Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Murderers, freedom-fighters and "complex situations"

Barry Rubin lives in a world of clear-cutness. To this radical Israeli Likudnik and university professor who "sold" the Iraq war to the West (although you may have heard that Israel didn't push for that war, see Rubin's seminal article here), a terrorist is a terrorist is a terrorist:

A reporter just wrote me a letter that contains a single sentence which I think reflects on why the Western world is in such trouble today (...):

“And when it comes to the Middle East, one man’s [obscenity deleted] is another man’s truth.”

Woe to us that a journalist thinks this way. Of course, this is very similar to the older version that one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.

Even diplomats obfuscate things, Rubin moans:

Recently, I heard that latter one from the Danish ambassador to the Council of Europe who said that Hamas and Hizballah were like the Danish resistance in World War Two.


That a European country—and one of the more astute ones, to make matters worse--is represented by someone like that says something pretty sad about the state of the world today.

Rubin would prefer that Denmark be represented by, say, the Muhammad cartoonists; but life is unfair.

In his pursuit of moral clarity, Rubin goes on to state:

People who murder civilians on purpose and organizations which have a strategy of mass murder are terrorists. The fact that these same organizations seek to put into power repressive dictatorships makes them even less like anything that might be called freedom fighters.

People who try their best not to murder civilians or to inflict suffering on them as an end in itself and who seek to create democratic governments with liberty are freedom fighters.

An EITHER/OR dichotomy arises from these paragraphs. There are murderers of civilians who want dictatorships, and protectors of civilians who want democratic governments; mankind is thus neatly divided between bad and good guys. The books were wrong all along and the world is not at all complicated.

Can Rubin be bothered to give examples of the bad guys? Unsurprisingly, he can:

Those responsible for the Terror in the French Revolution, Nazis, Stalinists, Hamas, al-Qaida, etc., can be called terrorists. That list was not meant to be exhaustive.

Individuals can act in a terrorist manner but if the movements in which they participate are freedom fighter movements, they will limit, restrain, and punish such people. In terrorist groups—like say the PLO historically—such acts were glorified and rewarded.

When one is served this [curseword deleted] by an Israeli academic, the first thought that comes to mind is, where to begin.

Palestinian terrorists don't kill Jews "as an end in itself." They kill Jews so that they will get the hell out of Israel. Of course this is immoral; nobody should be expelled from where they were born and raised; but the terrorists' objective is clearly not to murder people, but to fully retake the land that they view as theirs. And even in that context, the PLO was absolutely clear that it would not expell the Jews descended from those who lived in Palestine before the Balfour Declaration.

Also, Rubin fails to take into consideration that, outside of killing civilians, there's nothing the Palestinians can do to punish the Jewish theft of Arab land. It's not like the Palestinians can at any given moment cut off power to Tel Aviv, demolish a Jewish house of their choice or prevent taxes paid by Israelis from reaching their government. What the Palestinians do can't be compared to what a state with an army can do. It must be compared to what other peoples have done when they didn't have a state -- like, for instance, the Jews before 1948.

And here's where an innocent-looking paragraph that Rubin inserts becomes operative:

Now obviously if one wants to try to come up with complex situations regarding the issues discussed briefly above where the answers aren’t so easy, this can be done without difficulty. But this does not prove such distinctions don’t exist, just that they are not always simple ones.

Why does Rubin make this caveat? Isn't terrorism always terrorism? What can be complex about that?

The answer is very simple: Rubin is pre-emptively reserving the right to excuse the Jewish terrorists who targetted civilians in the 30s and 40s and who have been and continue to be glorified by Israel.

Take, for instance, David Raziel. His résumé includes:

Raziel (...) was slowly building his anti-terror machine. It now struck, to the terror of the Arabs (...).

On July 6,1938, time bombs were put in milk cans and placed in the Arab market place in Haifa by an Irgun member dressed as an Arab porter. In the explosion that followed, 21 Arabs were killed and 52 wounded. Terror spread throughout the Arabs of Haifa, among the most vicious of the enemies of Zionism.

