Feminist Voices on Gaza

Attacks on Gaza are in their fifth day, with nearly 400 dead and many more wounded. There’s so much to say, but in situations like this words tend to fail. So please look to the women’s voices below, and add yours in comments.
Writes Like She Talks has a round-up of links, as does Kim Pearson at Blogher. Cara weighed in, and La Macha at Bitch magazine’s blog wrote a post that led to a comments conversation about why this absolutely is a feminist issue.
PeaceWoman has a comprehensive list of resources – UN and NGO reports and statements, statistics, and papers from women worldwide – on gender and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Barnard’s Scholar and Feminist Online has an excerpt from an issue of Bridges: A Journal for Jewish Feminists and Our Friends dedicated to women’s voices on peace: Sustaining Hope in the Israeli/Palestinian Conflict.
Sister organizations Bat Shalom and the Jerusalem Center for Women have yet to issue statements, but they’re good places to go to for a feminist perspective.
I’d also recommend following Global Voices Online and their coverage – the site has aggregated posts, pictures and videos from blogs in the region, and also explains how you can follow and talk about the events in Gaza through Twitter.
For a background on the importance of women’s role in peacekeeping, check out this primer on UN Resolution 1325.
Feel free to leave links to more feminist coverage in comments. I’m going to go read some Cynthia Enloe

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  1. DeafBrownTrashPunk
    Posted December 31, 2008 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

    Death toll for Palestinians: almost 400
    Death toll for Israelis: less than 20 (last time I checked)
    and yet Bush has the nerve to call Palestinians “thugs”???? LMAO!!!!
    I pray that Allah will bring peace for both sides.

  2. doubleb
    Posted December 31, 2008 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

    The little guy who keeps attacking the bigger guy and getting beaten up can still be a thug.

  3. Sidewriter
    Posted December 31, 2008 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

    I try to stay pretty well-informed on the world, but I have to admit I’m woefully uniformed about this conflict. Can someone recommend a good background post, article, or book that would rectify that?

  4. Jill
    Posted December 31, 2008 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

    Very nice job on a most important perspective – the feminist perspective.

  5. doubleb
    Posted December 31, 2008 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

    It would also be helpful to examine in more detail the events leading to the creation of Israel after WWII; the events that lead to the Arab-Israeli war; and then the later events that led to and culminated in the Six Day War, and its aftermath. in my opinion those are the most important events in the discussion of the legitimacy of the existence of Israel.
    In my experience, discussion about how the current situation should be handled usually devolves into a debate about whether or not the state of Israel should exist the way it currently does, and why or why not. Which side of that argument one supports will inform one’s instinct about the justice or injustice of various other actions taken by either side of the conflict since then.

  6. doubleb
    Posted December 31, 2008 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

    This was supposed to be a reply to Sidewriter…

  7. vhs
    Posted December 31, 2008 at 5:15 pm | Permalink

    when the bigger guy has been occupying the little guys land, driven him out of his homes and is now keeping him in a strangle and starving him it is a bit of a stretch to blame the little guy here. In fact it’s rather racist. Do you also blame a rape victim if she fights back? And if the oppressor then responds with extreme mutilation would you then still say “well she should not have fought back”? Or when South African military massacred black demonstrators in the 1980ies did you then say “well some of them threw stones”?
    Why is it so hard for (some) American Liberals to apply their normal liberal views when it comes to Palestinians?
    It puzzles and sickens me and makes me so sad and mad to see these “liberal” commentators here and there suddenly turn into what is normally extreme right wing views (pro-war, pro-collective punishment, pro-occupation, pro-white-supremacy, blame the victim, praise the oppressor) on this particular subject… when it comes to this particular group of people who apparently do not deserve the same analysis, the same feminist views, the same liberal human rights. Oh no, when it comes to Palestinian Arabs then some otherwise “progressives” become more right wing than Bush himself.
    I think I need to stop reading the comments on the American feminist blogs that I read daily while this is going on. It makes me cry daily to see comments like this. Is it so hard to apply the same logic and the same analysis to all peoples? This week I have been daily reminded that the concept of Free Spaces – spaces where every ethnicity etc can be free from comments downgrading it’s humanity – still has some way to go before it’s real.
    argh… I’m sorry for rambling, and I definitely went off on a tangent here. It’s been really hard to be on the normally progressive parts of the internet the last couple of days for people with ties to people who are even sometimes said to not exist, whose history is denied, and are seen as perpetual perpetrators no matter what they do. I am glad that what I said here does not apply to all, I don’t know how many, but it hurts that on all progressive blogs there are comments on this subject, about this people, that would not be made about anyone else. Palestinians seem to be the only ones where it is still okay to apply this bizarre and dehumanizing logic too. Why is that?
    Note: I am not talking about anyone in particular. I have gone on an emotional and political tangent, I know. I am reacting to and describing my (and others, I assume) feelings and impressions from the last few days on the parts of internet and blogosphere where I normally feel “at home” but have not done so recently, well not as much.
    Thanks to the original poster. Good links, Jessica. You take this seriously.

