Here is an example of how Israel thinks and acts.

They are vilified throughout the world for this war as an immoral and brutal state with a brutal army intent on murder. How many Nazi comparisons to the IDF or to Israel’s leadership have you seen in the past couple of weeks? Remember Annan accusing Israel, without a shred of evidence, of deliberately targeting UN peacekeepers? Remember The Telegraph comparing the bombing in Beirut to the Warsaw Ghetto uprising and the crushing Nazi response? Oh sure, everybody pays lip service to the fact that Hizbullah started this, and some even admit the daily 100 rocket barrage is a war crime, but this usually merits a paragraph and then they turn and expend the majority of their venom on Israel.

Well, I’ve just read about an operation that took place hours ago where Israeli naval commandos entered Tyre, approached an apartment building where senior Hizbullah operatives were based and were able to kill these leaders and a few others. In this action, an Israeli officer and a soldier were killed. In addition, a couple of commandos were seriously wounded (for those who don’t know the lingo, this means they have probably lost limbs and were or are near death). The naval commandos are some of the IDF’s toughest and best trained fighters, not unlike the US SEALS. These men are some of the most motivated fighters in the IDF and certainly among the most capable. In the late ’90s one of these units was on a mission inside Lebanon when they were ambushed and 12 fighters were killed. It turned out that Israel’s source of information had turned and provided the necessary information to Hizbullah.

In any case, as I’m reading the article about the raid, I come across the following:

The commandos entered an apartment building in a crowded residential area in northern Tyre, where they engaged with Hizbullah operatives, including three senior members.

When the elite unit left the apartment, they were fired upon from several directions. IAF aircrafts and drones covered the force and cleared an exit for it. Seven Lebanese were killed in the operation.

Head of Naval intelligence told Army Radio that an aerial assault on the building was avoided since it was not known whether there were civilians in the building. He also mentioned that the ground operation sent a strong message to the fighters, indicating that the IDF can reach deep into Lebanon.

Get it? That’s right, while the media, the Left and half the world screams about Israel’s “aggression” and Nazi-like tactics, the Israelis continue to risk their soldiers’ lives in an effort to minimize Lebanese civilian casualties – even as Israel’s enemy is clearly and cynically embedded among those civilians. These soldiers, some of Israel’s finest young men, who have died or become seriously injured, are paying the price for a moral policy that has bore little fruit. Israel gets to keep its head high in its own public sphere, while the international community ignores the sacrifice. While this is a point of pride for and about Israel, one wonders whether a missile would have been a better choice here. I would think at least the parents of these young men would think so. Certainly, it is a policy that slows and hampers Israel’s ability to conduct this war and win it quickly.

The real evil of Hizbullah and Iran is that they force Israel to make these choices. We have always seen tactics from Israel’s enemies that prove they do not play in the same moral sphere as Israel – numerous airplane hijackings; the Munich attacks; the school attack at Ma’alot; the Lod Airport attack; suicide bombings; targeting of civilians; and now, fighting an entire war as an army embedded among civilians. It seems to me this is no longer a war about land or religion or justice or injustice. I think it has truly evolved into a war of cultural and physical survival. It is becoming clearer and clearer that this is a war over values and culture; a war about being able to maintain the Western world free from those who would subjugate it and turn it into a civilization that is so ugly that it would target civilians while cynically using their sides’ civilians as shields. Surely, as I write, there are numerous Lebanese, Saudis, Emirates citizens, and others in the region who are praying that Hizbullah and its master Iran lose this war. Imagine them praying for the welfare of Israeli soldiers quietly and in their hearts…

Edit: Lo and behold, the next article I read in the J Post is about Blair’s recent speech where he says:

The central point is this: In the end, even the issue of Israel is just part of the same, wider struggle for the soul of the region. … [I]n Lebanon, in Gaza, in Iraq and add to that in Afghanistan, in Kashmir, in a host of other nations, including now some in Africa – it is a global fight about global values … about whether our value system can be shown to be sufficiently robust, true, principled, and appealing that it beats [Reactionary Islam].

