Defense Against the Dark Arts :
by Gabriel Ash
first published on Dissident Voice, July 24, 2006
republished with the author's permission
In the wake of my last article, Dissident Voice received a polite and well
written "letter to the editor." The letter, while not claiming any
originality, was an exceptionally well packed string of apologetic
"talking points." Since every writer who strays from the party line
probably receives scores of similar letters, I thought it would be of some
benefit to the community to unpack it publicly.
Following is a line by line commentary.
To the Editor,
Gabriel Ash ("Israel Terrorism", July 18) did not say that the capture of
the two Israeli soldiers and the killing of eight others was effected
during a raid that violated an internationally recognized border.
I did say exactly that, adding that, "Israel should not enjoy the defense
of principles it doesn't respect." Israel, since its inception, has never
declared its borders. Its so called borders are "armistice lines" which
reflect the result of military conflict. The only reason, for example,
that Israel's border with Lebanon is where it is, and not on the Litani
river, is the dogged resistance of Hizbullah, which forced Israel to
retreat to that border. Nevertheless, Israel has repeatedly, since 1948
till today, sent its soldiers and agents to act behind international
borders, and has never accepted any legal limitation on its forces. The
list is too long to cover here, but we can mention a few major signposts:
the Qibya massacre (1953), the Suez War (1956), the attack on Samua
(1966), the 1967 War, the Litani operation (1978), the 1982 war, and of
course, the on going occupation of the West Bank and Gaza since 1967 to
the present. To focus on Lebanon, we know that Israel planned to occupy
Southern Lebanon already in the early fifties, but raids on Lebanon
started in 1968, and haven't stopped since. Israel helped plunged Lebanon
into the civil war, bombed villages in Lebanon repeatedly since 1968,
killing thousands of civilians all the way to the massacre in Qana in
1996, in which 106 Lebanese refugees perished inside a U.N. compound.
Israel maintained an oppressive and murderous occupation of Lebanon, in
defiance of the U.N. Security Council, for 18 years, in which 20,000
people perished. Since leaving Lebanon, Israeli fighter jets have
repeatedly violated Lebanon sovereignty, and Israeli military units have
infiltrated Lebanon at will. In February 2006, for example, U.N.
investigators confirmed that Israeli soldiers shot and killed a teenage
shepherd inside Lebanon.  According to Israeli propaganda logic,
Lebanon should have razed Haifa to the ground in retaliation. Borders mean
almost as little to Israel as the life of the civilians behind it. So yes,
in solidarity with the nine thousand Palestinian political prisoners
languishing in Israeli jails, Hizbullah did breach Israel sovereignty. It
may have been reckless or shortsighted, but it was in no way unjustified.
Jewish religious law applies perfectly: "He who steals from a thief is not
By any definition Hizbullah committed an act of aggression, which by any
standard is an act of war. No country can tolerate such breach of its
sovereignty without responding accordingly.
I did not expect Israel to tolerate an act of "aggression" from Hizbullah.
After all, Israel doesn't tolerate even peaceful demonstrations against
its crimes. It beats, shoots and kills peace activists and non-violent
protesters , Israel doesn't even tolerate people caught living with
their families while not being Jewish. Perhaps if Israel were a less
intolerant place, it wouldn't need to tolerate aggression. As for
"responding accordingly" see below.
Israel is no exception. The Beirut airport and the Beirut-Damascus highway
were hit so that Iran and Syria could not send any help to Hisbullah, as
they have been doing for a long time, supplying it with some 12,000
rockets of different kinds.
How many rockets, shells and deadly aircrafts does Israel possess, most
courtesy of the U.S. taxpayer? Why shouldn't the Lebanese own the military
means necessary for deterring an Israeli attack, especially since Israel
attacks Lebanon with the regularity an addict injects heroin?
And as usual with terrorist groups, the Hizbullah always hides among
civilians. The rockets are hidden in houses in which civilian families
First, Hizbullah is a Lebanese political party, a militarized resistance
movement and an effective and appreciated provider of social services.
