The “Lesser Evil” Finds Little Welcome in Gaza

Listening to the news about Gaza, Ignatieff’s description of “the process by which nihilism leads to a war without end” comes to mind:

In such a terrorist cult, many praiseworthy moral virtues are inverted, so that they serve not life but death. Terrorist groups typically expropriate the virtues of the young–their courage, their headstrong disregard for consequences, their burning desire to establish their own significance–and use these to create an army of the doomed. In this way, violence becomes a career, a way of life that leads only to death. (131)

His discussion of Conrad’s The Secret Agent leads him to ask

What happens when political violence ceases to be motivated by political ideal and comes to be motivated by the emotional forces that Conrad understood so well: ressentiment and envy, greed and blood lust, violence for its own sake? What happens when counter-terrorism, likewise, ceases to be motivated by principle and comes to be driven by the same complex of emotional drives? (114)

Last night, a news cast explained the extreme violence – people thrown from rooftops, dragged out to be executed before their families – because, the reporter told us, Fatah was associated with America and Israel, Americans and Jews. This is not a reason driven by any political ideal – merely revenge. The nihilism of blood lust is seldom true of many, but is insatiable, he observes. The terrorists, elected and in charge, seem to define themselves by acts of violence that indicate their aggrievement, their “righteousness.”

The bitter winners of these bitter battles don’t even think of themselves as “winners” – in triumph they face the cameras in ski masks. Those ski masks seem to represent the freedom to terrorize, to murder, but a desire for none of the responsibility (and the glory and the power) usually sought by a revolutionary hero. They fear loss of a sense of oppression, for theirs protects them from responsibility and allows them infinite freedom to commit horrific acts.

This is not true of all, as Ignatieff argues, necessitating balancing “purely military responses to terror with a political strategy that redresses the injustices that terrorists exploit.” But, here, what do the winners want? What can the losers give? The perpetrators may think of themselves as the victims, but surely the children they recruit and the man whose brains lie on the pavement below indicate real victims. And the masks remain, perhaps because they sense their justifications might not convince others. If all are victims, then all are filled with resentment; none can give and all must take, none may build and all must destroy.

15 thoughts on “The “Lesser Evil” Finds Little Welcome in Gaza”

  1. Ralph Peters has usefully distinguished between “practical terror,” which is intended to gain some specific political object, and “apocalyptic terror,” which is motivated by a sheer lust for destruction. In this case, we are certainly talking about the latter.

    Simple test: Suppose that the entire population of Israel decided to move to Florida. Does anyone seriously believe that former Palestinian terrorists would now devote themselves to farming, teaching, and the building of factories and hospitals?

  2. Des the comment above then hold true for the IRA? I hold no brief for the killers of Hamas, but what they want is (1) a fundie state, with Sharia law, 2. destroy Israel. But the dunderheads have now split the Palestinians into the Hamstan (Gasa) ones and the West Bank (Fatah) ones, thus Hamastanians will try to gain control soon over Fatahville but at this point they have lessened by far their chances of establishing a Palestinian state, a goal they have long claimed they wanted. Fools.

  3. Next we’ll hear that the Mossad and the CIA are really behind this divide and conquer strategy.

    The Palestinians have a genius for using up any good will anyone may have toward them.

  4. “The Palestinians have a genius for using up any good will anyone may have toward them.”

    Um….Europe always seems in a forgiving mood……

  5. Nihilism? Nothing could be further from the case. The Palestinians want their land back. Inasmuch as it was taken from them by force, it’s understandable why they may feel justified in recovering it by the same means. As for the internecine warfare: the motives are obvious and rational.

    Hamas was duly elected, only to have its funding cut off and siphoned to an unelected opposition, which subsequently proceeded to attempt a violent coup.

    Nihilism? War attracts it, every time. We all know what happened in Haditha, Bagram and Abu Ghraib. Nothing special about the Palestinians, though there is the conundrum that has both sides of the Palestine-Israel dispute growing increasingly radical and violent. Given Israel’s superior firepower, it has been far more effective in liquidating moderate Palestinian elements, allowing only the most radical to survive.
    Recall that Arafat’s pleas for international intervention in the conflict were rejected by both the U.S. and Israel. How can anyone call a plea for international peacekeepiong forces nihilism? For his efforts, Arafat was barricaded by Israel inside his pathetic “headquarters” incommunicado with the Palestinian Authority and a flagrant symbol of impotence. Now, the U.S. and Israel find themselves desperately left to support Fatah remnants. Nihilism indeed.

