Monday, February 2, 2009

The politics of protection

Read in full this brilliant post by Bech at Remarkz

"A discourse of human rights sanctifies and makes it possible for this political Frankenstein to exist. The question to ask is when does the Palestinian question fall within a discourse on human right (which would then only make it a legitimate claim ‘respected’ by the West) and when does it fall outside of it? The politically dominant strives to push it outside of the ‘civilized’ discourse in order to legitimizes more killing while the world looks at it oblivious because it becomes ‘logical’ that Israel or someone else acts this way. You can kill much more recklessly when you are on the side of liberalism.

One sad point here is that the Palestinian question will only acquire saliency when it fully complies with this discourse, something most western-educated Palestinians or pro-Palestinians strive to achieve. One will always look at Hamas with ‘reservation’ because at the end of the day Hamas is not inscribed in this discourse, neither through its claims (calling for the destruction of Israel) nor through its practices (hitting ‘civilian’ targets). That is the biggest tragedy. One cannot actually make a case that Israel as a political entity with the history it projects should be destroyed. Or maybe one can, but it will take a lot of other subverting strategies. And weapons, lots of them…"


Helena Cobban said...

This business about Hamas "hitting civilian targets" is a very dangerous old canard and actually, now, a hasbara lie.

First of all, if we are talking only about civilians getting hit, then of course Israel is by far the worst offender. If, however, you go into the international humanitarian law discrourse around intentionality and targeting, Israelis will argue that they do not intentionally target civilians (well, that may be true at the high-command evel; but their often ill-disciplined line-level soldiers and NCOs very frequently do, as has been demonstrated; and they very rarely indeed receive any disciplining from the higher-ups when they do so.)

However, the Israelis and their hasbara (disinfo) buddies around the world shout endlessly that Hamas is uniquely unfit to be talked to because they "target" Israeli civilians. This has not been true for many years now. In all the rocketings of recent years by Hamas's Qassam Brigades from Gaza, they have targeted the many Israeli military installations that ring Gaza. (Non-Hamas groups, which are much smaller, have different targeting philosophies.) Westerners never hear about the damage these military installations suffer, because of strict Israeli censorship. But IDF officers occasionally reveal the truth about Hama's targeting.

So it's a pity this Bech buys so heavily into this "Hamas targets civilians" idea...

Garage Sales For Gaza said...

Firing guns and rockets are only the most visible ways of making war and "targeting civilians".

I would think treating all the Palestinians as prisoners is a far more violent targeting of civilians.

Israel makes the argument for their own destruction by their own behavior.
When you oppress a stateless people, make them carry "special" identifications, steal their land and give them no recourse in the assault them. When you can occupy their homes and demolish their homes without warrant this is provocative violence. When you deny proper food, medicine, education, housing and then shoot them and bomb them for resisting, this is practicing violence on a civilian population.

I don't think you need to look at past religious history to find an "origin" for the conflict. All you have to do is look at the present conditions and who imposes them.

Hamas seems to be a grassroots reaction by the people to resist their own oppression and if that is true, then it woulod seem to be understood for that if not justified.

bech said...

Dear Helena, what you say is highly informative.

But my point was not that Hamas actually hits civilian targets. My point was that whatever Hamas really hits, the dominant discourse is that Hamas hits civilian targets. What is said is more important than what is actually done.

For example, the mere fact of trying to find evidence that Hamas is not hitting civilian targets is in itself the problem. it means accepting this claim (it is EVIL, terrorist, etc, to kill civilians WHATEVER THE CONTEXT) as legitimate and trying to question it. It depoliticize Hamas, it does not give it a voice to explain its actions.

That is not at all the case with Israel. Israel bombs killed hundreds if not a thousand people (because now there is a whole polemic over how many people were killed in Gaza), but there is another moral imperative that primes here which the fact that civilians were killed as a REACTION to or because Israel was trying to protect its SECURITY.

Sometimes the moral imperative is transcending all types of circumstances and some time it is conveniently contextualized.

I just wanted to show how certain moral norms prime over others which makes us feel unconsciously that this or that party is guilty, which in turn legitimates much more atrocious acts in the name of this norm.

Now if you say that Hamas in the first place do not hit civilian targets then great, but that's besides the point. Although I don't see how Hamas can constantly avoid civilian areas and I can clearly see the political gains from hitting civilian areas.