For your consideration: Jimmy Carter on ending the war in Gaza

An article from Foreign Policy

Ending this war in Gaza begins with recognizing Hamas as a legitimate political actor

I know. Right off the bat, even the idea of recognizing Hamas rankles. Here’s the thing, though. In 2006, as a result of a thoroughly monitored election, the people put Hamas in power. That is the definition of self determination. That is the definition of legitimate political actor. The hazard of democracy, especially when it works, is that we won’t like who the people put in charge. If we can’t live with those outcomes, then we just need to accept that we really don’t care for democracy at all. Further, that what we do believe in is hegemony of one people, one culture, over others. Naturally, that would mean ours and not theirs. This, in spite of the fact that anyone would be hard pressed to seriously and legitimately make the case that we are one people, one culture, and that our chosen version of that should be the one that calls the shots.

Having read a fair bit of the news surrounding this latest outbreak in massive, asymmetrical violence, I can only sympathize with the position President Carter takes in this piece. Disregard it if you will, but in the interest of truth and justice, at least spare him and the Palestinian people the few moments of your day it would take to read this article. That’s not much to ask in exchange for nearly 2,000 dead. At least then, when you oppose the position, you’ll know exactly which points you oppose. I trust you’ll then take the time to identify reliable sources that support your opposition to those points with which you disagree.

Some highlights:

Since pro-Israeli voices, typically not known for giving the opposition the time of day from what I’ve seen, like to talk about provocation, consider this:

This tragedy results from the deliberate obstruction [ed note: by Israel] of a promising move toward peace in the region, when a reconciliation agreement among the Palestinian factions was announced in April. This was a major concession by Hamas, in opening Gaza to joint control under a technocratic government that did not include any Hamas members [emphasis added]. The new government also pledged to adopt the three basic principles demanded by the Middle East Quartet comprised of the United Nations, the United States, the European Union, and Russia: nonviolence, recognition of Israel, and adherence to past agreements. Tragically, Israel rejected this opportunity for peace and has succeeded in preventing the new government’s deployment in Gaza [emphasis added].

In light of justifications for Israel’s decidely one-sided and heavy handed assault on Gaza predicated on Israel’s right to self-defense, I’d also like to offer this observation. Those pro-Israel voices tend to be either Jewish or Christian. Last I checked, Mosaic law expressly forbids killing, notwithstanding the long history of divinely inspired slaughter both Jews and Christians have engaged in for centuries, at worst because “God ordered it,” at best because of the tortured reasoning leading to so-called just war theory, initially instigated by the Catholic Church in aid of, you guessed it, justifying Christian wars over every sentiment on that matter ever expressed by Jesus. Never mind that whole bit where one of the key points of the New Testament, uncomfortable as this may be, was that Jesus “fulfilled” the law. In doing so, he took the letter of the law and made clear, time and again, that it’s the spirit of that law that matters. Which manner of warfare would Jesus approve? I think none. If you are Christian and endorse this mass slaughter, I think you might need to stop, take a breather, and maybe even pray about it. “Jesus, how should I support the slaughter of anyone? If in no way, what else can we do?” I’ve said it before, and will keep saying it, if the answer to the question is hundreds of dead children, whoever is asking isn’t asking long enough or hard enough. That thing about not being able to serve two masters certainly applies here. You can’t serve “not killing” by serving the powerful war interests. Pick one.

There is never an excuse for deliberate attacks on civilians in conflict. These are war crimes. This is true for both sides. Hamas’s indiscriminate targeting of Israeli civilians is equally unacceptable. However, three Israeli civilians [emphasis added] have been killed by Palestinian rockets, while an overwhelming majority of the 1,600 Palestinians killed have been civilians, including more than 330 children [emphasis added]. The need for international judicial proceedings to investigate and end these violations of international law should be taken very seriously.

If we can start with those two items, in earnest, then I think one might see their way clear to at least paying heed to the rest of what President Carter has to say. If you disagree, that’s fine and laudable in itself. What do you propose that will stand a chance of stopping the slaughter? If your answer doesn’t accomplish that, then just be honest. It’s neither Christianity nor Judaism that drives your agenda, but nationalism and hegemony. Is that the trade off you mean to make? For non-believers, clearly this line of persuasion has no leg to stand on. In that case, which moral basis do you take to justify the continued slaughter if not the interests of Israeli right-wing nationalism and Western hegemony?


Imaged credit: Brian Glanz @ Licensed under Creative Commons.