  8. vhs
    Posted December 31, 2008 at 5:40 pm | Permalink

    Here’s a little piece of background history of one of the specific things in this specific little part of the area and the history: Why Bombing Ashkelon is The Most Tragic Irony
    Nothing about this “conflict” can be understood without knowledge of the displacement and transfer. This article is about these events in this particular village that started this weeks bombings.

  9. roja
    Posted December 31, 2008 at 6:58 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for posting on this issue jessica. Here’s my 2 cents:
    - the conflict will not be resolved through violence and military attacks. Especially not violence of this magnitude with so many civilian killings.
    - the conflict can only be solved with extensive involvement of civil society (i.e people who are directly affected by the conflict)
    - in an environment of violence and war, peaceful social movements cannot thrive easily. This includes the women’s movement.
    by the way I must add that I don’t think Hamas is innocent. I just think Israel is damn responsible for every single person they kill, just like Hamas is responsible for anyone they kill. Israel can’t blame Hamas for Palestinian civilians killed by israel! That’s ridiculous! the way they skew the discourse is shameful and should not be tolerated by our media.
    If you pay attention to how things are presented, there is always a story involved with Israeli victims (she was a teacher, he was an old retiree at his granddaughter’s birthday, etc.) but palestinians are just “casualties” and there is no story associated with them. not cool.

  10. Evan
    Posted December 31, 2008 at 10:11 pm | Permalink

    What would you like Israel to do?
    Also, please do not equate support for Israel with racism. In turn, I will not equate opposition to Israel with anti-semitism. ‘kay?
    The history here is unpleasant, with plenty of blame to go around. But, personally, I have a hard time getting ovr the fact that Israel withdrew from Gaza, giving the Palestinian people what they wanted and in return, the Palestinians elected Hamas to lead them.
    To summarize: Israel acts and the world screams about their evilness, equating them with rapists and murderers. Israel doesn’t act and it’s seen as weak and terrorists step up their operations. It’s a lose-lose situation.
    Hamas on the other hand has a win-lose situation. If they stop, Israel will stop.
    Ironically enough, Hamas has the power to stop this.
    Also, about blaming the “little guy” (Hamas), how exactly doe murdering random Israelis constitute fighting back? Hamas is, much though we might not like it, the duly elected government of Gaza, it has committed acts of war against Israel, the fact that, after months/years of this, Israel has finally responded in kind is unfortunate for those innocents caught in the crossfire, but hardly surprising, or even immoral.
    I started out asking facetiously, but now I’m actually curious, historical arguments about Israel’s badness aside, what exactly would you like Israel to do as Hamas rains rockets down on its cities, expands its arsenal and kidnaps its citizens?

  11. Evan
    Posted December 31, 2008 at 10:17 pm | Permalink

    An analogy: Person A uses Person B as a human shield. Person A starts shooting up the street. Police Officers C & D shoot back to stop him killing people on the street. Persons A & B both die. Who is responsible for those deaths?
    What about in cases of suicide by cops?

  12. DaveNJ17
    Posted January 1, 2009 at 2:38 am | Permalink

    Yep. In actuality when you’re waging a war, as Hamas is, and you use civilians to try to shield your military assets you hold the lion’s share of the blame when the destruction of those assets results in civilian casualties.
    Take, for example, the mosque destruction yesterday. The initial blast from the Israeli strike was bad, but there were two subsequent secondary explosions that were much bigger, and did much more damage to the surrounding civilian populace. Why? Because Hamas was storing rockets in the mosque, and they blew up.
    It sucks that Hamas views civilian lives in Gaza as expendable, but that’s the way they treat their citizenry. If they truly wanted to improve the lives of civilians in Gaza they would recognize Israel’s right to exist and truly cease hostilities and weapons imports. With the amount of control they had over Gaza, their credentials on the Arab street, and the popular support they wielded Hamas actually could have been the best partner for peace Israel has ever dealt with in the Middle East, but they never changed their goal of annihilation.
    This sucks, but at this point I just want to see Hamas out of Gaza, and the sooner the better. It’s the only way the average Gazan’s life will improve in the long run. Spare me the “resistance” justification. Hamas knows they have no way of destroying Israel, they just want to maintain their cred by creating terror. They kept poking the sleeping bear and now it has attacked.

  13. a.v.f.
    Posted January 1, 2009 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

    This situation has been going on since Oct. 2001. The people living in Sderot and the Negev have been under attack since this time. Making the argument, as many have made on other blogs, that the small number of Israeli dead means that Israel should ignore these attacks is obscene and callous. Also, the majority of the dead are active members of Hamas ie: “militants”. This report gives some details about the situation. http://www.terrorism-info.org.il/malam_multimedia/English/eng_n/pdf/ipc_e007.pdf

