Blogs > Cliopatria > Ten More Dead Israelis

Mar 15, 2004 8:46 pm

Ten More Dead Israelis

It might be picky, but this New York Times story from this morning has one seemingly minor but not inconsequential error in it.
If the terrorists did come from Gaza . . . it would be the first time in more than three years of conflict that Palestinian suicide bombers overcame an electronic fence that encloses the Gaza Strip to strike inside Israel. Crediting the Gaza fence with stopping attackers in the past, Israel is building a more elaborate barrier against West Bank Palestinians
This may technically be the first time that terrorists “overcame the fence” in the literal sense, but as many of you might recall from my piece "Back From Israel" last summer, in fact the terrorists who bombed Mike’s Place in Tel Aviv came from the Gaza Strip, though they got past the fence and borders by catching a ride with an unsuspecting journalist.

The larger point, of course, is that by and large, the Gaza fence works. Israel is far more vulnerable to attacks from the West Bank than Gaza, and the barrier is a huge reason for this. Were Palestinian leaders to negotiate in good faith, perhaps they would have some say in where the new barrier is built. Since they will not, it should come as no surprise that Sharon is going to build according to his own dictates. I think he is making some mistakes in his chosen path, though not in the overall decision to build a protective barrier. And I will remind my anti-Israel critics: While it is Sharon who is building this wall, traditionally the idea of a barrier between Israel and West Bank is an idea not of the Likud right but of the Israeli left, hardly friends of Sharon.

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Jonathan Dresner - 3/18/2004

Sigh, indeed. If I attacked or maligned your character in any way, I apologize.

Derek Charles Catsam - 3/17/2004

Jonathan --
You often do this take the ball and go home thing. Fine. This won't be the first time you stormed out of a discussion with a petulent lip curl.
But first, I asserted no geographic superiority, unless you are claiming that my actually having seen the evidence that you aver does not exist is geographic superiority. If I were not taking your ideas seriously, I would not be bothering with you. No, I take your ideas very seriously indeed. That you do not like to be challenged and challenged rigorously is too bad, but let's not simply chalk it up to a character flaw on my part. It is your lack of respect for my having seen the evidence, for my having been in the briefings, for my hvaing seen the documents and witnessed the footage that is the problem here. No geographic superiority -- simply taking evidence seriously, as opposed to your argument that you are taking the numbers that "you have seen" (that I initially cited) "with a grain of salt."
Finally, my "them" comment read, I'll write it again, as follows: "I think it is the height of audacity to accuse Sharon of cowardice for not being willing to negotiate with those who have proven time and time again that good faith negotiations with them results in dead Jews." Where is the ambiguity, Jonathan? You were wrong. And now you try to indict the clarity of a perfectly clear sentence rather than admit as much. No way anyone can confuse the "them" in my sentence with anybody bit exactly what the sentence says.
But storm off feeling wronged because you've been called out, and so it is no longer "constructive." Sigh.

Jonathan Dresner - 3/17/2004

Your "them" wasn't as clear as you thought, you are exploding our differences well out of proportion, you are accusing me of "implications" then backing away from the implications of those accusations, and I'm not going to engage in a discussion with someone who won't take my ideas seriously because of some percieved superiority in epistemology based on geography.

I'm done with this discussion, because it clearly isn't going anywhere constructive.

Derek Charles Catsam - 3/17/2004

Jonathan --
I was probably the one who raised the 80-90% figure. I raised it because I saw the data, I saw the numbers, and I saw some of the footage of these things last year in Israel. Believe me or don't believe me, but don't simply say "it could be more, it could be less we cannot know." We can know. We do. At least give my experience the respect of bothering to come up with actual countervailing evidence rather than letting your doubt be your evidence.
Who lumped you in with the "Israel orchestrated 9-11 . . ." blah blah blah crowd? Not me. What I did do is hammer at your argument, including your argument about my use of the word "them" which was an utter misreading of what I wrote. This is not asking for footnotes or scholarly apparatus. What it is asking for is to pay attention to what I wrote and not misrepresent it.
Finally, once again you assert without evidence that Israel reacts differently to successful than to unsuccessful attacks. That is wrong. It also is parsing in a silly way -- can you possibly tell what is a response to successful versus unsuccessful attacks? Of course Israel does retaliate when its people are killed, but do you really think Israel is so short-sighted as to be merely reactive?
As for thugs determining the terms of the discussion: Sometimes they do. Sometimes when someone murders your children, your husband, your wife the terms have already been dictated. Easy for you to sit from the comfort of a chair in an office in Hawaii and tell the Israelis that they should not respond to those who would, who have, murdered them based on some bizarre sense of what might be decorous.

