Israel, Hamas, Goldstone, and the Fogels

Let’s explore two important recent events relative to Israel.

On March 11, 2011, the Fogel family settled down in their West Bank home for the evening and prepared for bed.  The mother and father, aged 35 and 36, were with their 3 children including 11 year old and 4 year old sons, and a 4 month old girl.  It was then that the murderers from Hamas entered their home, terrorized the family,  and then slit the throats of all 5 of them.  Yes, even the 4 month old.   When news broke the next day of these terrible murders, Israel was of course in shock.  Hamas, on the other hand, celebrated in the streets, with thousands cheering their “victory” over the Zionists.

Second, earlier this week Richard Goldstone, author of the controversial “Goldstone Report” for the United Nations, reversed his controversial and completely irresponsible findings regarding the Gaza war in the Winter of 2008/2009 between Israel and Hamas. The reversal calls to mind the outrageous, irresponsible, and racist views of many in regards to Israel and Jews in general, and offer hope that in the end facts and reason will trump irrationality.

Let’s start with the Goldstone Report.  In the Winter of 2008, the Israeli’s launched “Operation Cast Lead” against Hamas in Gaza in response to a consistent and sustained barrage of missile attacks from Gaza into Israeli villages and cities (landing randomly on homes, schools, and wherever luck would take them).

When issued, the Goldstone Report stated unequivocally that Israel (and Hamas), as a matter of policy, “deliberately” targeted civilians in their attacks on Gaza (and Israel).   In essence it accused both sides of equal horrible intent to kill civilians on purpose.  Of course the anti-Semitic UN General Assembly, Amnesty International, college students on liberal campuses everywhere, and the New York Times jumped all over this report as the example of what they have been trying to tell us all along about Israel.

This week Mr. Goldstone wrote an editorial for the Washington Post, found here, that bravely repudiates his own conclusions, and one is left to decide whether to be furious with him for the irreversible damage he has done, or to respect his willingness not to remain silent and stick with his original errant and extremely damaging conclusions.

His new findings should surprise none of us who look at the Israeli/Palestinian conflict with an unbiased eye.  Of course Israel did not deliberately target civilians as a matter of policy, and of course Hamas did- before the war, during the war, and after the war.  Yes, it appears that a few Israeli soldiers committed war crimes against civilians, and Israel has been and always does prosecute such crimes.  This sadly happens in all wars, and the more moral countries prosecute (Israel, the US, etc.) and the immoral groups celebrate not only the criminals, but the crime, just as Hamas did over the Fogel killings.

It is important to note as well how Hamas operated from Gaza, and how the simple-minded and/or biased media covered the war.  Hamas would launch large missile barrages from the top of apartment buildings, from the porches in residential homes, and from the playgrounds of schools that were in session.  This is a brilliant strategy when you either don’t want to be counter-attacked, or if you do so that you can get a front-page and above-the-fold photo of a bombed apartment building published in the New York Times.  As a Hamas leader you say “We can’t lose.  They either won’t attack us here, or if they do we have the BBC, PBS, CNN, and the New York Times, at no charge to us, to publish our propaganda that Israel bombs apartment buildings!”

The response of Hamas, their anti-Semitic friends in the UN General Assembly, and the well-intentioned but wrong-headed Amnesty International stick with their original conclusions.  Get this one, even the UN Human Rights Council (you know, the one that has had Venezuela, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Cuba, and others sitting in chair) sticks by their anti-Israel position regarding Cast Lead.

For those of you who knew of the Fogel killings you may have noted that I did not point out that their home was in the disputed West Bank settlements.  I’m doing so now for two reasons, one to be thorough, and the other so that I can illustrate how some have “explained”, or even worse “rationalized” the Fogel murders.  For those who may have read the first paragraph of this blog and said to themselves  “but wait, this event happened in disputed territory”.  Should my answer to that be “Oh, OK, well then it makes perfect sense to slit a 4 month old’s throat”.   Individuals are entitled to their own points of view regarding the disputed territories, but how some turn their anti-Israel view on these territories into some kind of rationale for such crimes need to take a  very close look at their values.

There are many aspects to this complicated situation in Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank.   But these two incidents are very telling in regards to this conflict and the nature of those fighting within it.  The overall situation is complex, but the conclusions drawn from the above are clear.  There is a huge anti-Israeli/anti-Semitic lobby in the world, Hamas is a terrorist organization that shows no mercy and is committed to the destruction of Israel and likely Jews everywhere, Israel is under constant attack and has to make difficult decisions as to how to defend themselves, and they must always do so in the face of a large international community that secretly supports the likes of Hamas and hates the Jewish people.

When I think about Israel and their actions I always try to think in this way:  “What would I do if I was the Prime Minister and it was my most important duty to protect my citizens and defend my nation.  What would I do?”   I try to get out of “think tank” mode and intellectualization, out of the college lecture hall, and into the Prime Minister of Israel’s office.   This would indeed be a most difficult chair to sit in.