There is some speculation that Hizbullah may have been involved is some
terrorist operations. But on the other hand, to be called a "terrorist
group" by the U.S. and Israel, the two leading providers of global terror,
is a badge of honor. As a reminder, Israelis had elected as prime
ministers Shamir and Begin, both leaders in the pre-state terrorist groups
that murdered Palestinian civilians, foreign diplomats, and anti-Zionist
religious Jews. They also elected Rabin, the ethnic cleanser of Lydda and
Ramle, and Sharon, the commander of the Qibia massacre and the ogre
responsible for the Sabra and Shatila massacre. Terrorism credentials are
a qualification to higher office in Israeli society. 
Second, Hizbullah doesn't "hide among civilians." As an organic Shiite
organization, it is based in Shiite areas, just as the Israeli military is
based often in Jewish areas. The Israeli Chief of Staff, "hides" in a
bunker at the center of Tel Aviv. Does that make Tel-Aviv a legitimate
military target? According to Israel's logic, the answer is yes. Israel's
nuclear facilities "hide" in Dimona. Are the residents of Dimona a
legitimate military target? Moshav Meron, which was hit by Hizbullah, sits
a top a military installation. Why does the Israeli military hide among
civilians? (For good measures, the Israeli military is also hiding behind
Palestinians.) And as for the rockets hidden in families houses, that has
all the credibility of an Israeli army say-so.
When a Katyusha rocket is fired at an Israeli city, it is aimed only at
First, that is certainly not true. Hizbullah has also targeted military
installations in or near Israeli towns.  Second, Hizbullah, let us
remember, responded to Israeli bombardment and killing of civilians by
firing on Israeli cities. Is that morally justified? No. But if one thinks
Israel has the right to bomb civilians, it follows that Hizbullah has the
same right, indeed a greater right, since it is responding to Israel's
Israeli FM Livni justifies Israeli murder of Lebanese people
because "Terrorists use the population and live among them."  Everyone
who ever visited Israel knows that Israeli soldiers are present in large
numbers in almost every town. They live among the population, and
according to Livne, that makes Israeli towns legitimate Katyusha targets.
Now, I don't think Livne believes that. Apologists and "friends" of Israel
cannot perform the mental operation of abstracting the terms, "Israelis",
"Arabs," "Israeli army," "Hizbullah," from the formal structure of their
argument. They don't see that a sentence such as "X has/doesn't have a
right to kill Y under condition Z" would be either true or false
regardless of whether X=Israeli and Y=Arab or the other way around. That
is because, for them, "Arabs" and "Israelis" are simple not
interchangeable terms. The word that describes this habit of the mind is
Israel does its best to spare as many civilians as possible.
Of all Israeli "Hasbara's" (propaganda) talking points, this is the most
obscene. Let's begin with the current war. There are over 300 Lebanese
civilians killed already (the body count is probably obsolete by the time
you read this), including whole families, and a large percentage of
children. There is no evidence that even a handful of Hizbullah fighters
were among the killed. Israel bombed scores of villages and densely
inhabited neighborhoods in Beirut and Tyre. Among the important military
targets Israel bombed were a Greek Orthodox church, a milk factory and
food and medical supplies convoys. Nor are Israeli leaders trying to hide
that they are targeting civilians who have no connection to Hizbullah.
Israel's Chief of Staff explained Israel's careful vetting of targets, for
example, with the statement that "nothing is safe." Indeed, Israel even
bombed Christian neighborhoods.
"Trying to spare as many civilians as possible" is a pretty meaningless
incantation. What does it practically imply? Let's assume fighters and
civilians are present in the same area. How many civilians does Israel
consider acceptable to kill in order to get a fighter? 10, 100, 1000? Is
there any example of a target that was spared because of the presence of
civilians? Since Israel bombs dense residential neighborhoods (not to
mention Gaza, the densest human habitat on earth), the answer is clearly
no. "as possible" means, "we bomb whatever we want." There is no
difference between indiscriminate bombing and "targeting" civilians.
