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Sunday, July 28, 2002
Damian Penny writes about report of a mob of Israeli settlers who, on their way home from a terrorist attack related funeral, attacked and killed several Palestinian civilians, including a little girl. Damian comments:

If this is true, not only is it an inexcusable atrocity, but it could also be a disturbing sign that Israelis are becoming less concerned about making any distinction between Palestinian militants and civilians. On the heels of last Monday's Gaza air strike, in which it appears the Israelis were at least wilfully blind about the presence of civilians in the area, this is the last thing the Israelis need right now. If this crazed mob deliberately targeted a little girl, they're no better than gunmen who invade Israeli "settler" homes and shoot children as they lie in bed.

First, I think Damian is wrong to lump together the actions of the Israeli military ( the Gaza airstrike) and the actions of a mob of Israeli civilians described in the report for the purpose of analyzing which way events are trending. Second, and probably more important, I think the actions of the Israeli settlers as described in the article, are understandable, if not justifiable.

I don't remember which blog I read this on, but the thought is not original with me:

A group that intentionally sends the message, "Anyone of us can and will kill anyone of you at any time" is a one with respect to which the only effective defense is genocide.

Does this justify a mob attack on a little girl? No. But...

Surely Israelis as a group have a right to defend themselves. And just as surely, they have the right to do so effectively. Defending themselves effectively means removing or neutralizing the threats posed by their enemies. I assume that less than all Palestinians desire the complete destruction of Israel. How much less than all is irrelevant. Israel's opponents refuse to remove themselves from that portion of their own population which is noncombatant. They refuse to physically differentiate themselves in any way from that same noncombatant population. By routinely murdering "collaborators" (sometimes literally in courtrooms in the midst of a trial), they cow members of that noncombatant population into keeping silent about the precise location of combatants within the noncombatant population. By publicly indoctrinating kindergarten age children in the propriety of violent opposition to Israel and the culture of antisemitism, and by sending teenagers and women on suicide bombing runs, they are quite literally threatening Israel with violence from every demographic segment of their population.

The portion of the Palestinian population which uses violence to oppose Israel's existence is deliberately issuing their threats in the name of all Palestinians, without significant or even noticeable opposition. They therefore appear to be saying to Israel, in essence, that to defend itself, it must kill, control or remove all Palestinians. Period. So it is understandable (to me at least) if Israelis are "becoming less concerned about making any distinction between Palestinian militants and civilians." Until Palestinians become more concerned with making that very distinction, it may not be possible (or reasonable, or safe) for Israelis to do so.

When every unremarkable Palestinian on the street can pose a mortal danger to any Israeli (rabbi, ambulance driver, soldier, settler, pizza-eating teenager, sleeping 5 year old, take your pick), how surprised or sympathetic can you be when unremarkable Palestinians are treated as threats?

That does not stop me from sympathizing with the family that may have lost a little girl. Nor does it stop me from being alarmed at the savagery of the conflict. It just stops me from sympathizing with the Palestinians, politically. This is a problem of their own making and one which they can very easily solve by "regularizing" their military forces and tactics. It would be a disaster, militarily, so they won't do it.

I think that the Palestinians have lost the military aspect of the conflict with Israel. They lost when they acknowledged that the only effective weapon they had was a human bomb. But until they recognize the military reality and switch to nonviolent means to oppose what they call the occupation, Palestinians will continue to suffer, militarily.

My (completely unwanted) advice to the Palestinians? Surrender now. After that, you have a chance to win. Until then, you don't. The Israelis are not like you. I do not believe that they will treat a military surrender as a sign of political weakness and go for the jugular.

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