Blogs > Liberty and Power > Victory Through Victim-Swapping

Jul 21, 2006 10:37 pm


Victory Through Victim-Swapping



[cross-posted at Austro-Athenian Empire]

By most reports, Israeli bombings of Lebanon are strengthening Hezbollah’s support among Lebanese civilians, while Hezbollah bombings of Israel are strengthening the Israeli government’s support among Israeli civilians.

So here we have (what are by libertarian standards) two criminal gangs, both blasting away at innocent civilians, and the result is to increase these gangs’ popularity among the civilians being victimised! A very successful outcome for both sides.

The trick, of course, is that each gang is blasting away at civilians in the other gang’s territory. If each gang were to attack its own civilians directly, those civilians would quickly turn against the gangs in their midst. But since in fact each side’s continuation of bombings is what allows the other side to excuse, and get away with, its bombings, the situation isn’t really all that different; each side is causing its own civilians to be bombed. It’s just that by following the stratagem of attacking each other’s civilians, the two gangs manage to avoid (and indeed promote the exact opposite of) the loss of domestic power that would follow if they were to bring about the same results more directly. Think of it as the geopolitical version of Strangers on a Train.

No, I’m not suggesting that Hezbollah and the Israeli government are in cahoots. They don’t need to be. This is how the logic of statism works, this is how its incentives play out, regardless of what its agents specifically intend. The externalisation of costs is what states do best. (True, Hezbollah isn’t a state, but it aspires to be one, and its actions are played out within a framework sustained by statism.)

What would happen if the civilian populations of Israel and Lebanon were to come to see this conflict, not as Israel versus Hezbollah, or even Israeli-government-plus-Israeli-civilians versus Hezbollah-plus-Lebanese-civilians, but rather as Israeli-government-plus-Hezbollah versus ordinary-people-living-on-the-eastern-Mediterranean? Both Hezbollah and the Israeli government would quickly lose their popular support, and their ability to wage war against each other would go with it.

But by encouraging the identification of civilians with the states that rule them, statism makes it harder for civilians to find their way to such a perspective. (Of course racism and religious intolerance are part of the story too – yet another way in which such cultural values help to prop up the state apparatus.) As long as the people of the eastern Mediterranean continue to view this conflict through statist spectacles, Hezbollah and/or the Israeli government will continue to be the victors, while the civilian populace in both Israel and Lebanon will remain the vanquished and victimised.



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Peter Lewin - 7/31/2006

OK, fair enough. Your comparison however is not a good one. The Protocols is a demonic slander. My characterization of Islam is accurate. It is not a demonization. Everything they believe they attempt to translate into action. I am not denying the existence of many moderate, decent Moslems - but these are not the people Israel is fighting - though they may be among the victims on both sides.

"I don't doubt that this injustice has provided an excuse for outsiders, including Arab governments and Islamic fundamentalists, to pursue their own nefarious objectives at the expense of the dispossessed."

We agree 100% on this. And, fundamentally, the Palestinians should not be Israel's problem, since they are not in the best position, economically or strategically, to fix it. Those who really want an end to this problem, a real solution, should be pressuring the Arab world and the Europeans to find one that does not involve the destruction of Israel. This thread started with what I perceived to be an application of double standards in judging the situation, thus missing the key ingredients of a solution.

Of course if the state of Israel were dismantled that would provide a solution of sorts and I would not be surprised if this is what many would like to see.


Mark Brady - 7/31/2006

You write that "[t]he "Protocols" is a calumny. I find your statement about it insulting, one designed for its shock value rather than for its genuine belief. I hope I am wrong. I am not engaging in a false vilification of Islam, I am simply revealing (in a way you obviously find politicially incorrect) what is there for everyone to see. The muderous tenets of Islam are not theoretical. They are the motivating elements of action that we see everyday. Wake up!"

When I wrote that "[y]our assertion is akin to the ideology behind the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, except that "Islam" substitutes for "Jews" in your model" I had in mind the fact that just as the Protocols depict World Jewry as the enemy of Christian civilization, so you described Islam as the enemy of the West. I certainly didn't think you were lying and I sought to avoid that suggestion by drawing a parallel between your assertion about Islam and the ideology, but not the motivation, behind the Protocols. I'm sure you sincerely believe what you say. I do too and, for my part, I'm not motivated by political correctness, as you implied.

