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Are Israel’s current actions in Gaza justified?  

A good way to think about this question is to consider the centuries-old body of thought that has come to be called “just war theory.”  JWT asks two basic questions.  First: under what conditions is it morally acceptable to go to war?  Second: once war is under way, is it possible to say what kinds of war-fighting actions can be morally justified and what cannot? The first question goes by the term jus ad bellum, the justice (or injustice) of war, which concerns whether it is right or wrong to fight a particular war.  The second question concerns jus in bello, justice in war, which is concerned with the way a war is fought, particularly in the observance of generally accepted expectations that innocent civilians should be spared from harm as much as possible.  

The two questions are logically independent: a just war can be fought using immoral means.  But it is also possible to fight an unjust war even while observing the “rules of war” that require consideration for civilian life.  

Today I’m going to consider the Gaza war in terms of jus ad bellum.  My next diary will be concerned with jus in bello.  

So, is Israel justified in attacking Gaza? The obvious answer is that of course it is: Israel has a right to defend itself against rockets raining on its land, threatening its people.

But it’s more complicated than that. One problem is when to pinpoint the start of this war.   The common view that it started with the rocket fire from Gaza ignores the provocation that preceded.   As Larry Derfner of the Israeli website +972mag recounts,

Bibi Netanyahu instantly seized on the kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers to launch a widespread offensive against Hamas, re-arresting operatives it had previously freed by agreement.

Netanyahu blamed Hamas for the kidnapping. He said he had proof. To this day, neither he nor any other Israeli official has come forward with a shred of proof. Meanwhile, it is now widely assumed that the Hamas leadership did not give the order for the kidnapping, that it was instead carried out at the behest of a renegade, Hamas-linked, Hebron clan….

But Netanyahu used the kidnappings to go after Hamas in the West Bank…. The army raided, destroyed, confiscated and arrested anybody and anything having to do with Hamas, killed some Palestinian protesters and rearrested some 60 Hamasniks who had been freed in the Gilad Shalit deal, throwing them back in prison.

Meanwhile, in Gaza, Israel had already escalated matters on June 11, the day before the kidnappings, by killing not only a wanted man riding on a bicycle, but a 10-year-old child riding with him.

Another Israeli blogger, Roy Isacowitz commented acidly on the selective shortness of Israeli memories:
Take, for example, the current round of butchery, which, if you ask nine out of 10 Israelis, began when Hamas started firing rockets at Israel a little over a week ago in an unprovoked and totally irrational attack. That and nothing else, is the background.

As for the Israeli military rampage through the West Bank that preceded the rockets, which was publicly proclaimed by Israel as a bid to cripple Hamas and its infrastructure in the West Bank … what rampage? Either it never happened or it had nothing to do with the rockets. [Isacowitz presumably doesn’t follow the US mass media, where he could have observed a similar shortness of memory.]

So, Israel launched a war against Hamas on the West Bank and Hamas replied with the only means of resistance it has available —rockets from Gaza. There is no reason to believe those rockets would have started flying had it not been for Netanyahu’s deliberate breaking of a cease-fire that both sides had been observing. (It’s not the first time Israel broke a cease fire with Hamas, as Jerome Slater has explained.) Netanyahu had no just cause for doing so.   Israel’s obvious right to defend itself from rockets thus becomes at least a bit less obvious: it turns out that it was Israel that initiated the hostilities that led to the rocket fire that it “obviously” has a right to defend against. I would go further: it is not altogether wild to speculate that the Israeli government expected that their offensive on the West Bank might provoke rocket fire (what else?), and relished the opportunity to seize on that pretext to attack  Gaza.

Israel’s right to defend itself becomes more dubious still when we consider the broader historic context. As one commenter to +972 colorfully put it,

Bibi and his bullies have held siege over Gaza for about a decade and I can’t help but think of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising when they too had had enough. This crap about rocket fire coming into Israel is portrayed as some vile act of terrorism occurring for no other reason than to wreak havoc in Israel. These rockets don’t come over the border in a vacuum. There are decades of oppression, land grabs, continuing settlement activity, thievery, looting, and murder of Palestinians.
Slater, writing about an earlier (2008-9) Israeli assault on Gaza, makes essentially the same point in more conventional language that applies equally to the current situation:
…[T]here can be no right of self-defense when illegitimate and violent repression engenders resistance—and that holds true even when the form of resistance, terrorism (a fair description of Hamas attacks on Israeli civilians) is itself morally wrong. In that light, the Israeli attack was a war crime in and of itself…
But wait: didn’t Israel withdraw from Gaza, only to be punished by rocket fire? Anyone who asks that question is either naïve or disingenuous.   Israel did dismantle its untenable settlement in Gaza, but that was a unilateral strategic decision that had nothing to do with generosity. The stranglehold that Israel has maintained over Gaza—controlling its borders, airspace, and coastline; restricting its foreign trade, crippling its economy; and blocking practically all movement of people in and out—amounts to an extreme occupation from without. It is hard to overstate the suffering the people of Gaza have undergone under Israel subjugation, whose measures go well beyond the stated purpose of containing Hamas’s threat to Israeli security. There is only slight hyperbole in the frequent description of Gaza as the world’s largest open-air prison. Occasionally, some of the prisoners lash out hatefully and desperately at their captors.

