Blogs > Liberty and Power > Jonathan Cook: Five Myths That Sanction Israel's War Crimes

Jul 26, 2006 9:47 pm


Jonathan Cook: Five Myths That Sanction Israel's War Crimes



Readers who chide Israeli attacks on Lebanon as"disproportionate" or worse yet support Israel's victory in the current conflict, would do well to read British journalist Jonathan Cook's informed demolition of Five Myths That Sanction Israel's War Crimes. Since the current conflict began, I've been suspicious of the demonization of Hezbollah by governments and commentators around the world, and not least by those writers who identify as libertarians.

"The third myth is that, while Israel is trying to fight a clean war by targeting only terrorists, Hezbollah prefers to bring death and destruction on innocents by firing rockets at Israeli civilians."

"Hezbollah seems to have as little concern for the collateral damage of civilian deaths as Israel – each wants the balance of terror in its favor – but it is nonsense to suggest that Hezbollah's goals are any more ignoble than Israel's."

See also Cook's Crossing Red Lines where he argues that"Israel and Hizbollah have identical objectives: both are targetting economic and military assets with careless disregard for civilans."



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Sheldon Richman - 7/31/2006

Thanks, Peter.


Peter Lewin - 7/31/2006

In that regard we are not that far apart.


Sheldon Richman - 7/31/2006

The only thing remotely achievable at this time is a two-state setup, with a real Palestinian state (West Bank and Gaza), not the crippled notion the Israeli authorities favor. This is what secular Palestinians came to favor. Too bad the Israelis promoted a fundamentalist rival in Hamas. There are many delicate issues to be addressed, such as some kind of restitution to the Palestinians who were driven off land within the pre-1967 borders. It is not for me to work out details. There are people on both sides of the dispute who would be willing to sit down and talk in good faith.

I do think the reform Jewish anti-Zionists had important things to say. They would have opposed a Jewish state even if it had not involved land theft. Judaism, they said, is a religion, not a nationality or a racial group. As a radical liberal, I have no interest in nationalism.


Peter Lewin - 7/31/2006

So what now? (Assuming this is an accurate characterization of most of what happened, and not just one aspect). Do you advocate the dismantling of the state?


Sheldon Richman - 7/31/2006

The militaristic founders of Israel took Arabs' land and bullied their neighbors (after colluding with Jordan to deprive the Palestinians of their UN-granted territory). Then it demanded recognition of their state's right to exist before anything else could happen. Isn't this slightly odd? That is the historical context today's events occur in.


Sheldon Richman - 7/31/2006

I first heard anti-Zionist views from my orthodox grandfather, who was born in Lithuania, came to the US before WWI, and lost close family in the Holocaust. During the Six-Day War he blamed the Middle East strife on the Israeli usurpation of Arab rights. I'd never heard anyone say such a thing at that time. My parents were staunchly pro-Israel. I made two trips to Israel in the early 1970s, the first one during the Yom Kippur war in 1973. But I learned later that my zayde's view was the dominant orthodox and reform position until the end of WWII. American reform Judaism had anti-Zionism at the heart of its founding.


Peter Lewin - 7/31/2006

Now I see what I am dealing with.

"Why are they POWs?

They are soldiers captured by the enemy in war. If Hezbollah took some civilians hostage, the situation would be different."

Hezbollah crossed the border unprovoked. It was a calculated gamble that did not pay off. Israel's policy of massive retaliation is well known. They were waiting with rockets so you could write your story.

"According to Hezbollah's Lebanese opponents, anyway, Hezbollah continues its military operations in order to get back that last little slice of Lebanon from Israel."

I don't believe that at all.

"Hezbollah, Lebanon...everyone in the entire world except Israel and its puppet regimes--the U.S. and Great Britain--are calling for an immediate cease fire."

So what? I asked you if an equally simple solution would not be for Hizbollah to give back the soldiers?

"Israel just has to agree, and the missile attacks stop."

So you say. I say it will be interpreted as a victory and a sign of weakness from which to build the next surprise.

"By the way, Israel doesn't say that they will stop bombing if Hezbollah returns their soldiers. They say that Hezbollah must disarm. Read any news report out of Israel, and it is clear that Israel doesnt' want a ceasefire at this time anyway. They want more time to destroy Hezbollah. Since their means of doing so is to destroy Lebanon, this suggest a desire to just blow more stuff up."

As a matter of fact Israel has now softened that demand (read the latest news reports). I think they ought to destroy Hizbollah. I am not quite sure what you think they Hizbollah are.

"While it is possible that a ceasefire now would result in Hezbollah undertaking missle attacks in the future, there is no reason to expect that they would."