I'll go further and say that even if you were correct in your characterization of Islam, it doesn't follow that Israel deserves our support in the conflict now raging in the eastern Mediterranean. The bottom line is that from the time of the British mandate, Palestinians have suffered a huge and continuing injustice involving property rights to land. I don't doubt that this injustice has provided an excuse for outsiders, including Arab governments and Islamic fundamentalists, to pursue their own nefarious objectives at the expense of the dispossessed.


Peter Lewin - 7/29/2006

You ask:

"Why should I as a resident of San Jose, California, feel threatened by Hizbollah?"

Well, I did not say you should feel threatened. This whole thread developed out of what I perceived to be an unjustified attribution of moral equivilence to the parties in the current war - a moral equivilence that you most recently evidence by suggesting that my analysis of Islam is equivilent to someone attributing the Protocols to Judaism. But maybe you should feel threatened - Hizbollah is just the latest strategic response to a local situation. I think its main aim in the short term is the promotion of Shia Islam in Lebanon. Israel is a convenient rallying cause - though apparently at his own admission Nisrallah (sp?)did not anticipate Israel's response.

Shia fundamentalism has not yet taken its fight global. But there is no doubt that Hizbollah is an instrument of the state of Iran.

You should feel more threatened by the Sunnis. Any target anywhere in the world is possible. You repeat that 9/11 was blowback for US intervention in the Middle East. It would be nice if this were true and, more important, if we could believe that if only the US had not intervened we would all be safe. If we just leave them alone they will leave us alone. You really believe this?

For the record: I do not know why Israel is causing so many civilian casualties. I wish with every fibre of my being that they were not. I await more details and stand ready to condemn what needs to be condemned. But I vehemently reject any attempt to place Israel's response in the same moral or immoral box as the terrorism (not just the "kidanpping") that precipitated it.


Peter Lewin - 7/29/2006

It is your statement that is ridiculous and naive and fails to see (or refuses to see) Islam for what it is. Christianity is certainly guilty of terrible crimes and Judaism might have been had not the Jews been dispersed - and, in the process developed a much more tolerant body of law - and switched from an evangelizing to an inward-looking worldview. Christianity, after enduring wrenching internal splits and loss of power, adapted (with notable exceptions) a world-view based on tolerance. The central core of Christianity is, in any case, more conducive to tolerance than Islam, far more. Islam has never had any kind of reformation. It makes no distinction between secular and religious law and it has massive power at the state level. Its central priciples are based on domination and conversion. Any accomodation with non-muslims is made for strategic purposes only.

There are many Muslims who recognize this and are working to effect some kind of reformation. See:

www.arabsforisrael.com

http://muslim-refusenik.com/

The "Protocols" is a calumny. I find your statement about it insulting, one designed for its shock value rather than for its genuine belief. I hope I am wrong. I am not engaging in a false vilification of Islam, I am simply revealing (in a way you obviously find politicially incorrect) what is there for everyone to see. The muderous tenets of Islam are not theoretical. They are the motivating elements of action that we see everyday. Wake up!

PL.


Mark Brady - 7/28/2006

Why should I as a resident of San Jose, California, feel threatened by Hizbollah?

I note that you do not choose to amend your statement that "Conquest and domination are fundamental Islamic imperitives." This is a ridiculous statement that ignores the development of Islam in recent centuries and is akin to equating Christianity to the medieval Crusades without qualification. Your assertion is akin to the ideology behind the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, except that "Islam" substitutes for "Jews" in your model.


Peter Lewin - 7/28/2006

What do you mean by "us"?

Any non-Muslim.


Mark Brady - 7/28/2006

"I can't understand this? Its like we live on different planets. 9/11 was blowback? For what? For the injustices of the U.S. and other colonial governments in the Middle East and elsewhere?"

It was blowback for U.S. intervention in the Middle East.

"Conquest and domination are fundamental Islamic imperitives."

Do you really mean that, or do you mean "Conquest and domination are imperatives of fundamentalist Islam"?

" I am just saying don't think this has a whole lot to do with what the fundamentalists, of whom Hizbollah are a prime example, want to do to us, and to Israel."

What do you mean by "us"?


Peter Lewin - 7/28/2006

I can't understand this? Its like we live on different planets. 9/11 was blowback? For what? For the injustices of the U.S. and other colonial governments in the Middle East and elsewhere?

If you really believe this I think you are sadly deluded. There are few mistakes more dangerous than to think your potential enemies share your values, your way of thinking. Conquest and domination are fundamental Islamic imperitives. This is not new. This is part of a centuries old struggle. Jihad is an imperitive. Infidels must be subdued, converted or killed. There are no other alternatives. You think if we just behaved ourselves and minded our own business 9/11 would not have occurred. Actually it may have occurred earlier. Reluctance to defend and assert oneself is not interpreted and a principled position it is interpreted as weakness.