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4 Responses to Israel, Hamas, Goldstone, and the Fogels

  1. Teddy says:

    Another great reason why religion is so bad….Have you read any of the Israeli responses to this tragedy? The government plans on revitalizing settlement in the West Bank (which is totally unnecessary and simply zionist), while the Jewish settlers continue to proclaim their god given right to the holy land. Maybe Israeli is more moral (though i think this is a strange word to describe a state), but their mentality is certainly as absurd. And though they may not be initiating violence, imagine if the Palestinians suddenly took control of 3/4 of Israel and said here you can have a few of the leftovers. I am willing to bet the violence driven by superstitious and heavenly mandates would be exactly the same from the other side.

    • vofreason says:

      Teddy, thanks for your reply. The statement “religion is bad” is too broad a statement and in the vast majority of modern contexts I would say the opposite is the case. Religion is misused, misinterpreted, abused, and its teachings twisted by a great minority into something terrible. But to apply this misuse to all religions and all the religious is a monumental mischaracterization.

      This week is an “Outreach Sunday” at my Church. We and hundreds of other members of our parish will bring a frozen turkey, canned vegetables, canned fruit, cereal, pasta, and other goods which will be delivered by teen volunteers on Sunday afternoon to the poor and hungry in the Harlem and Brooklyn. Without the church, this would not be happening. You could argue it should, but it simply wouldn’t. This is good for the poor, it is good for the teens who will learn from it and find themselves fulfilled by it, and it is good for the donor’s souls as well.

      In a nearby, depressed and poor town where a family member of mine works there are 5 churches. If you ask any government official in that town what would happen to that community if the churches weren’t there, they would shudder. The services that are provided to these poor people are irreplaceable. They feed, they shelter, they counsel, and they give hope to these people which they can get nowhere else (and according to law enforcement, are a huge deterrent to crime). Again you could argue some other organization should make this available, but the fact is there aren’t any. Without “religion” which gives these churches life there would be a huge hole. Multiply this event by tens of thousands of churches around North America, or for that matter the world, and imagine how many are touched, fed, or saved as a result of “religion”.

      There is a Catholic organization in New York, now spreading throughout the world, called “The Little Sisters of Life”. This is a program for pregnant teens who have decided, or who think they want to decide, not to have an abortion but to bravely have their children. Some they will raise themselves, and some they will put up for adoption where there is a waiting list 10’s of thousands of loving couples long. Other than a very few organizations like this (mostly sponsored by churches), almost every other force in society would steer these girls to abort their babies. For every 1 like the Sisters of Life there are 100 “Planned Parenthood” type organizations, and a mass media that directly and subtly steers pregnant teens to abort. This is not to debate abortion, but to say that there are many thousands of children who never would have been born, and thousands of women who would have no reasonable “other side of the argument” for choosing life.

      A cynic might say “yes but priests have been known to abuse children”, or “muslim suicide bombers kill people for religion”, or reference people like Jim Baker, etc. These things are true and they are real problems, but they make up a miniscule minority of religion’s impact today (BUT, they consume the VAST MAJORITY of media coverage relative to religion). In villages, towns, cities, and countries all over the world religion is enhancing the lives of hundreds of billions of people either by touching their soul and making them better, happier people, or by providing programs for their health and well being, or both. I would bet that billions– yes billions– of people are fed by some religious-based program in this world in cases in which they would otherwise go hungry or starve to death.

      None of this is to address the spiritual benefits which, if one is a believer, are a gigantic upside to religion beyond description.

      As for the Israeli’s expanding settlements following the killing, I didn’t like the response and in fact I don’t think that in the end they altered their settlement plans, it was an instinctive verbal reaction in an extremely emotional situation and it was wrong. But one cannot assign moral equivalence to the two events– the killing is far worse and more outrageous than settlement expansion. And one cannot sit in our comfortable American homes and not take into account what it must feel like to be Jewish, and living in Israel, when you have rockets fired randomly into your towns, where suicide bombers kill your children, where you remember the 6 million of you killed in the holocaust, when you hear the Iranian leader say your country should be “wiped off the face of the earth” while he gets ever closer to having a nuclear weapon, and when you see real documentation that Saddam Hussein had a plan to drop a nuclear bomb on Israel once he got one. This is a mindset none of us can possibly imagine, and one which in my opinion we should always try to take into account when we observe Israel’s behavior. It doesn’t necessarily forgive some things they may do wrong (like the settlement expansion reaction), but it gives us a context in which to understand where they are coming from. We cannot fairly evaluate others in any context without also getting in their shoes.

      And as for Israel’s “stealing of land” that is a far more complex debate. But it is clear that the Israeli’s on multiple occasions have ceded to every reasonable (emphasis on reasonable) peace plan term with the Palestinian Authority– in fact have met a complete list of demands from the PLA on multiple occasions, and the Palestinians have never delivered an agreement from their side. The bottom line is the Israel’s have offered to compromise many times and in many ways but the Palestinians simply won’t do it. Looking from where we sit today one can only say that it seems the only thing that will make the Palestinian leadership happy will be the total destruction of Israel. On the other side, the Israel’s wish no destruction or death for muslims. To them muslims have a different religion, but they aren’t “infidels” who must be slaughtered.

