When Will Somebody Stop Thinking of the Children?

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At Spiked, Brendan O'Neill has a characteristically interesting take on the way kids make such top-notch war propagandists:

Increasingly, the Middle East is viewed through the eyes of a child. In culture, media and politics, images and stories of Lebanese, Palestinian and increasingly Israeli children, too, are dominant. There are films, both documentaries and fictional features, that tell the story of the Middle East from 'the children's view', which provide, according to one gushing report, a 'deeply humanistic insight into the complexities of the Middle East conflict that political analysis or frontline news coverage often lacks' (4). Journalists and photographers on the ground constantly seek out children, whether it's Palestinian kids throwing stones or Israeli kids weeping at the funeral of a loved one killed in a suicide bombing. Even the West's political interventions in the Middle East are increasingly conducted in the name of children. UN officials and NGOs chastise Israel for failing to adhere to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in its treatment of young Palestinians, as if Israel is an errant father and the Palestinians its wide-eyed charges (5).

This infantilisation of Israel, Palestine and now Lebanon shows the true relationship between the West and the Middle East today. It suggests that what really motivates Western media and political interest in the Israel-Palestine and Israel-Lebanon conflicts is less political solidarity, or anything to do with liberty or justice, but more a vicarious politics of pity. Images and stories of distressed children allow Western commentators and viewers to feel simultaneously upset and superior; it gives them both an emotional kick and makes them feel like responsible adults who wish to care for these damaged children far, far away.

This is a legitimate point, but I have to ask: when were things any different? I'd say the new characteristic in the latest Lebanon war was that all those Beirut hipsters provided something usually lacking in the dead-child-heavy coverage of Arab-Israeli conficts: a substantial number of westernized Arab sophistos with good English skills who were able to do talking-head duties on the news networks. The icons of Arab self-pity—dusty dead children, shrieking old women in chadors, trashed extended-family homes—have been with us since the beginning of time, and have never produced much emotional effect on American audiences. It was the large numbers of American-looking people on the receiving end of the Israeli offensive that made this event different. The argumentum ad puerum is by contrast an old chestnut that gets rolled out because it's easy to use. O'Neill sees a sinister purpose in all this:

The new child's-eye view of the Middle East also has the effect of reducing the debate about the future of the region to the level of a childish spat. Some argue that interviewing and photographing children captures the essence of the Middle Eastern conflict in a way that news reportage or analysis fails to. 'The kids', apparently, speak more truthfully and profoundly about their lives and experiences, because they are unpolluted by adult politics and outlooks. In fact, as anyone who has ever met a child will know, children can be extremely prejudiced and blinkered in their views. In fact, it seems that one reason why some reporters and filmmakers are drawn to the children of the Middle East is because they express the region's various prejudices in a sometimes shocking and unguarded way, thus sustaining the idea that this is a deeply bred and largely intractable conflict.

We should be so lucky. If dead child porn really had the capacity to make the Arab-Israeli conflict appear intractable to Americans, that would be a reason to favor it, because it might finally convince us to steer clear of the whole business.

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  1. Good point Tim.

    The problem is that all kids are cute and all kids are basically alike. So, the “see all the children get along” argument is pretty meaningless. I am sure there were lots of cute kids in Hitler’s Germany and they would have got along swimmingly with their American counterparts. So what? You can say that about any conflict.

  2. News is produced for soap opera women.

    That’s all there is to it. It’s the business model.

    It’s a minority, but it’s the biggest minority the news biz can draw day in and day out, news or no news.

    Audience is the product of the news biz. They sell the audience to advertisers. End of story.

    People say they want hard news, but they don’t. Nobody watches city council meetings. It’s soap or die.

    So soap opera women edit the nation’s news, and terrorists play to them in order to get into the nation’s news.

    No story will run that doesn’t interest soap opera women.

    It’s the infantilization of the audience, not the Middle East.

  3. If dead child porn really had the capacity to make the Arab-Israeli conflict appear intractable to Americans, that would be a reason to favor it, because it might finally convince us to steer clear of the whole business.

    Doesn’t tapping the recoil-reflex de-glorify/de-sanitize war just a bit? Cf. the controversy about showing American soldiers’ coffins, which hawks feared would debilitate national resolve. Granted all the valid points supra, I’m just wondering.