"To spare as many civilians as possible" not only fails as a meaningful
_expression of respect for civilian life, but is also a lie. Israel kills
civilians as a strategy, not only as a by-product of military operations.
The strategy of attacking civilians is not new. It was first enunciated in
the fifties by Moshe Dayan, as the policy of "retaliation" against
civilians. Dayan, (unlike the moral friends of Israel today) honestly
admitted that Israel's retaliation policy was "neither moral, nor
justified." But said that "the method of collective punishment has proven
itself as of now as effective."  After fifty years there should be some
doubt as to how effective collective punishment really is. But it is
clearly as unjustifiable and immoral today as it was when Dayan first
adopted the Nazi doctrine of fighting the resistance with retaliation
against civilians. I don't make that comparison lightly and it should not
be taken to mean that there is a complete equation between Israel and Nazi
Germany; but when Israel is (again and again and again) in wholesale
breach of the laws of war and the Geneva convention, it is important to
remember and remind that many of these laws came about as a direct
response to Nazi occupation practices.
Dayan is long dead, but the record proves that Israel never gave up the
use of collective punishment against civilians, which consists in both
targeting civilians directly and recklessly endangering civilians, as a
means of pressure (again, the definition of terrorism). Dozens of books,
articles and reports have been written on the subject, by academics,
journalists and human rights organizations. Few of them unfortunately ever
get reported or quoted in the mainstream media. The latest summary comes
from Norman Finkelstein's book, Beyond Chutzpa, from which I quote at
random the following Amnesty International report referring to the year
2002: "The Majority of people killed where taking part in demonstrations
where stones were the only weapons used…A large proportion of those
injured and killed included children. Bystanders, people within their
homes and ambulance personnel were also killed." 
And closer to Lebanon, here is what Human Rights Watch said about Israel's
"Operation Accountability" in 1993, another massive Israeli assault on
Lebanon in which 118 Lebanese civilians were killed: "It is apparent from
public statements that… civilians were seen as a crucial strategic element
of the operation….Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin declared: "We want Lebanese
villagers to flee and we want to damage all those who were parties to
Hizballah's activities." For both these goals of Operation Accountability,
Lebanese civilians were the focus. Israel planned to drive Lebanese
civilians north to Beirut in order to force the Lebanese government to
crack down on Hizballah, and to punish the villagers for allowing
Hizballah to operate in their midst. On both counts, Israel was in grave
violation of international humanitarian law which prohibits the targeting
of civilians." According to HRW the great majority of the victims where
There are dozens of such quotes for any given year in Israel's history.
Anyone with minimal reading skills can collect enough data to shock their
conscience, provided that they have one.
Getting back to current events, Olmert announced that he will not stop
pounding Lebanon until Israel achieved its goals: these include the
removal of Hizbullah's rockets from South Lebanon, return of the captive
soldiers, and international pressure on Lebanon to implement Security
Council resolution 1559. The last two of Olmert's three stated conditions
for a cease-fire are political and cannot conceivably be achieved by the
destruction of any number of military targets. Hence, according to the
Prime Minister's own formulation of Israel's official reasons for bombing
Lebanon, the mass murder of civilians is taking place for the purpose of
putting pressure on Hizbullah's leaders, the Lebanese government, and the
"international community". By his own words Olmert is an international
Israel left Gaza, to the last inch, more than 10 months ago. Since then
more than 800 Qassam rockets have been fired at Israeli towns from there.
In the month of June alone, 89 rockets were fired at the town of Sderot.
Again, like any other country, Israel had to respond. It should have acted
as soon as the first rocket landed. But better late than never
These 800 "rockets" are crude steel tubes that caused less than a dozen
casualties. That's a dozen too much. But during the same period, Israel
fired ten times as many real, sophisticated, U.S. made heavy artillery
shells into Gaza, killing at least eighty people, including a whole family
doing a barbecue on the beach.  How should Palestinians respond?
