Wednesday, October 20, 2021

What are they REALLY saying?

What do those Jewish academics who condemned Israel for its military action in Gaza really object to?

There are two possibilities.

(A) They might have the position that Israel is fully entitled, even responsible, to try to stop rockets being fired at its civilian towns. This will obviously entail a certain amount of civilian casualties on the other side, but they are of the view that Israel killed far more civilians than it should have done for its strategic needs. This would be the definition of "disproportionate" according to international law (though, as I pointed out, it can be refuted by looking at the actual numbers of combatants and civilians killed).

(B) Alternately, they might be of the view that Israel is not entitled to take any military action at all, even thought there were thousands of rockets being fired at its towns. There are two possible reasons for taking this position. (B1) One is that the very existence of Israel is an ongoing crime, committed by all its citizens. As such, Hamas is perfectly entitled to fire rockets at them without response. (B2) A second reason would be based on the (ridiculous) Western/Woke idea that the weaker party is always correct. As such, since Israel is far more powerful than Gaza, it has no right to try to stop the attacks on its citizens.

Now, which of these positions are taken by the Jewish academics who signed the condemnation of Israel's "state violence" in Gaza? 

Of course, if they had any sense of professionalism and responsibility, the letter would have spelled out exactly what they mean (and it would have been backed up with arguments and evidence). But, as already demonstrated, the signatories don't have any sense of professionalism and responsibility - they are like charedi rabbis who sign bans ex cathedra. But perhaps there is actually a reason for the lack of detail.

In my extensive back-and-forth with one of the signatories, Shaul Magid, he kept insisting that the letter was about proportionality. Ye he had no explanation as to why the letter didn't actually specify that. He also had no substantive response to my pointing out that the letter very much indicated otherwise, since it just condemned Israel for its "state violence in Gaza" and said nothing whatsoever about Israel being entitled to neutralize rocket fire (as Western politicians were all careful to point out). Furthermore, he made comments about how Israel has by far the more powerful fighting force - a key indicator of B2 above. I kept asking him how that is remotely relevant to responding to rockets, but he never responded. 

So what's actually going on? I'm no psychologist. But I think that the comments about Israel having a superior force are a Freudian slip - as is the wording of the letter itself. The signatories to this condemnation are uncomfortable with Israel taking ANY action against Hamas firing rockets, even that which fully conforms with official "Laws of War" code regarding minimizing civilian casualties. But they can't possibly explicitly admit this - perhaps not even to themselves. On the other hand, while they may think that they are only opposing an (allegedly) disproportionate response, they can't bring themselves to promote a declaration which includes saying that Israel is justified in taking proportionate action against Hamas. To do so would be too uncomfortably pro-Israel, and would also risk alienation among their peers. As such, they prefer to condemn Israel without getting into any uncomfortable specifics.


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42 comments:

  1. They are objecting to their Jewish guilt and their internalized sense of defeatism.

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    1. That's quite a convenient and underevidenced assertion to make on behalf of a country whose military is currently occupying what under Israeli law is not Israeli territory. Maybe we are objecting to the Baruch Marzel occupation?

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  2. You refused to engage with me pointing out that your very simplistic ratio of deaths in an arbitrary time period cherry picked up flatter Israel is reductionist. There were times when Hamas did better than Israel in this crude basis.

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    1. So you align with the Woke idea that the weaker party is always correct? Weak makes right? That's a stupid argument. Hamas awoke a giant and paid dearly for it. They could have talked it over but decided on violence and intimation instead. They therefore got what they deserved. And what does proportionally mean anyway? So, more Germans during WWII dies than British. Were the Nazis right? You see the absurdity in this? I never understand how liberals Jews can hate their country so much that they'd make any excuse to destroy it.

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    2. If a 9 year old child having a tantrum picked up a chair and threatened to hit me with it I don't have to let her beat me but it certainly wouldn't be proportionate to beat her senseless with a hammer. That's an exaggerated metaphor for Israel- Palestine, in Maggid's opinion.

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      I must point out that I don't adopt much of this position myself vis a vis Gaza.

      My own position is that on a tacticial level *most* engagements in Gaza *are* proportionate. The material moral issue is the strategic plan to continue mowing the lawn without having the political resolution to take casualties and make alliances to resolve the issue of a Gaza terror state, which entails a legacy of great hardship for both Palestinian and Israeli future generations.

      However I think civilian property is deliberately targeted by Israel and I think civilian lives are treated with insufficient respect, for example by policing border riots with snipers.

