Jan 7, 2009

Heartless in Gaza

I heard an interview on CBC this morning with a Canadian who is serving as a civilian helper for the Israeli army. I felt a great sadness hearing him say that he was happy about the "operation" in Gaza, calling it "payback" and being "glad to see the other side getting some too."

Where to start about the sick morality of war? The first thing that comes to mind listening to people like that is the stupid tribalism. Can't we get past that idiocy already? My race is smarter and cuter than your race. My god is bigger and meaner than your god. I've never understood that way of thinking. In high-school I wasn't able to summon up the proper "school spirit," not really caring whether we won the foot-ball game or not. It seemed stupid to me then, and it seems stupid to me now.

War is inherently wrong and it can only be justified in immediate self-defence, if even then. Every ordinary human, moral value is abandoned or reversed in war. Killing is good, lying is good, stealing is acceptable. Even rape is winked at.

From "A People's History of the American Revolution," here is a British officer writing to his father after a successful landing on Staten Island;

"The fair nymphs of this isle are in a wonderful tribulation, as the fresh meat our men have got here have made them as riotous as satyrs. A girl cannot step into the bushes to pluck a rose without running the most immediate risk of being ravished, and they are so little accustomed to these vigorous methods that they don't bear them with the proper resignation, and of consequence we have the most entertaining courts-martial every day."

The current action in Gaza isn't even fit to be called a war, it is a plain massacre. We hear all the rote excuses from the Israeli military about not targeting civilians and blaming it all on Hamas for "hiding among the population." "We do everything we can to minimize collateral damage." But that isn't "collateral damage", that is a pile of corpses, many of them little children, and every one somebody's son, daughter, mother, father, brother, sister, lover. What do they expect dropping bombs and shells into one of the most densely populated places on earth?

And they lie, and lie again. The historical record is clear, Hamas didn't break the ceasefire, Israel did by invading Gaza back in November to destroy some tunnels, killing one hundred people in the process. Of course, the Hamas rockets are just as evil in intent if not (by a very long shot) in effect. Of course, but so what? And don't forget the bigger picture, most of the Gazans are descendants of refugees ethnically cleansed from their homes in 1948.

While we are talking about lies and the historical record, Hamas didn't take power in a "coup" as lame duck Bush said; they won an election and resisted a Fatah coup. Yes, they don't recognize Israel but neither does Israel recognize the Palestinian right to a decent life either. Many Zionist apologists even deny that any such people as "Palestinians" even exist. One wonders in that case where the rockets are coming from?

This is not a war, this is a prolonged massacre after a year of deliberate and very cruel starvation blockade. In more civilized times, that alone was considered an act of war.

I believe that the fundamental moral error that lies behind war, and massacre, is the really evil idea that "the end justifies the means." This idea, whether stated implicitly or not, lies behind every invasion, bombing campaign, crusade and jihad in history. Sure, people are being killed by the thousands but it is necessary to spread democracy, the true religion, free-markets, socialism. As Madeleine Albright famously said about another starvation blockade, and the death of thousands of Iraqi children, "it's a price we are willing to pay."

The cowardly response of the so-called leaders of western countries is disgusting, if not surprising. Canada's Stephen Harper is predictably blaming the Palestinians for getting in the way of Israeli bombs and bullets. If the western countries would only speak the truth and call things by their right names, Israel would never dare to go on these killing campaigns.

But whatever Bush, Harper, Brown and the rest of the sorry crew say, slaughter of human beings en masse is a crime, even when it is done by those perceived as on the "home team."

Maybe it is the women who will save us. Here are a group of courageous Jewish women who have occupied the Toronto Israeli consulate in protest;


And here is one incredibly courageous woman in Palestine (wait for it, it's about one minute or so into the clip):

Every blessing on all those who non-violently resist the powerful.


Konchog said...

I'm with you, Ven., all the way. I keep seeing the news call it "the fighting." There is no fighting. It's killing, and my country's complicity deeply shames and frustrates me. Jan. 20 has been far too long coming, but we'll see if we can really manage authentic moral change, not just the cosmetic kind.

Unknown said...
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Unknown said...

Chavez got it right.

Many of the bobble-heads have become an army of the undead, with no respect for life, and even their UN lich queen cannot hide her true countenance despite the makeup and bling.

They, together with Disneyland, are in need of some exorcism.

Unknown said...

How does one find a moderate path, with corpses of murdered children strewn on all sides. Lifted dust-covered from rubble their blank faces bloody and bruised, if the small chance of luck in massacre favors--perhaps a family member remains alive, cramped with wailing grief, to mourn.

Where is the middle ground Buddha would have us find amid chants for vengence and slaughter, in populations of murderers, democracies of shared genocidal guilt.

Meditating brings peace, but the market place is clogged with blood-soaked rags.

Unknown said...
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That Guy said...

Well, Ajhan,

The way to hell is paved with good intentions.

It seems that the comments here are a good example of wrong speech.

Morality requires right speech, in all situations.

Too Bad.

Unknown said...

The heroic young woman is right in a much broader sense. "Pull back" she says to the soldiers... this applies to all sides. The roots of this conflict are so deep that the path to resolution can only lie with both sides putting down the burden of their anger and hatred. Talk of right and wrong is futile and serves only to fuel the conflict.