Now, why is Gaza still fighting? Contrary to the talking points, Israel
did not end its occupation of Gaza. It redeployed its soldiers to the
perimeter, without ever ending its full control over the life of Gaza's
inhabitants, their infrastructure, airspace, borders and economy.
Furthermore, Israel's leaders have openly stated that the purpose of their
redeployment in Gaza is to secure the Israel's extensive land robbery and
settlement policies in the West Bank. David Bloom wrote a finely combed
analysis of Israel's real "convergence" plan and why it presages no ending
of the occupation.
Hamas's leaders have repeatedly and publicly committed to end the violent
resistance and accept Israel within a two states division of Palestine.
The elected Palestinian leader, Ismail Haniyeh, stated the conditions:
"[R]ecognition of the core dispute over the land of historical Palestine
and the rights of all its people….reclaiming all lands occupied in 1967;
and stopping Israeli attacks, assassinations and military
expansion…..Statehood for the West Bank and Gaza, a capital in Arab East
Jerusalem, and resolving the 1948 Palestinian refugee issue fairly, on the
basis of international legitimacy and established law."
Hamas does not demand anything beyond the international legal consensus
expressed in countless UN resolution. Israel is now bombing and starving
the civilian population of Gaza because it does not want to end the
occupation and resolve the conflict in good faith. It wants to continue to
deny Palestinians their internationally recognized rights, and is ready to
kill any number of them until they submit.
Ash, apparently does not like Israel.
Having lived a big chunk of my life in Israel, I dare say that's an
understatement. But we are not debating personal taste, are we? (I also
don't like Brussel Sprouts, but I don't criticize them.) We are discussing
crimes against humanity. What annoys Israel's "friends" is that some
refuse to bow to the golden calf of eternal Jewish victimhood and dare
point the finger at the real thug in the Middle East.
That of course is his privilege, but Israel will continue to defend
itself, if Ash likes it or not.
Israel will continue to commit new crimes in the defense of old crimes. I
expect nothing less. Shakespeare captured the essential dynamics that
leads from illegitimacy to ever expanding criminality in these perceptive
lines from the Tragedy of Macbeth:
"For mine own good,
All causes shall give way: I am in blood
Stepp'd in so far, that, should I wade no more,
Returning were as tedious as go o'er."
It is amazing to see a "progressive" left winger support one of the most
regressive fundamentalist Islamo-fascist groups around.
Let's begin with the obvious. Israel can no more justify its crimes by
describing Hizbullah as "islamo-fascist" as by complaining about Ghengis
Khan's bad hygiene. Murdering civilians is the issue here, not Nassralah's
political theories. To combat political theories, words, not bombs, should
Nevertheless, calling Hizbullah Islamo-fascist is a classic
sand-in-the-eyes defense. Hizbullah is a complex phenomenon, with
regressive as well as progressive aspects (and let us not forget that
Hizbullah was effectively created by Israel.) I share neither Hizbullah's
vision of Islamic society, nor its cult of martyrdom. On the other hand,
Hizbullah is also committed to political pluralism and democracy, and is
probably the least corrupt major party in Lebanon, and the one that does
most for public welfare and social and political equality. These qualities
make Hizbullah among the most progressive political forces in a
reactionary Middle East. And last but not least, defeating the Israeli
army and forcing it out of Lebanon was certainly a moment of
progress-progress for liberty and for human rights.
