Can Israel Do No Right?
New York City
There’s something I don’t understand about Phyllis Bennis’s editorial “Israel’s War on Gaza” [Dec. 10] regarding Israel and Hamas. The latter is a totalitarian organization devoted to terrorism, Jew-hatred, kidnapping, the oppression of women and the destruction of Israel, and was lobbing hundreds of rockets into Israel proper (not the West Bank). This led, as we know, to Israel’s attack on Gaza, where Hamas rules.
Now, one may not approve of Israel’s reaction—I sure don’t. Indeed, I believe it to be profoundly counterproductive, just as I believe Israel’s occupation policy to be so. But in Bennis’s editorial you will find no mention of any of the above. Israel, once again, appears to be attacking and oppressing Palestinians for no good reason. Or perhaps because it’s just fun. Who knows? The issue is never engaged.
I have to wonder. Who are such editorials supposed to convince? Certainly nobody in Israel is going to listen to a voice that evinces no concern for the safety of its citizens. And why is Hamas given a pass for its horrific behavior and rhetoric? A recent report by Human Rights Watch, for instance, details cases of alleged torture and death in detention, a lack of due process and trials of civilians in military courts. A man named Abdel Karim Shrair was executed by firing squad in May 2011 for allegedly collaborating with Israel, based, according to HRW, on confessions apparently obtained through torture. In the words of Joe Stork, HRW’s deputy Middle East director, “After five years of Hamas rule in Gaza, its criminal justice system reeks of injustice, routinely violates detainees’ rights and grants impunity to abusive security services.” Where, pray tell, is the outrage?
And what about what its leaders say about Jews—not “Israeli” Jews? I could give thousands of examples, but how about this one: “Our struggle against the Jews is extremely wide-ranging and grave,” according to the organization’s charter. “Israel, by virtue of its being Jewish and of having a Jewish population, defies Islam and the Muslims.” Does that sound like a party with whom one might negotiate a lasting peace? One can disagree with the degree of importance one attaches to such statements, but to ignore them entirely is to ignore reality and, in this view at least, morality. Just what practical value it has also escapes me.
I have been reading The Nation since the 1920s. Now I know why—again! Ahead of The New York Times, where I “copy-boyed” in 1946, Phyllis Bennis lays out all I’ve been feeling for so long.
ARTHUR B. SHENEFELT
Eric Alterman is angry that I gave “no good reason” for Israel’s recent assault on Gaza. Israel had very clear motivations—but I guess Alterman didn’t like my explanation of them. I don’t know why; I quoted Israel’s army chief of staff. I would have thought Alterman would like that. Maybe he didn’t like my saying the timing was likely linked to Netanyahu’s January re-election plans.