I am not defending statist adventures or shameful oil-politics. I am just saying don't think this has a whole lot to do with what the fundamentalists, of whom Hizbollah are a prime example, want to do to us, and to Israel.

I guess we will just have to disagree.

PL.


Sheldon Richman - 7/26/2006

That's what I get for writing after a long day. That sentence above should read:

The Israeli people don't deserve it, but that doesn't change the fact that Zionist/Israeli policy created its OWN enemies. Are you familiar with the intra-Jewish debate over Zionism from the START? The anti-Zionist Jews were right on every count.

By the way, it is in the very nature of blowback that people who don't deserve it get it. Did 3,000 people in the Twin Towers deserve it? Emphatically not. Was it blowback? Damn right it was. Governments always see to it that someone else pays the price of their folly.


Sheldon Richman - 7/26/2006

The Israeli people don't deserve it, but that doesn't change the fact that Zionist/Israeli policy created its on enemies. Are you familiar with the intra-Jewish debate over Zionism from the state? The anti-Zionist Jews were right on every count.

"The extent of the original dispossing of Arabs is a matter of some dispute."

Not very much dispute since Israel opened its archives. A raft of books came out by Israeli historians documenting the systematic dispossession. Why is this hard to believe?

"It is one of a series of injusticies that occurred in that period, most of which were directed against Jews."

This is plainly mistaken.


Sergio Alejandro Méndez - 7/25/2006

Excuse me Mr Jonathan J. Bean, but you and israeli apologists simply lie when they say that palestinians were offered "everything Arafat asked". Israel offered a palestinian state in the west bank, BUT maintaining Israeli settlers (and roads that lead to settlements) inside palestinian state. That is not precisly a "generous offer" as right wing mythology will love us to believe.


Peter Lewin - 7/25/2006

Nobody deserves to get kicked off their land, nobody deserves to be expelled from their country (Arab or Jew. The extent of the original dispossing of Arabs is a matter of some dispute; regardless it is not justifiable. It is one of a series of injusticies that occurred in that period, most of which were directed against Jews. How would you have solved the Jewish problem? Send all the survivors to the US? OK, it didn't happen. So what now. This does not mean Israel is an occupier - the US is an occupier of the land of Native Americans, right? (or are you referring to the West Bank, which Israel doesn't want and took as a result of a defensive war?). Blowback? I see. So Israel deserves what it is getting?

I am curious, what should the Israeli's have done? What should they do now?


Sheldon Richman - 7/24/2006

I didn't say the land belongs to Hamas and Hezbollah, neither of which existed in 1948 or 1967. Regardless of the type of civilization they had, Palestinian farmers did not deserve to be kicked off their land, as they were for many years before 1948. That they were is well established by Israel's own documents and historians. Condemning fundamentalism has a certain irony to it. Israel encouraged the formation of Hamas in order to create a secular rival to the PLO. It's called blowback.


Peter Lewin - 7/24/2006

You are kidding me. You don't don't think Israel's case would survive scrutiny better than the Arab fundamentalists? Sure, Israeli nationalists and politicians are guilty of some pretty bad things, but, come on, there is hardly a comparison. Do your history properly and you will see that Israel is not occupying, nor ever was, land that belongs unambiguously to Hamas or Hezbollah or any other group . The UN resoultions governing these things for what they are worth embody conditions that Israel has not violated. But the deeper point, for goodness sake, is that you are dealing with two completely different types of civilizations here. You think an examination of the history for moral equivilence will work out against Israel? Please explain.

PL.


Peter Lewin - 7/24/2006

Nobody ever comes right out and says the two are morally equivilant, but when one talks so glibly about the two sides condemning each in the same breath, what is a reasonable person to think? So you admit a difference in culpability between the two sides? What is you position of the moral standing of Israel compared to Hesbollah?

PL.


E. Simon - 7/24/2006

Your comment regarding safety was specifically referenced to nationalism, which is why I responded with citations of persecuted groups whose nationalism never was expressed - if at all - in a way that posed a state-based danger to the political "integrity" of Dar al Islam.

Prioritizing is not the same as creating a false either-or dichotomy - which is how your original post reads.