  14. vhs
    Posted January 1, 2009 at 11:41 pm | Permalink

    Israel is an occupying force. This is a fact and mentioning that this is not only illegal but wrong has nothing to do with racism (antisemitism is racism). To deny this does seem to me to be racist – especially when the person denying it or legitimizing it is not normally a person who condones imperialism and occupation. To have double standards for different ethnic groups does certainly border on racism. Also to deny equality, to pretend that an absolutely oppressed, colonized and ethnically cleansed out people is on an equal footing with the white heavily armed and powerful occupying force is certainly borderline racist. To throw away all standard criteria for judging actions and powers when it comes to one certain ethnic group is most certainly racist. It may not be a conscious animosity, but it is a racialist bias where one ethnic group is clearly (though unspoken) deemed as not “as human”, not worthy of the same standards, as another groups. This (sorry) is racism.
    To claim equality where inequality clearly prevails is very much a part of oppression, be it racism or sexism. To claim that the structurally oppressed and basically powerless – starved out – people are responsible for their own oppression is … racist. Yes it is. And to do this in particular when it comes to one group of people is very much so.
    So what do I want Israel to do? Let’s rephrase that question – remove any mention of specific groups or states: What do I want any imperialist state, that occupies other territories to colonize them, drives the inhabitants out and lets the remaining live without equal rights, to do? Well the answer is for Israel as with ANY other state that would be involved in similar activities: stop it. Stop the occupation. Accept the facts of history: that there were people on the land whose history and right to exist are wrongfully being denied. This does not mean that the colonizers have to move away, not at all. But to acknowledge that crimes have been committed and and that occupation and expulsion and ethic cleansing is wrong is an essential first step to any reconciliation. Next step: democracy and equality.
    Is it really to much to ask that we apply the same standards to all states? Is it really to much to ask that so-called liberals, progressives and democrats remain liberal, progressive and democratic when it comes to this particular issue, these ethnic groups, and not suddenly become supporters of ethnic cleansing, historical revisionism, occupation, war and colonization – things that are inherently right-wing?
    You tell me, please, how it can be seen as feminist or liberal in this specific instance when it is not generally in any other? It is very hard to see any explanations other than some form of racism. Not necessarily on your behalf personally, but on the behalf of US media and political powers (which it still seems odd, though, that people who generally distrust them suddenly trust in this particular issue) who present the stories to us where Palestinians are statistics and inherently evil “non-humans” whereas an actual illegal occupying power doing terrorism with US bombs (the US clusterbombs and block-busters are designed to terrorize and hit civilians) is not only morally “superior” but also more “human” (or: more white? more western? or just more economically entrenched with our military-industrial complex? I don’t know). I do not know the reasons and causes for this bias, but that it is a bias and that it has racialist connotations is very hard not to believe. Did you not condemn South Africa in the 80ies? Do you not admit the native Americans at least the symbolic gesture of admitting that the US was to some extend based on atrocities? Note that admitting this does not mean all whites in the US must leave but admitting it is a necessary step for reconciliation, peace and democracy.

  15. vhs
    Posted January 1, 2009 at 11:51 pm | Permalink

    Donald Rumsfeld? Is that you? Or is it a Roman Emperor? Or Stalin? This is a progressive feminist website you know. Well, it normally is. of course I don’t want to poke you, oh mighty bear, and thereby give you a reason to exterminate me and everyone around me. No, just keep starving me in the prison you put me and I promise I won’t poke you and “force” you to show your mighty strength.

  16. DaveNJ17
    Posted January 2, 2009 at 1:32 am | Permalink

    Which Roman emperor? Because a good portion of historic Roman emperors were very cool with indigenous populations, from Julian the Apostate to Diocletian. Or how about the Roman Emperors who founded Palestine?
    Of course I wouldn’t expect someone comparing me to the guy who tried to slaughter my family (Stalin) to have that great a grasp of history, just selective history and lack of exploration into the really interesting gray areas.
    This is a website based on factual analysis, too. I don’t see how any progressive really wants Hamas in power in Gaza, given the long-term ramifications a Hamas government will have on everything from political dissidents to women to religious minorities in the Palestinian territories.
    Do you really call Operation Cast Lead “extermination”? Please. Any modern military operating in the Gaza Strip would have incurred significantly more civilian casualties than Israel. If they were truly interested in extermination there are population centers far better suited to drop bombs on.
    Yeah, one side is rich and one side is poor, but that doesn’t give the poor oppressed side the right to use terrorism, and you have to expect any country to respond to terror attacks. It’s unrealistic for Gazans or Palestinians in general to believe violent tactics will cause anything but more pain and suffering for themselves.
    Prisoners obtain their freedom with hunger strikes, not by killing a couple of the guards. It’s really quite simple.
    What’s your proposal for a realistic solution to this conflict? Seriously, in your eminent wisdom what would you suggest Israel do? It’s nice to say “end the blockade” or “stop bombing Hamas targets in Gaza”, but what comes next? Does Hamas abide by a truce and recognize Israel’s right to exist?
    Or do they do what they did during the cease-fire: re-arm and get ready for the next round.
    Hamas does no good for the Palestinian people, and the sooner the Palestinians realize that the better, because Annapolis and the Tokhnit are going down the tubes while Hamas pats itself on the back for “resisting”.
    Resisting what? Since when is random rocket fire a form of resistance to oppression? In the same way that disenfranchised groups can’t “resist” by shooting random civilians neither can Hamas claim to be a “resistance group”. They’re a terrorist organization that wields tremendous power in the Gaza Strip, and Gaza would be better without them.

