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Israel-Palestine: Tit-for-tat?

Air Strike Last week on the editorial page, we wrote about a "tit-for-tat" mentality in the Israeli-Palestinian relationship, a "cycle" of actions and reactions that often seems designed to keep the conflict alive rather than to end it. Although we were careful to distinguish between the brutal, terrorist murder of a settler family on the West Bank and Israel's announcement in response that it would build 500 new homes for settlers, we did say that "the Israeli government should be in the business of calming tensions, not stoking them, and of removing obstacles to peace rather than constructing them."

Many readers -- supporters of Israel, for the most part -- were outraged. They felt that we were suggesting a moral equivalency between the horrific murders and Israel's (in our opinion) counterproductive response. We heard from the Prime Minister's office and the Israeli ambassador to the United States, among others.

Israel It was certainly not our intention to suggest any such equivalence. But as for the idea that a cycle exists, one only has to read this week's news. On Saturday, citing "ongoing Israeli crimes," Hamas ended a two–year ceasefire and began shooting rockets across the Gaza border. The next day, Israeli F-16s carried out eight air strikes in response. Instead of backing down, militants on Tuesday fired more rockets from a citrus grove near Gaza City. Israelis, not surprisingly, fired back -- but they missed their target and unintentionally killed three young men playing soccer and a 60-year-old man leaving his house. The following day -- Wednesday -- a bomb was detonated outside the main bus station in Jerusalem -- the first bombing in that city in four years. One woman was killed and 24 other people were injured. Later, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to respond "aggressively," according to the Guardian newspaper.

You can argue forever about who is right and who is wrong. Or how far back to go to determine who started the hostilities. Or how much worse it is or isn't to kill civilians on purpose than it is to kill them as collateral damage. Those are questions for philosophers to wrestle with. But to deny that there's a cycle of violence seems pointless.

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Israel's lost weekend

--Nicholas Goldberg

Top photo: Smoke rises after an Israeli air strike on a security compound in the Gaza Strip March 16. Credit: Ismail Zaydah / Reuters

Bottom photo: Israeli rescue workers and paramedics carry an injured woman to an ambulance after an explosion near a bus stop March 23 in Jerusalem. Credit: Yoav Ari Dudkevitch/Getty Images

 

Comments () | Archives (26)

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trust no one

Actually, you really can't argue how much worse it is to intentionally kill civilians at bus stops, restaurants and discos versus killing people launching rockets. You apologize for moral equivalency in paragraph one and make a morally deranged statement to end the article.

I suppose then, that we are no different than Kaddafi's forces killing civilians, or that the late action taken in Rwanda to stop a genocide was just another step in the circle of violence?

Really, are you just going for hits on the website? At least that would explain such a ridiculous statement.

Lawrence

Of course there is a cycle of violence. The point of the news, the point of an opinion piece, is to illuminate specific activities not obscure them with general statements that imply justification.

Harold

We need a no-fly zone over Gaza and the West Bank like we imposed in Libya. Over 1,000 Palestinian civilians were killed the last time Israel went on a rampage.

What we really need is to force the Israelis into abiding by international law and UN Resolutions, but that will never happen because of the support those crimes have in the US.

RichP

There is violence committed by both sides, but one side kills and wounds far more people, far more times. Hamas broke a two year cease fire, Israel broke a cease fire of several days. Both sides have invaded each other's territory, but on one side the invasion is permanent and by an armed force of hundreds of thousands, and on the other side it is occasional and by ones and twos.

Words like cycle , or tit-for-tat, imply some measure of equality in this situation. No such equality exists; Israel is carrying out ethnic cleansing with all its ugly and illegal aspects, not Palestine.

look at the pictures

Moral equivalence: well, both sides have guns, both sides die. Must be a toss-up.
You see pictures of folks in Gaza, including children, standing in the shadow of a tank. And guess what: they aren't running away or even looking particularly concerned.
You see the same folks in the shadow of local Hamas dudes, and guess what? They're shaking in their boots.
Israelis from time to time enter a private home looking for a bad guy. If nothing goes wrong - and sometimes it does in a rough neighborhood - they leave with or without the bad guys and the residents may be insulted or feeling violated, but they get to write home about it.
The bad guys enter a home in Israel or in a settlement * and leave with nobody alive.
Go figure.
As for the settlements: what remains are in the West Bank, in areas lost by King Hussein's Jordan in a shooting war on a front he started in 1967. And then, suddenly, to wash his hands of the matter, he gave to Yasser Arafat's crowd the very land to which he had no clear title, having lost it pending resolution.
Well, very nice. King Hussein got his peace treaty, and things were quiet. But he "gave" the territory to folks who sometimes seem less interested in peace than politics and headlines.
The LA Times should be ashamed of itself for the way it has presented this issue. If the bad guys would put down their arms, the fight would be OVER. If the Israelis put down their arms, Israel would be over.
I know it, you know it, and the American people know it.