      I also think that Israel is prolonging a military occupation and civilian land theft project of great inhumanity and territorial aggression in the West Bank in a way which is far more objectionable than its conduct in Gaza.

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      Although I don't adopt Maggid's position attempts to portray such as an obviously humanitarian position as bad faith, anti-Semitic, or otherwise discriminatory are obviously grasping at straws. Maggid argues that proportionality is a nebulous, subjective question, and that even if your subjective understanding of proportionality differs from his, attempts to portray his position as anything other than genuinely held, are a 'klutz kashe.'

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      Of course counting casualty figures alone is simplistic. That's exactly what the Rabbi Dr's klutz kashe against Maggid's was. That's exactly my point.

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      A holistic view of the entirety of the conflict would in any objectives person's view give rise to the view that Israel is far more often the aggressor than the innocent victim.

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      I note none of the usual suspects will be Godwin's Lawing the above. There is no genuine truthful engagement, just tacticial gameplay hasbara on this issue.

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      You keep using 'woke' as a synonym for 'moral'. There is nothing wrong with having moral standards.

      It's desperately sad that the right wing echo chambers have lost all sight of right and wrong. There was a time when the right was defined by its keen attention to questions of personal moral responsibility. In this era humans are now regarded as expendable as chickens.

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    3. "There were times when Hamas did better than Israel in this crude basis."

      During the 2014 war, Israel sent ground forces into Gaza, giving Hamas a chance to run up the score of military casualties, and thus military to civilian ratio. Are you suggesting that having that opportunity to run up the score demonstrates a measure of morality on Hamas's part?

      The simple fact is that to protect Israeli civilians, it is necessary to have Iron Dome at 100K per intercept and quickly accessible bomb shelters. To protect Gaza civilians, all that is needed is to refrain from placing offensive hardware on the same block as civilian infrastructure.

      You also never suggested a single measure Israel could take, other than turn the other cheek and accept the rockets raining down, that would reduce casualties to Gaza civilians.

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    4. " I think civilian property is deliberately targeted by Israel"

      Cite evidence. If Israel is targeting civilian infrastructure, why are buildings getting leveled and not blocks? As to the reportedly civilian targets hit by Israel, do you have access to the intelligence that Israel used to target them, thus having the necessary information to assess if there was sufficient reason to believe there was a military target, or have you read anything by someone who does?

      "civilian land theft project of great inhumanity and territorial aggression in the West Bank in a way which is far more objectionable"

      Until you accept that Jordan's 1949 conquest does not give the Palestinians an automatic right to it in its entirety, I will reject your premise. The Palestinians are entitled to whatever infill from Areas A/B so that a genuine effort to build a state on that land would have a reasonable expectation of success, nothing more. The PNM is more interested in having its statelessness as justification to the international community to pressure Israel, so the lack of a state arising from the current Areas A/B shows nothing about what can be expected from a genuine effort.

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    5. Sar Shalom,

      At risk of repeating myself, the Rabbi Dr is the one who thinks that casualty ratios is proof positive of proportionality. I am the one who argued that is hopelessly reductive.

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      Every time rockets are fired at Central Israel, the standard response is to attack high rise blocks.

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      https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/mec/2018/05/10/mowing-the-grass-and-the-force-casualty-tradeoff/

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      Israel's own position in justifying the legality of the occupation is that its occupation of all areas - even Area C apart from Yerushalayim - is temporary and for security purposes only.

      https://www.btselem.org/publications/summaries/200205_land_grab

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    6. A 9 year old child may not be fully aware of the implications of her actions or even know what she is doing. Hamas knows what they're getting involved with and killed innocent people while doing it (with rockets). The analogy fails and Hamas deserves whatever comes.

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    7. "It's desperately sad that the right wing echo chambers have lost all sight of right and wrong."

      Your talking about the left allowing abortion, of course. The Left are the ones who lost morals when they abort babies while the right tries to save the most innocent among us. I think you got it flipped.

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    8. Israel can't, nor shouldn't be counting heads to fit the casualty figures as close as possible. No one else plays war that way. Certainly not Hamas when they fired rockets indiscriminately at civilians.

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  3. You missed option (B3): that what is proportionate depends on the extent of the risk to civilians and that reduced risk reduces but does not eliminate the threshold of proportional response. That is to say, you've reduced the complex and subjective (in Maggid's opinion- I disagree) spectrum of proportionally to a binary.

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  4. They have the right to defend themselves. Israel has the right to defend itself. The only reason they take the side of terrorist is because they are evil, anti-semitic, and traitors.