  17. vhs
    Posted January 2, 2009 at 5:13 am | Permalink

    All hail the mighty Bushies. “Kill the bad guys”… is that really it? Puhlease! If you don’t like being compared to ruthless war mongering dictators then why on earth do you drop macho war mongering dictator sound bites? And it is very hard to get much respect of arguments appealing to families a century ago when you are right now glorifying the murders of other peoples families – people being murdered as we speak. People whose families are dying right now and who are here reading on this board reading your justifications for why their families must die.
    BTW No I did not call “operation cast lead” extermination… read my post and learn some history. Extermination is what happened in 1948 in 1967 and it is also the daily and systematic terrorism which is designed to lead to what is officially called “transfer” – the expulsion of a people.
    And no, Hamas are certainly not a likable party. It is the democratically elected government but that does not make me like them – there’s lots of parties that are detestable. I take it you would object if I massacered all of DC even if you shared my dislike for the GOP? Whether an elected party is likable or not is not really an excuse for terror-bombing an entire population (and blockbuster bombs is terrorism).
    Starving and murdering the Palestinian people is not going to make them not elect their government either! Your war mongering terror-tactics only made the Serbians swarm around Milosovich, it made Bush more popular, and it makes the people of Gaza support their leaders. You do not bomb a people to get their confidence. All they have is Hamas because of the Israeli choke hold on them – and the US embargo.

  18. a.v.f.
    Posted January 2, 2009 at 6:54 am | Permalink

    The Israeli operation is aimed at military targets. The majority of deaths are terrorists. The civilians were used as human shields. Also, maybe you need to learn some history. In both 1948 and 1967 the extermination talk was coming from the Arab side only. This is a good site to look at what the history is and all the primary sources are cited so that you can look it up.
    One phrase that has been used recently at demonstrations is “from the river to the sea”. This phrase was used to describe where Palestine would exist and Jews would not.
    Also, not all elections are democratic; having an election does not a democracy make. Hamas was elected to a majority because it was, at the time, less corrupt then Fatah. The election did not lead to freedom of speech protected by law, freedom of religion practice and non practice, due process, freedom of the press and many other freedoms that must exist in a democracy.

  19. fatima
    Posted January 2, 2009 at 11:14 am | Permalink

    first of all…palestinians would be used as a ‘shield’ for hamas no matter what because gaza is so goddamn densely populated. there are 1.5 million people in that TEENY TINY piece of land!
    second, lets look into the history of all of this. i think one thing that a lot of people fail to acknowledge is that BRITAIN is the instigator of this entire mess. both israel and palestine have legitimate rights over the land (palestinians were living there already, britain occupied the land, and then promised it to jewish people who wished to create their own state)
    so…imperialism is what has brought us here today.
    anyways, now that we have established that both israel and palestine have legit arguments for having their land…lets look at how they have ACTED on it.
    israel has repeatedly committed WAR CRIMES against the palestinian people over the past forty years. there are people i know who were born and died in refugee camps…that is all they knew. children live in CONSTANT fear of their lives…they have no food…they are scared to go to school. and this isnt just right now, during this obscene attack on gaza…its how they ALWAYS live. israeli soldiers humiliate and degrade palestinians at every checkpoint…sometimes sexually assaulting them in order to “search” them for weapons. they don’t allow humanitarian aide through the checkpoints…they bomb hospitals and endanger the lives of pregnant women. i mean, think about it…the last thing that israel wants is another palestinian in this world.
    so yeah…israeli tactics are purely based in racism. the israeli foreign secretary has characterized the current attacks as “extremely successful” and has brushed off questions about the ridiculous amount of civilian casualties. why? because this is all part of a mission to kill all palestinians. and i wonder…however long from now, we are going to look back on this event and wonder how the FUCK we not only let it happen but actually supported it (financially and otherwise)…but oh wait…its brown people that are dying so…it doesn’t really matter, does it.
    for those of you who do think that the current attack in gaza is disgusting and want to fight back, there are protests happening all over the country. in chicago (where i am) today, there is a protest at the trib tower (435 n michigan) from 3-5. please come!
    and for everyone else…check out this website for protests going on in your area.

  20. doubleb
    Posted January 2, 2009 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

    I am laughing at the idea that Israel wants to kill all Palestinians. The military dominance of Israel is ridiculous.
    That’s my main “duh” argument. What does Israel have to gain from perpetuating any of this violence? Nothing. If the Palestinians were willing to back down from their hard-line entitlement issue, this could all get solved in a mutually beneficial way, but they won’t. Why won’t they? Certainly not because of what the average Palestinian wants, but they aren’t in control. Instead they have radical religious leaders who keep their power precisely because their constituency is oppressed, and desperate people will rally around the people promising swift action. If Israel were to actually make a mutually beneficial arrangement with the Palestinians then there would be no need and no desire for radical leadership, so obviously the radical leadership isn’t going to allow that. The best outcome is not going to happen because real peace would destroy the power of the people negotiating on one side. Serious conflict of interests.
    And a more fundamental point of disagreement is when military occupation becomes legitimate. Should the U.S. give most of the country back to the Native Americans? This fight is over. There are only two options for Palestinians; make peace sooner and move on to a better life now; or make peace later after more death and suffering. Righteous anger doesn’t make the world a just place.
    And lastly, people who side with Palestinians typically have no background in the ethics of war and conflict. If you shoot at me while you’re holding a toddler, and I have to shoot back to defend myself, I will. If I accidentally hit that kid, it’s sad, but it’s not my fault, and it’s not immoral of me to do the shooting. If someone shoots a rocket, and then goes running into a church, you attack the church. If they put military establishments on top of a hospital, you bomb the hospital. It’s their fault for making the hospital a target. If you think otherwise, we have a whole different set of problems.