  4. What would you consider “hard” news from the Middle East, Ron?

    The whole mess strikes me as bullies, temper tantrums and attempts to steal from cookie jars when nobody is looking…

    Why not focus on kids…there are no adults in charge anyway.

  5. It was the large numbers of American-looking people on the receiving end of the Israeli offensive that made this event different.

    Funny I don’t feel any differnet about this event.

  6. What would you consider “hard” news from the Middle East, Ron?

    Terrorists playing the media for show. It’s a media war on one side and a military one on the other.

    That politicians have to respond to dim-witted soap opera voters and are paralyzed by the terrorist media tactics.

    An entire political party playing the same game.

  7. Have the wannabe war correspondents reduced themselves to studying at the feet of children?

    On the other hand we have the Reuters guys (in a hard-car) at the receiving end of an Israeli raid?

  8. Ron,

    Is it so surprising that the “terrorists” are winning both the media war and the shooting war given who’s running things in Israel and America?

    Have we ever had “leaders” this corrupt and incompetent at the same time?

    I think Bush and Olmert would like nothing more than for the world to think things are bad as usual in the Middle East so nobody notices the bungled bank robberies they’ve been trying to pull off.

  9. It is worth noting that in Israel, the lives of children are viewed as being more expendable, especially if they are Arab kids.

    Immediately after the 1967 war Robin Maxwell-Hyslop, a British Conservative, recounted in the House of Commons a conversation he had with David Hacohen, one-time Israeli ambassador to Burma. As related by Maxwell-Hyslop, Hacohen “spoke with great intemperance and at great length about the Arabs. When he drew breath I was constrained to say: “Dr Hacohen, I am profoundly shocked that you should speak of other human beings in terms similar to those in which Julius Streicher [notorious Nazi propagandist] spoke of the Jews. Have you learned nothing?” I shall remember his reply to my dying day. He smote the table with both hands and said: “But they are not human beings, they are not people, they are Arabs”.”

    So, killing a few hundred Arab kids to get back a couple of soldiers is viewed differently over in Israel. The “all men are created equal” idea which makes America a haven of safety for Jews and Arabs alike hasn’t quite sunk in over there.

    Of course, Hacohen doesn’t speak for all Israelis, but others in leadership positions, notably Mehachen Begin, a former prime minister, have expressed similar sentiments.

  10. aspendougy,

    It is worth noting that in Israel, the lives of children are viewed as being more expendable, especially if they are Arab kids

    You are a bigot and a moron. You are a bigot because you take the unsubstantiated word of an anti-semitic British conservative as indicative of the opinions of an entire people.

    You are moran because you buy into the entire Depleted Uranium scam. Please go back to school and take some physics and chemistry.

    I don’t even want to know what vile teat you suck your hatred from. Please go slither back under your rock.

  11. The infantilisation of the people of the middle-east springs from two sources.

    First, we have those (mostly Marxist influenced) who believe that all major political events anywhere in the world represent mere pavlovian responses to the actions of a Western developed country. For those with this often unconscious assumption, non-Western people do not have their own cultures, world views of internal political dynamics which impel them to act. Instead, they only react to provocation. Such a view reduces non-westerners to the status of subhuman or at least, sub-adult.

    Second, the intractable and hysterical reactions of the Arabic world to the problems with Israel seem insane to many Westerners, especially Americans. Billions of people in the world live as ethnic minorities within their own countries and have little to no say in their governance. Most people live in countries with borders drawn by external actors which cut indifferently across ethnic lines, yet most do not go on a decades long killing spree over it. Nothing at stake in the conflict seems worth fighting over. The amount of land being fought over is no bigger than a couple of mid-sized American counties. We could pay everyone in the region 10 times what the contested land is worth without breaking a sweat. This is a war fought ultimately for nothing but honor, face and vengeance. Most Americans view these as childish motives for war without mercy.

    So the people of the middle-east get slammed by the full spectrum of Western politics. There are those who do not view them as rational beings even as they make excuses for them. Then there are those who do see them as thinking adults but acting from motivations that Westerns see only in the chronically immature.