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    1. ...or they think that the occupation and associated land theft by civilians is not defensive.

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    2. No one is obligated to be permanently defensive. And you know this because in your twisted moral system (if you can call it that) you don't require any other people to do this, except for Jews.
      Of course it's a false premise to begin with that Israeli civilians "stole" land, but that's a separate matter.
      Unfortunately for you, the failed Arab attempts at genocide have consequences. And endangering Jewish lives to make you feel kumbaya in your tummy is not a wise strategy.
      You may think certain land is "earmarked" for someone else, (namely, a nation who desires Israel's destruction and isn't satisfied merely with that parcel but also wants Tel Aviv and Haifa), but it simply isn't. It never was. And God willing, it never will be.

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    3. What is the military or moral justification for Boruch Marzel's occupation? The occupation is often *it's own* security problem.

      If Israel claims sovereignty over the West Bank, I've explained ad nauseum that they ought to have the courage of their convictions, annexe the West Bank, give full citizenship to the residents, and say goodbye to a Jewish and democratic state within a generation.

      The right to vote for the hegemon is currently only available on racially discriminatory grounds - a travesty of democracy, a legal apartheid.

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    4. Israel has always belong to Jews, at least since the days of Abraham. Why do Arabs have a right to west bank? Didn't Arabs kick out Jews during the 1948 war? If Israel allows Arabs to vote and become full citizens it will no longer be a Jewish state but an Arab state. Then the Arabs kick us out of our own country. Then we take refugee in Europe. Then we're back to where we started, all over again. Congratulations!

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  5. These comments that are always made about Israel having a superior force are completely disingenuous. This "superior force" is, for all the moral permission Israel is ever given to use it, a very expensive paperweight.

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    1. Huh? Israel has used pretty much every weapon in its armoury, including F35, F16, F15, Heron TP Eitan, a variety of smaller UCAVS, Merkava 4M, Namer, Achzarit, other armoured fighting vehicles, M109 and indigenous 155mm artillery, and various watercraft including its Sufa frigates on Gaza

      The only weapon systems which appear not to have been used are the submarines and the rumoured Jericho nuclear armed ICBM.

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  6. Thousands of years without power will work a job on the psyche of a people. Eventually, rationalizations will be made, particularly (but not exclusively) among those furthest from the ancient traditions. Many, many Jews are, simply, very uncomfortable with (because, at least partially, they are very unused to) the idea that Jews may have, and of course exercise, actual physical power. It doesn't help that further rationalizations may have to be made, for many Jews at least (particularly the Orthodox) as to why they are not living in their ancestral lands, and this ambiguous (at best) feeling toward power provides a good rationalization.

    And of course it doesn't help that many Jews have bought fully into their political "side," such that whatever said side believes or does (even if obviously detrimental to Jews) is fine with them. (In fairness, this complete buy-in is not limited to Jews, nor indeed to the Left, but it's very obvious in those examples.) And as that side is now completely over on the Lennon-Yoko ideal of how the world should work ("Imagine," "Give Peace a Chance," etc.), well, that's where the Jews are going to be as well.

    It's from such things that we get such nonsense as declarations that, as a people who suffered through the Holocaust, Jews should have learned the lesson that they have to be X (nicer to minorities, forgiving of Arabs, whatever) when any normal nation, having had six million of its members murdered, would, first and foremost and perhaps exclusively, learn the lesson that their number one, and perhaps only, job is to exercise every option in their power to make sure it never happens to them again.

    I do note with interest that Magid has just written a book on Meir Kahane that, to the surprise of many, is not all that negative. I'm at a loss to explain this: Maybe it's an example of extremes meeting, or at least those at one being attracted, for one reason or another, to those at the other end. Or maybe it's the same common sense coming to very different conclusions. Or maybe, to be cynical, Magid has no problem saying that Israel is under the influence of someone he (at least) despises, as that allows him to attack Israel all the more easily. Well, it's just a point.

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    1. It's such an inversion of objective reality to claim that the Palestinians are being oppressed to prevent a Holocaust. You Are Not The Victims Here.

      The actual perpetrators of the Holocaust also claimed they were defensively saving the German race.

      Godwin's Law idiots: I wasn't the one who justified oppression and occupation by reference to the Holocaust.

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    2. "It's from such things that we get such nonsense as declarations that, as a people who suffered through the Holocaust, Jews should have learned the lesson that they have to be X (nicer to minorities, forgiving of Arabs, whatever)"

      Is there anyone other than Jews for whom the equivalent is ever said? If so, is there any for it is often said?