  6. I knew it would be a short period of time before someone told me why Hamas taking over Gaza and slaughtering their opponents was really Israel’s fault. Comical. Israel pulls out of Gaza so the Palestinians start murdering each other and it is Israel’s fault. The soft bigotry of low expectations does not stop at the water’s edge. I do agree that the Hamas terrorist organization was “duly elected” so we can now say that the Palestinian people are collectively and by their own choice responsible for the terrorist acts it commits. That helps clarify things.

  7. Oliver,

    The land was taken from the Palestinians over 60 years ago. The guys from whom it was taken are all dead of old age. The injured parties are gone. That argument is dead.

    Now if you are arguing about the rights of heirs – remember the Palestinian forefathers stole the land from Jews, which Jews were given the land in battles blessed by God Himself.
    And that’s from the same Book that is the basis of Islam.

    In terms of the total land of Middle East Israel represents less than 1% of the area. Islam controls the other 99%. Islam has all the oil wealth, 98% of the arable land, a 98% of the major cities and over 90% of college graduates. Yet it squanders these resources on an unholy obsession over Israel’s insignificant little patch of ground in a distant corner of the Mediterranean basin.

    The tyrants who rule the middle east use Israel to keep themselves in power. If they screw up their economy, they blame it on the Jews; if a harvest fails, blame it on the Jews; if wells run dry, blame it on the Jews; if gas prices go up, blame it on the Jews; if oil prices go down, blame it on the Jews; if children are hungry, blame it on the Jews. The Imams do the same thing because it feeds their families and makes them important. Is this nihilism? No, its the same politics practiced through out the world through out history whenever there have been Jews close by. It is the way incompetent leaders justify their deeds.

    So all this anti-Israeli stuff is a crock of anti-Jewishness (can’t say anti-Semitism cause they’re all Semites).

    On your second point. Palestinian funding came from people, many of whom are Jews, who want peace between Israel and Palestinians. When Hamas got elected on a platform which includes a pledge to destroy Israel the funding was cut off. Of course.

    So, Oliver, stop listening to the MSM and the Imams and start reading the blogs listed on the right side of this page. Then you will know what’s going on.

  8. I was clear that both sides share blame. A fundamental cause of war is sloppy binary thinking that insists responsibility must belong exclusively or primarily to one party or the other. In the case of Palestine, both parties share responsibility.
    None are innocent.

    I tend to focus on the role of the U.S. and Israel only because I think they alone
    are in a position to implement solutions, not because I think they are solely or primarily to blame for the conflict.

    My low expectations for the Palestinians are in no way the result of “soft
    bigotry.” Rather, my assessment is based on the political and economic condition of Palestine, which has been under siege for more than half a century and whose people have lived mostly as refugees for the entire time.

    The Palestinians currently lack the civil institutions required for stability:
    that is partly their fault and partly the fault of the U.S./Israel which has
    done so much to degrade the economic, social and political stability of

    Sol Vason demonstrates why so many of Palestinians insist that
    negotiating with Israel is a waste of time. Mr. Vason asserts that all of
    Palestine itself rightly belongs to Jews. In other words, he denies the right of
    Palestine to exist. Understandably, Israelis decline to negotiate with
    parties that deny their right to exist. We should expect the same from
    Palestinians, regardless of whether the U.S. MSM ignores Israel’s tacit and, in some cases, explicit denial of their right to exist.

    Mr. Vason even piles on the absurd notion that Arab numerical
    superiority somehow justifies the denial of Palestine’s right to
    exist—a risible interpretation of the concept of majority rule. If I am a
    Palestinian olive farmer whose grove is seized by Israel, bulldozed and
    turned into a Jewish-only suburb, the fact that Jews are a minority in the
    area and the region does nothing to assuage me. I want my land back, of course,
    and the fact that the people who took it now suggest that I should be happy enough to give up my
    land because there are very many Arabs elsewhere only makes me think I’m
    dealing with an insanely chauvinistic party that has no intention of
    negotiating in good faith.