  12. It was the large numbers of American-looking people on the receiving end of the Israeli offensive that made this event different.

    what is the writer referring to? the general demeanor and dress, basically european, or was something “darker” being implied? neither seems likely, but the former seems the likelier of the two.

    to the typical american, lebanon (like israel) always seems from a distance like a more western/multiculti place than the rest of the middle east. beirut has the image of having more in common with lyon than with riyadh. that could certainly be a factor, along with the general jonbenet-like fascination about a minor regional conflict.

  13. …infantilisation of the people of the middle-east…

    etc…

    etc…

    There seems to be some infantilization going on here, but I’m not sure it has to do with people in the middle east.

  14. Shannon Love: Sure, some people in the world quietly acquiesce to being second-hand citizens. But most fight back. The Tamil Tigers are largely unknown to most Americans and the Tamil people themselves are not nearly so vilified as the Palestinians. The Karen people of Myanmar have been at war with their government since…forever. The grow opium to finance terrorism. The Basque people have never had to suffer the intense personal loathing of the American press in the same way as the Palestinians. The Irish fought the British from the time of Cromwell until 1921 and are now widely admired for it.

    The Polish people went without a country for a hundred and thirty-four years, with periodic uprising and generalized anti-German activity. The Vietnamese fought the Chinese, off and on, for a thousand years in order to prevent assimiliation. Like all underdogs, they used kidnappings and assassinations of collaborators and Chinese government officials to keep the pot boiling.

    The blacks in South Africa used to “necklace” police informers in their ranks. An ugly business, that, but it certainly made it difficult for the police to recruit informers. The ANC and SWAPO both used terrorism and both have largely been exonerated in retrospect. The Jews themselves fought Roman occupation for hundreds of years. Do they now hang their heads in shame at the memory of it?

    The Palestinians may have been the occupants of a backwards former province of the Ottoman Empire, with little national feeling, in the years prior to 1948, but fifty-plus years of shared suffering has hardened them into a nation without a state. Bad news for the Israelis, who did much to create their common consciousness.

    We are left with the observation of Moshe Dayan, to the effect that as long as the Palestinians are on the West Bank, Israel cannot keep it. As long as the settlements are there, she can’t give it back. Dayan was no Palestinian-lover himself, but he at least recognized them as human beings with normal human responses to the stimulus of occupation. It’s only in the US that we see the hurt surprise that the Palestinians are behaving exactly the same way nearly every other population in the world would under the same circumstances.

    It’s a peculiar form of racism that asks the question: why are they acting like us?

  15. Most Americans view these as childish motives for war without mercy.

    Of course, most Americans live comfortable, sheltered lives free of the humiliation of enemy occupation, which is why it’s easy for them to sit in their air-conditioned computer rooms sneering at third-worlders who dare to tkae offense at mistreatment. Gee, when I get upset about something I write an irate letter to City Council–why can’t the Palestinians do the same thing, huh?

  16. Dear City Council,
    When the hell are you going to do something about that pothole in front of my house? I have a copy of Robert’s Rules of Order, and until the pothole is fixed I will use the rules of parliamentary procedure to make every City Council meeting last at least five hours longer than strictly necessary.

    Sincerely, Jennifer

    Dear Israel,
    When the hell are you going to stop treating us like second-class people and dropping bombs on us? I have a copy of Robert’s Rules of Order, and if you don’t stop killing us I’ll go to the UN and use the rules of parliamentary procedure to have them write you a sternly worded letter.

    Sincerely,
    Palestine and Lebanon

  17. Yes, it’s terrible to see pictures, and hear stories of dead and maimed children, Yes, Yes, Yes.

    But where is the child that leads them?

    Or is it even a child that leads them at all?

    In fact, are they not taught from the first suckling at their mother’s breast to sacrifice themselves for Allah? So what else are they to know?

    James writes of centuries of conflict that have become icons of “resistance”. I have to ask, “When will the “resistance” to Allah’s teachings become an icon, , , ,in the west?

    Allah’s teachings begin with Jews being dogs and pigs and monkeys. It ends with Jews having no right to life itself. In the last decades that anti-jew teaching has come to include everyone who not only supports the Jews, but also to everyone who does not subscribe to Allah’s teachings. Remember the death fatwa against Salmon Rushdie just because he wrote a book exposing the teachings of Allah in language any sixth grader could understand? Or the killings that followed the cartoons in a Danish newspaper? Neither of these events were ever declaimed as lies or misrepresentations by any follower of Islam. They were simply condemned for having been made available to the eyes of infidels.

