Steve North(via Andrew Sullivan):
“It seems to me that most of the British coverage I’ve seen of this story is inordinately focused on the inconveniences suffered by the Palestinians due to this fence, as opposed to the Israeli lives it is apparently saving. Why might that be?” I wondered.Benjamin Netanyahu in the New York Times last week:
Instead of placing Palestinian terrorists and those who send them on trial, the United Nations-sponsored international court placed the Jewish state in the dock, on the charge that Israel is harming the Palestinians' quality of life. But saving lives is more important than preserving the quality of life. Quality of life is always amenable to improvement. Death is permanent. The Palestinians complain that their children are late to school because of the fence. But too many of our children never get to school — they are blown to pieces by terrorists who pass into Israel where there is still no fence.
Yes, the fence causes some hardship to Palestinians. Some are separated from their fields, some schoolchildren have to walk much farther to class. This is unfortunate. On any scale of human decency, however, it is far more unfortunate that 1,000 Israelis are dead from Palestinian terrorism, and thousands more horribly maimed, including Israeli schoolchildren with nails and bolts and shrapnel lodged in their brains and spines who will never be walking to school again. Yes, the fence causes some hardship to Palestinians. Some are separated from their fields, some schoolchildren have to walk much farther to class. This is unfortunate. On any scale of human decency, however, it is far more unfortunate that 1,000 Israelis are dead from Palestinian terrorism, and thousands more horribly maimed, including Israeli schoolchildren with nails and bolts and shrapnel lodged in their brains and spines who will never be walking to school again.
The argument that these guys are attempting to set up is that it’s a choice between Palestinian property, or "inconvenience," and Israeli lives, which is obviously false. Even if it were merely a question of property, it’s not as if the land that Israel has expropriated from Palestinians simply means that they’ll have to make do with smaller patios, what we are talking about here is precious (precious because it’s scarce) farmland, tended for generations and shared among many families for whom it is often their primary source of sustenance, given that the occupation makes travel extremely difficult. Regarding the issue of civilian deaths, at least twice as many Palestinian civilians as Israeli civilians have been killed since the start of the Al Aqsa Intifada, to say nothing of the thousands of people who have been made homeless through Israel's policy of collective punishment and house demolitions.
Incredibly, each of these authors also completely ignores the occupation, the daily brutality and inhumanity of which I find hard to communicate. Here are some accounts from IDF soldiers, reporting their own experiences as defenders of the occupation. Trying to dismiss this as mere "inconvenience" is despicable.
Something else I found interesting in the Steve North piece:
...Martin said, “I could turn the question around. Why is there no coverage in America given to the root causes of terrorism? We try to understand why Palestinian people feel driven to take such extreme measures as suicide bombings. I understand why Israel is building a wall to stop terror, but terrorists only flourish if they have grievances to exploit.”
“Grievances? You know, I’m from New York,” I said. “Should I try to understand the grievances of the terrorists who flew into the World Trade Center?”
“Well, yes,” answered Martin. “I think bin Laden tapped into grievances.”
Harriet chimed in, “Do you think they just did it for fun? They have reasons.”
Our conversation was over.
The reflexive resistance to any analysis of motives or grievances on the part of terrorists exemplified by North's response is quite common among both Israeli and American hardliners, and is, I think, a real line of division between observers of the war, more even than the question of whether it is in fact a war, surely more than simplistic “Red-state/Blue state” divisions. The conservative side of this argument, carried on by National Review, Andrew Sullivan, and the general flag-humping warblogger community, essentially maintains that any attempt to understand why those 19 men did what they did on Sept. 11 is tantamount to rationalizing or excusing what they did. They did it because they are evil, and they hate freedom, end of story, now go to bed. These folks have developed the "innocence" narrative, in which the U.S. (or Israel)is cast as little Maria, sitting there smelling flowers by the pond, minding her own business, when the Jihadi Frankenstein’s monster creeps up and drowns her. Why waste time examining motives? Grab your pitchforks and torches and let's kill the beast!
Needless to say, I find this position both infantile and irresponsible. Any rational response to 9/11 must necessarily include an attempt to understand what makes people into mass murderers. Applying Western standards of "rationality" to the jihadi mindset may not prove fruitful, but that's no reason to dismiss such attempts out of hand, and certainly not to condemn them as "appeasement," as is often done.