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    3. Yes, Sat Shalom. The Germans, fresh from the defeat of WW1, blamed the Jews and justified their oppression of Jews as

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    4. Hat, why don't you take a few semesters in reading comprehension before you dare show your Jew-hating face around here. So far it seems the only course you've taken is one in missing the point.

      Sar: Of course not, never.

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    5. A slip up there from the Hat. Apologies for missing the point.

      But to answer the question, the Tutses, fresh from being massacred by the Hutus, are not granted fifty years' grace from accountability for their own failures after sweeping back into power - and then taking revenge. The Iraqi military and police force were widely criticised for torturing and summarily mudering IS detainees without negating the fact that IS had itself committed terrible atrocities; before which Syria had behaved with the utmost cruelty against its rebels. Jacob Zuma is widely reviled as a man who has betrayed his past.

      This whining victimhood culture is so tragically pathetic and inane.

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    6. Ah, so it's not just reading, it's writing as well. That made no sense.

      And it's "Tutsis".

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    7. If you Google 'oppressed become opressor' you will find multiple examples of this idea applied mainly to Africans.

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  7. Unrelated but important: Artscroll has quietly just released a reprint of My uncle the Netziv!

    For those in the know, it was a controversial book that was banned!

    https://www.artscroll.com/Products/MYUH.html

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    1. This is a cosmic leap for the chareidi society! Took about 30 years for the acceptance to happen, but none the less welcome!

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    2. It was always available. Lakewood banned it, but Artscroll has always sold it.

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    3. It's not like Artscroll was going to pulp perfectly good books.

      Of course this, the first English charedi book ban, ties directly into that of R' Slifkin. (Same imprint and author/publisher.)

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  8. @The Hat

    Despite me generally thinking you are as mad as your maker, I do think you make some sense in this area.

    I would generally agree that there is a lot more nuance in this question than RNS portrays, and I don't think that all that speak against Israel's actions are necessarily anti-semetic or anti Israel.

    However it does seem to me that Israel finds itself in a bind here in as much as there don't seem to be any palatable options open to it. Israel has had a range of governments from all political stripes over the past decades, and neither left nor right has managed to break-through the deadlock. None are hawkish enough to undertake the draconian steps necessary to forcibly solve the issue (personally I don't think there is a morally defensible military solution to the issue, bur even if there were I think Israel taking it would send it to the diplomatic stone age. Either way no government led by sharon, bibi etc was able / willing to do such a thing), nor doveish enough to roll over far enough to give the Palestinian leadership all they demand (which is basically a never ending list anyway).

    So to your argument that the "mowing the grass" approach I ask what is the realistic alternative option? The current approach in that regard basically is "we'll keep the status quo until there is a change in leadership on the other side that is genuinely willing to come to reasonable terms". That is clearly some way off, but as there appear to be no viable unilateral solutions, what are the other options?

    (This question is aside from the issue of settlement expansion etc. I agree that that seems to be unhelpful and that to whatever degree possible the status quo should be left in place such that if and when there is some change in tack from the other side, maximum possibility is left that an actual mutually acceptable long-term solution can be found).

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    1. Expanded on this ad nauseum but anyway: (1) build a coalition with Egypt and the PA over 5 year period and then (2) instead of simulating war in a way which is increasingly devoid of credibility, actually to close with, engage and defeat the enemy, then hand over Gaza to the PA.

      I estimate 1,000 Israeli casualties, a 2 month operation, and probably 5,000 to 10,000 Palestinian civilian deaths. My proposal is not without risk and almost certain heavy loss. But it is not increasingly futile posturing leaving each successive generation with a more empowered terror state on the border.

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  9. I think their reasoning is this: Since Israel can defend itself against rocket attacks with its defense system, there was no need to bomb Gaza at all. Of course, this is ridiculous, as defensive measures do nothing to ameliorate the need for defensive measures against aggression (i.e. bombs from Gaza).

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  10. I think that you have mischaracterised the notion of proportionality.

    Proportionality relates to the strategic aims. In the case of the Gaza conflict, the strategic aims of the conflict was to destroy Hamas's ability to fire missiles at the Israeli civilian population. Civilian death is not in fact a war crime - in and of itself. Rather it is the deliberate targeting of civilians that is the war crime. (I would hasten to add, that in achieving the strategic objectives, the belligerents do need to do everything humanly possible to reduce collateral casualties, however they do not have to absorb greater casualties themselves to do so.)