    It is an old, and many times over, proven fact of conflict that to beat your adversary you have to know him. The West has an adversary, and the West better get to know him, if the conflict is to have any results even somewhat favorable to the West.

    Some place the blame of the West that there is a conflict. But none that I have seen has any substance.

    Maybe to pictures of dead and maimed little children will wake the western world up to how they got that way, , , , and why. They didn’t get that way by their own design.

    On the other hand, how many Jewish children have had their pictures and stories flashed to the world as they were laid on the funeral bier? Why is it the media completely ignores that Allah makes to distinction regarding children?

    Nor do the followers of Allah.

  18. The Palestinians could have land, peace and prosperity. They have rejected this over and over to do something they prefer–killing Jews.

  19. James,

    It’s a peculiar form of racism that asks the question: why are they acting like us?

    What do you mean “us.” I cannot imagine any circumstance wherein I would intentionally murder children for the crimes of their parents. I doubt you would either. Palestinians and other Arabs make such people national heros. They don’t act like us. They have their own largely pre-industrial culture. We are not the mirror which reflects all humanity.

    Do you think it would be okay for modern day self-appointed Jewish avengers to murder any random German they could get their hands on? Even during the war itself, Jewish partisans did not target random German civilians even though it would have been an easy and effective tactic to employ. What the Jews suffered in Europe makes the suffering of the Palestinians seem trivial yet we expect the Jews to forgive and forget, accept monetary compensation and move on. Why don’t we expect the same of the Palestinians?

    I think the answer is simple. We think of Western Jews as an adult people. Like any adult we expect them to accept a good faith effort to address a wrong and get on with their lives. We think of the Palestinians as cultural children. We don’t hold them to the same standards as we hold Westerners. We expect them to behave emotionally and without restraint. (The same dynamic played out with Apartheid in South Africa. Material and human rights conditions were significantly worse everywhere else in sub-sahara Africa yet we singled out South Africa for 99% of the condemnation.)

    More importantly, we think of the dynamic between Israel and the Palestinians to be one of a mature adult to a dangerous child. If a 12 year old attacks a 30 year old with a knife, we expect the adult to use minimal force to disarm the child even at the risk of their own life. We apply the same standards to Israel. We expect the adult Israeli to place themselves at expense, risk and disadvantage when fighting the immature Palestinians. We give the Palestinians moral permission to use as a matter of training and doctrine tactics that are explicit war-crimes yet viscously condemn Israel because despite the hundreds of millions they spend on precision weapons, they can’t destroy rocket launchers inside civilian buildings without harming the human shields there.

    People such as yourself always claim that you think the Palestinians are acting as you yourself would in such “dire” circumstance but actual empirical evidence suggest you would not. Your racism causes you to hold the non-Western people of the middle-east a much different standard.

  20. Shannon Love: “Self-appointed Jewish avengers” of the Holocaust would be very different from Jews who targeted Germans DURING the Holocaust. The Jews are expected to move because it’s over. The Occupation goes on and on and on.

    The US has never been under occupation, but “empirical evidence” from the Indian Wars, the Revolutionary War, and the Civil War tends to indicate that our restraint would decrease as our desperation increases. As it happens, the US, like all the other belligerents in WW2, did randomly target civilians, in Dresden (which had no armaments industry), Berlin (which did), and especially Nagoya, where the wooden houses of the workers were the ACTUAL TARGET, in order to create fires that would disrupt Japanese production.

    The Israelis are held to a higher standard than the Palestinians for the same reason that the British were held to a higher standard than Irgun. The powerful are presumed to have responsibilities that the weak are not. It comes with the (occupied) territory. The powerful are entrusted with their power on the assumption that they will use it with discretion. It’s a burden, but no one ever gives up power simply because they’re held to a higher standard, so it can’t be an unsupportable one.

  21. Is anyone suprised that a discussion of images of dead Arab children was turned, within a dozen posts, into a series of explanations of how Arabs are inferior, and their culture and religion to blame for all of the disasters in the Middle East?

    Is any one surprise that the conversation was turned like that?

    Or by whom?

  22. Reading my own post, it appears as if I’m excusing terrorism, which I’m not. I’m pointing out that people who are cornered do desperate things. That an unwillingness to acknowledge defeat and accept the new order is not unique to Arabs; that particular “infantilism” is a human trait. Finally, that the behaviors that are lauded in one context-say, the French Resistance-become “obviously evil” when applied to others.