10 replies »

  1. A few years back I was reading an article on the rise of conservative Islam, as a result of immigration, in Holland. Someone in authority – a legislator, perhaps – was asked what should be done if, in time, the population democratically elected a majority committed to eliminating democracy. Should this be allowed? Absolutely, he said. What choice do we have?

    An ugly thing to consider. Democracy, perhaps, cannot be saved by democratic means. But, if it requires the society to set aside the will of the majority, then … it isn’t democracy, is it?

  2. This is why I worry about all the religious exemptions we have in our laws currently. The irony is that the right keeps demanding special treatment on the one hand, chiseling away at a separation of church and state they refuse to believe in, while we hear from some in that same group that we need to worry about Sharia in America. If we keep watering down those protections, maybe that might become a legitimate concern in the long run. As long as we keep that constitutional wall up, solid and strong, then we only really need to be concerned about the long, long game. How long would it take a non-white, non-Christian majority to take over Congress, the presidency, and 3/4 of the statehouses?

  3. Matter of fact issue – HAMAS has both a political wing and a military wing, the people elected the political one (with Islamic charity work etc.). The military wing fails to maintain a monopoly on organized violence nor is it suborned to the political wing. So until both the lack of political control over the military is solved and the uncontrolled militia problem (yes you Islamic Jihad) is solved – HAMAS isn’t a government and you cannot negotiate meaningfully with them.

    • Correct me if I’m misreading you here, j_kies. What you seem to be saying is that you didn’t read this paragraph, with added emphasis:

      This tragedy results from the deliberate obstruction [ed note: by Israel] of a promising move toward peace in the region, when a reconciliation agreement among the Palestinian factions was announced in April. This was a major concession by Hamas, in opening Gaza to joint control under a technocratic government that did not include any Hamas members [emphasis added]. The new government also pledged to adopt the three basic principles demanded by the Middle East Quartet comprised of the United Nations, the United States, the European Union, and Russia: nonviolence, recognition of Israel, and adherence to past agreements. Tragically, Israel rejected this opportunity for peace and has succeeded in preventing the new government’s deployment in Gaza [emphasis added].

      If you did, I’m completely unclear as to how you leaped from the point presented to the point you make. There are no members of Hamas in the unity government. Israel still proceeded to make every attempt to derail it.

      There’s also this to consider:

      “Abbas has already pledged that the new administration will abide by the principles laid down by the Middle East peace quartet in that it will recognise Israel, reject violence and abide by existing agreements.”

      If the goal is to avoid negotiating with a group that is widely supported by the people, then it seems all the more imperative to support the unity government, in which Hamas no members. Nevertheless, to continue to invalidate Hamas on whatever pretense is to ignore the reality that, like them or not, they came to power based on popular support.

      Democracy or not? Pick one.
      Killing for peace, or not? Pick one.

      It seems really simple to this disinterested observer (read: one that doesn’t have bombs landing in his neighborhood): created hundred of dead Palestinian children and over a thousand dead Palestinian civilians does nothing to de-fang Hamas. But please, do try to make the moral argument for dead children. Please.

      • Incidentally – “Killing for peace” is actually a very positive outcome, consider the selective elimination of people that start violent conflicts or maintain them for ego or economic reasons. The point is the considered minimum killing necessary to attain / maintain peace. No tears should be shed in the selective elimination of the people that chose to murder 298 people with a Buk missile – a positive outcome towards peace and normative behaviors.

        • I approved your comment because it appears to speak your mind very plainly and ought to be seen. Dead civilians are a “positive outcome” is the sole gist of it that I get when you qualify it with a phrase that is not born out by the evidence in any way, shape, or form, “[C]onsider the selective elimination of people that start violent conflict…” There is no evidence that the Israeli assault is selective, unless you, as with the Israeli government, mean that the civilians are indeed selected. The civilians are not the ones that start the violent conflict. Even were I to tentatively accept that Hamas (and non- or other-aligned) terrorists are technically civilians, the usual statistics I see from reputable sources would put those “terrorist civilians” at only approximately 30% of the death toll. The 70% are certainly not dying of their own accord for “ego or economic” reasons. And, incidentally, by using that phrase, you might as well say that the Israelis are bombing those 70%, selectively or otherwise, for those same reasons.