Jonathan Dresner - 3/16/2004

One of the reasons I usually have the good sense to stay out of discussions like this is that anything short of a fully articulated and stringently defined position, complete with footnotes and testimonials, ends up grinding the discussion to a halt while everyone defines terms, agrees on ground rules and areas of common understanding; or everyone loses their temper and the whole concept of dialogue goes out the window with nobody but partisans having the energy to keep score.

I think unilateralism from a position of strength should manifest, at least in part, in a refusal to let thugs dictate the terms of the discussion, and I think we're in agreement on that.

Attacks prevented is, by definition, a slippery category. I'm sure Israeli security does prevent attacks, though their numbers (I seem to remember a figure of 80-90% coming up in a previous discussion) are, well, their numbers, and as a historian I have to take numbers in a contentious and ambiguous field like this with at least a grain of salt. For all I know, they're undercounting. My quibble with Israeli intercepts is their success ratio, not their desire. Give me a break: you're lumping me in with the "Israel orchestrated 9-11 so PNAC could take over the school board" crowd, and that's unfair.

But what is clear is that Israel does not react to prevented attacks the same way it reacts to successful ones, and I'm not sure that that is a logically defensible or strategically wise position. And it is also clear that the Israeli position on negotiations, etc., has not fostered the development of new, responsible Palestinian leadership. Surveys have consistently shown a strong Palestinian majority in favor of workable agreements, peace and development; it seems to me that Israel could find a few of those people to negotiate with, could work to elevate their status within the Palestinian community, could demonstrate the positive benefits that come from collaborative efforts. You disagree, fine. Israel isn't really listening to either of us, anyway.

Ralph E. Luker - 3/16/2004

Under the historical circumstances, it is a little hard to imagine any credible Palestinian leader might be altogether free of the taint of terrorism; and it is hard to pass off Sharon as being free of it.

Derek Charles Catsam - 3/16/2004

Ralph --
Good point. But a new leader's first reponsibility should be to keep its people safe. The Palestinian people are not safe as long as some within their midst engage in terrorism, because Israel will and must defend itself and retaliate at times.
It might also be noted (the death toll from the attack is now eleven, by the way) that the responsibility for the attacks apparently comes from hamas working with the al-aqsa Martyrs Brigades. And who does that latter group report to? Arafat. "A little time and attention before being written off as one of them" indeed. Arafat has been "one of them" for his entire career. If anyone doubts who still pulls the marionnette strings they are seeing not what is but what they want to see, and usually with death and carnage to innocent Israeli civilians as a result.

Ralph E. Luker - 3/16/2004

Just a minor quibble: no "new leader," either Israeli or Palestinian, will "disavow all violence." I imagine that you mean "unauthorized violence" and "all attacks against civilians." The first responsibility of any leader of a state is to protect its citizens from violence. The problem in dealing with the Palestinian authority has been that for so long there was _only_ unauthorized leadership in defending the Palestinian people. The Palestinian Authority has yet to establish its authority over all counter-strikes; and to suggest at this point that a "new leader" might co-operate with Israeli authorities is to suggest that "new leader" betray his or her first responsibility.

Derek Charles Catsam - 3/16/2004

Jonathan --
A new leader doesn't take more than five minutes in office before, if he has any real power, he makes it clear that he will do everything within his power to stop future attacks from coming from those he represents. A new leader makes sure to identify terrorists, to work with the Israeli government if necessary, and makes sure to isavow all violence, all attacks against civilians. A new leader makes it clear that he is not Aarafat's lap dog. Every Palestinian leader who does not do these things is to be dismissed, and with extreme prejudice. And if he does not have real power, Sharon or no other israeli leader has any business negotiating with him anyway.
Are you serious when you say that Israelis don't react to those attacks that are not successful? (and are you actually being serious when you imply that maybe the Israelis don't intercept terroprist attacks. You are simply wrong on this fact if that is your implication. I am curious what possible motive that implication would have. And it is clearly what the tome of your response implies.) Not to put too fine a point on it, but what in the hell do you think the purpose of the wall is? It is to react to terrorist attacks that have not yet come, to prevent those that have so far been stopped from being successful in the future. Israel deals clearly and obviously with intent, and intent derived not only from successful but also from unsuccessful attacks. I am assuming you were just asleep at the wheel when you wrote that paragraph.
Further, you are being more than a little intellectually sloppy with your condemnation of my use of "them" since the full sentence in which I used it in the context aboutwhich you are talking reads as follows: "I think it is the height of audacity to accuse Sharon of cowardice for not being willing to negotiate with those who have proven time and time again that good faith negotiations with them result in dead Jews." Now any even cursory reading of this should be clear: "them" refers to "those who have proven time and time again" -- nothing imprecise about that, no matter how much you try to taint me with damning and contextually irrelevent "myths."

