Wednesday, January 07, 2009

A plea for sanity that will be unanswered

I’m not under the impression that anything I write or don’t write will make one iota of difference to anything happening in the Middle East, and none of us really have enough information about what's happening on the ground to be making definitive judgments.

I am getting increasingly frustrated at some of the garbage I’ve been reading of late on the Liblogs aggregate though. I’m staunchly in favour of people’s right to free speech, even if what they say makes them look stupid, and luckily that same right to free speech also allows me to speak-up and say so when people are saying stuff that is pretty dammed stupid. And there’s been a lot of that the last few days.

Stupid like implying that, because the Liberal Party thinks Israel has the right to defend itself from constant rocket and terror attacks, that the Liberal Party is directly responsible for the death of 40 people at a school in Gaza. That’s absolutely ridiculous. I’m not sure what this blogger is trying to accomplish or contribute here, and I echo Red Tory’s sentiments. If you really think “Liberals” are “kill”ing people, maybe you’re supporting the wrong party. Actually, strike the maybe. You are.

So many on both sides of this issue see it as either/or, which is why I’m generally loathe to engage in it. And they automatically dismiss anything that doesn’t fit their bias. Take this attack on the school yesterday that killed 40. According to reports Hamas militants were using the school as a base/shield for attacks. It seems to be a common Hamas tactic. But I read many blog commentaries that either fail to mention the reports Hamas was using the school as a shield while they condemned the Israeli attack, or dismissed it outright as lies and propaganda. Why, because a terrorist organization like Hamas would never do such a terrible thing? Please, that’s stupid. You must know better than that. They’re terrorists!

This blogger even went as far as to claim Israel is deliberately assassinating innocent civilians, a completely asinine contention that, even if we accepted it, makes absolutely no sense. Why would they do that, exactly? For kicks? Because they’re evil? What military purpose would it serve?

Let me be clear. I think the death of those 40 people is tragic. I think Israel should do everything it can to avoid civilian casualties, and I think Hamas should as well, and that includes stopping using civilians as human shields. But if Israeli forces are taking fire from Hamas terrorists shielding themselves with civilians, what exactly are they supposed to do? There’s no easy answers there. And to just blame one side in that tragic situation, and for that side to NOT be the people using civilians as human shields, is just dammed ridiculous.

As I’ve said before, I’m loathe to wade into the Middle East mess. But I’m also loathe to be associated with some of the anti-Israel bigotry that has been appearing on the Liblogs aggregate. And while people are free to expose their stupidity, I’m going to speak up to make clear I don’t support it.

Oh, and not for nothing, but maybe Sid Ryan should spend more time trying to get York TAs back to work and less time making an ass of himself. This kind of bullshit is why labour unions, which have and do play important roles in our economy, get a bad name.

Finally, while I’m talking about things that piss me off, let’s talk about Ezra Levant. Ezra is playing a patently transparent game that is extremely repugnant and obvious.

First, he’s cherry-picking examples of objectionable comments by some Liberal bloggers to impugn all Liberal bloggers, and by association the Liberal Party as a whole. That’s idiotic. A diversity of opinion has been expressed on the aggregate, from pro and anti either side to a more middle of the road view. And if we’re going to tar all members of an aggregate, and the political party they support, with the views of a few of its members, then as members of the Blogging Tories, Ezra, Stephen Taylor and co. have some explaining to do, as does Stephen Harper, because they have some serious moonbats in their midst.

Secondly though, what Ezra is trying to do here is use the Gaza crisis as an opportunity to score political points for the Conservative Party, in whose war room he worked last election, by convincing Jewish voters the Liberal Party is anti-Israel because of the comments of a few rogue bloggers. The fact Ezra is trying to use this war, and these deaths, to score political points is utterly repugnant and shameful.

Finally, once again, here is my view on Gaza and the larger Middle East quagmire. And while there are hardliners on either side, I think the majority are, like me, somewhere in between, and those that seek to polarize things aren’t helping anything at all.

