Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Is Israel A Terrorist State?

So the death toll from the escalating Israeli conflict continues to grow. As of this morning 215 people have died in Lebanon, 85 Palestinians have died in Gaza, and 24 Israelis have died in Northern Israel.

Add to this that the Israeli bombings have displaced more than 400,000 Lebanese residents from their homes and the World Health Organization expects the number of Lebanese residents displaced from their homes to reach 900,000 by the end of today.

I understand that every country has the right to defend themselves, but the more this situation escalates the more it appears that the Israeli assault on Lebanon is collective punishment on the Lebanese people rather then self-defense. Israel is punishing the Lebanese people because their government, in this very fragile democracy, is incapable of disarming Hezbollah, much like Israel after 22 years of occupation was never able to disarm Hezbollah.

Add to this collective punishment that Israel is basically destroying Lebanon’s entire infrastructure. Lebanon’s airports and seaports have been destroyed. Thirty-Eight roads have been cut off by bombs or shells and 42 bridges have been destroyed. Power stations, water-processing plants, grain silos and gas stations have also been targeted as well as communication and television antennas. In addition to the destruction of the countries infrastructure Israel is specifically targeting civilian neighborhoods. All of this is in violation of the Geneva Conventions.

Even the Vatican is speaking out against Israel. A spokesperson for the Pope stated that Israel's right to self-defense "does not exempt it from respecting the norms of international law, especially as regards the protection of civilian populations."

Israel may also be in violation of the U.S. Arms Export Control Act by using U.S.-made fighter planes and missiles to kill civilians and to destroy Lebanon’s infrastructure. Defense experts say Israel has over five-hundred F-16 and F-15 fighter planes – all of them supplied by the United States.

So my question is what is the difference between terrorist acts, such as detonating a bomb in a coffee shop, and being a terrorist state? I think we would all agree that any specific targeting of civilians, like my example of a suicide bomber in an Israeli coffee shop, constitutes terrorism. So f the state of Israel is targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure then by definition doesn’t this constitute state terrorism.

I make the argument that Israel’s excessively harsh military response and the targeting of civilians and civilian infrastructure constitutes that Israel has become a terrorist state. Israel’s response to the kidnapping of two soldiers is basically the military equivalent of beating the shit out of someone with a baseball bat for stepping on your foot, an extreme and unnecessary response.


Ilya said...

Is Israel a terrorist state? That's an ill-defined question, despite your discussion. Nobody would dispute that Israel qualifies as a state. But the meaning of the word "terrorist," as you know, is so empty for want of precise use, that it is used to name any violence that one does not like. Excessive harshness, whether justified as an offensive or a defensive measure, hardly qualifies a state as a terrorist organization.

If you want to know about state terror, read about Nazi Germany, the like of which the world has not known. Read Arendt's "Origins of Totalitarianism." Read the chapter entitled "Ideology and Terror."

xtrachromosomeconservative said...

I concur with Ilya. I think the questions that you are looking at relates more to the Just War Doctrine and whether or not the response was proportionate.

Anti-Everything said...

I don't think it relates to just war theory at all. If the rational for the Israeli attacks is to disarm and destroy a "terrorist" group, then the question of whether the tactics involved in removing this group in themselves constitute terrorism, and if so then these actions contradict the entire mission.

If Al Quade were to blow up a water treatment plant in the United States it would immediately be described as a terrorist attack, yet Israel is acting in self-defense.

Now I agree that the term “terrorism” is so loosely used that it is basically pointless outside of rhetoric. But it is also my argument that any bombing of civilians is terrorism, and currently the U.S. through their foreign policy assist in state sponsored terrorism.

Ilya said...

Following the conventions of language, we in the West call Hezbollah and Al Qaeda terrorist groups in part because that are non-state or sub-state actors that indiscriminatly target a population for destruction. Blowing up a water treatment plant itself does not make someone or some organization or some state a terrorist. Terrorism has to do with intentions behind actions as well.

War always produces civilian casualties, which is why that cannot be a criterion for terrorism. You can call Israel a terrorist state, but that is not going to help you understand what is going on. I agree with Xtra: you're quarrel is with the disproportionate response on the part of Israel to Hezbollah aggression, which is a matter of just war theory. And the more I think about it, Hezbollah is more a "state within a state" as the newspapers say, than a sub-national terrorist group. Which is why Israel cannot really distinguish between Hezbollah and Lebanon, because the center of gravity in Lebanon was controlled by Hezbollah. If a state is a concentration of power, Hezbollah is a state.

xtrachromosomeconservative said...

Hezbollah is something of an odd case. We often see instances where a region in a country is beyond the hands of the law. Clearly that is the case with Hezbollah in the South of Lebanon, thus satisfying Ilya's notion of Hezbollah being a state as it is a state within a state. I agree with this notion by the way. My understanding of Lebanon's government is crude, and I am too lazy to google anything, but if memory serves me correctly, Hezbollah also has a significant representation in the current government. I think that is what makes this situation somewhat odd. They exercise informal control through their strength, but also formal, and what we in the West consider legitimate control, over the government in Parliament. Now, the last statement might be excessive due to my laziness. Thus, Hezbollah is both a state within in the state, and party to the state.

Much of the rancor surrounding Israel's actions stems from the fact that Israel has targeted not just Hezbollah's stronghold in the South but Beirut and other areas not commonly associated with the Hezbollah. Israel has stated among its objections that the Lebaneese government has not done anything about Hezbollah (disarming them, returning hostages, etc.). To the extent that the Hezbollah also constitutes the government, it is a bit like the fox guarding the hen house. Thus, it would seem diplomatic channels are somewhat futile.

This is obviously unfortunate given that Lebanon was only recently able to expel the Syrian government, or at least their conventional military presence. The cedar revolution seemed to be a harbinger for both stability and freedom in lebanon.

Anonymous said...

Shame on the Lebanese government and media for allowing Hezbollah to spread like a cancer within their society. Hezbollah's mission in life is destroy Israel and its people. In other words, Hezbollah is a collection of modern-day Adolf Hitlers.

Israel should not be compelled to exist under such constant fear. Imagine we, as Americans, living in daily fear of missle attacks from Mexico. Mexico wouldn't exist today as we know it.

Israel has no choice but to extract the Hezbollah element from the nearby geography. This campaign in Lebanon is the first step. Syria and Iran must be next. And then, only then, will we have global peace. Sad, but true. My heart goes out to innocent Lebanese caught in the maelstrom and Godspeed them to safety.

-=Topper=- said...

I am anti-American for the same reasons I am anti-Israel. For the reasons here that Anti-everything has laid out.

Israel and the United States seem so above conventions, Geneva or otherwise, and it makes enemies of both.

My question is, how do terrorists or benefactors like Hezbolah or the Taliban come across rockets? Somebody takes a side and arms it, we armed and helped the Taliban, as we did in many Arab states we may now call enemies.

America is so freaking niave, and has a likewise leader to boot. What did the powers that be ever think Israel would do with the arms we sold them?

Anti-Everything actually has good point here.


xtrachromosomeconservative said...

We have often operated aided our enemy's enemies later to discover that they are not always our friends. It doesn't really seem like your criticism centers on America's past naivete but rather its cynicism. It should also be noted that the hezbollah is funded by Iran and its client state Syria.

xtrachromosomeconservative said...

"What did the powers that be ever think Israel would do with the arms we sold them?"

I am guessing that we thought Israel would defend themselves from its neighbors which resent and would prefer to do without its existence. I think that is why we sell the Israelis arms.