    I lumped the Palestinians together with a bunch of other groups who were in similar straits and used similar tactics (the Irish, the Tamil, the Basques, the American Indians, and so on) and pointed out that only in the case of Palestinians are they smeared with a supposed cultural or genetic predisposition to terrorism and contempt for human life.

    The shrill assertions of Western moral superiority or, worse, the suggestion that no Westerner would do such things as blow up a bus or fire rockets randomly into a residential area, this is simply unsupported by the facts. Westerners have done these things, quite recently, and not always out of desperation.

    As long as the Palestinians have nothing to lose, they will act as if they have nothing to lose. They have little respect, even among Arabs, their land is being snatched up piecemeal by endless settlements, and their lives are constrained by a level of state control that no one who posts on this board would tolerate. I have sympathy for their situation, if not their response to it, and I resent the fact that my tax dollars contribute to keeping them in it.

  23. Larry: “The Palestinians could have land, peace and prosperity. They have rejected this over and over to do something they prefer–killing Jews.

    Take a look at the sovereign Palistine that Israel Offered In 2001 and see if you would have accepted?

    There may be more accurate maps but this is close.

  24. Palestine not Palistine.

  25. James,

    Now is your chance to do something that no one else has been able to do for centuries, and ceteanily not since 1948 when the current Israel was partitioned out what was at the time called “Palestine”.

    You keep referring to “their” land being “occupied”. You also keep saying “settlements are being built there. Can you be more specific? And can you tell us just what land does Israel now occupy or where “settlements” are being built on land that is even remotely recognized Internationally as belonging to the Palestinians?

    It would also be of some interest, to me at least, to know your version of just which of the dozen or so times, (wars), the Jews have made headlines over killing children that they started the conflict.

    And of some interest too, is the question of time, money, effort, and technology being squandered by Jews, (and just about everybody else who shoots back at Arabs), on paraphenalia to avoid killing civilians, as opposed to IEDs, automobiles-turned-into-bombs, children-under-sheets-lined-with-C-4, and SCUD rockets, all of which are “intended” to kill civilians and children, how would you categorize the response thus far to the “higher standard” to which you and so much of the world want the Jews should display?

    It wouldn’t be “Not good enough” now would it?

    So, tell me, just what would be “good enough”?

    About the only thing left is for them to just lay down their arms and take it. Is that what you recommend?

    If not, then as I started out, here is your chance to make a/some proposal/s that will work, for both the Palestinians and the Jews both. Rhetoric, rants, replaying old themesongs and making lame accusations do not count. Only concrete proposals, please.

    You have the floor.

  26. James,

    Now is your chance to do something that no one else has been able to do for centuries, and ceteanily not since 1948 when the current Israel was partitioned out what was at the time called “Palestine”.

    You keep referring to “their” land being “occupied”. You also keep saying “settlements are being built there. Can you be more specific? And can you tell us just what land does Israel now occupy or where “settlements” are being built on land that is even remotely recognized Internationally as belonging to the Palestinians?

    It would also be of some interest, to me at least, to know your version of just which of the dozen or so times, (wars), the Jews have made headlines over killing children that they started the conflict.

    And of some interest too, is the question of time, money, effort, and technology being squandered by Jews, (and just about everybody else who shoots back at Arabs), on paraphenalia to avoid killing civilians, as opposed to IEDs, automobiles-turned-into-bombs, children-under-sheets-lined-with-C-4, and SCUD rockets, all of which are “intended” to kill civilians and children, how would you categorize the response thus far to the “higher standard” to which you and so much of the world want the Jews should display?

    It wouldn’t be “Not good enough” now would it?

    So, tell me, just what would be “good enough”?

    About the only thing left is for them to just lay down their arms and take it. Is that what you recommend?

    If not, then as I started out, here is your chance to make a/some proposal/s that will work, for both the Palestinians and the Jews both. Rhetoric, rants, replaying old themesongs and making lame accusations do not count. Only concrete proposals, please.

    You have the floor.

  27. James,

    “Self-appointed Jewish avengers” of the Holocaust would be very different from Jews who targeted Germans DURING the Holocaust.