          If you look at the history of the conflict, it’s fairly well indisputable that, regardless of what the Palestinians do or who is nominally in control of their territories, as long as Likud and similar political forces have been in power in Israel, they have kept doing the same things, over and over again, with the same morbid and morally reprehensible effects…disproportionately high civilian Palestinian deaths. And this has achieved peace how, exactly? And why should it? From my perspective, it’s high time the people of Israel gave the anti-war left a chance to resolve the issue. Right-wing efforts have failed abysmally. Even if Hamas launches indiscriminate rocket attacks from densely populated civilian areas with the full intention of drawing a massively deadly and disproportionate Israeli assault, when Israel all too gladly complies, while maintaining the blockade, while continuing the settlements, while engaging in policies that, were any of our enemies to engage in them we’d call them ethnic cleaning and war crime, Israel disproportionately bloodies its own hands and rightly should lose the world’s sympathies with it’s self-perpetuated plight.

          Golda Meir’s famous victim blaming remains the party line today. Victim blaming is abhorrent when it comes to any crime, even moreso when the body count is so “selectively” high.

          “No tears should be shed…” As though the 1.8 million people of Gaza did that. Just how many of those 1.8 million Palestinians do you propose need to be killed in order to achieve your so-called peace? Where do you draw the line between that peace and genocide? How many war crimes are permissible in pursuit of that so-called peace? When Israel’s expansionist and militarist efforts remain unchecked, is it a mystery that those same policies drive the victims of those assaults to increasingly more radical attempts to end them, or more cynically, exacerbate them?

          And speaking of exacerbating, you’re likely aware that the rise in global sympathy for the Palestinian plight has begun to provide cover for actual anti-Semitism. Is there any chance that, like Hamas intentionally drawing fire to civilians, this might be a back-door ploy by Israel to drive anti-Semitism to new heights, just so it can play the traditionally reserved for Israel victim card in an even more heavy-handed way? “See? See? What did we tell you? Anti-Semites coming out of the woodworks! We’re hated! And nothing to do with the blockade, or the settlements, or the thousands of dead Palestinians!”

          Sorry, the aggressor in asymmetrical warfare doesn’t get to play that card.

        • Wow Frank – Please do feel free to generalize and misstate what I wrote. I meant exactly what I wrote, no more and no less. I am referring to the principle of minimum violence necessary, in a lot of cases the minimum is none but the leverage is substantial avoided suffering. The idealized case is the time traveler in 1936 with a rifle v Adolf; to avoid myth I choose to focus my example on the guy that pushed the button to deliberately murder the 298 people on Flight MH17 who could do it again given the opportunity. I did not refer to nor do I excuse or apologize for either side in the present Gaza tragedy.

          You should expect that my recommendations to the Palestinians would be to mirror the Israeli evolution where the Stern gang and Irgun (clearly terrorists) were eventually disarmed (via bloody conflict) and brought under the Haganah. In 1948 the Haganah was disestablished with the formation of the IDF simultaneously outlawing all other Jewish militias. If the Palestinians wish to be a nation, they need to have a uniformed military that has a monopoly on organized violence in their territory suborned to the civilian authority.

        • If I misunderstood you, mea culpa. At the same time, if I misunderstood you and badly restated what you meant, a) something led to that, possibly a combination of my own biases plus perceived ramifications of what you stated, b) my misstatement afforded you an opportunity at clarification. To that, you might be surprised to learn we have found a point of agreement. Palestinians should have a uniformed military and should disarm militants that won’t be surborned to the rule of law. To what extent, however, will a) Israel let such a thing occur, even under a “unity government with no Hamas/Fatah party members in it, so long as that government is “backed” by Hamas, and b) Palestinians be able to afford such a military under their current crushing economic oppression?

        • Apology / clarification accepted.

          If you were to start a charity to pay for the Palestinian military in uniforms (and they attain a monopoly on organized violence and actually wear the uniforms…) I will be happy to donate 1000$ of my personal cash towards that effort. Kickstarter could likely raise about 100Mn$ to that end really quickly largely from Jewish donors and others that find the current situation intolerable.

          Give people something worthy and believable as a solution space and we will pry open the wallets. If Bibi doesn’t like it he can go have intimate relations with a goat.

  4. Ok; semantics matter why? Whether or not you believe the Unity ‘government’ exists it does not hold a monopoly on organized violence hosted from its territory. (the Palestinian Authority has never been a government in this definition either) Since the political arm cannot compel the Jihad or the HAMAS military arm to obey, its still futile to talk to them about anything involving violence.

    Uniforms and command hierarchy on a Nation’s military matter otherwise your just hosting a bunch of terrorists and criminals with long range weapons. Claiming to have a government means you actually govern.