  21. doubleb
    Posted January 2, 2009 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

    I just think Israel is damn responsible for every single person they kill, just like Hamas is responsible for anyone they kill. Israel can’t blame Hamas for Palestinian civilians killed by israel! That’s ridiculous!

    Statements like this are how you can tell when someone is uneducated about the basic ethics of war. Not that I think most people do have any education on the issue; but if you are willing to say things like “killing civilians is wrong” without knowing that there are a ton of background assumptions and realizing that there are times when you can say “killing civilians is fine in this case”, then you’re missing a lot of the picture you need to have an in-depth discussion about the ethics of various military actions.
    And if you have no background in war theory or ethics or philosophy in general, please don’t come back with “wow i can’t believe you think killing civilians is ever okay” because lots of people who spend their whole lives just thinking about these issues would disagree with you, and that should at least take the edge off of whatever unwavering confidence you have.

  22. doubleb
    Posted January 2, 2009 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

    This was supposed to reply to vhs. I am obviously bad at this game.

  23. vhs
    Posted January 2, 2009 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

    You are “laughing” at the killing of hundreds of people?
    It is “their own fault” that they had to be killed?
    You are even justifying tactics that are legally terrorism and war crimes.
    One thing is that you are a right wing hateful war monger. But to come here, to what is supposed to be a “safe space”, and openly laugh at the victims of war and occupation, and say that they deserve to die, is beyond despicable.

  24. vhs
    Posted January 2, 2009 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

    You are “laughing” at the killing of hundreds of people?
    It is “their own fault” that they had to be killed?
    You are even justifying tactics that are legally terrorism and war crimes.
    One thing is that you are a right wing hateful war monger. But to come here, to what is supposed to be a “safe space”, and openly laugh at the victims of war and occupation, and say that they deserve to die, is beyond despicable.

  25. karasone
    Posted January 2, 2009 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

    To VHS: I couldn’t agree with you more. I also am frustrated with liberals who refuse to check themselves when it comes to this issue.
    With the exception of the US and Israel most of the international community also disagree with the occupation of Palestine and the tactics Israel is employing. This is greatly evidenced by the scores of UN Security Council and General Assembly resolutions that have been passed almost yearly for the past 50 years or so: http://daccessdds.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/N01/493/15/PDF/N0149315.pdf?OpenElement (here is an example of a GA resolution I have a complete list I compiled for my international law class if someone would like one).
    For an alternative to the US media’s obviously biased coverage of this check out: http://www.livestation.com/channels/3-al_jazeera_english they are doing tons of on the ground coverage
    End the occupation! Free Palestine!

  26. vhs
    Posted January 2, 2009 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

    sorry for the double post, mods.

  27. vhs
    Posted January 2, 2009 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

    BTW. I do have a degree in philosophy, so do I fit your elitist requirements I don’t think that’s very relevant, though. More relevant is that I actually know about the history and current situation, not only from text-books, historians and political analytics (have you even bothered to read any left-wing or peace-camp Israelis?) but from first-hand experience. Oh, I do know about the “ethics” of war – I have seen war, and there are none.
    In any case, your elitist requirement would discredit you, if we were to accept it, because you are lying: It is legally a war crime to knowingly kill civilians even when they are just “collateral” damage. You, Dick Cheney or Donald Rumsfeld or any other neo-con have not yet succeeded in changing the Geneva Convention. Torture, Collective Punishment and targeting of civilians are still war crimes no matter how you twist it. Nice job trying to discredit all other voices for not living up to requirements that you just made up and don’t live up to yourself.

  28. Evan
    Posted January 2, 2009 at 5:27 pm | Permalink

    Sorry my comment was unclear, supporting Israel does not make me: “pro-war, pro-collective punishment, pro-occupation, pro-white-supremacy, blame the victim, praise the oppressor”
    Which is, in effect, equating support for Israel with racism (“pro-white-supremacy”). And that’s putting aside the amusing fact that you’re implying that people who support Israel would also support Neo-Nazis and the Aryan Nations.
    Also, “blame the victim” isn’t always a bad thing (at least not if you have a sufficiently loose definition of victim as you appear to). If you shoot at the police and they kill you, then damn straight you’re to blame.
    All forms of war are forms of collective punishment and Hamas as the duly elected government of the Gaza Strip chose to attack Israel. Civilian casualties are an unfortunate, but inevitable fact of war.
    You say stop the occupation, but they did. They withdrew from Gaza and the result was an elected government which committed acts of war against them.
    Knee-jerk support for the underdog doesn’t make you a liberal. And the fact that in this one case I don’t support the underdog doesn’t make me a conservative, or a racist.
    It’s not simply Israel, I also support the government of the Philippines in its struggle with Islamic and Communist insurgents. However, I certainly agree with the rebel groups in Sudan. I make my decisions based both on history and on the present situation.
    Reflexive support for the underdog is no more worthwhile than reflexive support for the powerful.
    The reasons for Pro-Israel bias in the media are the same as the reasons for Anti-Israel bias in the media: personal belief, upbringing, knowledge and yes, on both sides, racism. I see the Anti-Israel bias as more prevalent, because when I see Pro-Israel pieces, I tend to think of them as reflecting the facts on the ground. Could the reverse be true for you?
    I’m curious, do you really think if Israel says: “We shouldn’t have conquered you, just because your governments committed acts of war against us and then invaded,” or even just “We’ve done bad things to you (with a list of attached examples and individual apologies)” that Hamas would suddenly decide that it didn’t need to drive the Jews from Palestine?
    And, more immediately important, would it stop firing rockets into Israel?
    Would Hamas reciprocate with its own apologies?
    Do you accept that it should, or is it only Israel that should apologize?
    To answer your questions, no I didn’t denounce South Africa in the 80s, because I was busy nursing.
    However, I certainly agree that Native Americans deserve a symbolic gesture, an apology would be nice.
    A final question: do you really believe merely acknowledging history will lead directly to “democracy and equality”? I’m studying history and while I truly believe in both its importance and its power, it is not a panacea.

