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joined 2023 October 17 22:38:56 UTC


User ID: 2705



1 follower   follows 0 users   joined 2023 October 17 22:38:56 UTC


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User ID: 2705

Haven't blogged in English in years.

If the passage was irksome, it's done its job.

I understand your point. I think it's wrong in a profound way, and I really ought to write a big post about it, but so far it's been eluding me. I also should have phrased the paragraph you quoted a bit better, to sharpen why I think there's no moral equivalence in the specific case we're discussing.

The two outcomes you drew up are how we usually thought about it with individual terrorist attacks coming out of Gaza (or out of the West Bank during the 2nd Intifada for that matter). Downgrade the numbers, say from a thousand innocent people to 5-50. E.g. a suicide terrorist blows up a bus in Tel Aviv in 2001, or a particularly lucky rocket out of Gaza kills a few people in Sderot. In response, the army rounds up some Hamas/Fatah higher-ups, and/or a surgical strike is made, some Hamas VP is blown up, some innocent people die too. If we make too many strikes and kill too many innocent people, the world wags its finger at us for a non-proportionate response. Things quiet down until the next incident.

It's different now, but not everyone's caught on to how it's different. Plenty of people still want to see it as the same thing - perhaps a particularly lucky terrorist attack, more than 1000 victims, wow - so we may be "allowed" to punish Hamas more severely, but surely not to the tune of e.g. 10k civilian victims or more, that's entirely non-proportionate. That's your "second example".

The reason it's different is not (just) that 1300 is a really big number, there's a difference in kind. The logic of attack-response works relatively well for a terrorist attack, which is what, fundamentally? A way of shocking the state/public with violence to get them to agree to something we want, to get them to feel that their way of doing things doesn't grant them the safety they think it does. Possibly also to blackmail them into doing something by threatening hostages. A terrorist attack is finite in scope by design. The terrorists choose the target and kill people to make a flashy point. Oct 7 was different. >2k Hamas militants poured out of Gaza and just started indiscriminately massacring everyone in Israel they could get to (besides some hostages). It wasn't finite in scope. If the army got to them 2 hours later than it did, maybe we'd have 1600 victims and not 1300; some more hours later we'd have 3000 victims, and there's no upper bound due to the Hamas itself. The hostages may be designed to coerce us to do something for them (free the prisoners) but the killings were not designed to coerce us to do anything in particular. They just really really want to murder all of us and got a running start to do as much as they could, until we stopped them. Combine it with the fact that it was planned and executed by a state-level entity (even if Gaza is not officially a state). It wasn't a terrorist attack. It was a massacre that started a war, a war we're fighting for our lives and intend to end with complete destruction of the state-level entity that tried to massacre us.

This is felt very keenly by basically everyone here in Israel. And with a war, the rationale behind a comparison of "they killed 1300, we killed whatever" evaporates. That's not how wars work. Discussing "a non-proportionate response to the Oct 7 incident" sounds like nonsense, because the Oct 7 started a war, not a "response". It's like if you said in 1941, well, the Japanese killed 2.5k American people at Pearl Harbor, and now the countries are at war. But the US should watch it, because once the no. of the civilian victims in Japan rises too much above 2.5k, maybe 25k or more, that's no longer "proportionate" to the Pearl Harbor attack. The analogy is not great because in PH most deaths were military, but you get what I'm saying, right? This whole line of thinking is absurd. Now it doesn't mean that it makes no sense to discuss civilian victims during the war. There're laws of war, and there's an idea of a disproportionate harm to civilians - but the lack of proportionality here is with respect to the military objectives, not the initial PH incident. You can still discuss whether Hiroshima/Nagasaki were necessary or too cruel etc. if you want, but comparing them to the PH deaths is just bizarrely nonsensical.

That's where we are, except it's worse, because Oct 7 was an indiscriminate massacre way more evil than PH, and we have every reason to believe Hamas wants and aches to do more of those whenever it gets a chance. So we're at war to destroy Hamas, and we do get to be judged by how we treat civilians when Hamas uses them as shields, and if, for example, we were to level a city block w/o warning to take out a single Hamas terrorist and 10k civilians with him, that'd be a pretty clear violation of laws of war and a very evil thing to do. So I'm not giving us carte blanche with respect to civilians and I'm not arguing to just flatten Gaza and kill everyone, and we'd never do it, obviously. But comparisons to the initial massacre in terms of no. of victims just completely miss the point of what's going on.

I appreciate this looks like a neat story, but FWIW that's not how it looks from my perspective. I was firmly and openly on Ukraine's side from the beginning (before my school was bombed), I'm even more obviously on Israel's side, but I do try to avoid descending into propaganda on both. In particular, I don't think I affirmed any factual claims favoring "my side" if I didn't feel they were strongly supported by rational standards. This actually didn't work out very well for me so far with Hamas, as the reality turned out to have been worse than I'd assumed, three or four times. E.g. I felt it was very likely that beheaded babies were a throwaway rumor that caught fire and blew up massively for obvious reasons, but after a few days more solid (if not ironclad) support for some beheaded babies appeared (I do not want to go evaluate this more closely).

The degree of emotional involvement is very different, to be sure.

We did it a bit, Deir Yassin is the most famous incident. But: 1) we stopped back in the 50s; 2) it was on the level of "dozens of men in the same village captured by our soldiers during active war", not hundreds or thousands including women and children; 3) people who did it hid it from their superiors and the public, they didn't boast of it proudly. The modality of "go around a village or a town and just indiscriminately murder everyone, sometimes gruesomely" is something different altogether, and I don't think we did it at all after Biblical times.

An interesting coincidence, as I just looked at the Motte for the first time in a year or so, on a whim. Some notes:

  • obviously I think it'll be a great shame if a hospital or two is vaporized; I am squeamish, as you say.
  • approximately zero people here in Israel think we bombed a hospital on purpose, even if it was us who did it (and I really don't know). This includes the people who are calling to bomb Gaza into the stone age and at least rhetorically disclaim any concern over any civilian casualties. They, too, don't believe the army would do it even if they, at least rhetorically, would.
  • given the pattern of bombings and casualties so far, and given the pro/contra incentives on our side (a weaker argument), I tentatively feel a detached rational non-Jewish non-Israeli observer ought to be able to recognize the "Israelis did it on purpose" theory as very unlikely, if not stupid.
  • if we did it (a big if), it's got to be by mistake. That'd be very tragic, but yeah, consistent with what I wrote on Oct 13, not quite so evil as the Oct 7 massacres. Very different league.
  • "any other necessary price" is doing a lot of dirty work in your comment, and isn't really how I feel about it, or most Israelis I know. Why would I bother to think about and collect evidence that we're trying to avoid civilian casualties, if I didn't care about it at all and considered whatever happened "a necessary price to be paid"? For brownie points?