Hypatia


You pontificating editors -- did you happen to notice that the Palestinians murder Israeli civilians indiscriminately, and celebrate their bloody deeds publicly! Look for some of the Arab comments rejoicing on their Web sites .

Whereas the Israelis go to extraordinary lengths to AVOID civilian deaths -- a tough call, when Hamas and Hizbollah routinely site their weapons in homes and mosques and schools, using civilians as human shields.

"Tit for tat" is an ugly, inappropriate phrase for Israeli efforts to find and eliminate the terrorists that are deliberately slaughtering innocent civilians.

Can you IMAGINE an Israeli breaking into a Palestinian home, slashing the throats of a father sleeping with his arm around his infant child; then going on to slash the throats of two other sleeping children?

Or blowing up a suicide bomb near the busiest bus station in Jerusalem, killing at least one and critically injuring many others?

The Times' position on the Israel-Palestine situation has never varied over the years I have been following it closely. So save your crocodile tears!

Arman

RichP: beautifully put. The state of Israel knows how to end this conflict, but it won't. It refuses to recognize the collective oppression it has imposed, for decades, upon the Palestinian people, and has been very successfully at labeling its aggressions as self-defense, which they are not; but the world is waking up.

Jim Bonaire

You should read the book HAJ by Leon Uris.
It really tells a great story about the Sinai peninsula and the Arab / Palestine treachery along with how the British and French colonial powers screwed over that whole North Africa region.

Jack

Tit for tat is not exactly accurate. Israel has a publicly acknowledged policy of at least 10 for 1 (In Cast Lead in Gaza, it was over 100 for 1). And Israel has the capacity to do it with the very latest and most modern weapons, supplied by the US. Israel would certainly prefer that the retribution, revenge, payback, or whatever they call it be militants only. But if it has to be civilians, so be it; the 10 to 1 ratio will be observed. Moral equivalency is a difficult concept. What is the moral relationship between the oppressor and the oppressed?

HoldOn-aMinute

I agree with the author. No matter how bad some of the commentators want to say one side is, over the other, both sides proliferate the conflict. If anything, looking at the body counts, it seems the Palestinians suffer more deaths by far, whenever there is any kind of conflict. But it isn't the point. The point is both sides should stop provoking the other. The fact is that it's human nature to react to violence with violence. The Palestinians have it rough these days and the settlements are actually illegal, but they Israeli government is doing them anyway. The question really, is why. What's their end game if not to continue to have open conflict, since they've got most of the guns and tanks? Right now, there are no good guys and yet each side feels like they are doing the right thing and has good reason to distrust the other.

Bob Johnson

Time for the clowns and idiots on the left to make ever more pathetic excuses for the barbaric actions of their Muslim terrorist heroes.

Stefano888

Also, Jewish Zionists and their 700 Club lackeys are so supremely concerned about the moral equivalency between them and the Palestinians or Arabs or Muslims. There is a difference because most of the world sides with their enemies now and not with them.

David DeBus, Ph.D.

"Israel-Palestine: Tit-for-Tat?"
Calling the collision between Arab Muslims (so-called Palestinians) and Israeli Jews a "cycle" does imply a moral equivalence. To deny this is to deny fundamental rhetorical understandings. This collision has a profoundly imbalanced morality that must not be "left to the philosophers." The incitement and the training in hatred that typifies Arab-Muslim education and culture has no equivalent in Jewish Israel.

"Offending from the victim position" always entitles the person or group who has cultivated that "victim position" to "righteous revenge without limits." The carefully cultivated victim position of the Arab Muslims in Israel means that squalid refugee camps are maintained while Yassir Arafat's widow gets $54 billion from a Swiss bank account on Yassir Arafat's death--money that might have been used to build up an Arab Muslim life and economy. Arab Muslims in Israel told me so--Arafat had his chance to do a peace deal with 95% of what he asked--and he said "no" some thirteen years ago.