The attack was in reaction to the murder of two Jews the previous day in Jerusalem, and the Arabs of Jerusalem were not to be spared. A bomb thrown into a crowd of Arabs on David Street in the Old City killed two and wounded four. Two days later, the Irgun threw a bomb into a crowd of Arabs waiting near the bus terminal near Jaffa Gate. Three were killed and 19 injured. A week later, on a Friday, as Arabs left their mosque at the foot of David Street in the Old City, an electronically detonated mine went off killing ten Arabs and wounding 30.

On July 25, 1938, a 30-kilogram explosive went off in the Arab market place in Haifa. Hidden in a barrel of sour pickles, it killed at least 35 Arabs and wounded 70 more. The Arabs were terrified; (...) Raziel was content.

One month later, the Irgun switched to Jaffa, a nest of the worst gangs of Arab vipers in the country. An Irgun member, once again dressed as an Arab porter, placed a bomb in the Arab Dir-a-Salach marketplace. The official version listed 21 Arabs dead and 35 wounded. In reality many more went to heaven.

February 27, 1939, proved to be yet another "Black Day" for the Arabs as the Irgun, sensing collapse of Arab terror in the face of Jewish vengeance, attacked in three cities. In Haifa, two powerful explosions went off, one at the ticket window of the railroad station in East Haifa and the other at the Arab market place. At least 27 Arabs were killed. Half-an-hour later in Jerusalem, three Arabs were killed and six wounded in an Irgun explosion on David Street while another died after being attacked on an Arab bus passing Machane Yehuda.

One would hope for this beast to be fully repudiated by Israel. One would hope in vain. Today, Israel celebrates this mass-murderer with a village named after him, Ramat Raziel, which is located in the Jerusalem corridor. Streets in all major Israeli cities bear his name as well.

That's right: the Jewish state is proud of a vicious Jewish murderer that killed more innocent civilians at the Haifa marketplace than the Palestinians did at the Dolphinarium.

So was Raziel a freedom fighter or a terrorist? Neither, according to Rubin: when Jews murder civilians, they become a "complex situation" (a category from which, obvioulsy, Arabs are barred) which we need not discuss, lest we expose ourselves as antisemites.


Gert said...

On the one hand you wonder how Rubin et al get jobs at universities; on the other hand you don't (at all). Israeli unis must be full of future legal eagles whose later purpose in life will be to legitimise (literally in this case) past, present and future land expropriations by means of self-serving interpretations of existing Law and the tailoring of new pret-a-porter Israeli Laws, designed to speed up the frittering away of more Palestinian land, "legally".

With regards to the 'terrorism' - 'freedom fighter' dichotomy, there's a whole range of such dichotomies to create more of the same: Good guy - Bad guy. For instance ME states that are allied with Israel (i.e. Egypt and Jordan) get awarded 'Moderate state' status, all others get branded 'Rogue state' status. Lebanon, depending on how it votes can go either way.

As regards Hamas, assuming Rubin does indeed believe there is such a thing as a freedom fighter and that people do indeed have the right to resist, then I'd like to know how he expects Hamas to minimise civilian casualties. By concentrating on IDF targets? How? What with? Without a regular army, air defence system, air force, navy, heavy weapons, artillery or guided missiles? And where? They'd have to break out of their prison first! Even when in theory at least they could have engaged with the IDF during Gaza, the IDF's strategy of the use of overwhelming power (a direct consequence of the failure of Leb 2006: casualties no longer sit well with the Zionist public) and a 'shoot at anything that moves' strategy made any meaningful resistance by Hamas virtually impossible.

Rubin's a well paid hypocrite. But we all know it pays well to collaborate with totalitarian regimes...

Utpal said...

Btw, Barry Rubin is (US)American, I think, not Israeli.

andrew r said...

the best HB post not by HB?