I have no easy answers on the Middle East. Obviously, no one does. I believe in a few things. I believe in a free, safe and independent Jewish state of Israel, and I believe that country has a right to defend itself. I also believe in a free, safe and independent Palestinian state that also recognizes Israel’s right to exist, and the rights of both its peoples to live in peace.
On the current Gaza conflict, I believe Israel has the right to defend itself, and that includes from the ongoing and regular rocket attacks, and it has a right to take actions to try to stop those attacks if local authorities are unable or unwilling to do so.

That said, it’s unclear to me how the current military campaign, which now includes a ground attack, will accomplish either Israel’s short-term or long-term objectives. Indeed, it may well only serve to breed new hatred against Israel amongst the Palestinian people, creating yet another cycle of violence and attacks. Their options, however, are limited. And stuck in the middle are the ordinary people that just want to live their lives.

I'll add that this war in Gaza needs to come to an end now. Caught in the middle of Hamas and Israel are the innocent civilians, and no matter who you blame, they're paying too high a price. I support an immediate cease fire, but a cease fire that returns to the status quo, a barricaded people in Gaza and rockets raining on Israel, is unacceptable. I don't think Israel can disarm Hamas by military means. But it's incumbent on the international community to give them another option. End the war, get aid to the civilians, disarm Hamas. How? That's for people smarter than I.

With that, I am off to have lunch and await the vitriolic slings and arrows from all sides, some of which will even make it out of moderation.

Recommend this Post on Progressive Bloggers

20 comments:

Steve V said...

What I don't understand, why bother with Levant? Clearly, he's just being provocative and trying to draw people in. Everybody, and I mean EVERYBODY, apart from hyper-partisan Cons, know the guy is bat shit crazy. Seems to me, this entire debate is being taken over by the BOMBASTIC, the more outrageous, the more attention. I say just ignore the freakshow, that's what I do (your link is the first time I've bothered to visit).

Ezra Levant= WHATEVER. Seriously, why do we give the crazies our attention?

Cherniak_WTF said...

Secondly though, what Ezra is trying to do here is use the Gaza crisis as an opportunity to score political points for the Conservative Party, in whose war room he worked last election, by convincing Jewish voters the Liberal Party is anti-Israel because of the comments of a few rogue bloggers.
Your bias is showing.

The message is support Israel no matter what...

sassy said...

No arrows and/or slings from this keyboard.

Good post

penlan said...

Well stated Jeff!

The Mound of Sound said...

Jeff, given that you've slammed me for making the "assinine" claim that Israel is assassinating civilians, try giving your mouth a rest and rethink what I said.

My point is that any modern airforce that uses battlefield weapons such as aerial bombs in densely populated areas plainly intends to kill all those foreseeably within the lethal range of those weapons.

It doesn't make any difference whether it's a market square in Iraq or a wedding party in Afghanistan or a Gaza neighbourhood, these weapons have no place in such conflicts.

It's too bad you haven't learned much of the history of aerial bombardment and the role it has played in terrorizing an enemy's civilian population.

Modern aerial bombs are like cluster bombs. It's inhumane to use them in civilian areas.

Next time you want to slag me chum, start with a comment on my blog that I can answer.

Chet Scoville said...

Why, because a terrorist organization like Hamas would never do such a terrible thing? Please, that’s stupid. You must know better than that.

Maybe they would, but that's not the question. The question is, DID they in this specific instance? This we do not know for sure yet.

Jennifer Smith said...

What I want to know is, how do you feel about Jason Cherniak posting his personal views on the situation (which seem to differ slightly from yours) as "the official position of Liblogs on the fighting in Israel and Gaza"?

Should he not, perhaps, be posting items like that on his own blog?

Mac said...

Mound of Sound,

Before any arial bombing takes place, Israel first warns civilians with leaflets, telephone calls, and text messages to vacate the premises. The fact that Hamas, in turn gathers even more civilians and puts them directly in harms way to score political points in a twisted way puts responsibility for civilian deaths on them. Israel drops the bombs, and bears some responsibility for the outcome, but they also take every measure possible to avoid civilian casualties which Hamas is seeking to augment.

Chet,

I suggest you check out the Associated Press report, released Yesterday afternoon, which cited Palestinian eye-witness corroboration of Israel's version of events.

petroom said...