There is every reason to expect they would. They are puppets of Iran who wants to wipe Israel out.

"Of course, perhaps you mean that when Israel begins a preemptive war against Iran in a couple of weeks (or uses its U.S. or British proxies to do so,) then Hezbollah will begin missile attacks against Israel again..."

Oh I don't think they will need a preemptive war. They will just do it. They will find some other excuse. You know if they really wanted their prisoners back they could take some credible action to proclaim that they recogonize the right of Isreal to exist and want nothing more than to live in peace as her neighbor. It is really quite easy. Or do you think Israel has designs on land that it wants to conquor and, in any case, just enjoys "blowing things up"?


E. Simon - 7/31/2006

Oh, and even on Cliopatria they seem to have attracted a commenter that knows what he's talking about, and apparently much - to my surprise - the implied acceptance of even those guys.

http://hnn.us/readcomment.php?id=93692&;bheaders=1#93692


E. Simon - 7/31/2006

Sheikh Nasrallah's own minister of propaganda couldn't have twisted this one around better himself.

Israel will defend the lives of its citizens. Period. Regardless of who they are.

It is The Party of God (Hezbollah) that prefers war against that state because it happens to be governed primarily by the large Jewish majority that lives there.

Aims, gentlemen, aims. Seeing Israel as the bogeyman behind these problems requires stretching a lot of speculative theories that contrast directly against the aims that its enemies openly state.

And as far as all the misconceptions and concoctions periodically repeated here go - regarding war crimes, just war theory, proportionality etc., etc., Instapundit's recommended an appropriate corrective:

http://kennethandersonlawofwar.blogspot.com/2006/07/quick-note-on-proportionality-jus-ad.html

I'd also recommend Jeff Younger's responses to questions posed on the topic by Daniel Drezner:

http://www.danieldrezner.com/archives/002807.html


Bill Woolsey - 7/31/2006

Of the individuals I know who are strongly against Zionism, the vast majority are Jews. Rothbard is at the top of the list. You, Sheldon, are pretty high up on that list too.

While I think Israel mass bombing against Lebanon is horrible, I am not as anti-Zionist as Rothbard.

In my view, aside from the handful of Jews in the settler movement, the worst supporters of Israel are Christian fundamentalsts. I don't think they knowingly spread propaganda, however. I think they believe propaganda, but more importantly, just believe that God wants His people to destroy their enemies. Hey, He ordered a complete genocide for the Cannanites. The Arabs and Muslims are being treated well by comparison.



Bill Woolsey - 7/31/2006

Why are they POWs?

They are soldiers captured by the enemy in war. If Hezbollah took some civilians hostage, the situation would be different.

According to Hezbollah's Lebanese opponents, anyway, Hezbollah continues its military operations in order to get back that last little slice of Lebanon from Israel.

There are period small skirmishes.

Hezbollah has had these rockets for some time. They didn't start massive attacks at random.

Hezbollah began firing rockets at Israel after Israel began a mass bombing campaign against Lebanon.

Hezbollah, Lebanon...everyone in the entire world except Israel and its puppet regimes--the U.S. and Great Britain--are calling for an immediate cease fire.

Israel just has to agree, and the missile attacks stop.

By the way, Israel doesn't say that they will stop bombing if Hezbollah returns their soldiers. They say that Hezbollah must disarm. Read any news report out of Israel, and it is clear that Israel doesnt' want a ceasefire at this time anyway. They want more time to destroy Hezbollah. Since their means of doing so is to destroy Lebanon, this suggest a desire to just blow more stuff up.

While it is possible that a ceasefire now would result in Hezbollah undertaking missle attacks in the future, there is no reason to expect that they would.

Of course, perhaps you mean that when Israel begins a preemptive war against Iran in a couple of weeks (or uses its U.S. or British proxies to do so,) then Hezbollah will begin missile attacks against Israel again...

Is that what you meant?


Peter Lewin - 7/30/2006

"By the way, if Israel wants to stop missle attacks, all they have to do is agree to a ceasefire. In other words, give up bombing Lebanon."

I see, this is interesting. Do you really believe this? Sorry to ask. Its just that it is so crazy to me. You don't think, that within a week, within a month, the rockets would resume with a vengence. Why don't you say "By the way, if Hizbullah wants to stop missle attacks, all they have to do is agree to a ceasefire and give back the soldiers. In other words, give up bombing Israel." (Not sure why you call then POW's). Who do you think has a better chance at a ceasefile?

