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April 4, 2002

Choices Matt Welch kicks ass, takes names, shows what’s what, and reminds us once again that he’s one of the best writers in blogdom. No excerpt. Just read it.

Update: I don’t know why his permalinks are misbehaving, but what I mean is the post headlined “How Sympathy Can Become Apologia, in Two Easy Steps.” [10:03 PM]

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Comments on Choices:

Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2002, 02:02 PM:

Not disagreeing with Matt's core point, but ...aaAt what point does armed resistance become necessary?aaIt's a question he sidesteps neatly, and it's a troubling one. Talking about Vaclav Havel or Nelson Mandella not picking up guns is all very well, but they were fighting regimes that crumbled from within. Arguably, the Israeli occupation of the west bank falls in this category, too. But it seems to me that there probably does come a point -- somewhere beyond the situation under discussion -- where the only appropriate response is to start shooting. aaWhere does that point lie? aa(I'm thinking of the Nazi regime as being some way past that -- but are there lesser evils that also justify armed resistance struggles? And if so, where precisely on the donkey do we pin the tail? Note: this isn't a rhetorical question -- it's a serious one. I find the suicide bombings in Israel stomach-turning, and I think they're wholly unjustified -- but what *would* be an appropriate reaction for the Palestinians? Or the Israelis? This is real can-of-worms territory ...)

Gary Farber ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2002, 10:07 PM:

It's not in the least a single worm. If the Palestinians had gone about building a robust democratic state, focusing on building industry and education, they could have made great strides, and brought in tons of further foreign aid. If they had used non-violent means of protest against Israel, they could have shamed the broad center of Israel, as well as the left, meaning a broad majority, into granting a full state, and there would be no checkpoints and no humiliation. Beyond that, they very likely could have brought about the dismantling of most settlements; certainly I and gazillions of people, including tons of Jews, would have supported all reasonable pressure on Israel to have brought that about. aaHas Israel's occupation been rotten? Sure. Has it been full of humiliation and oppression for Palestinians? Sure. Is that bad? Sure. Does Israel also bear considerable responsiblity for not fulfilling Oslo committments in the halycon days of 1993-5, as well as the Palestinian Authority? Sure. And we could go on and on and list lots of flawed and absymal Israeli policies worthy of condemnation, including brutality and outright murder. But is any of it on the scale of deliberate mass murder of civilians that is now Palestinian policy? Not even close. aaThere were endless appropriate reactions, but they involve things like not teaching Palestinian children that Jews are foreigners who will eventually be forced out of the entire land of Palestine, which will one day entirely be regained. aaArmed resistance might be called for when there are no other alternatives. The Palestinians had plenty of other alternatives. The alternatives largely lie there, on the floor of history, disregarded and unused. corroding away, covered in blood.

Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2002, 09:41 AM:

A day after I posted that, I finally put my finger on what I think is wrong, rotten, and disgusting with the Palestinian response.a

aSo the Israeli army has tanks, has them bottled up, and has total military superiority. And their only effective weapons are suicide bombers. So what?a

aThere's a precedent for what you do in that situation. You strap explosives to yourself and throw yourself under a tank. It tends to work, and you tend to be remembered as a hero.a

aStrapping explosives to yourself and throwing yourself into a primary school or old folks' home is, um, different.a

a(The precedent? The siege of the Warsaw Ghetto, of course. If they really thought the Israelis were Nazis, Hammas would be using the tactics against them that worked against the Nazis back then. Otherwise ... what? You mean you don't need to throw yourself under a tank? Then what are you doing loitering outside that restaurant full of civilians?)

Kevin J. Maroney ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2002, 10:00 PM:

Charlie, aaThe main tactic that the Jews used to end the Nazi occupation was "hold on until the Red Army arrives". I don't think that's likely to happen in 2002. aaWhich isn't to say that I don't think you're basically right: If the Palestinians believe that force, and only force, can make their situation better, they should at least act like good Muslims and direct that force at military targets.