My conclusion, then, as to jus ad bellum: Israel’s attack on Gaza is not a just war, both because it is a war that was effectively started by Israel without legitimate provocation, and because it is a war that shouldn’t need to be fought in the first place—a war to crush resistance to oppression.

But what of Israel’s conduct of the war? Is Israel taking all reasonable steps to minimize harm to civilians? I’ll address those questions in another diary.

Note: An earlier version of this diary was published yesterday in www.tony.greco.com

 

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (11+ / 0-)

    Author, Chomsky's Challenge to American Power www.tony-greco.com

    by Tony Greco on Thu Jul 24, 2014 at 09:10:27 AM PDT

  •  I am 59. Israel and (0+ / 0-)

    Palestinians have been warring for my entire life.  It's a rerun of all the other bloodshed.  Both sides claim it to be a just war.  The only answer is peace in which Palestinians and Israelis don't get all they want.  A two state solution is the only answer.  But it appears that neither the Palestinians nor Israelis seek peace with a flawed, unjust to both sides, solution.  They prefer blood.

     

    Join us on the Black Kos front porch to review news and views written from a black pov—everyone is welcome.

    by TomP on Thu Jul 24, 2014 at 09:15:34 AM PDT

  •  How can it be a war when one side can't win (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Emmy

    I voted Tuesday, May 6, 2014 because it is my right, my responsibility and because my parents moved from Alabama to Ohio to vote. Unfortunately, the republicons want to turn Ohio into Alabama.

    by a2nite on Thu Jul 24, 2014 at 09:16:56 AM PDT

    •  War (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mnemosyne42, MGross

      http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/...

      A state of armed conflict between different nations or states or different groups within a nation or state:
      http://www.merriam-webster.com/...
      war
      noun, often attributive ˈwȯr\

      : a state or period of fighting between countries or groups

      : a situation in which people or groups compete with or fight against each other

      : an organized effort by a government or other large organization to stop or defeat something that is viewed as dangerous or bad

      http://dictionary.cambridge.org/...
      war
      noun [C or U]     wɔːr US  wɔːr
      A2 armed fighting between two or more countries or groups , or a particular example of this:

      "please love deeply...openly and genuinely." A. M. H.

      by indycam on Thu Jul 24, 2014 at 09:34:05 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  In international law (0+ / 0-)

        a war is a conflict between two or more nations so technically this is not a war but an armed conflict involving a "non-state party" and a nation. Such conflicts are governed by the First Protocol to the Geneva Conventions. This was promulgated in the mid 1970s to regulate the increasing number of such conflicts.

        Israel (and the USA) have not signed or ratified the First Protocol but it is, because of the number of countries that do recognize it, considered to be international law. Israel is not treating those it captures in Gaza as prisoners of war because of this. The position also allowed a quasi-legal justification for holding prisoners from Afghanistan and Iraq in Guantanamo Bay and various "Black prison" elsewhere.

        "Come to Sochi, visit the gay clubs and play with the bears" - NOT a Russian advertising slogan.

        by Lib Dem FoP on Thu Jul 24, 2014 at 12:20:51 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Syria Comment notes; (0+ / 0-)
    It should be noted that undoubtedly with influence from Gaza, this pro-ISIS trend is catching on somewhat in the West Bank, which recently saw three teenagers kidnapped near Hebron by a group taking its name after ISIS, though the Israeli government is officially blaming Hamas as part of a propaganda line whereby there is a reluctance to acknowledge there is a more radical trend than Hamas emerging within the Palestinian population.
    http://www.joshualandis.com/...
  •  "Here's my intuition." (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Justanothernyer

    That's all fine and good, but there's quite a body of secondary literature on this subject. What would it have to say?

  •  I think you are asking the wrong question . (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mattoqp

    I think the real question is ,
    how do we get them to stop and not restart the war / killing / destruction .

    "please love deeply...openly and genuinely." A. M. H.

    by indycam on Thu Jul 24, 2014 at 09:36:43 AM PDT

    •  The questions to ask (0+ / 0-)

      You're right, of course, that the single most important question is the one you pose.  But how we approach that question will and should be conditioned by our moral assessment of the existing situation.    