      Here’s where one can make the argument that it’s their land anyway and the Israeli’s stole it. If that’s the attitude we will never get anywhere. We are where we are, and to continuously make the argument about whose land it was and what’s happened over 200 or 1000 years will not get anyone anywhere. The Israeli’s aren’t leaving, that is a fact that cannot be changed. Given that, how do we get to resolution? If every time a negotiation occurs it boils down to “you stole our land”, no progress will be made. It’s like the caucasians aren’t leaving Wyoming and Colorado so why talk about how it was “stolen” from the Apaches and the Shoshone’s and Mohawks? It’s done, let’s find the best way forward. The Israeli’s have shown a great willingness to move forward, and the Palestinian leadership have shown they don’t have the ability to compromise or work constructively on a solution. (I believe Abbas is the best the Palestinians can do and offered hope, but he cannot rally enough support from the other radical Palestinian leaders).

      Incidentally, while the PLO and PLA wouldn’t admit it, approximately 22,000 Palestinians are employed in the West Bank (employed by Jews, the infidels! Would the Palestinians employ Jews?) doing construction projects and other work. If they weren’t working there they would be unemployed. They shudder at the Fogel murder, they worry for their future as a result of it, their lives are made more difficult because of prudent security measures the Israeli’s must take, etc. We never get a feel for this because of the way our media and press operate, but there is a huge inter-dependency between the Israeli’s and the Palestinians and there are surely tens of thousands of sincere friendships between the less radical and the Israeli’s. I don’t know it to be the case, but it is reasonable that the situation could be that there is an obstinate PLA leadership, some minority extremist religious muslims, and then 10 times more people who are actually reasonable and just want a resolution based on frameworks that most sensible people in the world have developed (but rejected by the extremists).

      And yes, I would say Israel is a “moral” nation. This is a relat term. The Israeli’s could do so much more than they do in reply to the terror threat under which they live. If it were turned around as you present, the situation would be completely different. The Israeli’s, probably mostly because of their religious beliefs (ironically given your other comments about religion) would never fire missiles from an apartment building or school yard, or from a residential porch. They wouldn’t slit 4 month old girl’s throats. They wouldn’t walk into a pizza parlor and blow themselves up. They wouldn’t create ovens and gas chambers and kill 6 million of anyone.

      Lastly, while I’m sure you didn’t mean anything by it, I would expect that most responses to the post regarding the Fogel murders and the Goldstone scandal would be something that acknowledges the tragedy of these events, and then goes on to make whatever point. It concerns me that those who are against Israel cannot seem to acknowledge the disparity between the two sides. It amazes me when I discuss Israel with some they rationalize the rocket attacks on villages, the suicide bombers at wedding receptions, and even the Fogel murders. It somehow is turned into Israel’s fault, or almost like they deserve it. This again is a mindset Israeli’s know exists out there– people who find equivalence in the way the two behave. What a terrible thought if you are an Israeli. Nothing could be further from the truth.

      • Teddy says:

        You don’t have to labor so much on your responses!

        I think religion has co-opted the morality business. There are plenty of NGOs and non religious groups who do good, and if churches weren’t so integrated into the world culture, other groups would step in. It also helps that Christianity is the largest religion in the world and that Christians give their money to churches rather than other groups. Don’t forget all the money churches waste proselytizing and building churches. Also, you can talk about the good some modern religion contributes to the world, but I don’t think it has come close to making up for its awful past nor its immoral modern counterparts. Encouragement and the policy of telling women they are murderers if they don’t carry their baby to term does not give religion much moral credence. Nor telling africans with an HIV epidemic not to use condoms. Nor the refusal to acknowledge or support divorce, etc. These aren’t even the exception! but part of the legal canon of Catholicism, not some wacky sect.

        I didn’t meant to get into the particulars of religion, and we obviously won’t agree on my previous point, but the reason i posted was because religion gets people to do irrational things. You cannot reason with someone who says “god has promised me this land”. Any kind of reasonable blog post about the situation doesn’t accurately assess it because the people settling in the West Bank and the terrorists fighting them are crazy, pure and simple. Netanyahoo (just came up with that) may be a more reasonable guy, but he has to answer to zealots…Abbas far more so.

        And come on! Do i need to give my obvious reaction to the murder of a family? Gene didn’t do it either! Maybe he is just as cold hearted as me….

  2. Gene Josephs says:

    Well said and thought out analysis.

    Problem is that the liberal media and liberal activists on our college campuses here in the US still continue to accuse Israel of atrocities as described but when NATO or US have collateral damage as in Afghanistan or Libya, etc., there is no outcry especially if the actions are encouraged by a “liberal” president such as Obama. Can you imagine the media outcry if Bush condoned bombing in Libya, killing civilians by mistake.

    Gene

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