Thursday, June 22, 2006

Whose "Cycle of Violence" Is It Anyway?

On Best of the Web, James Taranto addresses the issue of 'the cycle of violence.'

He quotes blogress Jeralyn Merritt who intones:
Violence begets violence. Inhumanity and cruelty bring more of the same. The whole world is watching and we don't have the right to claim the moral high ground
as well as Andrew Sullivan who writes about "the cycle of depravity and defeat."

Of course, they are writing about the US--not Israel. Taranto addresses the issue as it applies to the US. He examines the implications of the often used phrase "cycle of violence" and demonstrates that the phrase no longer means what is implied by it's simple sence. Let's see how what he says applies to Israel. First, the implication of 'cycles':
This rhetoric about "cycles" appears to reflect a theory of moral equivalence, but in fact it is something else. After all, if the two sides were morally equivalent, one could apply this reasoning in reverse--excusing, for example, the alleged massacre at Haditha on the ground that it was "provoked" by a bombing that killed a U.S. serviceman--and hey, violence begets violence.
True enough. One could apply the moral equivalency in reverse to say that Israel--after the constant attacks over the years, the murders of loved ones, and the failure of accords and treaties--is provoked into targeted assassinations and into firing upon Palestinians launching Kassams from populated areas at Israeli citizens. The violence of the Palestinians is begetting more violence. But no one is saying that.

Taranto continues:
But America's critics never make this argument, and its defenders seldom do. That is because it is understood that America knows better. If it is true that U.S. Marines murdered civilians in cold blood at Haditha, the other side's brutality does not excuse it. Only the enemy's evil acts are thought to be explained away by ours.
True again. We accept the idea that Israel knows better. We understand the actions that Israel takes, expects that she will take every precaution, and cringe when Palestinian bystanders are hurt or killed. Israel knows better and so we expect better. But Israel's critics do try to explain away the Palestinian terrorist attacks by focusing on Israel.

Taranto concludes:
Implicit in the "cycle" theory, then, is the premise that the enemy is innocent--not in the sense of having done nothing wrong, but in the sense of not knowing any better. The enemy lacks the knowledge of good and evil--or, to put it in theological terms, he is free of original sin.
This is the problem that we have long had thrust upon us--the idea that the Palestinian Arabs do not know better, or at least cannot be expected to act better. Back in February, Treppenwitz puts the problem this way:
This word 'infantilization' most be brought into consistent and mainstream use wherever and whenever the Israeli/Palestinian conflict is discussed. It is untenable that Israel be the only party cast in the role of grown-up; making concessions, living up to agreements, being held accountable for actions (or inaction), simply because the other side is allowed to be portrayed as too immature and undeveloped to be held to the same standard.
It is a burden that should not be Israel's to carry.

The implied equivalence in the phrase "cycle of violence" is more apparent than real, and the moral equivalence is in reality a one-way street that carries a heavy cost.

Taranto finishes with the thought that holding oneself to a high moral standard is one thing
but blaming the other side's depraved acts on our own (real and imagined) moral imperfections is a dangerous form of vanity.
Just as in the US, in Israel there are some very vain people.

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