      Author, Chomsky's Challenge to American Power www.tony-greco.com

      by Tony Greco on Thu Jul 24, 2014 at 10:25:45 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Gee, Larry Derfner (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Movelikeabutterfly, JNEREBEL, mattoqp

    Quoting Larry Derfner and his friends as 972 magazine is quoting from the most extreme leftist Israelis that exist. Israel is entitled to defend itself, full stop.

    I don't know how I'm meant to act with all of you lot. Sometimes I don't try, I just na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na

    by Zornorph on Thu Jul 24, 2014 at 09:37:37 AM PDT

  •  Why would an American support a Government (0+ / 0-)

    In Israel,A government made  up a bunch of religious crazies ,if you were a liberal  in America ,you would not support a government made of American religious crazies,you have bunch of American mercenary serving in Israel army ,if you would not fight for America ,why would you fight for Israel

    •  Shows what you know (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Justanothernyer

      For the most part, the 'religious crazies' as you put it, were not invited to be a part of this government. Shas and UTJ are the most religious parties and the secular Yesh Atid didn't want them in and got the Jewish Home party to go along with it. While there is a religious element to the Jewish Home, it's mostly ultra-nationalist. Naftali Bennett is nobody's idea of a religious fanatic. The fact that you consider a government made up of Netanyahu, Lapid, Bennett and Livni to be 'religious crazies' is very telling in how you think about Jews, frankly.

      I don't know how I'm meant to act with all of you lot. Sometimes I don't try, I just na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na

      by Zornorph on Thu Jul 24, 2014 at 10:18:09 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  It is a problematic analysis (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    TomP, Nospinicus

    If you allow the long causal chains you are using it is hard to conclude that any war is just.  

    •  The long causal chain MUST be considered (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Sunspots, poco

      Otherwise, where do you want to start? How about starting at this morning when the IDF attacked a UN designated shelter in Gaza killing at least 15 and injuring 200 or more?

      Sometimes I wonder how we Americans would respond if we were under siege the way Gaza is.

      "Portion of the adolescent prisoners in solitary on Rikers Island who have been diagnosed with a mental illness: 7/10." Tell someone.

      by RJDixon74135 on Thu Jul 24, 2014 at 10:39:19 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Here's my flamebait honest opinion (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    TomP

    The situation is impossible.  Yes, Israel has the right to defend itself. Yes, the Palestinians have been oppressed. Yes, Israel is an apartheid state. Yes, the terrorist actions of Hamas and the Palestinian authority are unconscionable.

    The root of the problem - the original sin that starts all of this is the decision to atone for Europe's crimes by giving away land that didn't belong to the people who committed the crimes.

    That, and the persistent belief in a realm beyond reality. I believe that is a delusion that makes the situation intractable.  If God is on your side, how can you back down?

    Proverbs 29:7 “The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern.”

    by nightsweat on Thu Jul 24, 2014 at 10:29:55 AM PDT

  •  Well, easy to see your position (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JNEREBEL
    But wait: didn’t Israel withdraw from Gaza, only to be punished by rocket fire? Anyone who asks that question is either naïve or disingenuous.
    Well then, why did Hamas destroy a multi-million dollar export business in flowers and fruit when it was left to them intact and operational as job one?

    Evil Jooozz?  Always scheming?

    You're close to the edge, imho.

    "When you're wounded and left on Afghanistan's plains, And the women come out to cut up what remains, Jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains An' go to your Gawd like a soldier." Rudyard Kipling

    by EdMass on Thu Jul 24, 2014 at 10:44:22 AM PDT

    •  From Hasbara Buster, not Krauthammer (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Lib Dem FoP, chipmo, Emmy
      When Israel decided its unilateral withdrawal from Gaza, the settlers expected to be paid handosmely for the productive infrastructure they had created. Of course this was a display of chutzpah, because it had been heavy state subsidizing that had allowed them to create that infrastructure in the first place. As Haaretz noted:

      The Gaza settlers had been inundated by perks from all directions. They received subsidized lands, subsidized water, assured wages from the public sector, "risk bonuses" and lower tax on their higher wages, subsidized daycare, cheap Arab labor, what didn't they get. The benefits they received touched on every area of their lives and they became accustomed to higher standards they can't forgo even now.
      As the date of the withdrawal approached with no deal in sight, however, the settlers began to destroy the greenhouses. The New York Times reported:

      About half the greenhouses in the Israeli settlements in Gaza have already been dismantled by their owners, who have given up waiting to see if the government was going to come up with extra payment as an inducement to leave them behind, say senior officials working on the coordination of this summer's Israeli pullout from Gaza.(...)