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  • Seriously… Be objective about what Kofi Annan said. JDAMs just DO NOT accidentally fly someplace else and hit something unintended. Even with GPS jammed it will hit within about 30 meters of the target and with GPS you can get an accuracy of under 13 meters. If your intent is not to destroy, do you a) drop the bombs inside this 30 meter range, or b) drop the bombs far enough outside this 30 meter range?

    So yes, the outpost was targetted and it was deliberately done. That much has been established. But exactly who is responsible? Who gave the order? Someone high up the government, or did the pilot do an error? If the JDAM itself malfunctioned, then clearly they should not be used anymore as they will not hit the intended target – there is also the risk of hitting your own troops!

    With all respect to the men and women who have the balls to risk their lives fighting, I do think that you should seriously consider the option that whoever commands their actions is not always righteous or acting perfectly.

  • Muffti is pretty sure that your being careful to avoid civilians is not a matter of acheiving brownie points but a moral imperative to not take innocent lives even if it makes your job easier. Brownie points are a bonus.

    As for the war on values, This is not NEARLY the first time that a war has been fought where the civiliain population was to various degrees complicit or forced to be a part of the combat areas by a non-professional army. Macedonian rebels, for example, used similar techniques when siezing villages in 1999. So Muffti isn’t sure why all of the sudden an age old technique of using civilians as a resource is ushering in a new war between two value systems. It’s just an age old way of fighting an asymmetric war. Painting it as a war between two different value systems is just another political ploy to justify the much larger and more complex ‘war on terror’.

    What Muffti thinks is really going on, if there is a theme to abstract, is this; the ethics of war has long clung to the distinction between ‘civilian’ and ‘soldier’: that division underlies much of the basic ethical ideals when it comes to war. That distinction is under heavy attack: whereas when you have armies you enroll in, there is a serious division between army and civilian, when you have volunteer armies that can be supported in any number of ways, you lose a real sense of who counts as what. When that happens, people cease being merely ‘civilians’ or ‘soldiers’ and there opens a continuum between the two: some people are more soldierlike and others more civilianlike.
    And that’s what makes the ethics of fighting this sort of a war so goddamned murky.

  • Middle, you’re mostly correct about Western values being at stake here. But only mostly. After all, Israel is making a war on, inter alia, the Lebanese state, as PM Olmert stated plainly at the outset. Israel’s cause was morally compromised (not morally infirm, just compromised) as a result. Certainly, we’ve seen widespread devastation in Lebanon– not just civilian casualties, but crippling blows to infrastructure– that will hobble the country for many years to come.

    Ask non-Shiite Lebanese if they affiliate with an Israeli-led struggle to redeem Western values. Don’t count on them to start waving the Star of David. On the contrary– the message Lebanon is being sent is, be wary of casting your lot with the West, with capitalism, secularism, democracy and the United States. It will avail you not at all if Israel, in its sole discretion, finds it necessary to immiserate you with its state-of-the-art weapons.

    This is no small price to pay, Middle, n’est-ce pas, the trashing of Lebanon? We can make the argument that it had to be paid. Personally, I believe the question is a fairly close one–couldn’t Israel have confined itself to ground operations south of the Litani?– but in the end think the stakes you describe worth the price of a wider war on Iran-led Islamofascism.

    But you’re finding more moral clarity than exists here.

  • As I posted on my own website a few days ago, it doesn’t matter how careful Israel is because of the hatred of the Jews that still exists in Europe and elsewhere in the world. For instance, look at your closest ally, America. America, for all intents, has never really had a problem with Jews (it was a Jew who practically financed the entire Revolutionary war…granted he’s highly undercovered in American history). In other words, America was founded by people who left Europe and thus had no problem with Jews (at least mostly) when they came over.

    Back to Europe and we see years upon years of this crap. Europe has never escaped her hatred for the Jews and it is showing itself currently. Why would they look at the rockets hitting Israel and go, “Oh, what a shame” while looking at Israel accidently bombing a complex (that mysteriously did not collapse until 8 hours later) and yell, “Murderers! Blood thirsty Jews!”.

    There is a hidden motive there. So Middle, the sacrifice and courage is there, that these brave men and women would render up their lives as to not cause more civilian casualties, but it will never be recognized by the world because they are Jews.