    Why does Lex assume that Palestinians should be contented with Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from Gaza? We know that at the very same time Israel was evacuating Jewish-only enclaves in Gaza, it was expanding them in the West Bank, a far more consequential action. Just because the U.S. MSM ignored that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.

    If the Palestinians agreed to halt attacks in Tel Aviv, while increasing them in Jerusalem, would anyone expect Israel to respond favorably? Of course not.

    From a Palestinian point of view, the Gaza pullout was a strategic move aimed at making it easier for Israel to consolidate control over the West Bank. To be sure, the move offered a strategic opportunity to the Palestinians, though a much less significant one and one that would require far greater diplomatic and political skill to act on. Given the lack of civil institutions and the aggressive exploitation of divisions between Palestine’s radicals and moderates, religious and secular leaders, it’s ludicrous to suggest that a significant opening was squandered by a “nihilistic” mob.

    No international body, not one of Israel’s neighbors and not even its hand-in-glove ally the U.S. approved or assisted the Gaza pullout, which unsurprisingly proved both temporary and partial.

    Since then, Israel has repeatedly attacked Gaza, destroying its electrical grid, bridges and other key survival infrastructure, and still maintains tight control over travel to and from the area.

    That these attacks and oppression are in response to Palestinian incursions into Israel offers some degree of moral justification, but does not mitigate the consequences or diminish the aggrievedness of ordinary Palestinians in Gaza who have seen their homes bombed and infrastructure destroyed.

  9. “Why does Lex assume that Palestinians should be contented with Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from Gaza?”

    I don’t assume they will be contented with anything less than the murder of every Jew in Israel.

    They cheered, danced in the streets and shot their guns in the air on 9/11. I recall it well. No amount of suffering they may experience will ever elicit any pity from me.

    Their decision to engage in a civil war amongst themselves is a typical, for them, display of stupidity, and is no one’s fault but their own.

  10. Well, we can dispute the facts and draw differing conclusions about the trouble in Palestine and Israel, Lex, but when it comes to your emotional state, I can only acknowledge that you seem to be representing it accurately and that it does, in part, reveal the origins of your views.

  11. Pseudointellectualism combined with no winning position in a debate seems to often result in the casting of veiled insults.

    Take heart, Lex. You won this one twice.

  12. I don’t recall that Palestinians “danced in the streets” after 9/11. Nor do I call any Palestinian representative anywhere saying anything supportive of the attacks. I do recall that Arafat, unassailably the best-known, most legitimate and longest lived voice of the Palestinians, denounced the attacks. Here’s what he said:

    The statement of President Yasser Arafat Gaza, 17 September 2001.

    “We stand, with the victims, against terrorism.

    “The terrorist crime in New York and Washington is a great disaster that affected all humanity and struck at civilization and human decency.

    “From Bethlehem, the cradle of Jesus Christ, peace be upon him, from Jerusalem and Al Haram Ash-shareef, the ascendance of prophet Muhammad to Heaven, and from the churches and mosques on our holy land, rises the voice of the injured and tortured Palestinian offering his condolences and consolations to the friendly American people and its leadership who were struck by this malicious terrorist crime that caused the death of thousands of its innocent sons.

    “I, and the people of Palestine, suffering from occupation, pray for the innocent victims in New York and Washington. We join our voices to all those sincere ones calling for joint action under the flag of the United Nations to destroy all forms of terrorism, which is a danger to humanity and to the sacred human right to life.

    “Peace should prevail for the sake of all humanity, and in the Holy Land, the Land of Peace.”

  13. If any Palestinian leader said anything celebrating the 9/11 attacks, surely the quote can be found within minutes on the Internet. I could find none. Perhaps Lex can…

  14. Oliver,
    I said Jews have a right to Israel. Israel is a state that exists. I said nothing about Palestine. Palestinians can create their country anywhere the people unanimously want to be Palestinians. This excludes the land of Israel because no one there wants to be a Palestinian. This means you can have your country anywhere but Israel. Since Israel is only 1% of the Middle East, the Palestinians still have the remaining 99% to choose from.

    If Palestinians really want a country, they should use the land they have and build their own nation. Nobody is going to give them Israel. If they need more land, there is lots of totally hot unoccupied land facing the Red Sea. They can conquer that. Remember, America’s most famous town is in the desert and its most famous valley is named after sand.

Comments are closed.