  29. Evan
    Posted January 2, 2009 at 6:40 pm | Permalink

    I’m also curious: can I support the government of Sri Lanka against the Tamil Tigers and still be a liberal by your definition? Or does your definition of liberal include “supports all sepratist movements regardless of actions and intentions”?

  30. vhs
    Posted January 3, 2009 at 4:12 am | Permalink

    To your information Israel has not stopped occupying neither Gaza nor the West Bank. Where on Earth do you get your “information”? Gaza is a prison with walls around it controlled – even the food supply – by the occupying military. By all legal and military standards it is an occupied territory.
    It is “great” that you support so many oppressive regimes – the same ones that fall in line with the neocons and the US hegemony (especially nice that you support the CIA-supported military dictatorship in the Filipines). Whatever happens to be the dominant power, seems to be what you support? I guess I am wrong. You do not have double standards. You are quite consistent in your support for US backed military regimes.
    I’d still say, as a progressive and a pro-feminist and a radical anti-racist, that such a support for powers of dominance and empire – even though it is consistent – is still oppressive in nature and certainly not liberal in any sense.

  31. Evan
    Posted January 3, 2009 at 5:07 am | Permalink

    I’ll ask one more time, what would you like Israel to do about this particular situation? Just grit their teeth and bear it as Israeli citizens are killed? Open up Gaza (which is also closed as Egypt, which you aren’t complaining about…) and hope that Hamas doesn’t use that opprotunity to expand its arsenal?
    Any move toward compromise is seen by Hamas and its supporters as a sign of weakness, a sign of their impending victory.
    While your comments on my personal beliefs are amusing, I note you didn’t comment on my opposition to the Tamil Tigers…is that because their opposition tends to funded by Pakistan and China, or because it didn’t fit into the box you’ve decided I belong in?
    I’ve asked a number of times and platitudes aside, I haven’t gotten an answer, what would you like Israel to do? And how will it stop Hamas from continuing to rain rockets and mortars down on southern Israel?
    PS: What are you talking about regarding the Phillipines (“CIA-supported military dictatorship in the Filipines”)? It’s a democracy. The current president is Gloria Macapag-Arroyo, who was elected in 2004.(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Politics_of_the_Philippines)

  32. Evan
    Posted January 3, 2009 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

    Yes, how dare we call ourselves liberal when we disagree with you on one issue. You should really purge progressive movements of the insuffeciently ideologically pure, because that always works out well.
    End the occupation! Free Palestine! By ending terrorist atacks on Israel!
    Also, if you want a relatively balanced look at the UN and Israerl I recommend this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Israel,_Palestinians,_and_the_United_Nations
    Sure, it’s biased, but there’s enough people on both sides that the biases tend to even out.

  33. vhs
    Posted January 3, 2009 at 6:24 pm | Permalink

    A final question: do you really believe merely acknowledging history will lead directly to “democracy and equality”?
    No, and I have not said such a thing. You need to learn the difference between a “necessary” condition and a “sufficient” condition. To acknowledge the past is necessary but of course not sufficient. There are right wing historians in the Israeli movement of “new historians” too, who acknowledge that atrocities were committed but claim that it was good for nationalist reasons. Just like there are people who admit and defend slavery or other crimes. Thus recognizing history is not sufficient for peace but it is certainly necessary. If you want to have any pretense of wanting to solve anything you need to know the root causes of it.
    The Israeli peace movement, Gush Shalom, explains why here. As a historian you need to read this little 101.

  34. vhs
    Posted January 3, 2009 at 6:38 pm | Permalink

    No of course you cannot support a state attempts at racial and cultural dominance and oppression and still call yourself a “liberal”. Of course not!
    To be critical of the oppression of the Tamils does not, though, mean to support all or certain Tamil organizations. This does not have much to do with the debate at hand, and yet it does: you seem to be guided by absolutism where you don’t analyze or criticize the systems of power and dominance but declare your support for them instead. The fact that not all Tamils (or Palestinians or African Americans or Native Americans etc) are saints does not mean you have to support the structural, economical and militant dominant State-power and hegemonic supremacy oppressing them (just like recognizing that the oppressing states are wrong does not mean I can’t be critical of the individuals and organizations among the oppressed people).