Jonathan Dresner - 3/16/2004

My problem is "those." Doesn't a new leader deserve a little time and attention before being written off as "one of them?" If every Palestinian representative is to be dismissed whenever the well-organized terror groups makes a successful strike (and the Israelis don't seem to be interested in reacting to unsuccessful strikes, which they claim they intercept on a regular basis: why the difference, if an attempt is evidence of intent?), then there will never be negotiations with any Palestinians, and the terrorists will control the process. In other words, "them" is a myth, just as "the Jew" is a myth.

The hard part, of course, is finding Palestinians to negotiate with who are willing to take the strong anti-terror position, but we'll never find them if we let the terrorists dictate the pace and personnell of talks.

Derek Charles Catsam - 3/16/2004

Let's keep in mind that there are two potential kinds of unilateral decisions that Israel can make: Unilateral decisions of strength and unilateral decisions of perceived weakness. For the latter just think of what happened after Israel unilateraly pulled out of Lebanon, thinking it might get them peace. Meanwhile, Jonathan, I think it is the height of audacity to accuse Sharon of cowardice for not being willing to negotiate with those who have proven time and again that good faith negotiations with them result in dead Jews. Israel should only negotiate with those who agree from the outset that murdering civilians is going to be met with the strongest form of retaliation. Real alternative: Stop murdering Jews. Stop murdering Israeli citizens. Period. No middle ground.

Jonathan Dresner - 3/16/2004

Actually, you can indeed "quibble" with Sharon's policy directions. I've argued before that Israel is in a position, and would be well served, to take unilateral action towards a resolution of the conflict. But that action must be both defensive AND constructive: building institutions, improving living conditions, fostering long-term relationships that don't get dropped every time a bomber gets through the security lines, relationships with moderates that represent a more viable and popular position than the current crop of demobilized PLO lieutenants and die-hard deathheads.

And, frankly, Sharon's cancellation of the scheduled summit meeting is precisely what the bombers wanted and it's cowardly and shortsighted of him to give it to them without having some kind of real alternative in mind.

Robert KC Johnson - 3/16/2004

It seems to me that while one might quibble with the specifics of some of Sharon's policies, it's hard to argue with the broad outlines of his handling of the Palestinian issue. It was, after all, Arafat and the PA that made the decision to reject Wye and launch a second intifada based on terrorist attacks; there's no reason to believe that anything Israel could have done after that point would have stopped the terrorism. It may be, of course, that Israel's response weakened Palestinian moderates, but they were woefully weak to begin with.

I agree with Derek on the issue of the security fence: since the PA has no interest in negotiation, we can't really expect Sharon not to act unilaterally, and to do what he can to protect Israeli civilians.

Oscar Chamberlain - 3/16/2004

Now maybe the fence is the best that can be done now. I truly don't know.

However, I don't think that one has to be anti-Israeli to be made profoundly uncomfortable by some Israeli tactics.

An example:

When the Oslo process broke down and terrorist attacks on the Israelis continued, they had to respond.

But I think this was when the Israelis began using airborne missile attacks in civilian areas as part of their response. This began under Sharon's predecessor. One of the first things such attacks did was elminated any moderates in the Palestinian community (and yes they did exist).

I remember one interview (I'm sorry that I don't remember source and name) with a man who had actively tried to create business relationships between Palestinians and Jews. He had hoped to create friendships.

But when a missile slammed into a neighbor's house, he was no longer a moderate. He understood, correctly, that missile attacks were meant to terrorize him as well as to kill his neighbors.

Are such attacks less heinous than suicide attacks in crouds? Yes

Are they the sort of terrorism that encourages further resistance and anger?

Also yes.

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