Sunday, January 04, 2009
as part of its operation against Palestinian fighters in the West Bank, Israel did not launch a massive and indiscriminate air assault. Instead it sent troops into Jenin. The result was between 50 and 60 Palestinian deaths, almost all of them fighters (not the massacre of 500 originally reported and eagerly believed by so many). But the Jenin operation also cost the lives of 23 Israeli soldiers.
That is to say, Israel sacrificed the lives of its own sons to avoid massive casualties among Palestinian non-combatants.
Emphasis in original. For Israel so loved the Palestinians that it sacrificed its "own sons" in order to save them. This reminds me of that other example of condign humanitarianism described at Harry's Place, in which Israeli hospitals treat Palestinians who have been wounded by Israeli violence. The argument apparently being that Israel does blow the Palestinians to pieces, but it also puts some of them back into one piece, and is thus essentially giving the Palestinians the gift of surprise. Still, let us stick with Jenin, the refugee camp and city attacked amid a general assault by Ariel Sharon on the Occupied Territories in the spring of 2002. The fact that Israel launched a ground invasion in Jenin, just as it is now doing in Gaza, is taken to prove the integrity of the IDF's 'purity of arms' doctrine. This, it is implied, proved that the aim was to attack the "terrorist infrastructure" as Ariel Sharon claimed at the time.
The assault on Jenin has been pored over again and again, usually with an impassioned attempt by apologists to decouple the word 'Jenin' from the word 'massacre'. It has been necessary, in the course of this, to refute the claims made by the IDF, who claimed to have killed up to 300 people, and Shimon Peres, who called the operation a "massacre". Now, we know that Israeli troops 'only' killed a few dozen people. As Yitzhak Laor has written, "ten dead Israelis are a massacre; 50 Palestinians not enough to count". Yet, there are some points about which there is no controversy. Israel didn't simply send in its best boys to do battle with Palestinian insurgents, for example: it sent its boys encased in enormous metal shells called tanks, supported by great buzzing metal hulks called helicopter gunships. Sweeping in from the rear were squadrons of bulky metal objects known as bulldozers. The centre of the refugee camp was bulldozed, burying civilians alive and making 4,000 people homeless. Hospitals were bombed, medical equipment looted, and ambulances were denied access to the wounded and dying. Water tanks were perforated with bullet-holes, and roads dug up. The entire urban infrastructure was attacked. Almost half the population of the city was driven out. The manifest aim was to deprive the Palestinians in that camp, collectively, of the water, electricity, housing, and medical care that they required to sustain a minimally acceptable life. This was congruent with the overall conduct of Operation Defensive Shield, in which it is estimated that 500 died (this is the origin of the rumours that a Palestinian spokesperson claimed that 500 had died in Jenin alone) with thousands wounded. The Israelis attacked not merely the minute military infrastructure of the Palestinian Authority and various Palestinian groups, but beseiged the civilian infrastructure. As the Israeli refuseniks have pointed out, the destruction of Palestinian civil life, the regular annulment through violence and blockade of a normal life, is integral to Israeli strategy. The aim, they have said, is "to dominate, starve and humiliate an entire people".
Today, sez HP Sauce, the ground invasion of Gaza is being carried out in such a way as to avoid simply destroying Gaza from the air and killing tens of thousands - that is to say, in order to avoid committing genocide, Israel is committing a lesser form of mass murder. After all, it has 'only' killed 470 people so far (that was 13 hours ago, before last night's massacres), and has 'only' injured 2,400. It has 'only' attacked mosques, apartment buildings, universities, police stations, television stations, schools, parliament buildings, ambulances, medical centres, and hospitals. It is 'only' engaged in mass terrorism. In the algorithm of apologia, this is the ultimate rationalisation when everything else has been tried and found wanting. Whatever evil one is perpetrating is a lesser evil than one could perpetrate: the killing only proves one's humanity, and nobility. As Alexei Sayle has said, this is the psychology of the murderer.