How far is too far?

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I haven’t blogged about the situation in Lebanon, but that isn’t to say it hasn’t been constantly on my mind. The problem is, how do you articulate a position without instantly being jumped on by either side? As with Iraq, for so many people there is no space for nuance.

But I will say this: I have constantly hit out at people who tend to make excuses for terrorism. When Jenny Tonge made fatuous remarks about how she would have been a suicide bomber if she was Palestinian, I was one of the first to criticise, just as I was earlier this year when Chris Davies made similar comments. But it does amaze me how certain people who have been quick to attack such comments seem blind to the fact that it does work both ways.

Israel’s attack on Lebanon was by no means unprovoked but it has resulted in something like 10 Lebanese deaths for every 1 Israeli. The Israeli reaction to claims that this is disproportionate is “what would you have done?” But this sounds just a little too much like the rote of “something must be done” > “this is something” > “therefore it must be done.” Are we really to believe that there is no such thing as going too far?

Israel can’t expect us to sympathise with its right to defend itself, however disproportionately, and then expect us to condemn Palestinians or Hizbullah for reacting in the same disproportionate manner.

12 thoughts on “How far is too far?

  1. The problem is the conduct of both parties who never cease to amaze. The best way to take the peace forward is some magnanimous words and behaviour. I’ve had a lot of of sympathy for the Lebanese but Hez’s leader on the news tonight saying it’s a glorious victory for him and a dire humiliation for Israel is not useful. That’s not the way to act if you are rational and actually want peace to work.

  2. Do you have to take sides? Isn’t there room to say that to sort these things out by killing civilians is wrong?

    Incidentally “wanting peace to work” is an oxymoron. Peace always works. Use your “peace” and try to spread it to those who are not so fortunate.

  3. Personally, I’ve tried not picking a side, at least in this case. But for many people out there it would appear that that is not enough.

  4. You say that the war has resulted in 10 Lebanese deaths for every Israeli. Now presumably if every single Lebanese killed were Hizballah then it would not be possible to claim that the Israelis had acted disproportionately – in a war the objective is to defeat the enemy by killing him.

    You point out that

    The Israeli reaction to claims that this is disproportionate is “what would you have done?”

    But you fail to address what is a reasonable question. What would you have done? If a terrorist militia had attacked the UK, would you have advocated shooting a couple of them and then retiring? In order for your arguments to hold any water you must address the question. And to do this you must show that there was some less violent course of action that the Israelis could have adopted while still acheiving their legitimate aims.

  5. Fine, Bish. Since you’re so keen on cause and effect, I’ll answer that question if you ask the question “What would you do if a group of Zionists occupied your country, confiscated your land, subjected you to military rule and brutally stamped on any insurrection?”

    And if you think the 1,000 plus Lebanese killed by Israeli bombs over the past month are Hizbullah (presumably including the women and children) you really are crazy. If they’ve all been killed, who let off all those rockets on Sunday?

  6. I wasn’t aware that there was any dispute over the borders of the Lebanon, nor that the Israelis had confiscated any of it. Correct me if I’m wrong.

    And why do I need to answer your question? It is you who have made the claim that the Israeli actions are disproportionate. I am questioning your claim but you don’t seem to be willing or able to defend your position.

    I haven’t claimed that all the dead are Hizballah. But clearly some of them are. My point was only that in order to support a claim of disproportionality it is necessary (but not sufficient) to demonstrate that the proportion of the dead who were non-combatants was high with respect to those that were doing the fighting.

  7. The basis of my argument that the Israeli response is disproportionate is based on the civilian body count. I’m sorry if that is too complicated for you, or if you were under the impression that the current situation in the Middle East is entirely distinct from the Palestinian situation.

  8. But the problem with the civilian body count is that (AFAIK) the Lebanese body count is considered to be ALL civilian. This is clearly a nonsense because clearly some proportion of those killed are Hizballah.

    Do you know if anyone has attempted to distinguish combatant and non-combatant deaths among the Lebanese? If you do I’m interested to hear the figures and their source. If not, how can you say that the body count justifies a claim of disproportionate force?

    You seem to want to throw insults at me. If you don’t want me to comment on your site, you only have to say so and I will go away.

  9. Lobster,

    I use that phrase to mean wanting peace to be sustained. Verablly dancing on the graves of your enemy’s fallen, as the Hezbollah leadership has done, is not the behaviour of sensible people.

    When President Lincoln heard news of the South’s surrender he immedialtely commanded the band the play “Dixie”.

    I’d say to both side in this conflict that “civility is not a sign of weakness and sincerity is always subject to proof” (from JFK’s inaugaration speech 1960).

  10. Bish,

    I take it you do accept that many more Lebanese civilians have been killed than Israeli civilians were ever in danger?

  11. 9/11 resulted in a bit under 3,000 dead. Step forward all those Lib Dems who have accused the US of their “disproportionate” reaction to that being a war crime. An orderly queue please.

    Worse – we recently had Ming stating that by killing civilians in what is undeniably a war of self defence, the Jews had commited a war crime. For the purpose of supporting genocide by (ex-)Nazis in Kosovo in a purely aggressive war that same person enthusiasticly supported a campaign of bombing civilians hundreds of miles from the “military threat”. So if Ming is telling thev truth he is a murdering anti-semitic Nazi war criminal. If he isn’t ….

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