  35. Evan
    Posted January 3, 2009 at 7:18 pm | Permalink

    I’m sorry that I’m insuffeciently psychic, but I read this:
    “But to acknowledge that crimes have been committed and and that occupation and expulsion and ethic cleansing is wrong is an essential first step to any reconciliation. Next step: democracy and equality.”
    as positing a causal relationship, not a preconditon.
    I’m certainly willing to accept the importance of recognizing historical wrongs (though making it a precondition of peace is odd) however, these sorts of things cut both ways, if you want Israel to acknowledge and apologize for its wrongs, shouldn’t Hamas and Fatah do the same?
    Also, I’m going to try one last, final, full-stop, really, truly, absoluely the last time to get an answer: What would you like Israel to do about this situation, right now, regarding the rockets Hamas is launching into Southern Israel and how will it stop that?

  36. Evan
    Posted January 3, 2009 at 7:25 pm | Permalink

    My question was limitted to “can I support the government of Sri Lanka against the Tamil Tigers and still be a liberal by your definition?”
    And your answer is no? Really? I can’t choose the lesser of two evils? I can’t prefer an unpleasant government to an organization that uses child soldiers and are famous for their use of suicide bombings, and deliberately target civilians?
    I must let the perfect be not merely the enemy of the good, but its judge, jury and executioner as well in order to meet your definition of liberal?

  37. vhs
    Posted January 3, 2009 at 7:35 pm | Permalink

    I have answered that the first time you asked: I want Israel to stop the occupation and the stranglehold of Gaza. Note that I am certainly not excusing the quassam-rockets – they certainly do no good either. But to bomb the region that they occupy is not going to stop the stupidity on either side. The occupying power has the power to stop the occupation and the suffering and to make things better. If you insist on creating suffering (by occupying and strangling the region) you will have idiots acting idiotic. I am not saying that Israel is solely responsible for the condemnable quassams but that the occupying power is responsible for ending the occupation and that the dominant power is always – in this situation as in others – responsible for it’s dominance and for ending it.

  38. Evan
    Posted January 3, 2009 at 7:57 pm | Permalink

    I like that. Israel is responsible for its actions and for Hamas’ actions.
    How very…
    Paternalistic of you.

  39. vhs
    Posted January 3, 2009 at 9:29 pm | Permalink

    can you not read English or is your monitor set to “opposite” outputs? You’re “quoting” me for the exact opposite of what my monitor claims I wrote.

  40. a.v.f.
    Posted January 3, 2009 at 10:08 pm | Permalink

    The fact that you rely on Al-Jezeera as an unbiased news sources speaks volumes about your would view. Al-Jezeera is always on the side of terrorists, always. Israel has not been in control of Gaza since the disengagement in 2005. Since then, the Palestinians have been able to make their own decisions. Hamas wants to destroy Israel and kill as many Jews as possible. Hamas has used its resources to achieve these goals. Israel has provided enough food and energy for the people living in Gaza to be okay. Hamas has been so single-minded on achieving its goal that it has allocated resources badly and messed up the infrastructure.
    Also, what about Egypt? Egypt shares a border with Gaza. Egypt also has closed its border. Egypt doesn’t provide humanitarian aid.

  41. vhs
    Posted January 3, 2009 at 10:10 pm | Permalink

    You live in an absurd world of absolutes. That you don’t like the Tigers is a bizarre reason for “supporting” the military and the state. Things don’t work like that. You are not forced to choose between supporting either the military and it’s killings or the guerilla and their killings. That is absurd. You’re not in kindergarten. This is life: it’s sometimes complicated but fortunately there is generally also more than 2 choices.
    Say, if you hypothetically don’t like Bush, would that then mean that you would have to actively support Pelosi for example? Or vise versa? That is absurd! Or if you don’t like the white supremacy then you have to be a Farrakhan-supporter? That would be nonsense!
    So I repeat: No, to be liberal/progressive/feminist you can not actively and deliberately declare your support for systems of oppression. If the groups resisting the oppression suck so bad that you cannot support them either, tough luck! You are not forced to support either. But that the organized resistance sucks and is condemnable and not support-worth does not mean the system of oppression is then okay.
    You must analyze power structures.
    (and if you wanna be a historian you need to get a more nuanced world-wiew, analyzing historical structures and mechanisms, rather than looking for sides you can declare your support to and call the Good guys)

  42. LalaReina
    Posted January 4, 2009 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

    I feel for all parties involved its heart wrenching…but in a military conflict I can’t be mad at Israel because they have the better guns. I can’t think of her name but thee is an Egyptian columnist on feministe who has a good take on things.

  43. Leonie
    Posted January 4, 2009 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

    Nor do the rocket attacks on Israel mean that the current course of action the IDF is taking is the one which will lead to the best outcome. The air strikes and incursions do not further the peace process, which is what the ultimate goal should be.

  44. FeministGal
    Posted January 5, 2009 at 10:02 am | Permalink

    I finally wrote in support of Israel. It was difficult, but the one-sided reporting has been killing me… http://feministgal.blogspot.com/2009/01/land-of-milk-and-honey.html

  45. doubleb
    Posted January 5, 2009 at 10:15 am | Permalink

    “Oh, I do know about the “ethics” of war – I have seen war, and there are none.
    In any case, your elitist requirement would discredit you, if we were to accept it, because you are lying: It is legally a war crime to knowingly kill civilians even when they are just “collateral” damage.