    And yet they didn’t target German civilians even DURING the holocaust even though few would have blamed them for doing so. If anyone was pushed to such a justified extreme it would have been the Jews and other targets of the extermination campaign. Yet they did not. Why?

    Clearly, merely being pushed to extremes isn’t itself justification.

    The Occupation goes on and on and on.

    You need to brush up your history. The war against Israel has nothing to do with the Occupation and far pre-dates it. The PLO was charted in 1964 with the express mission of destroying Israel within its 1948-armistice borders. Yassir Arrafat made his rep by launching raids against Israeli homes and schools in 1963-67.

    I’m pointing out that people who are cornered do desperate things.

    That’s just my point. The Palenstiains are not in a desperate circumstance save by their own insistence to have absolutely everything on their terms. This entire conflict could have be averted at any point in the last 60 years by a sincere willingness by the Arabic world to negotiate a solution that left them with a less than ideal outcome. Instead they fight on from the same sense of aggrieved entitlement that drove the German around the bend.

    The wrongs that Israel have committed against the Palestinians are trivial compared to those inflicted by the various anti-Israeli groups in the region on each other. By a large margin, Syria killed more ethnic Palestinians in Hama in one week, than the Israeli have killed in nearly 40 years of occupation. The Kurds have been victims of mass murders so often and by so many actors that people don’t even notice anymore.If you think that the Palestinians have a legitimate case for war without restraint or mercy I shudder to think of what you would let the Kurds get away with.

  28. joe,

    Is anyone suprised that a discussion of images of dead Arab children was turned, within a dozen posts, into a series of explanations of how Arabs are inferior, and their culture and religion to blame for all of the disasters in the Middle East

    So its okay to ask how German culture contributed to their little “indiscretions” but it is not okay to ask how Arabic/Islamic culture contributes to the conflict in the middle-east?

    Take any history, polisci or identity course in any Western university and you will get nothing but a litany of how various elements of Western culture cause all the problems in the world. Ask how the culture of a non-Western people might cause problems and you are labeled a bigot. Why do suppose that is? Could it be that those who created the taboo don’t think non-Western people can handle it?

    Culture plays a huge part in the conflict. Only the blind and the bigoted pretend otherwise.

  29. Shannon,

    On a thread about dead and suffering Arab children and how they’re portrayed in the media, no changing the subject to the inferiority of Arab culture and the collective guilt of Arabs for their own suffering is not “OK.”

    We’re not in a policie, history, or “identity” class in a university. We’re talking about dead children and their representation, and THAT is the tangent you go off on? That Arabs have it coming because of their culture?

    You don’t see why that’s objectionable? No, I’ve been reading your comments for some time, and you probably don’t.

  30. I’m just glad to be reading about a Brendan O’Neill article published on another website. He occasionally had something enlightening to say, but his tendency toward debasing his audience by going for the the presumably-popular easy dig was groan-inducing. He’s an excellent writer, just not a sufficiently appropriately respectful one for my taste. Disrespect does have it’s place, like for referring to the intelligence of Senators who use racial epithets while speaking into a camera being operated by a brown-skinned person.

  31. “Some place the blame of the West that there is a conflict. But none that I have seen has any substance.”

    Elmo,

    What about the fact that the West took land away from the Palestinians to give to the Jews? Would you fight to get your land back if it was taken from you?

  32. “The Palestinians could have land, peace and prosperity. They have rejected this over and over to do something they prefer–killing Jews.”

    Larry,

    The land offered was such a small area. Even though it was claimed to be 94% of the disputed land, it was only 46% of 22% of the disputed land. The Israelis would still have control over it, so there would not be Palestinian sovereignty over any reasonable size of land.

  33. “they can’t destroy rocket launchers inside civilian buildings without harming the human shields there.”

    Shannon,

    You are buying into the Israeli propaganda. Civilians were deliberately targeted to turn the Lebanese people against Hezbollah. They did the same thing in 1993 and 1996. The Israelis have not learned their lesson. Such actions make the Lebanese people more sympathetic with the Hezbollah.

  34. joe,

    On a thread about dead and suffering Arab children and how they’re portrayed in the media.

    Or its a thread about the infantilisation of the people of the Middle-East by Westerners and questions about their differing responses to various levels provocation form the central empirical evidence in the debate.