"this war in Gaza needs to come to an end now"

Beyond a provocative headline, that was my point.

If we feel it NEEDS to come to an end but do nothing but state this despite having the means to do even a little more, then we are part of the problem with it NOT ending.

It's true that a headline can capture attention but now I see it serves to blind the reader to the content making the headline even more important.

Hmm.

A BCer in Toronto said...

Steve, if only everyone knew he "is bat shit crazy" and therefore dismissed his comments. But he has large readership, and was a prominent staffer in the Conservative war room, so some people may be under the mistaken impression he knows what he's talking about. While I'm not inclined to give him a pulpit (he already has a much larger one than my little corner of cyberspace could ever provide) I also think its dangerous to let such charges go unanswered and unchallenged, even if it is just pointing-out how "bat shit crazy" they are.

WTF, if that's what you took as the message then nothing I ever say is going to dissuade you.

Thanks sassy and penlan.

mound, I believe we're both in agreement on what you said. I think you're wrong, you don't.

chet, true, we don't know verifiably either way, although I believe some of the reports confirming the civilian shield claim have come from Palestinian sources. Nevertheless, at the very least, in the absence of definitive proof, dismissing it is an impossibility is silly.

Jennifer, I believe Jason erred by saying "official position of Liblogs." Liblogs has no official position, other than keep it clean people. The opinion expressed in the admin note was his own. And I'd prefer admin notes be confined to administrative matters, as yesterday's note largely was. And we all, being Jason and the board, agree that a note at the top of the aggregate is not the best way to disseminate messages to the membership. We're working on coming up with a new method of posting such messages in the future that is less obtrusive, and more like a regular post that will fall down the page. And since Jason's current message has certaintly been disemenated by now, it should be offline this evening/early morning I would suspect.

petroom, the danger of a provocative headline is indeed that it can distract from your central thesis. If I read you correctly though you stand by the sentiment of the headline, and so I stand by my profound disagreement with that sentiment, as well as with your charazterization of the official Liberal position. It's also not as easy as just saying end the war now. As I said, I want that, but without addressing some of the underlying issues, we'd just be treading water.

James Curran said...

"Secondly though, what Ezra is trying to do here is use the Gaza crisis as an opportunity to score political points for the Conservative Party, in whose war room he worked last election, by convincing Jewish voters the Liberal Party is anti-Israel because of the comments of a few rogue bloggers."

So, just so I'm clear here. Because I don't agree with your opinion or that of Jason's and Ted's and Ezra has gone overboard, and others have disagreed with Jason et. al. we are now "rogue bloggers"?

"I'll add that this war in Gaza needs to come to an end now. Caught in the middle of Hamas and Israel are the innocent civilians, and no matter who you blame, they're paying too high a price. I support an immediate cease fire, but a cease fire that returns to the status quo, a barricaded people in Gaza and rockets raining on Israel, is unacceptable. I don't think Israel can disarm Hamas by military means. But it's incumbent on the international community to give them another option. End the war, get aid to the civilians, disarm Hamas. How? That's for people smarter than I."

Best thing of read today.

Mike514 said...

I agree with most of what you said (except the Toronto thing; you lost me there, because I don't live in TO). And whatever your views of Levant are, you should at least give him a bit of credit.

He states "Israel shouldn’t be a wedge issue, where pro-Israel Canadians vote Conservative." This contradicts your feeling that he's "convincing Jewish voters the Liberal Party is anti-Israel" and trying "to score political points."

He also refers to Jason Cherniak's statements a few times, and makes the case that not all Libloggers are making hateful statements. I don't agree with your assertion that he's painting all Liberals with the same brush.

Bah. I'm not sure why I'm defending Ezra here. Your post is commendable, despite my small disagreement above.

Overall: good post, Jeff.

James Curran said...

He states "Israel shouldn’t be a wedge issue, where pro-Israel Canadians vote Conservative." This contradicts your feeling that he's "convincing Jewish voters the Liberal Party is anti-Israel" and trying "to score political points."