No doubt Jewish Israeli women enjoy more freedom than what fundamentalist
Islam accords; heck! they even serve in the army. Yet portrayal of Israel
as a "progressive" regional force that deserves progressive sympathies is
simply bull. Feminism did not advance in Southern Lebanon thanks to
Israel's "enlightened" occupation, just as it did not advance in Iraq
thanks to U.S. "boots on the ground." Armies and wars are not progressive
forces; they are the most extreme and regressive expression of human
inequality and injustice, and therefore the most urgent target for
left-wing and "progressive" resistance.  And Israel, as the third most
militarized society in the world after North Korea and Eritrea, and the
second most unequal and second most corrupt regime in the developed world,
is not a progressive "light unto the nations."  There are, to be sure,
progressive elements in Israeli society, but the state in no way
represents them.  We should support progressives elements in Israel,
not the state of Israel. Israel is a militaristic, chauvinist and racist
society, in which discrimination and abuse of minorities, and not just
Palestinians, is rampant, legal, and often state sponsored.  Israel is
not a beacon of progress. It is not, as the White European racist wannabe
Herzl imagined it, "a rampart of civilization against barbarism." It is a
cautionary example of the way addiction to war and faith in force degrade
a society and corrupt every other value it wanted to have. Just read the
Gabriel Ash is an activist and writer who writes because the pen is
sometimes mightier than the sword and sometimes not. He welcomes comments
 Please, if you find Israel's apology for the incident, e-mail me.
Indeed e-mail me if you've seen any reference of the event in the U.S.
media. I couldn't find any. Two weeks later, Israeli soldiers shot and
wounded another shepherd. In December 2005, Israeli gunboats attacked a
Lebanese fishing boat in Lebanese water. Another shepherd was killed in
April 2003 and another was kidnapped and interrogated by Israeli soldiers
in July 2004. In January 2001, Israel wounded a 13 year old shepherd some
three miles inside Lebanon, apparently in a helicopter attack. In
addition, Israel had laid about 130,000 mines in southern Lebanon
according to U.N. estimates, and refuses to hand over maps of minefields
to the Lebanese authorities. (In fact, on one occasion Israel gave a
Ukrainian U.N. unit wrong maps, so much for valuing human life.)
 Here's a sample:
 For more on Israeli terrorism:
* Livia Rokach, Israel's Sacred Terrorism.
* Noam Chomsky, Fateful Triangle, covers most of the history of Israel's
meddling in Lebanon
* On Sharon's responsibility for Sabra and Shatila.
* More on Shamir and Begin.
* On Lydda and Ramla.
 See http://informationclearinghouse.info/article14006.htm and
 Quoted by the pathologically balanced Steven Erlanger.
 Benny Morris, Israel's Border Wars, p 203 (Hebrew Edititon)
 Norman Finkelstein, Beyond Chutzpah, p. 101
 www.dissidentvoice.org/June06/OConnor27.htm; For the Gaza Barbecue
massacre, see NY Times June 14, 2006.
 Can a militaristic society promote women's rights? Only in the mind of
Israel's apologists. See, for example,
www.ifor.org/WPP/article_disarm.htm; Cynthia Enloe, Maneuvers: The
International Politics of Militarizing Women's Lives;
 On Israel's economic inequality see here. On corruption see here.
Militarization can be measured by a number of ratios. I refer to the
number of soldiers relative to population. In per capital defense spending
Israel is the world leader. Last data is from 1999:
 Here are references to a few progressive Israeli groups. Support
them, not Israel:
 A couple of sources about the abusive legal system:
* Raja Shehada, Occupier's Law
* And check here for a priceless new adaptation of Kafka's "The Trial" . .
. oops, for a transcript of a court session in Israel
* See also Adalah
Some examples of racist attitudes: "The poll found that more than
two-thirds of Jews would refuse to live in the same building as an Arab.
Nearly half would not allow an Arab in their home and 41% want segregation
of entertainment facilities… 40% of Israel's Jews believe 'the state needs
to support the emigration of Arab citizens'…63% of Jewish Israelis
consider their country's Arab citizens a 'security and demographic threat
to the state'. Some 18% said they felt hatred when they heard someone
speaking Arabic, and 34% agreed with the statement that 'Arab culture is
inferior to Israeli culture'." See also Dan Rabinowitz, Overlooking
Nazareth; "Racism in Israel"; and Gideon Levy, Haaretz, May 26 2003.