    Your last post engages in just the sort of crypto-racist thinking I criticized. You only want to talk about the Arabs in terms of passive victims of the West. You become incensed when I try to frame the debate in terms of the Arabs as actors instead of reactors. You think it cruel, unfair and racist of me to do so because you think I am picking on people you consider as functionally children. Instead of engaging in a debate about the relative influence of culture on the problems of the area you instead try to instantly turn it into a debate about the moral corruption of your internal political opponents.

    Our first moral imperative when trying to solve any problem is to create an accurate model of the problem. To that end, we must struggle to suppress the warping of the model in order to make it useful for our own selfish reasons. I believe the refusal to think about the role that culture plays in many problems in the world springs from an inherently selfish need to frame all problem in terms that make these problems useful as ammunition in our (Westerners) own internal political struggles. Using other people in such a fashion, especially when it results for them in death, poverty and oppression is profoundly immoral.

    An honest and unselfish model of human political behavior would hold that culture matters. Different cultures have profoundly different concepts of just social and political order. These different concepts cause different people to respond in radically different ways to the same events.

    We don’t do anyone any favors when for our own selfish reason we promulgate a model that empowers exploitive and violent autocrats.

  35. Herb Schaffler,

    You are buying into the Israeli propaganda. Civilians were deliberately targeted to turn the Lebanese people against Hezbollah

    No, I used Google Earth. Try this: Open up Google Earth and go to southern Lebanon. Set you camera to 1,000 feet. Now “fly” over the entire region. Do see any place to hide a truck holding a rocket launcher except within civilian buildings? The region is mountainous and covered solidly by buildings, terraced fields and inaccessible peaks. Moreover, the place simply isn’t that big. Use Google Earth’s measuring tool to measure the distance from Soursour (Tyre-36″16′ North, 35″11′ East) eastward to the Israeli border (36″16′ North, 35″34′ East). That’s a distance of 36km(22.38miles).

    Hezbollah didn’t have any choice but to use a shoot-and-scoot system of launching rockets and then hiding in civilian buildings. That, in fact, is quite legitimate warfare. However, the rules say that if you station legitimate targets in civilian areas the responsibility for civilian safety falls on you. Hezbollah should have immediately evacuated all the civilians from buildings were they positioned their weapons. The did not do this largely because people like you reward them with a propaganda coup every time their irresponsible and illegal actions get someone killed.

    Likewise, Google Earth shows that their aren’t any “military” bases, roads bridges etc. If Israel wanted to immobilize Hezbollah they had to strike civilian infrastructure.

    The land offered was such a small area.

    Again, Google Earth will show you that the entire region is a “small area.” At its widest point, the Westbank is only 57km(35miles) wide. Israel at the same point is only 16km(10 miles) wide. Most of the Westbank is mountainous. The actual settle areas comprise less than 50% of the land.

    Even though it was claimed to be 94% of the disputed land, it was only 46% of 22% of the disputed land.

    Did you even run those numbers at all? The Westbank and Gaza together have a combined area of 6001km^. 46% of 22% of that is 607km^2 (a square 25km on a side). The Gaza strip alone, which Israel has already withdrawn from, has a area of 307km^2. I don’t know where you got your numbers but they don’t pass the sniff test.

    The internet gives you the tools to do your own research and your own thinking. Use it.

  36. Shannon,

    Not all the civilians that were killed were in Hezbollah occupied areas. There are cases of Israelis attacking ambulances and also vehicles that were evacuating, just like they did in 1996. The Israelis are not so innocent as you seem to prefer to believe.

  37. Herb Schaffler,

    Not all the civilians that were killed were in Hezbollah occupied areas.

    Where did you get the idea that Hezbollah operated only in specific easily delineated areas? They had the run of southern and eastern Lebanon. All sources agree on that. One of their command bunkers in Beruit was in a Druze neighborhood if I recall correctly. Besides, Hezbollah used the same communication and transportation networks as everyone else. How can could anyone hope to prevent Hezbollah from uses such resources while leaving them intact for everyone else?

    You set an impossible standard for Israel. They fight an enemy that does everything possible to blend into the civilian population yet it is Israel fault when those civilians get hurt. Israel flew something like 5,000 ground attack sorties(sorties in which ordinance was actually fired) that resulted in less than 1,000 casualties civilian or otherwise. So, any given Israeli attack had only a 1 in 5 chance of killing anyone. When you consider that many of the civilian deaths occurred in clusters with 10 or more victims you see that that the chances of anyone dying in an Israeli attack must have been 1 in 10 or higher. That’s humane targeting by even the most exacting standards.