Yet he's making damn sure he's using it as a wedge issue himself. Yes, why ARE YOU defending him?

The Mound of Sound said...

I think it's becoming clear that there are two kinds of bloggers on Liblogs, those who think that everyone must support one side or the other (i.e. if you're not pro-Israel then any criticism of Israel you may make establishes you as pro-Hamas)or those who believe that they're both deserving of a full blast of criticism.

I tend to criticize Israel because it's supposed to be a member of our league of civilized nations. I think Israel has flaunted its obligations in that regard fairly freely, particularly under the umbrella of George w. Bush. I saw mention on Charlie Rose a couple of days ago that the illegal settler population in the West Bank has swollen an incredible 40% during the Bush years.

I believe we've had six decades of this barbarous nonsense and enough is enough. Both sides have shown themselves astonishing duplicitous to the point where there's no reason to have any confidence in them finding a negotiated peace. Hence peace must be imposed - on Hamas - and on Israel.

Cherniak_WTF said...

WTF, if that's what you took as the message then nothing I ever say is going to dissuade you.

In your writing, you stated your position clearly enough even if you tried to use terms such as free speech...

First you link with "the Liberal Party thinks Israel has the right to defend itself from constant rocket and terror attacks," but you don't even mention the weak message of "We call on all parties to end these hostilities, mindful that a durable ceasefire will be necessary to prevent continued civilian casualties and lasting damage to essential civilian infrastructure. " or even "In the midst of this crisis, we continue to stand for a peaceful resolution. "...
Nope you just parrot Israeli talking points that "Israel has a right to defend itself for terror attacks"....


Then you go and once again propagate the false story and propaganda that "According to reports Hamas militants were using the school as a base/shield for attacks. It seems to be a common Hamas tactic." -- that story hardly passes the smell test and has been debunked...

"But I read many blog commentaries that either fail to mention the reports Hamas was using the school as a shield while they condemned the Israeli attack, or dismissed it outright as lies and propaganda."
Well, guess what - it was... but continue to believe what you want... even the UN is denying the story... but hey, it falls nicely into what you want to believe...

And the you use the word "terrorist" - Irgun was a terrorist organization but I'm sure you would not call it's members as such...

Then you go on to decry some "anti-Israel bigotry"... what about the shameful pro-Israeli bias and propaganda? Jason has exposed his stupidity and intolerance quite clearly and you are not far behind...

Then you take a shot at Sid Ryan - why? Because the union is standing behind it's beliefs? Maybe you should question what influence the pro-Israeli lobby are having on the Liberal party as Warren K is part of the war room and JC said he would be working behind the scenes... How do we know that the Liberal agenda is being hijacked by pro-Israeli lobby. Reading Iggy's statement it sure seems that way...

And no, you are not "in between" - your language gives that away...

penlan said...

Jeff,

As I stated earlier I think this post is excellent & well stated. I do disagree on one point regarding a particular blogger. I think posts by Mound of Sound are well worth reading & contain a lot of information. I understand where he's coming from, what his points are & I agree with the majority of them.

This does not mean I'm closed to opposing pov's & in many instances I also see that some people are misreading/misinterpreting what some people are saying & only focussing on parts of comments rather than the whole. Keeping eyes open is important. It's the only way to learn & understand.

ktr said...

WTF, you need to back up your points with facts.

Sid Ryan has apologized because everyone including Sid recognize his remarks crossed the line.

Pro Israel lobby? Are you serious?

Jeff has made a good point...
it doesnt matter if you get one side to ceasefire, it wont last long if the other keeps attacking.

If you actually got Hamas to stop firing rockets directly at civilians, not soldiers or infrastructure or anything, but just get them to stop firing rockets, how long will their ceasefire last if Israel keeps bombing them? Not very long. They will eventually or quickly return fire. The same is true if you get Israel to ceasefire.

Ceasefires ONLY WORK if BOTH sides cease firing.

James Curran said...

Then let's all say a prayer they will both cease firing soon.

ktr said...

James: Agreed! I dream of it, but think we are many years away. decades more of this cycle i fear.

ml johnstone said...

More fuel for reconsideration of voting Liberal in next election.