Here we go again!
The Goldstone Report on the Israel’s actions in Operation Cast Lead have cast a serious pall over the country’s image. There are numerous controversies during this short, but intense conflict. There was the number of “civilian” casualties (for some reason, most terrorists don’t like to be identified by wearing uniforms), the “wanton” destruction of “mosques” (which doubled as weapon depots) and civilian property (which also served as Hamas’ bases) and the alleged targeting of UNWRA installations (also used by Hamas as staging areas for attacks).
In a perfect world there would be no war. However, as we all know, we live in a less than perfect world. There are conflicts. When faced with the necessity to take up arms and defend one’s home, family and way of life, does one toss his or her moral code aside and do “whatever necessary” to win? No, this would diminish to a degree the value of those things for which one is fighting. However, Israel actually raised the moral bar in how such a conflict should be conducted – America and Russia should take note.
Not that Robert Goldstone recognized this. No, his report is one-sided, filled with lies, half-truths and omissions. It is part and parcel of the Islamic fundamentalist propaganda campaign. It should be lumped in with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s denials of the Holocaust; the “Zionism is Racism” slur perpetrated by the PLO and Soviet Union; and the Crusader blood libels.
What should we expect?
What should we expect from the men and women we’ve asked to defend us? Can their officers possibly describe to them every situation they might encounter on the battlefield and how to act? Can we expect a young man, who has been trained to act with deadly force, to reflect on the potential morality of every order at the risk of his own life? Actually, Israel does ask this of its soldiers!
We expect the political echelon to formulate clear and well thought-out policies. We expect the general staff to see to prepare and plan. We expect officers to lead their men courageously. We expect them to win. And yes, we expect them to act in the spirit of the moral values which we have asked them to defend. However, there are limitations to this, especially when fighting a barbaric, cruel enemy.
In the midst of battle, we cannot ask an infantry platoon to act as if they are freshmen philosophy students. An army must fulfill its basic functions. Or the enemy’s army will fulfill its basic functions and we will be the worse-off for it. Western societies have come to view every field of human endeavor as one in which all players should have an equal chance to win. However, war is a zero-sum game: there must be a loser. I’m glad it was Hamas!
It’s all just a matter of opinion, isn’t it?
Moral relativism is the viewpoint that moral judgment regarding a person’s behavior depend on whether the person believes his actions to be right or wrong. This view is commonly expressed as “there is no right or wrong, it’s all only a matter of opinion.” Acceptance of this view is tantamount to saying that morality has no validity. Taken to its obvious conclusion, there is nothing objectively wrong with one person torturing and killing another, as long as the individual committing these acts sincerely believes that they are not wrong.
“Cultural relativism,” is the view that moral judgments and rules reflect the cultural context from which they are derived and cannot be applied to other cultures or societies. Some who hold this view are skeptical about even the possibility of saying that slavery is wrong in a slave-holding society! Let’s give this a modern spin.
If I am born and raised in a culture that accepts strapping dynamite to my chest and blowing myself up in a supermarket as a legitimate method of protest, then this act cannot be condemned from a moral viewpoint. It is part of my culture, and you as an outsider have no moral grounds to condemn my act.
The Price of Tea in China
So, what has all this to do with the price of tea in China? This: moral relativism is a weapon that wounds twice. First, the person or group subjected to the attack is injured. Second, the moral relativists – the apologists who often sit safely ensconced in university campuses, television studios and trendy coffee houses – demean and dishonor the victims and their own society.
The vast majority of the IDF acted with great restraint. Enemy wounded received medical treatment. There were many instances of soldiers risking their lives to remove women and children from harm’s way. Many times soldiers held their fire, attempting to ascertain who or what was in a building, and in the process exposing themselves to danger.
Hamas is a terrorist organization with no interest in peace with Israel. It could easily proclaim its willingness to abide by the agreements that the Palestinian Authority (PA) signed with Israel. It could easily stop shelling Israeli towns and cities. It could easily acknowledge Israel’s right to exist. Hamas does none of these things.
Hamas smuggles weapons and ammunition into Gaza, in contravention of past Israeli-PA agreements and flouting international law. It does so brazenly, offering reporters tours of tunnel digging and smuggling operations. It fires missiles and mortar shells at Israeli towns. Hamas members dress their children in suicide bomber “costumes.” It sends the mentally impaired to infiltrate Israel wearing suicide belts – murder belts, actually. During Operation Cast Lead, missiles were stored in schools, weapons fire was directed from the minarets of mosques and attacks were launched from schools and hospitals.
This is their “culture,” their “moral code.”
President Obama’s whirl-wind tour of Saudi Arabia and Egypt earned him many kudos for stating things that previously were not said publicly by American or other world leaders. His speech covered many topics, but it left out important details, contained hidden messages and ignored important Middle East realities. And of course, he sugar-coated it with numerous quotes from the Koran, designed to evoke the applause the man needs more than oxygen.
“I have unequivocally prohibited the use or torture by the United States, and I have ordered the prison at Guantanamo Bay closed by early next year.” Naturally, his Cairo audience applauded him. Would they have applauded if he told them that his administration is now planning to use Bagram Air Force base in Afghanistan as a replace for the tainted Guantanamo?
As MSNBC – hardly a fountainhead of conservatism – reported on June 3rd, the Obama administration is challenging an April 2 decision by U.S. District Judge John Bates that applied the Boumediene (the ruling that granted prisoners at Guantanamo habeas corpus rights to challenge their detention) ruling to some Bagram prisoners. Administration mouthpieces are arguing that Bates’ ruling would for the first time in American history extend habeas corpus rights to non-Americans (in fact, Muslims) in a theater of war in a foreign territory.
On the Holocaust
“Six million Jews were killed – more than the entire Jewish population of Israel today. Denying that fact is baseless, it is ignorant, and it is hateful. Threatening Israel with destruction – or repeating vile stereotypes about Jews – is deeply wrong, and only serves to evoke in the minds of Israelis this most painful of memories.” Not surprisingly, there were no applause for the President’s admonishment. Arab attempts to demonize Israel as a Nazi-like state have been going on for years, and this propaganda weapon has become increasingly potent. Iran, Hamas and Hizbullah are unlikely to surrender it.
There were two audiences for this statement, actually. One audience was sitting there is Cairo and other Arab capitals and metropolises. The second one was in Israel. Combined with the acknowledgment earlier in his speech that there are now 7 million Muslims in the US, the message was to Israel: you are small and your supporters in the US are now outnumbered. American Jewry was instrumental in Bill Clinton’s two victories; not so in Obama’s.
On Palestinian Responsibilities
For many years, the world has treated Palestinian, indeed, most matters related to Arab countries, with kit gloves. The standards applied to Israel were those that America and Europe applied to themselves (or at least told themselves they were). However, these same standards were not applied to the Arab world. It is why Hamas was able to launch 40,000 rockets and missiles at Israel over a two-year period without so much as a whimper from the Eurostinians, or America bogged down in two wars.
Now, President Obama arrives with the message “It is neither a sign of courage or power to shoot rockets at sleeping children, or to blow up old women on a bus.” Adding to this, “Now is the time for Palestinians to focus on what they can build. The Palestinian Authority must develop its capacity to govern, with institutions that serve the needs of its people.” Unfortunately, the PA must contend with burgeoning population: they fear the cadres of 18 -24 year-old unemployed young men more than they do the Israelis.
Once the undergrads start parsing these and other statements in Obama’s speech, they will see the numerous quotes from the Koran as the pandering they really were. And maybe Israelis will start to calm down a bit, despite the harsh spotlight that was shined on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.