  • The media can make Israelis out to be the bad guys but we know all of the things the terrorists have done and will do. Long live Israel.

  • Tom, have you spoken to Christian Muslims, specifically from southern Lebanon? I have and the ones I’ve talked to (who still have family over there in the middle of all this) say they have prayed for this day since 2000. I’m sure that is not the sentiment of them all (even in liberation I would not want my house blown up or even the risk of it), but to say that none of them recognize what is being done is absurd. They HATE Hezbollah, and I assure you that you’ll find many do not mind Israel doing what they are doing.

  • Grrrrr, that should read “Christian Arabs,” not “Christian Muslims.” Slip of the keyboard.

  • I say that this essay is spot-on, even if I also think that there’s no clear picture of what happened at the UN outpost, at least not yet. The larger points remain indisputable: Israel will not be treated fairly, justly, by most of the world, no matter how it conducts this war, and there is a clear difference in moral values given how the IDF is attempting to fight and how its enemies deliberately fight.

  • Joel, I’ll be delighted to stand corrected about the sentiments of Lebanese Christians.

    Certainly, no one of good faith can be confused about who the bad guys are here. But war is a messy business, and this one has involved some agonizing choices. We can all hope at the end of the day that H and Iran have been dealt substantial blows. The stakes are very high, as Middle indicates.

  • Well there is no debate there Tom. No matter what the price is going to be incredibly high. The question ultimately boils down to which is the greater good and can save more lives; ending Iran, Syria, and H’s tyranny in this part of the world now, or let them continue to grow in power? Either way there will be a full blown war within the next ten years…so do we do it now and limit the scope, or wait until later? No matter what, it will be costly.

  • Wow, Joel, you seem really eager to go to war. When do you depart? Which branch of the military are you with?

  • Muffti, I don’t think we disagree. Your last paragraph makes the case pretty well. My point is that Israel has been dragged into a situation where the notion of who you’re fighting becomes extraordinarily murky. While the Palestinians have been doing this for a while, they were not a trained and well armed fighting army like Hizbullah and fighting them required significantly smaller resources.

    It is an ethical quagmire where you can’t fight without fighting more than your enemy because civilians as well as their infrastructure and homes become assets of the enemy. Is it new? It is new to the fighting in the Israel-Arab conflict.

    Tom, that is part of my point here: Israel has been forced to fight the war in this way because of the cynical use of civilians and their buildings/roads as assets. If the enemy would play by the norms of previous wars, there would be a very different equation here.

    You ask whether it was worth it to enter Lebanon, the sovereign state, and attack its assets in this way. I don’t know. I certainly wish Israel hadn’t done so because it has hurt a country struggling with a young democracy and it has hurt people who had nothing to do with Hizbullah.

    Was it wrong to do so? If your enemy uses the resources and population of Lebanon as an asset and you go to war, what is the right way to fight? Considering that Israel sent in a commando unit to the hospital where they thought that Hizbullah leader was hiding instead of bombing it, and sent in this naval commando force to attack these Hizbullah members instead of hitting the building that may have civilians in it with a missile, it seems to me they are trying to find a balance between a moral attack and immoral attack. I also think they are learning as the war continues how to fight in this type of war since it is a relatively new set of circumstances to the IDF. I’m sure you saw the NY Times photo comparing a section of Beirut on July 31 to July 12. It didn’t look wanton to me. It looked confined to a specific area.

    Finally, as to my point about a war of values and culture. I have to say that I did not view this war in this way a couple of weeks ago. The propaganda, the use of civilians, the constant badgering from Iran that allude to the destruction of an evil state, etc. as well as the Israelis’ willingness to risk their lives to not become like their enemy are critical issues here.

  • Nakai, since when does one have to be in the military in order to have an opinion on what is the most ethical route? Remember, a priori knowledge can still trump a posteri knowledge. I do not necessarily need to have the experience of war to know that war is still a justifiable act.