By the way, since you "find it puzzling" that Israel shoots at anti-aircraft guns, what do you think the explanation is? I laid out the possibilities because I am irritated by the ubiquitous insinuation that seems to occur when people are discussing Israel's actions and motives. What the hell do they think is going on? Are Isreal's policy-makers murderers who just like to blow up Arabs? If you want to claim that, go ahead! At least I would understand your position. I claim that Hizbullah's policy-makers are murderers who like to blow up Jews.


Sheldon Richman - 7/30/2006

Over the years there have been no tougher words about the state of Israel's conduct and words than those of the anti-Zionist Jews, both reform and orthodox. (A few names: Alfred Lilienthal, Rabbi Elmer Berger, Israel Shahak.) Anyone interested in this subject should delve into this revealing literature. You can begin with Thomas Kolsky's "Jews Against Zionism: The American Council for Judaism, 1942-1948."


Steven Horwitz - 7/30/2006

I don't have the words to respond to Bill's last comment. I simply do not have the words.


Bill Woolsey - 7/30/2006

I think Hezbollah is setting up, shooting missles, tearing down, and moving.

Apparently, Israel bombs the location--generally, after Hezbollah has moved.

However, I find it puzzling that "photographic evidence" is presented, and it isn't evidence of shooting missles at Israel from residential neighbhorhoods, but rather of an anti-aircraft gun in a location that would be too far away to hit Israel even if they were shooting missles rather than defending against Israeli airstrikes.

There was a report from a village in south Lebanon. A woman said that Hezbollah shot missles from a nearby hilltop. Then Israel blew up houses in the village. The woman was complaining about Hezbollah drawing fire down on her village.

By the way, if Israel wants to stop missle attacks, all they have to do is agree to a ceasefire. In other words, give up bombing Lebanon.

Of course, that means they must give up on the strategy of bombing Lebanon until Hezbollah gives up the two Israeli POWs. (And then all these additional demands, Hezbollah disarms and some kind of demilitarized zone is set up on Lebanese territory.)

By the way, it looks to me that Hezbollah may well win the war. That is, Israel will give Lebanon that last little slice of territory. (Syria has accepted Lebanon's claim to it apparently.) And also give up the Lebanese prisoners. (Little did I know that Israel was already willing to give up the war criminal in exchange for a pilot long ago.) And so, Lebanon achieves its military goals, and will doubtless be able to use that victory to help it build on its what, 25% political support in Lebanon?

By the way, I beleive that not only does the Israeli state lie, I think they have thousands of devoted followers in the U.S. who will knowingly spread what they know are lies. From their perspective, these are Noble Lies--told because the Jews are in imminent danger of another Holocaust.








Peter Lewin - 7/30/2006

Perhaps. Perhaps all the stories of Hizbollah hiding rockets among civilians are false. If so, what is the explanation for Israel's actions? Either they are mistaken - false intelligence or they are deliberately targeting civilians as a strategy. It seems to me those three are the most plausible -
1. there really are threats there,
2. they think there are but there aren't
3. its a deliberate strategy.

In the absence of evidence which should we assume until proved wrong? Do we make the same presumptions when Hisbollah kills Israelis? Just asking.


Bill Woolsey - 7/30/2006

These are anti-aircraft guns, right?

How are they are threat to Israel if they are located in eastern Beirut?

Perhaps they are located there to defend the neighborhood against being destroyed by Israeli bombs?


Steven Horwitz - 7/30/2006

If you think Hezbollah is not hiding out among the innocent, and risking them in the process, you might see this story and pictures from an Austrialian paper:

http://www.news.com.au/heraldsun/story/0,,19955774-5007220,00.html

I can't vouch for its reliability, but I see no reason to doubt it on the surface.

Find me the IDF fighters launching from apartment complexes in Haifa...


Sudha Shenoy - 7/29/2006

If the mere presence of non-believers could override different lines of development that go back to the 8th century, the Islamic world would long since have united together. There are also major cultural differences, eg between Persian & Saudi culture, which also have long, deep roots. Saudi Arabia & Syria -- Sunni majority govts -- have in fact denounced Hizbollah.


Craig J. Bolton - 7/29/2006

I think you two are probably confusing short-term and long-term goals, or tactics with strategy.

Yes, Hezbollah is right now focused on Lebanon and its conflict with Sunnis. But both Sunnis and Shi'as, at least the sort of Sunnis and Shi'as we're dealing with in this discussion, are interested in an infidel free Mideast. Jews are, in their eyes, evil in two respects - they don't accept the Prophet [some of them rather adamently] and many of them are Westerners. [Of course all aren't Westerners, but even the ones who aren't are still wholly evil and have to be kept in their place.]

