Friday, January 09, 2009

Yes, It's True: The Lives Of Palestinian Civilians Are Secondary To Saving Israeli Soldiers

Mel Frykberg of IPS has a revelation--the lives of Israeli soldiers matter to Israel:
While Israel has denied that it deliberately targets civilians, reading between the lines of reports in the Israeli media and admissions by military leaders would suggest that the lives of Palestinian civilians are secondary to saving Israeli soldiers.

Several senior Israeli military officers have admitted that the Israeli army strategy is to use tremendous firepower on the ground to protect Israeli soldiers during fighting in civilian areas, a senior officer explained to journalists on Tuesday.

"For us, being cautious means being aggressive," said one officer. "From the minute we entered, we've acted like we're at war. That creates enormous damage on the ground."

"When we suspect that a Palestinian fighter is hiding in a house, we shoot it with a missile and then with two tank shells, and then a bulldozer hits the wall. It causes damage but it prevents the loss of life among soldiers."
Appparently, we are supposed to think it is scandalous and actually have to read between the lines to come to the revelation that "the lives of Palestinian civilians are secondary to saving Israeli soldiers."

What is behind the attitude that refuses to take such an obvious truth as a given--disregard for soldiers in general or Israelis in particular?

In Are Palestinian Lives Worth as Much as Israeli Lives?, David Bernstein addresses the issue:
We have to start, I think, with a broader question. Are governments, in general, expected to act as if individuals who are outside their jurisdiction are "equally valuable" to their own citizens? The answer is clearly no. In practice, no government acts this way. Governments provide military protection, police protection, a justice system, food, shelter, medical care, etc., to their own citizens, especially poor citizens, and give little to the citizens of other countries, even when those citizens are far worse off on average.

...The citizens pay taxes and obey government dictates, and in return the government fulfills its obligations to them. Protection from foreign enemies is among the most basic functions of government. Any government that fails to engage in such protection because it believes that noncombatants on the other side are equally valuable to its own noncombatants would be violating that social contract, as well as acting contrary to the actions of every government in human history. [emphasis added]
Spengler puts the issue very starkly:
As in any war, economic pressure on the civilian population, as well as military operations that kill civilians as collateral damage to the pursuit of military objectives, are legitimate instruments of warfare. It is hypocrisy to pretend otherwise.
By the same token, this is not to say that anything goes, that the government that acts to protect its citizens can do so without limitation or moral obligation:
In protecting its own citizens, a government still should take moral considerations into account. That's the point of conventions and treaties on war, treatment of prisoners, etc. But even under the most generous interpretations of international law, there is no such established principle as the critics of Israel are asserting. Indeed, the establishment of such a principle would not only prevent states from engaging in the expected defense of their citizens, it would undermine the entire concept of the nation-state, which is premised on the idea that nations have fundamental duties to their own citizens that do not extend to citizens of other states. [emphasis added]
I already wrote about the moral issue vis-a-vis Disproportionate Force, noting the research done by Michael Totten. In short, Totten writes:
Proportionality, in short and according to the law, “prohibits the use of any kind or degree of force that exceeds that needed to accomplish the military objective.”
Read Totten's entire post.

Another error in Frykberg's article, as in the logic of those critics of Israel, is that to say the lives of Israeli soldiers take priority over the lives of Arab Palestinians must mean that those latter lives are meaningless. Obviously that is not true.

A Mother in Israel has a post with pictures of Israeli soldiers giving aid--not to the general Palestinian population of Gaza, but to Palestinians who were smuggling in arms to be used against Israelis.

The note in Hebrew in the last picture notes by contrast what happened to the 3 Israeli soldiers who entered Ramallah by mistake.

Yes, it's true that the lives of Palestinian civilians are secondary to saving Israeli soldiers, but Israel has never indicated that the lives of Palestinian civilians are worthless.

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