      Of the roughly 1,000 acres of agricultural land that were under greenhouses in the 21 Israeli settlements in Gaza, only 500 acres remain - creating significant doubts that the greenhouses could be handed over to the Palestinians as "a living business," the goal cited by the Israeli coordinator of the pullout, Eival Giladi.
      Finally, a last-minute effort by American Jewish philantropists raised $14 million and the remainder of the greenhouses was bought and turned over to the Palestinians.

      However, since there had been no coordination with the Palestinians, there was no security plan to protect the greenhouses from looters. AP reported:

      Palestinians looted dozens of greenhouses on Tuesday, walking off with irrigation hoses, water pumps and plastic sheeting in a blow to fledgling efforts to reconstruct the Gaza Strip.(...)

      Palestinian police stood by helplessly Tuesday as looters carted off materials from greenhouses in several settlements, and commanders complained they did not have enough manpower to protect the prized assets. In some instances, there was no security and in others, police even joined the looters, witnesses said.

      “We need at least another 70 soldiers. This is just a joke,” said Taysir Haddad, one of 22 security guards assigned to Neve Dekalim, formerly the largest Jewish settlement in Gaza. “We’ve tried to stop as many people as we can, but they’re like locusts.”
      As can be seen, the theft was carried out by individuals, and in no way was it encouraged by the Palestinian Authority. Quite on the contrary, there was a conscious PA effort to prevent the lootings, which was however hindered by lack of resources.

      http://thehasbarabuster.blogspot.ca/...
      •  Okay, who were they? (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        JNEREBEL
        “We need at least another 70 soldiers. This is just a joke,” said Taysir Haddad, one of 22 security guards assigned to Neve Dekalim, formerly the largest Jewish settlement in Gaza. “We’ve tried to stop as many people as we can, but they’re like locusts.”

        As can be seen, the theft was carried out by individuals, and in no way was it encouraged by the Palestinian Authority. Quite on the contrary, there was a conscious PA effort to prevent the lootings, which was however hindered by lack of resources.

        The PA wanted to preserve the resource.  Who did not?

        Go ahead, give it a try, you can do it!

        "When you're wounded and left on Afghanistan's plains, And the women come out to cut up what remains, Jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains An' go to your Gawd like a soldier." Rudyard Kipling

        by EdMass on Thu Jul 24, 2014 at 11:13:30 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  You are stretching dude, (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          chipmo

          So, the 3,000 greenhouses turned over, is a lie.

          The 500 greenhouses turned over, in the opinion of the Israeli Expert, would not form a viable business , (pre blockade) so the tall tale of Palestinians destroying a viable fruit and flower business, another lie.

          So, that's two easily refuted Hasbara lies, so far,.......

          And your only response is to ask me who I think it was who looted* the greenhouses,

          Palestinians.

          See that way I don't have to say the third Hasbara lie, for you.

          *looted, not "destroyed", pipes, plumbing, glass, frames, electrical wiring and fixtures, etc, were taken and reused or sold.

          •  You refuse to answer the ? (0+ / 0-)

            Palestinians?  People as described by a PA official in your citation as "locusts"?  Kinda like "New Yorkers" as an overly general attribution don't y'a think?

            You do know that Bill Clinton and the United States Gubmint declared Hamas and Islamic Jihad international terrorist organizations in 1994?  Yes?

            Really?

            "When you're wounded and left on Afghanistan's plains, And the women come out to cut up what remains, Jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains An' go to your Gawd like a soldier." Rudyard Kipling

            by EdMass on Thu Jul 24, 2014 at 11:33:33 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  Which rocket attack now? (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Nospinicus, JNEREBEL, mattoqp
    So, Israel launched a war against Hamas on the West Bank and Hamas replied with the only means of resistance it has available —rockets from Gaza. There is no reason to believe those rockets would have started flying had it not been for Netanyahu’s deliberate breaking of a cease-fire that both sides had been observing.
    That doesn't pass the laugh test.

    Previous reasons for Palestinian rocket attacks have apparently included Obama having the nerve to visit Israel.

    Among those incidents that even have any identifiable reason other than "We want to shoot rockets at Israel."

  •  You asked: (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lepanto
    Are Israel’s current actions in Gaza justified?  
    The answer is "NO"...."Israel's current actions" are only effective at committing mass atrocities on civilians and children in the manner of war crimes.

    War crimes are never "justified"

  •  At this very moment Israel is continuing to thieve (0+ / 0-)

    Palestinian land and build illegal colonies in the Palestinian State in the West Bank - obviously Israel has no interest in either peace or justice, but just land grabbing.

    We're shocked by a naked nipple, but not by naked aggression.

    by Lepanto on Thu Jul 24, 2014 at 03:20:51 PM PDT

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