    As for willingness to go, no, I do not. However, when you have people such as the Iranian president war becomes an inevitable option. He is the Hitler of Iran. Likewise, I do have a say in this because if such a war were to break out the US would most likely get involved. Being that our military forces are streched, a draft would be the most likely outcome…a draft of which I am eligable for. Thus, I understand what I say when I speak of a war with Iran and Syria and I realize that when it occurs I will most likely end up over there. This, however, is irrelevant in discussing the best choice for solving the problem.

  • So, you are not in the military, and have no plans to sign up, do I infer correctly?
    Perhaps because I am black, I’m rather reluctant to head off to war, because as much as war destroys a generation, it affects ethnic minorities especially so. Perhaps because I am an educator, I’m partial to solutions that preserve life, rather than destroy it, because I’d like to play to a full house, so to speak.
    And perhaps because it is part of my job to produce beauty, I despise ugliness in all forms, and there is nothing that can convince me that war is anything but ugly.
    War is a last resort in traditional Islamic thought, and to be suspended at any chance of diplomatic relations. The UN holds similar views. I would not hold with any nation, Muslim or otherwise, that deviated from that standard.

  • Muffti wrote:
    the ethics of war has long clung to the distinction between ‘civilian’ and ’soldier’: that division underlies much of the basic ethical ideals when it comes to war.
    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
    Well, actually, this is a relatively *recent* development – as are uniforms and other stuff used to identify combatants. In most of world – and European – history, civilians were most definitely “in play” during war and were slaughtered/raped/plundered/all of the above in the course of battle, and after victory.

    All European powers used collective punishment of civilians in their wars of colonial conquest and dominion – especially to counter the guerilla/terorist actions of national liberation movements. The Brits even did some of this in Mandate-era “Palestine” to keep the lid on the Arab riots.

  • Middle – great post. And a great title which captures the bitter pang many Israelis feel now – there is unity of purpose in fighting this war, combineed with lingering doubt that the higher-ups, stuck in an Oslo-era mindset, may be sacrificing our boys in the pursuit of world opinion “brownie points” – which are worthless.

  • Yes, Nakia everyone that supports a defensive is averse to life unlike you who wants to “preserve life.” Joel and myself are all about death and destruction.
    And let me be so blunt as to say that war, no matter if one is black or white, Christian, Muslim, or Jewish, has equal negative effects on all people not just minorities.
    Also let me remind you that the US is a civil society not a militiristic one, a civilian aka the President controls the army. It’s pretty progressive thought that elected officials bid the military to do the will of the people. Thus, you do not need to be in the army to have opinions about war. So it’s a pretty cheap shot to level at Joel.

    Maybe, “war is a last resort in traditional Islamic thought” but it sure seems a lot of Muslim countries have chosen a different tradition.

  • Petitedov, if you care to converse with me, read my comments, don’t just scan them. And sarcasm is a poor substitute for wit. I’d also recommend that you read the personal accounts of people who have actually been involved in war, and that goes for Joel as well.

  • Again, you keep attempting to jump into a logical fallicy. In a democracy one does not have to be part of something in order to realize the value in it. In other words, Iran is full of “nut jobs” who want local domination…this inherently brings war. Would you have attempted to rationalize with Hitler? Of course not. Then why attempt to rationalize with someone who teaches the exact same garbage that Hitler taught?

    As I stated, no, I am not part of the military. There is no need to infer anything, I stated point blank that I was still eligible for the draft. You can’t be drafted if you are part of the military. 🙂 This, however, is irrelevant to the discussion as I pointed out one does not need to experience something in order to prove something. Likewise, just to nip this one since you want to ignore the logical fallacy, if the United States chose to go to war against Iran and Syria in order to preserve the lives of the innocent and called upon a draft, I would have no problem going. Can you drop this line of “reasoning” now?

    Moving on, if you wish to preserve life then you inevitably have to be for war in certain circumstances. Right now I hope diplomacy wins over this conflict, that people can sit down at the table and offer up peace and a cease-fire at the point of a pen rather than at the point of a gun. At the same time, I am a realist and understand that this will most likely not occur. Now when it comes to war we can either live in the real world or the ideological world.

    In our fantasy world where we attempt to achieve Utopia, yes, war is always evil and we should always be against it. We should always pursue peace and try to preserve lives.