Jonathan J. Bean - 7/24/2006

Are you serious? I am working on a book "Freedom, Race and the State" and one of the key individuals was non-zionist Louis Marshall -- a giant in American life (look him up on Wikipedia). I've read the contemporary literature and it is clear that he -- and his American Jewish Committee-- were the STRONGEST, most effective opponents of immigration restriction until 1924, when nativism overwhelmed the Jewish committee and business lobbies supporting open borders. It's hard to blame Jews, who DID vote with their feet from Russia before then, for what happpened after 1924.

There is a strong peace lobby (or was) in Israel until they offered everything Arafat/PLO asked for and the response was -- not enough. Read PLO textbooks and those in surrounding countries -- maps don't show Israel.

The statism/resource conflict argument might be convincing to a Nation subscriber but not to this skeptic. I hope libertarians don’t fall into the fallacy that religion/ethnic chauvinism is, ipso facto, an ideological superstructure of economics.


Sheldon Richman - 7/23/2006

You misread: Jews are less safe in the Middle East than anywhere else.

It is no secret (you can look it up) that there was little enthusiasm among major Jewish groups to bring Jews to the U.S. or other countries because the priroity was Palestine. Former Supreme Court Justice Arthur Goldberg chaired a commission in the 1980s on the activities of these groups, and its draft report, leaked to the New York Times, was harshly uncomplimentary. In fact, it was so explosive that the commission was disbanded. Ben Gurion has been widely quoted that it was more important to establish a claim to Palestine than to save Jews in Europe. They had their priorities.


E. Simon - 7/23/2006

If you are honestly arguing that American Jewish agency in determining immigration policy during the Nazi era could have been instrumental in allowing the admittance of more, verily - vast numbers (millions) of - refugees had it only been more willing do so, then reputable citations to that effect would be greatly appreciated.

As to your second comment, I beg to differ. Israeli Jews are no less safe than were Palestinian Christians, Iraqi Kurds, and those few examples are only to reference very recent modern history. How about Armenians at the hands of the Turks? Why not acknowledge that majorities are treated almost as illiberally as are minorities in most of these countries, since it is so close to being precisely the point? Indeed, the reason for so much homogeneity in the Middle East today is because the Islamic conquest of Arab civilization left so few indigenous "minorities" intact. The cultural imperatives that reified such catastrophic changes were so deep that they will take years to ameliorate and accomodate to more liberal, modernizing norms. Again, that's not the Israelis' problem. Something to the effect of freedom not being free, or the trade-off between liberty and security. I'm not of the mindset to take issue with the wiser teachings of Benjamin Franklin today, either. Are you?

No apology needed.


Sheldon Richman - 7/23/2006

If we really get into the question of moral equivalence, it may not work out to Israel's advantage. The history of the origin of Israel is not pretty, as the Jewish anti-Zionists repeatedly pointed out. For all that one may indict some of their tactics, Hamas and Hezbollah are not occupying someone else's land.


Roderick T. Long - 7/23/2006

I'm puzzled by your comments on my post. My post said nothing about whether the two parties are morally equivalent. (Calling them both criminal gangs leaves entirely open whether they're equally bad or not. The Mafia and the Khmer Rouge are both criminal gangs, but I regard the Mafia as far and away preferable to the Khmer Rouge. So what?) My post also said nothing about the two parties' ultimate goals. And it said nothing about whether the civilians are being killed via direct targeting or via collateral damage.

Those might all be interesting conversations to have, but I don't see how they're relevant to my post. The argument I gave would remain the same regardless of what answers one might give to those questions.


Sheldon Richman - 7/23/2006

Let me remind you that this discussion was about what to do after the war. Remember the ibn Saud story I started with? But if you want to back up, fine. Many fewer Jews (including members of my own family, perhaps) would have been killed had the U.S. let them in. And that might have happened had Jewish organizations been more interested in opening America than in getting a state in Palestine. (The record is shameful.) There would have been massive efforts to bring eastern Jews to America had immigration policy been changed and the Jewish leadership willing.

As for safety in nationalism, Jews are least safe in the Middle East.

Sorry to not have inspired you.


Peter Lewin - 7/23/2006

What disturbs me most about this piece is the attribution of moral equvilence to the Israeli goverment and Hizbollah. Whatever one thinks about the state of Israel and its policies, it is hard to see how its aims can be equated with those of Hizbollah (or Hammas). The latter are persuing an ideology of death, one that deliberatly targets civilians and glorifies their deaths and their suffering. Is it being suggested that Israel is deliberately targeting civilians? To what end? That is crazy. If Lebanese civilians die and suffer Israel gets hurt through condemanation and loss of creditibilty. If Israeli citizens die or get hurt, the Arabs win. That is what they want and the world excuses their actions as a desparate reaction to Isreali "aggression." So they win both ways.