Now Islam was not always like this [bigoted and xenophobic], and there are a heck of a lot of Muslims elsewhere who aren't like that. These guys, are, however, and it is rather silly to close one's eyes to those facts.


Sudha Shenoy - 7/29/2006

Al-Qaeda also come from the Sunni tradition of Islam, while Iran, the majority of Iraqis, & the followers of Hizbollah are all Shi'is. There are major & fundamental differences & hostilities that run very deep.


Bill Woolsey - 7/29/2006

Israel invaded Lebanon and occupied it. Hezbollah developed as a resistence force to that occupation.

Their military goals were mostly acheived. But Israel continues to hold a sliver of what Hezbollah claims is Lebanese territory. Israel (and the UN) claims that it is Syrian territory that Israel occupies.

Also, Israel holds some Lebanese POWs. There is a dispute as to how many, but something like two or three. One of them was convicted by Israel of a war crime. (And he isn't a Hezbollah POW either, but rather a Lebanese who was involved in a Palestian terror operation long ago!)

Anyway, Hezbollah took two Israeli soldiers as POWs and wants the Lebanese POWs back in return--included the person convicted by an Israeli court of a war crime (murder of a civilian.)

It looks like a very challenging situation for Israel, but I don't think describing this as a "kidnapping" is useful.

In fact, I am a little surprised that Steve is so encouraging of this effort to ignore the difference between military and civiian targets.

Hezbollah didn't kidnap some Israeli children. They fought an Israeli patrol, won, and took two POWs.

Israel has responded with a massive bombing attack on all of Lebanon. While Israel's advocates here tried to claim these were all military targets, they were made fools of by the Israeli military command who admited that it was a terrorist attack punishing the rest of Lebanon for tolerating Hezbollah. It is difficult to believe that Israel isn't targeting the civilian assets of Hezbollah for the same reason.

Punish Lebanese civilians, both Hezbollah supporters and not, so that they will stop the Hezbollah military forces from continuing to fight for these POWs and the sliver of land--doing things like attacking Israeli patrols and taking prisoners.

Given that this is now the admitted goal of the Israeli government, I am afraid that I have to agree that Hezbollah's retaliation with rockets is justified. Maybe they should invite all the civilian Israelis to leave too, before they say that everyone remaining within the range of their rockets must be a terrorist.

The notion that Israel is justified in attacking all of Lebanon (or even Hezbollah-controlled South Lebanon) because there are missles there that could injure Israelis is absurd.

To say that they should do so because these missles did injure Israelis, but after Israel started a massive bombing attack on Lebanon is also absurd.






Bill Woolsey - 7/29/2006

I think you are confusing Hamas and Hezbollah.

The primary purpose of Hamas is to create an Islamic state in all of Palestine.

While Hezbollah believes such a result would be just (and "supports" it,) their purpose involves promoting the well being of the Shia community in Lebanon.

Initially, they fought a war to end the Israeli occupation of the lands of their people (the Shia of south Lebanon) and they continue that war until they get their last sliver of territory (which Israel occupies but claims is Syrian) and also the repatriation of all Lebanese prisoners.

Apparently, there are few such prisoners. Like maybe two or three. And one of them was convicted of a war crime by Israel.

Al Quaeda supports Hamas 100%. Hamas does not support Al Quaeda. This is because Al Quaeda is enemies with Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf kingdoms that support Hamas. (Basically, Hamas doesn't sign on to Al Quaeda's grandiose project.)

Hezbollah is closely tied to Iran. Iran and Al Quaeda are enemies for a variety of reasons--Al Quaeda attacks on Iranian proxies in Afghanistan (before the U.S. invasion) and attacks by Al Quaeda forces on Iranian proxies in Iraq (the ones that run the Iraqi government now.)



Craig J. Bolton - 7/28/2006

Once again we seem to have one of those "debates" that turns around (1) the historical starting point and (2) expectations for the future.

As to Point (1):
If I understand Mr. Brady's perspective it is that both sides are doing things that harm civilians and otherwise aren't very narrowly tailored toward limiting or eliminating "the other side." Thus, both are equally wrong. That seems to me to be absurd unless you are adopting the hard and fast position that all national warfare is wrong. [In which case, the position makes sense, but isn't very relevant to any alternatives that are likely to present themselves in the near future.]

If I come into your home and shoot your dog, and you decide to shoot back at me we are both endangering those in and in the vicinity of the home [since most rounds will readily go through most residential walls]. Does that make us morally equivalent? I think not. You invaded my domain and shot first. Those are usually very material facts in any subsequent legal action.