    Then we step into the real world and realize that certain lives simply are not worth preserving. I do not mean this to apply to groups of people, but instead to certain individuals. Stalin would be a perfect example of someone who proved that his life was not worth living, and it should have been ended. The Iranaian president is quickly proving that his life is not worth living because the longer he lives, the more lives he inevitably puts in danger. With this in mind, though war is tragic, it is sometimes necessary in order to stop evil from reigning which in the end would not only end more lives but take away the quality of life as well.

    You can say that traditional Islam teaches peace, but you ignore your own history as well as the fact that of the 40 major conflicts in the world today, 28 involve Muslims in some fashion. That, I think, needs some explaining.

    Oh, and btw, it isn’t minorities who suffer in war, it’s those on the lower end of the economic spectrum. Then again, you seem to forget that most officers come from decent families (afterall, the majority have college educations), yet they suffer in war just like everyone else. Don’t play the race card or any other card…war is hell for whoever is involved.

  • You have taken leave of your senses, and entered a fantasy world, one where the written word has no effect, apparently. If you wish to converse with me, read what I write, and possibly a few history books besides. Until then, I shall not continue this discussion.

  • Which is the true voice of empty rhetoric, one which cannot disprove but can only disqualify a person. 🙂

  • “Well, actually, this is a relatively *recent* development – as are uniforms and other stuff used to identify combatants. In most of world – and European – history, civilians were most definitely “in play” during war and were slaughtered/raped/plundered/all of the above in the course of battle, and after victory.

    All European powers used collective punishment of civilians in their wars of colonial conquest and dominion – especially to counter the guerilla/terorist actions of national liberation movements. The Brits even did some of this in Mandate-era “Palestine” to keep the lid on the Arab riots.”
    The concept of not harming non-combatants is centuries old, if not millenia. What is new is the global enforcement of same. Whether or not the concept of not harming civilians is 10 minutes or 10 centuries old, it’s a dang good one, and one I hold dear. I’m not normally one for verbal pyrotechnics, but when preachers of all faiths denounce civilian casualties, I must give a hearty Amen.

  • Muffti agrees with Nakia. While the presence of uniforms is new, the notion of a combatant is age old and has its place implicitly in such documents as the Penepolesian Wars.

  • Muffti man, I don’t know what kind of rotgutt swill they’ve been giving you to drink down there in Croatia but even one as witless, stupid and idiotic as myself knows it’s the Peloponnesian War and the document in question is called The History of the Peloponnesian War by Thucydides, an Athenian General and historian. I don’t know what this Penepolesian Wars thing is but thefirst thing I thought of was a bunch of women all called Penelope going at it with each other.

    Oy. Come home already.

  • I was wondering about Muffti’s comments myself, but I am momentarily stunned by reading Yvonne Ridley’s latest piece of trash. Ever read her work? Don’t, she’s sickening, and I am literally nauseated after reading her Jew-bashing crap.
    In breaking news, however, the UN is creeping towards demands for a BILATERAL ceasefire. Whoo-hoo!
    (What can I say? I like it when people aren’t shooting.)

  • hehehe…bad spelling takes the Muffti down. Again. Can’t we ever get a spell check for comments???

    Muffti is ‘home’. And lay off Croatian drinks, beeyatch: Karlovacko is good shit!

  • Nakia, give me an example of people not denouncing civilian casualities? What magic world do you live in where war does not on some level effect the civilians? What kind of standards do you have for the IDF, that you would suggest that any party must at all costs (including their soldiers’ lives)avoid civilian deaths. If IDF was targeting civilians I can see your point, but they are not.
    As for history of uniforms, I don’t really care if uniforms have been invented in the last two hundred years, the fact is, they have been used for a while now, it’s time for HA to get with the program.
    It’s fun to see people’s come back to the colonialism argument. It’s like before the Europeans Arabs never fought amongst themselves ever. Evil Europeans, bringing their warmongering everywhere they go.
    Sorry, I can’t be witty for you…see this war is kind taking all my wit and turning into cynicism and anger, I try to be all cheery and sweet just like you but I seem to living in world where it isn’t sunshine and rainbows all the time, you know where people do ugly horrible things. I guess my arguments should be ignored if they aren’t witty enough for you.