The moral equivilance camp are not only guilty of this kind of perverse logic, they are also naive. The fight against Israel is not about Israeli aggression, it is about the Moslem imperitive to remove any non-Moslem rulers from any territory once ruled by Moslems. And it is only the first step. The long term mission of these Moslem fundamentalists is to convert or subdue ANY non-Moslem throughout the world. America is the quintessential infidel civilization. We are the long term target, have no doubt about that, and not for anything we have done but simply for what we are.

The Isreali people want nothing more than to live in peace, if the rockets had never been there this war would never be. Israel in the Middle East is like a postage stamp on a football field. At its creation there were 750,000 arab refugees (people displaced by the drawing of borders and of the war of 1949). There were 700,000 Jews expellled from Arab countries who had to be absorbed in Israel. Somehow the Arab regugees became Israel's problem. Why? Certainly not for want of space or ability to have them settle in the Arab world as many of them have tried to do only to be treated as second class citizens. Many millions of displaced people had to be settled after WWII. The Palestinians are the pawns of Arab politics and Islamic fundamentalism, not the result of Israeli oppression. It is time to set the record straight and get some perspective. There is no moral equivilence between these two "gangs."

PL.


E. Simon - 7/23/2006

This is astounding... you seriously believe this? The closed doors of America (by the 1930s, that is) led to Auschwitz's open gates. By implication, Jews in Eastern Europe (and certainly not in Western Europe) who didn't have the foresight or resources to take advantage of relatively greater opportunities in America by the early 20th century at the latest, what... had no right to accept that nationalism affords groups, persecuted and otherwise, strength in numbers?

What, ultimately, are you trying to convince me of? Your assertions and responses seem to me uninspiringly weak ones at best.


E. Simon - 7/23/2006

I'll clarify and say that I while won't delegitimize the role likely situations in helping to facilitate maniacal mass hatred historically, I will neither legitimize its perpetuation ethically.


E. Simon - 7/23/2006

I'm not into blaming people for "causing" hatred. That seems like a weak way to describe human potential.


Sheldon Richman - 7/23/2006

Re the Jews' prospects in Germany, the American anti-Zionist reform Jews agreed that they were not promising. Their answer: Come to America. "America is our Zion," they said. I had the benefit of learning from the last great classical reform rabbi, Elmer Berger. Reading his writings on the Middle East question pays many dividends.


Sheldon Richman - 7/23/2006

The modern state of Israel, and the nationalist movement that spawned it, created its own enemies, just as the anti-Zionist reform and orthodox Jews said it would. Read their prophetic writings. The other factors have to been seen within this context.


E. Simon - 7/23/2006

All that is fine and well, but it doesn't detract from the roles played by bigotted attitudes condoned by and codified for centuries (dhimmi status), Palestinian leader Husseini's alliance with Hitler, the Hamas charter and Iran's role (currently the most important) in using both the Islamic Resistance Movement and the Party of God to wage proxy, eliminationist wars against Israel (and therefore, its people).

Mark Fulwiler's response begs the observation, that the ability of Jews to live in Germany or Europe also wasn't - at one point - much viable in the long term. Nice argument of him to make there. But too bad that people won't simply vote with their feet and leave this time. They'll stay and fight those who want to and act on killing them off or out.


M.D. Fulwiler - 7/22/2006

Didn't any Jews foresee the problems with the location of Israel? A Jewish homeland carved out of a section of Germany would have been a much better idea.

I hate to say it, but I'm afraid Israel is not viable in the long term. People are going to simply vote with their feet and leave.


Sheldon Richman - 7/22/2006

Religious intolerance, at least in this case, is not fundametal. Scarce land and water are fundamental. The Arabs for the most part did not hate Jews before the ham-handed (sorry) statehood movement got started. They coexisted with Jewish communities for a long time. (I'm not saying there was never any trouble.) Bigotry was a hitchhker on the rivalry over resources--namely Palestine and water. When FDR informed Abd al-Aziz ibn Saud, ruler of Saudi Arabia during WWII that the Jews needed a homeland in Palestine because of the Holocaust, ibn Saud said, in effect, shouldn't they get land from Germany? That doesn't sound like an anti-Jewish sentiment.


E. Simon - 7/22/2006

Religious intolerance is a part of the story too...? Didn't know. What a scintillating insight. Perhaps that part of the analysis could be expanded upon.

Naah.

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