Friedman Defines Terrorism

I saw this gem the other day in passing, but didn’t have time to write about it:

There have always been two camps in Israel when it comes to the logic of peace, notes Gidi Grinstein, president of the Israeli think tank, the Reut Institute: One camp says that all the problems Israel faces from the Palestinians or Lebanese emanate from occupying their territories. “Therefore, the fundamental problem is staying — and the fundamental remedy is leaving,” says Grinstein.

The other camp argues that Israel’s Arab foes are implacably hostile and leaving would only invite more hostility. Therefore, at least when it comes to the Palestinians, Israel needs to control their territories indefinitely. Since the mid-1990s, the first camp has dominated Israeli thinking. This led to the negotiated and unilateral withdrawals from the West Bank, Lebanon and Gaza.

Hezbollah’s unprovoked attack from Lebanon into Israel in 2006 both undermined the argument that withdrawal led to security and presented Israel with a much more vexing military strategy aimed at neutralizing Israel’s military superiority. Hezbollah created a very “flat” military network, built on small teams of guerrillas and mobile missile-batteries, deeply embedded in the local towns and villages.

And this Hezbollah force, rather than confronting Israel’s Army head-on, focused on demoralizing Israeli civilians with rockets in their homes, challenging Israel to inflict massive civilian casualties in order to hit Hezbollah fighters and, when Israel did strike Hezbollah and also killed civilians, inflaming the Arab-Muslim street, making life very difficult for Arab or European leaders aligned with Israel.

Israel’s counterstrategy was to use its Air Force to pummel Hezbollah and, while not directly targeting the Lebanese civilians with whom Hezbollah was intertwined, to inflict substantial property damage and collateral casualties on Lebanon at large. It was not pretty, but it was logical. Israel basically said that when dealing with a nonstate actor, Hezbollah, nested among civilians, the only long-term source of deterrence was to exact enough pain on the civilians — the families and employers of the militants — to restrain Hezbollah in the future.

Israel’s military was not focused on the morning after the war in Lebanon — when Hezbollah declared victory and the Israeli press declared defeat. It was focused on the morning after the morning after, when all the real business happens in the Middle East. That’s when Lebanese civilians, in anguish, said to Hezbollah: “What were you thinking? Look what destruction you have visited on your own community! For what? For whom?”

Here’s what Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah’s leader, said the morning after the morning after about his decision to start that war by abducting two Israeli soldiers on July 12, 2006: “We did not think, even 1 percent, that the capture would lead to a war at this time and of this magnitude. You ask me, if I had known on July 11 … that the operation would lead to such a war, would I do it? I say no, absolutely not.”

That was the education of Hezbollah. Has Israel seen its last conflict with Hezbollah? I doubt it. But Hezbollah, which has done nothing for Hamas, will think three times next time. That is probably all Israel can achieve with a nonstate actor.

Let’s go straight to Glenn Greenwald:

The war strategy which Friedman is heralding — what he explicitly describes with euphemism-free candor as “exacting enough pain on civilians” in order to teach them a lesson — is about as definitive of a war crime as it gets.  It also happens to be the classic, textbook definition of “terrorism.”  Here is how the U.S. Department of State defined “terrorism” in its 2001 publication, Patterns of Global Terrorism:

No one definition of terrorism has gained universal acceptance. For the purposes of this report, however, we have chosen the definition of terrorism contained in Title 22 of the United States Code, Section 2656f(d). That statute contains the following definitions:

The term “terrorism” means premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant (1) targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents, usually intended to influence an audience. . . .

(1) For purposes of this definition, the term “noncombatant” is interpreted to include, in addition to civilians, military personnel who at the time of the incident are unarmed and/or not on duty.

Other than the fact that Friedman is advocating these actions for an actual state rather than a “subnational group,” can anyone identify any differences between (a) what Friedman approvingly claims was done to the Lebanese and what he advocates be done to Palestinians and (b) what the State Department formally defines as “terrorism”?  I doubt anyone can.  Isn’t Friedman’s “logic” exactly the rationale used by Al Qaeda:  we’re going to inflict “civilian pain” on Americans so that they stop supporting their government’s domination of our land and so their government thinks twice about bombing more Muslim countries?  It’s also exactly the same “logic” that fuels the rockets from Hezbollah and Hamas into Israel.

Friedman is not the only hawkish Israel supporter in the U.S. to have come out in favor of terrorism. Marty Peretz and Michael Goldfarb both openly support achieving political ends by killing large numbers of civilians:

… The sociopathic lust of a single war cheerleader can’t fairly be projected onto those who are actually prosecuting the war.  But one can’t help noticing that this “teach-them-a-lesson” justification for civilian deaths in Gaza appears with some frequency among its advocates, at least among a certain strain of super-warrior, Israel-centric Americans — e.g.:  Marty “do not fuck with the Jews” Peretz and Michael “to wipe out a man’s entire family, it’s hard to imagine that doesn’t give his colleagues at least a moment’s pause” Goldfarb — who love to cheer on Middle East wars from a safe and sheltered distance.

As of Wednesday, according to nine Israeli human rights organizations, the number of dead in Gaza reached 1,000, with 5,000 wounded:

The group warned that Israel is perpetrating grave violations of international law in Gaza in a letter addressed to the prime minister, the defense minister, the IDF chief of staff, the attorney general and the head of GOC Southern Command. The letter added that after the fighting ends, the time will come for those responsible for the violations to face the consequences.

The group claims that there have been at least six instances of Israel Defense Forces soldiers firing on medical crews, resulting in 12 deaths and 17 wounded. They also claim to have documented 15 cases of IDF troops firing on medical facilities.

The human rights activists warn of a complete collapse of the health system in Gaza, with at least 850 chronically ill patients and hundreds of wounded who have not been treated. They also fear outbreaks of infectious diseases resulting from the collapse of the water and sewage systems in Gaza.

Among other things, the group is calling for an escape route to be opened for Gaza’s civilians, immediate medical treatment for all the sick and wounded and better access for rescue personnel who have been prevented from reaching areas where fighting has taken place.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Connect with Facebook