drowned out by soapbox editorializing. Nowhere is this more true than in the case of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: whenever there’s a flare-up of hostilities, every blogger and his brother instantly becomes (in his own mind, at least) an expert on the conflict, pronouncing authoritatively on the complex history, culture, and politics of the region.
With that disclaimer in mind, here are some thoughts, mostly tangential to the main argument:
–“Proportionality” has not been given a precise definition in many of the debates about the rocket attacks originating from Gaza and the Israeli response. It can mean that the response is roughly equivalent to the initial attack, but this is neither particularly useful, nor is it the sense of “proportionality” usually employed by Just War theory. In JWT, proportionality usually means one of two things: 1) that the means are fitted to the ends; that is, that one uses only the minimum amount of force necessary to achieve one’s (legitimate) goals or 2) that the evil–destruction, loss of life, etc.–that results from one’s actions must be less than the evil that those actions are aimed at avoiding. Interestingly, proportionality in the second sense implies that all loss of life (at least of innocents) counts equally in discerning proportionality. There is a golden rule aspect to the reasoning here: in weighing the evils likely to result from going to war versus not going to war, all loss of innocent life (whether “enemy” life or “our” life) has to be weighed equally. In this case, for examples, Hamas and the Israeli government would be required to treat any civilian deaths on the other side as equivalent to civilian deaths on their own side for the purposes of weighing evils. Deciding whether or not they are doing this is left as an exercise for the reader.
–I’m not a pacifist, but citing Jesus’ driving the money changers from the temple has to be the weakest justification for Christian non-pacifism ever devised. Does anyone not think there is a serious moral difference between running someone out of a temple (possibly by using a whip or a cord) without doing them any significant harm and, say, dropping cluster bombs on densely populated areas? Blog commenters the world over need to inter this dubious argument ASAP.
–Along with general historical ignorance, there’s not enough acknowledgment of the role the US has played, and continues to play, in this conflict. The fact that the US subsidizes the Israeli military means that we can’t simply sit back and say that it’s no business of ours to criticize how the Israelis conduct the defense of their country. Now, if we were to stop underwriting the occupation (and siege) I would be in favor of a genuinely neutral or “hands off” stance; but until that time comes, the US has both a genuine interest in the way the Israelis conduct themselves with respect to the Palestinians and a responsibility to try and make sure that they do so in ways that comport with principles of justice.