Unknown said...
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Unknown said...


"Look how he abused me and beat me,
How he threw me down and robbed me."

Abandon such thoughts and live in love.

Unknown said...

Ah the good old slogan of living in love, how do you apply that to a whole country like Palestine that now has around 5 million refugees spread out in neighboring countries?

The Palestinians are evil for not accepting occupation; Dr.Martin Luther King was evil for not accepting racism; Nelson Mandela was evil for not accepting apartheid; the American Indians were evil for not accepting their fate, and the Australian Aborigines were evil for not accepting theirs. If only they had loved their oppressors it would have been much more convenient.

Should we release all of the criminals from prisons in the name of love?

Criminals have to be stopped and Israel needs to be stopped.

There has to be some semblance of justice, and not simply accepting the words of those who have the most money, power, and influence as being the truth.

Number one, the Palestinian people must be allowed to return to their homeland.

Number two, all Palestinians must have basic human rights, including the right to vote.

Maybe then, you can start talking about love.

Philip Kienholz said...

"That Guy" condemns, in his comment here, wrong speech. But questioning and doubting, if the teachings that are questioned and doubted do turn out to be true, leads to strengthened knowledge [call it belief if you want], based on the experience of thinking and of testing in the real world--in the market place, where the beggar is urinating on your shoes, the merchant has his thumb on the scale while your food is being weighed, and today the hospitals and schools are being bombed; ambulances, doctors, teachers, and school children are being riddled with bullets, not the word, "bullets," not the wrong speech “bullets,” but metal projectiles of real death.

How is the writer experiencing compassion in empathetic imagination with this situation? Is it strained? Is it broken? Can it even still be there in the ungodly stress of military terror brutality wreaked on a civilian population. Oh, but they are of another tribe, another group, another far away and indigenous body, not one of us—us so to speak. So the exercise of empathy becomes optional. No need to try to give voice from within the suffering. But still at least there should be consideration of legal treaties and standards for the conduct of nation states. That guidance has been hard-won, is valuable, and only the foolish and pathological have discounted it.

I would call it first the lazy who accept on blind faith, "because X says so.…" It is a noble ideal to exercise what the Buddha requested of his Sangha, to be lamps onto their own footsteps, to test with experience--in the yogic tradition—everything, and to live by the knowledge gained.

And now our marketplace is filled with spin and lies from an American Zionist lobby who would kill the memory of the 1948 genocidal ethic cleansing that provided the terrain for Israel’s nation state, and who would then expand Israel to include water sources, and energy deposits and pathways beyond the 1967 borders, all in the name of a demonic, furious paranoia as fearful of its neighbors’ perceived lack of humanity as it is alienated from its own. The poisoned discourse is maintained by corporate media who understand the private profit of war. So if now within this miasma where thought itself is labeled forbidden, where guideposts of history are being cut down and buried, and our lives bounded in every direction by waves of electronic advertising and the puppet speech of government propaganda, if we do not now in practice and in practicality doubt and question the discourse, we are doomed to be the automata of consumption, to know no freedom and not a scintilla of truth.

Yes, peace needs good faith negotiations, where both parties are thinking of the needs of the other as well as of their own. One side has to start and initially one-sidedly maintain the good faith practice so that trust can gain a first, meager foothold. The Israeli scholar Reuven Paz is quoted in a Council on Foreign Relations backgrounder publication on Hamas, “Approximately 90 percent of its work is in social, welfare, cultural, and educational activities.” Targeting that 90 percent of Hamas’ work, and leafleting the Palestinians to leave their homes to avoid the onslaught brings horrendous echoes of the Nakba of 1948, where the choice was also leave or die.

If I knew how to start that good faith practice…. “If I had a way to reach the sky, I’d grab that crescent moon, wield it like a knife, and save you from the lies, from the ropes that bind you, and the role you play, and the game that hooks you…,” Buffy Sainte-Marie.

That Guy said...

Dear "Philip Keinholtz",

Let me please be more accurate.

I'm against killing.

I'm against shooting in general, not only on civil targets.

I do not think that the war in Gaza is going to help one of the sides in the long run, thus it is stupid.

Both Hamas and Israel are stupid and immoral; the fact is that Israel has more power now. However, the fact that there are no massive demonstrations in the west bank shows something about what the palestinians really think about Hamas. (And it is no reason for Israel to act as it acts).

I do not think, however, that giving a stage to racism (please read some of the "anonymous" comments) provides any good. I do not think that it reduces the conflict flames.

I think that by not elliminating such coments, the writer of this blog becomes a supporter of such opinions.

Such comments are not helpfull, nor skillfull. They do not serve any of the sides in this conflict.

One should talk, shout, demonstrate, act; but in a skillfull way. Racism is not a skillfull way. It is always wrong, and I was very surprise to find such opinion in a blog that contains so many posts about morality.

I hope I'm clear now.

Unknown said...
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That Guy said...


Please allow me to thank you for your moral act of deleting the racist comments.

After reading the next post, and following your required act of censoring, I take back all my claims about morality, written above.

Indeed, hatred cannot be solved by hatred; only by love.