IsraLeft Salvage/Guest Post: late bloomers

I welcome Or Bareket, a fellow writer for IsraLeft, as a guest blogger here in the pogg blog. Or’s posts will be posted at uneven intervals here throughout the next few weeks. This one was originally published on July 25, 2009.

The mainstream reaction to the evidence presented by “Shovrim Shtika” was shown here. But it was not the only public response. Prominent politicians, media representatives, authors, academic figures and such – most of them recognized with what is called the “Zionist Left” (a term that describes most of Israel’s left – a nationalist left) – have signed a petition calling for putting together an Israeli, objective, independent committee to check the claims made by the soldiers (it’s an open petition, but their role in it was publicly emphasized for understandable reasons). I, of course, support this call. However, I have some reservations.

First, I’d like to welcome the nationalist left, it’s about time. The evidence of Israeli war crimes were visible, photographed and video taped while operation Cast Lead operation was underway, for anyone who wishes to hold his eyes open (and as Rod has shown, not many people wished to) to see. After the operation ended till this day there was a steady trickle of evidence. More and more of these evidence were published. The only difference between those evidence and the new “Shovrim Shtika” evidence is that this time around the evidence are brought to light by “our own people”.

During the operation and right after its end, one who wished to hear and see could be faced by evidence of Israeli war crimes1 such as massive shelling, killing of innocents – or as the military refers to them, “uninvolved persons” – using illegal weapons such as white phosphorus and more. The problem was that these evidence and testimonies were presented by human rights organizations and the UN committees – which are, according to Israeli claims of course, totally biased and anti-Israeli, if not anti-Semitic; or in other cases presented by Palestinians, in which cases Israel disregards them completely.

This phenomenon, in which the mainstream left begins to doubt the Israeli actions months after they are over, but supports them with different levels of enthusiasm in real time is not new. It happened in operation Cast Lead, it also happened in the second Lebanon war in 2006. And every other time the mainstream left was caught by surprise by the Israeli actions. The reasons for this phenomenon are a subject matter for another post, here I just meant to point that out. With this in mind the current calling for investigations come out, at least to me, as somewhat hypocritical – but I can live with that.

My more important reservation is that if such a committee will eventually be founded, it will only be used as kind of a rubber stamp as often happens when any organization is checking itself. My fear is that the committee will declare no real evidence has been presented, and that this will allow the mainstream left to go back to its caves and wallow in its own self-righteousness, until the next operation, of course, after which the mainstream left will surely be very surprised again.

What I’d like to see is Israel helping the human rights organizations and the U.N. representatives in any way it can. Not disregarding them in advance as biased. You deny any war crimes have been committed? Help the people who check the claims to see that. That way you can also make sure it’s not biased.

Usually I don’t support the logic, “If you are truly innocent then you have nothing to fear from someone checking up on you”. In this case, it’s seems like the only correct path.

  1. A disclaimer you are welcome to add to all future posts on the subject – I am well aware of the fact that Hamas also comittes war crimes – from firing rockets on Israeli citizens to hiding in its own civilian population. Howwhever I believe one wrong does not justify another, and I’ll stick to that belief. []

16 comments to IsraLeft Salvage/Guest Post: late bloomers

  • Jono Barel

    There’s a huge difference between “If you’ve done nothing wrong, you have nothing to fear”, and a call to government to cooperate with UN investigators.

    One implies the presupposition of guilt by a state towards its citizens (those who grant it sovereignty), while the other is transparency by the government, ensuring proper conduct as an agent on behalf of its constituents. The two concepts, while based around the same phrase, must never ever be confused.

    The government has a responsibility towards the people (those of them that may think that such conduct may have occurred and would be undesirable), to thoroughly investigate these claims, regardless of UN involvement, but preferably with support.

    The origin of these claims tends to put us in a defensive position. It’s a natural response that happens to us in our normal life. It happens to us when we feel we’re being accused by people who have no right to say anything. But then we ignore the message, just when its as important as it’s ever been — to pay attention and engage in deep introspection.

    A government afraid of its citizens is a Democracy. Citizens afraid of government is tyranny!” — Thomas Jefferson

  • Nitzan

    I think you meant “wishes” and “wished”, not “whishes” and “whished”. Also, you probably meant “More and more of them *were* published” and “*then* you have nothing to fear”. ‘Evidence’ is already the plural form, ‘evidences’ is redundant. Finally, “hypocritical” is the term you were looking for, unless you’re talking about the oath that doctors make.
    Sorry about being a grammar nazi but one’s (very precise!) ideas must be presented clearly for people to consider them.

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  • Or Bareket

    @Nitzan: nothing to say about that. you’re right, it will be fixed.

    thank you.

  • itsadok

    Some free copy editing:

    “I, of course, support this call. However, I have some reservations.”
    “even photographed and videotaped”
    “this time around the evidence is brought to light”
    “when any organization is checking itself”
    “in any way it can”

    Sorry I don’t have anything intelligent to add about the actual content of the post.

  • Moddy

    You say “My fear is that the committee will declare no real evidence has been presented”

    Which means that even if they say “nothing has happened”, you’d still believe that war-crimes have occured – otherwise I guess you’d be happy to know that the IDF is still ‘the most moral army in the world’. You don’t trust any official government investigation. As a matter of fact, neither do I.

    On the other hand, the Israeli government doesn’t trust UN investigators. They claimed they are biased and anti-semitic and what-not, and therefore refuse to cooperate with them. I wouldn’t cooperate with people I believe to be biased against me.

    It seems like a deadlock to me: How will we ever find an commitee that will be trusted by all sides?

  • Or Bareket

    @Moddy: the question is whether israel accepts the role that the UN is supposed to play in international relationships or not. if so it is in her best interest to work with the UN in order to resolve those issues, that way if the commitee is indeed biased,Israel could also try to prove that. ignoring the commitee is harmful to Israel interests in principle and also harmful to its image.

    if Israel does not accept the role of the UN, she should quit it altogether.

  • Ilan

    It is possible to have been for the operation, or at least for a military operation of some sort in Gaza, and still support an outside investigation of alleged war crimes.
    From what I understood of your post you mean to say something like “The Nationalist Left” was supportive of operation Cast Lead and now it is suddenly aware of war crimes committed, which as I stated above is not always a contradiction. I am thinking of Michael Walzer’s distinction between Jus ad bellum, which means a just cause for a war, and Jus in bello, which means a just conduct when in war.

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  • Agam Rafaeli

    A great portrayal of Israeli Leftists.

    A very complicated situation for us. No real good answers, only temporary ways of handling it.

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  • New pogg post: IsraLeft Salvage/Guest Post: late bloomers

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