So the issue is simply where do we start in this matter? Do we start a decade ago or a month ago? Who was shooting rockets at who a month ago?
If we want to start a decade ago, why not go back a hundred years when Arabs were rioting and killing Jews in the mid-East. Why is a decade better than a month or a century?

In addition, as a subset of Issue (1), and as noted by other posters, we have the little problem here that Hezbollah and its allies seem to feel than whenever there is a Jew any place in the mid-East, then said Jew is the enemy, regardless of whether they're shooting at anyone. Jews, it seems, are, by definition, alien invaders out to destroy the true faith and the true culture by the disrespect of their existence. Such an attitude doesn't leave much bargaining room if you don't feel like either dying or getting up and leaving the land in which you were born.

As to point (2): I suppose that there are those who believe with the PLO and the Saudis that the goal of Israeli foreign policy is to take over all of the mid-East, including Mecca and Medina. Is that your view Mr. Brady? If so, then certainly the sides are morally equivalent in that respect.

If that isn't, however, deemed to be a sane view, then the sides aren't equivalent, since, once again, the goal of Hezbollah and most similar groups is simply to "push the Jews into the sea" (i.e., take over the sole part of the Mid-East where Muslims aren't the dominate governing power).

You don't get open liberal societies by pursuing a policy grounded in xenophobia, and there is little room to bargain with someone whose position is, as George Bush put it with respect to the Taliban, "Do it right now, OR ELSE." Now if you don't think that is accurate, then maybe you can explain for us what the goal of Hezbollah and like sorts is when they fire missiles into Israeli territory?


Mark Brady - 7/28/2006

I'm puzzled by your response if only because over the years Israel has engaged in several exchanges of prisoners with those it regards as its enemies.


Gary McGath - 7/28/2006

It is not a myth that Hezbollah wants to establish Islamic rule throughout what is currently Israel. It is not a myth that Al Qaeda has allied with them, and recognizes their action as just part of a broader Jihad to re-conquer all lands that have been ruled by Muslims in the past. It is at least very likely true that Hezbollah has been directly involved in the deliberate murder of civilians in non-combat situations.


Steven Horwitz - 7/28/2006

And let me just add that Cook tries to draw moral equivalence by claiming Israel is blameworthy because they refused to go the bargaining table with Hezbollah after they kidnapped the soldiers.

Cook conveniently forgets to mention that the folks they wish to bargain for are not political prisoners, but rather real criminals, including murderers of children.

So it seems to me that it goes something like this: Hezbollah kidnaps two soldiers and says Israel can have them back if they come to the bargaining table and release some criminals in return. When Israel refuses, both because it doesn't wish to release criminals and because it doesn't bargain with kidnappers, *Israel* is equally, if not more, at fault for perpetuating the violence? Get real.

I simply cannot understand how self-proclaimed libertarians can see the refusal to peacefully negotiate with kidnappers as morally equivalent to the kidnapping. Granted, this is complicated by the fact that these are state actors, but it seems to me that it is within government's obligations to its employees to use defensive force to get them released from kidnappers.

Whether the force Israel has used is disproportionate is another question, and I have some real qualms there. But to suggest as Cook does that their refusal to negotiate is somehow on the same level as the kidnapping is really wrong.

And I find anyone who uses the term "Semite Supremicist" to decribe a Jew (even the largely detestable David Horowitz) to be immediately suspect in credibility.


Less Antman - 7/27/2006

I don't see the double standard: Israel's government is being criticized for actions that would be criticized if performed by virtually any other government. Professor Stephen Bainbridge, on his conservative blog, laid out the violations of just war theory by the Israeli government in its current behavior. He's hardly the only non-leftist with that view of the past couple of weeks.

One must make a case FOR a double standard in order to defend the current actions by the Israeli government.


Mark Brady - 7/27/2006

Aeon: "Do I think it's anti-semitic to argue that Israel is wrong to defend itself against those who have sworn to destroy it? Yes."

Why "anti-semitic"? Is this because Israel identifies itself as the state that will defend any and all Jews who reside there?


Aeon J. Skoble - 7/27/2006

It's not a myth that Hezbollah wants to eliminate Israel. Last time I checked, that was also the official policy of several of Israel's neighbors. I know the Left has a problem with Israel, since "the Palestinians" make better victims in the left's identity-politics worldview, but I hope libertarians don't start to fall for this. Israel is consistently held to a double-standard in its attempts to defend itself. A little pre-emption of my own: Do I think it's necessarily anti-semitic to criticize Israel? No. Do I think it's anti-semitic to argue that Israel is wrong to defend itself against those who have sworn to destroy it? Yes. There's no moral equivalence between those whose stated goal is to destroy Israel and who do in fact hate Jews, and Israel's self-defense.

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