    I suppose we may be at an impasse, but I simply disagree with your claims. I won’t accuse you of lying, since you may simply be mistaken, but your contention that every knowingly killing civilians is illegal seems simply ludicrous on its face. If an enemy force were to scatter “civilians” among it’s ground troops and carry a “civilian” in every tank, and keep some in every bunker, would that render their enemies impotent in the eyes of international law, since they simply could not be fired upon? This is related to why it is equally ridiculous to say that there is no ethics of war, because any time you have to think about what the right course of action is, you’re dealing with ethics, and there are obviously questions like that to be asked about any war.
    And I wasn’t really worried about presenting credentials to make your arguments legitimate, just pointing out that when you make statements like “war is never ethical” you are simply displaying your ignorance on the subject and not really helping any discussion. I suppose you could take a radical pacifism approach and simply say that moral people allow themselves to be conquered and dominated by any attacking force. But if you want to allow for any sort of self-defense, you’re at some point going to have to talk about the ethics of what you’re doing to defend yourself.

  46. doubleb
    Posted January 5, 2009 at 10:22 am | Permalink

    For someone with a degree in philosophy you have particularly terrible reading comprehension.

  47. vhs
    Posted January 5, 2009 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

    Well, I like that you now defend the right to resist an invading military power.
    I kind of mean it, kind of don’t, that “there are no ethics in war”. In the sense that war is unethical and forces you to make choices that are not ethically right either way. It may seem absurd that it is unconditionally illegal to bomb or shoot when you know that you will hit civilian targets – but it is so. It is also illegal to use civilians as shields (which btw there have been no proof of in this situation, the matters of fact are just that Gaza is incredibly densely populated). So we can have a situation where both sides are violating the international law and there is no way for either to be aggressive without committing war crimes. That sucks. In “normal” ethical choices you typically have the choice to do something right. In war you are often forced in to a dilemma of committing one kind or another kind of wrong. It is in this sense that I mean there are no ethics in war (there are ethics of war but they are rarely used in real “life” wars): normal ethics are abandoned when you are personally placed in the situation of being in war. War forces you to kill people you don’t know and who haven’t harmed you – or they are harming you for the same reason you harm them (because they have the fear you will harm them). This is not “normal”, it is not a situation that we normally exist in, and it is not the situations that our “normal” ethics apply to. When a person is in war s/he is forced to become “unethical” by the situation. This is (one of the reasons) why we have ‘ethics of war’ – codes about when our leaders are not allowed to put us in that situation.
    I am not an unconditional pacifist but even “necessary” wars (ha!) will be horribly bad for anyone in them. I believe in fighting when you are in that situation – when war is brought upon you, there can be situations where you don’t have a real choice but to be in war. But even then, it is surely a horrible thing – and it is horrible that the non-ethics of war suspends ethics of life. There is nothing “good” in war – that is the other sense in which I mean there are “no ethics”.

  48. vhs
    Posted January 5, 2009 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

    The fact that you used the propaganda- and spam-site “terrorism-info.org” and then dismiss an actual news source is … it’s gotta be joke. It is not possible to take you serious.

  49. doubleb
    Posted January 6, 2009 at 9:48 am | Permalink

    By this logic, if I attack you and you do anything to harm me in defending yourself, you are acting unethically. You’re not supposed to reach absurd results and then say “oh well, that’s odd isn’t it?” You’re supposed to realize that something in your assumptions has to be wrong.
    Read again: something in your assumptions is wrong.
    In this case, it’s the idea that there are simply actions which are always right or always wrong. If you have only the choice between two evils, choosing the lesser is not morally wrong, because there was no other option. If you can force people to be immoral, then what does morality even mean? Morality would just be reduced to happening to live in good circumstances and you could make a good man evil by sticking him into the wrong situation. That doesn’t make sense.
    You’re not supposed to just now accept that you can force people to be immoral, you’re supposed to realize that that way of thinking is flawed. There is no such thing as “normal” or “abnormal” ethics, there is only the analysis of situations as we can imagine them. Trying to place an artificial filter on the world for “ideal” and “not ideal” circumstances isn’t going to get you anywhere.

  50. doubleb
    Posted January 6, 2009 at 11:21 am | Permalink

    I also think that this statement by Mahmoud Zahar, the most senior leader of Hamas in the strip, should give a good idea of how Hamas thinks about innocent lives.

    “The Zionists have legitimised the killing of their children by killing our children. They have legitimised the killing of their people all over the world by killing our people,” Zahar said. He urged Hamas fighters to “crush your enemy”.

    The worst you could try to say about Israel is that they pretend to care about killing children even when they don’t. Hamas doesn’t even feel the need to pretend. One doesn’t accuse them of thinking it’s legitimate to kill children; they say it outright. Read what he’s saying. “See, it’s okay that we target kids, because you killed our kids!” You’re complaining about the screwed up logic of people here, but you support someone who makes a statement like that? I’m pretty comfortable with the side I’m on.

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