    There are cases of Israelis attacking ambulances…

    You mean like the obviously fake Red Cross Ambulance attack? Be honest, you fell for that one didn’t you? Israel has reported that it believes it did hit at least one ambulance by accident. In the past, they have targeted ambulances being used to transport war materials which has been confirmed by independent sources. Your assertion that Israel intentionally targets ambulances and other humanitarian resources purely for the terror effect produced is an analyses driven by willful ignorance if not outright bigotry.

    I am repeatedly shocked by the number of people who will swallow any story as long as it makes Israel look bad. Its like your brain falls out when someone says, “Israel did….”.

    Think for yourself. Do your own research.

  38. Herb,

    >>>>>>What about the fact that the West took land away from the Palestinians to give to the Jews? Would you fight to get your land back if it was taken from you?

    Just to get the discussion framed, let’s remember that it was not the “West” that took land away from the Palestinians. In fact, I believe no land was taken from them in the first place.

    What was done was that in 1947 a proposal was made in the Unitd Nations General Assembly, and voted on in 1948, (which was made up of all the member nations in the UN at the time). And let’s go back a little further, to the League of Nations after World War one, when all the countries in the Middle East had new boundaries drawn. Israel, (the Jews), was left out entirely, just as they have been left out since biblical times.

    Too, let’s remember that all that was done in 1948 was to give the Jews a home, and did not expel anyone. The Palestinians were not sent packing as many people believe, but were incorporated into the new fact of Israeli territory.

    Instead, and with a degree of understandable rationale, they wanted their old boundaries, just as the Jews had wanted theirs. The problem they presented then, and still yet, was/is that they don’t want the Jews to have any land of their own.

    The worst part is that the Palestinians are pawns for the other countries in the Middle East who have never had the strength, or international support, to redraw those boundaries and do away with Israel.

    They, (the Palestinians), have been offered boundaries, time and again, and whether at their own instance or the prompting of another source, they have ursurped the offers, the truces, the peace talks, and the boundaries, and they have done it all in the name of doing away with Israel.

    To further frame the discussion, in answer to your question about fighting for my land, of course I would. Just as the Jews are fighting for theirs. But I believe “how” I would fight is the gist of this thread, so would you permit me the option of fighting with and against children in the name of preserving, or regaining my land?

    It would seem that you surely don’t permit the Jews that option, even when the children are placed there as shields against military targets.

  39. I’m sure it makes you feel better to think so Shannon. Certainly better than dealing with the issue at hand.

    I’ve spent four years arguing that Arab democracy needs to grow from within, and you’ve spent four years arguing that they’re so incapable of it that only conquest by Americans can bring it about.

    Given your repeated, vehement opposition to allowing Arabs to set their own course, and your determination that they can only do right if we set that course for them, I’m not going to lose any sleep over an accusation from you, of all people, that I am infantalizing Arabs.

  40. “You only want to talk about the Arabs in terms of passive victims of the West.”

    No, I sometimes want to talk about Arabs as victims, in cases, such as we have here, when they most plainly are victims.

    You, on the other hand, will reach for the most absurd ideological excuses not to ever admit that Arabs can be the victim of Western aggression.

    “You think it cruel, unfair and racist of me to do so because you think I am picking on people you consider as functionally children.” We actually are talking about children, Shannon, as much as you so desperately try to change the subject.

    “Instead of engaging in a debate about the relative influence of culture on the problems of the area you instead try to instantly turn it into a debate about the moral corruption of your internal political opponents.” Some corruptions are so disgusting that failing to call them out amounts to sin of omission. Coming up with explanations of why dead children had it coming because of their culture is among them.

    Please, struggle to supress the reflexive way you look at dead children as being responsible for their fate.

    I don’t need to be lectured on morality by the likes of the I Didin’t Do It kid.

  41. Herb,

    Haven’t heard from you, and I need you. Where’d you go? I want you to put an “Israeli propaganda” spin on this about Israeli warplanes targeting civilian ambulances.

    http://www.zombietime.com/fraud/ambulance/

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