    I find it funny that people spew venom about war crimes but I doubt that they have read the actual document that they are citing.
    See here: https://www.un.org/en/genocideprevention/documents/atrocity-crimes/Doc.33_GC-IV-EN.pdf

    I want to draw everyone's attention to Article 28 and 29 of the Convention:

    ART. 28. — The presence of a protected person may not be used
    to render certain points or areas immune from military operations.

    ART. 29. — The Party to the conflict in whose hands protected
    persons may be, is responsible for the treatment accorded to them
    by its agents, irrespective of any individual responsibility which may be incurred

    (One should also read Article 19).

    The point, of course is, has Israel done its utmost to avoid civilian casualties in the context of the fact that strategic assets of Hamas (namely rocket launchers, military barracks etc) are built in civilian areas. The Convention explicitly and unambiguously places responsibility for civilian death, when they have been used as a shield, on the persons who used them as shields. (Re-read article 29.)

    (The real objectives of the do-gooders is to render Israel defensive action against Hamas/Palestinian by definition a war crime. Consider the response to roof knocking, a tactic explicitly intended to provide warning of imminent attack.)

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    1. I'm not here to defend Hamas. I don't doubt that they commit war crimes. I'm here to explain how Israel is far from innocent.

      Article 29 implies that Israeli civilian settlements which have been built for security reasons in territories occupied by the military nominally for security reasons are unacceptable.

      Does one actually politely roof knock for an actual military target of value, or is the point to cause as much civilian property damage and suffering for as few deaths as possible? It's likely that some of the installations in the towers are so heavy a 90 minute delay wouldn't suffice to evacuate then. But it's also likely that many of these towers do not contain targets of military interest ('Dahiyah Doctrine').

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    2. Hello Mr Hat,

      You seem to be deflecting the conversation. The question is not whether settlements are bad or good (although I would answer that 70 years of refusal to accept a compromise two state solution - you know the "three no's"- are why we are here. The settlements are a direct consequence of a policy of intransigence).

      Nevertheless, in terms of the plain meaning of the words- Article 29 says nothing about settlements. It is completely silent on them. Article 29 relates to injury or casualty to a protected person as a consequence of the action of one of the belligerent parties - specifically if the belligerent is placing them in harms way deliberately. Ironically, you forcing the interpretation of the Article 29 to match your prejudiced outcome is exactly my complaint.


      Mr Hat, you are 100% correct - Israel has a responsibility to make sure that Palestinians under Israeli control ("in whose hand persons may be..") are protected and do not come to adverse harm as a result of Israeli action (or inaction) in the conflict. This assuredly does not apply to Palestinians under Hamas governorship in Gaza, and I wonder to what extent this is true of Palestinians living in the PA.

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    3. I do think the presence of little civilian Jewish children walking the streets unprotected in areas where soldiers, for well founded operational and security reasons, will not go without full ceramic plated body armour and Kevlar helmets is an obvious war crime under article 29, and one you can observe daily in Chevron.

      I don't think it is at all contrived to describe it like this. No responsible parent wouldn't bring up their children in a war zone if they could choose not to. No responsible military commander would allow children to wander around metres from and even within operational bases which received gunfire within the none to distant past.

      No child should be born into a act as a human shield for ideological, zealous adults in this way.

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    4. "I don't think it is at all contrived"

      And yet what you write here is both:
      1) completely different to your first response to my post
      2) Still completely unrelated to Article 29.

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    5. 1) not true. I initially made the point that deliberately settling civilians to secure territory is a war crime. I brought home the point with reference to the children of Chevron but it was the same argument.
      2) Art 29 provides that civilians are to be protected. Hence my assertion that not protecting children in the settlements is a war crime.

      Both your points are of the hasbara rather than substantive engagement type. Does it matter what I did or didn't say or which article is engaged if war crimes are being committed?

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  11. I'll add to what I wrote above: Many Jews have a real problem with Jewush *sovereignty*, period. This isn't so much being ground into dust for 2,000 years of galut- although that plays a part- as being completely free in America and elsewhere for 150 years. Find something wrong with Israel, and your "problem" goes away, at least in your mind. And it ain't only the Left that does it. Real life, as opposed to Aggadot on the Messianic Era, is messy. It's why charedim never made peace with Israel, it's a problem many Religious Zionists have despite having a far right, Religious PM, and now you hear many Modern Orthodox Jews citing charedi ideology. And from a very different angle, the Left. It satisfies needs.

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