EricS

There is only one country that the L.A. Times would dare to apply the disingenuous "cycle of violence" label to: Israel, because the Times knows it can get away with it. Has this idea ever been applied to any other conflict by the L.A. Times? How about Russia and Chechnya? No cycle of violence seen there. How about WWII; a cycle of tit-for tat battles? Moral equivalence between the Allies and the Axis?

The Times acts as if Israel is the only country in history whose military has accidentally killed civilians. There real problem is that the Times can't stand the concept that Israel will stand up and fight to protect their citizens from those who deliberately try to kill them.

Bobby

Lets see if I can get this right- Hamas launches rockets that land wherever and Israel "retaliates" by targeting the rocket launching sites and operatives. Then Hamas fires some more rockets back at Israeli cities and Israel "retaliates" by targeting the sites again. In the process, some innocent "Palestinian" get killed. (That of course is quite sad-but the innocent Israeli's are never mentioned.) Somehow this "cycle" seems a bit one sided to me.
"If the Israelis put down their arms, Israel would be over." I agree!

Wake up call

Arman and RichP: You are both misinformed and dangerously fooled by the lies and misconceptions the Arab world is feeding you. Rich P: You mention Palestine - where exactly is that? What exactly is that? Have you any knowledge of history? Do you know where the name originated and what geographical area it refers to? I think you should educate yourself prior to publically posting ridiculous comments. There is NO Palestine - and NO Palestinian people. Those situated in Gaza are Arabs unwanted by any Arab country. They are surrounded by "their own" and rejected by the same people who could take care of them most. They are not absorbed by their "brothers" because doing so would defeat the purpose for the savage, backward and ruthless Arabs nations whose one and most important goal is to destroy and eliminate Israel and the Jewish people. Let's take it one step further, to destroy and eliminate anyone different from them. As for the LA Times, it is pointless to try and reason with you and those who represent your irresponsible excuse for a paper. You have taken journalism and twisted it to suit your needs; it's a shame that you are so starved for attention. I suppose reporting the facts without adding your unwanted opinions is asking too much. You say that " It was certainly not our intention to suggest any such equivalence." Well maybe you should refer to a dictionary before using "cool sounding" phrases like tit-for-tat ("Tit for tat is an English saying meaning "equivalent retaliation"."). So not only are you displaying your ignorance, you are actually denying your own writing in the same article, how poetically just! Show the world how stupid you all really are!!! I'd like to see if you wouldn't defend yourselves or your families to any extent!

Albert Linder

To claim that "Those are questions for philosophers to wrestle with" is a moral cop out of major proportion. Have you no decency at last to see the moral outrage you continue to engage in?

Edward Halper

"You can argue forever about who is right and who is wrong. Or how far back to go to determine who started the hostilities. Or how much worse it is or isn't to kill civilians on purpose than it is to kill them as collateral damage. Those are questions for philosophers to wrestle with. But to deny that there's a cycle of violence seems pointless."

Philosophers do not argue about whether intentional or unintentional killing is worse. That is a question every American citizen who would be asked to sit on a jury is expected to be able to answer.

One side wants to live in peace and recognize the rights of the other to national autonomy. The other side does not. This is an issue about basic human rights. To deny the moral lopsidedness of the conflict and speak instead of a "cycle of violence" is not just factually wrong, but morally wrong. The LA Times effectively justifies, indeed, becomes complicit in murderous attacks by speaking as if both sides were equally to blame. That is what the phrase "cycle of violence" expresses. If there is ever to be peace in this region, the Palestinian leadership must respect the human rights of Jews. That is not likely to happen before the LA Times and other media are willing to issue an unequivocal condemnation of murder.

Lauren

It doesn't take a philosopher. The law is very clear about INTENT. Consider this:

1. If I drive along the road and a kid runs into the street and I kill him, as sad and unfortunate as it is, the law recognizes that my INTENT was not to kill, and that it is an accident. All other things being equal, there may not even be any jail time.

2. If I INTENTIONALLY drive onto the sidewalk and run over a kid, aiming straight for him, you can bet I'm gonna spent the rest of my life in prison.

That's the difference. See: easy.

Hamas INTENTIONALLY aims at civilian cities with crude and not so crude rockets and bombs, AIMING to kill as many civilians as possible.

Israel tries it's best to avoid civilian casualties, if for no other reason then it's a PR nightmare if you want to be cynical about it. When there is collateral damage, there's an investigation. The point is the INTENT is to harm those that want to harm Israeli civilians, not to harm kids and grannies.

If you need a philosopher to understand that, maybe you should not be working for a major newspaper.

AL

Yes I believe its the Jewish homeland and yes I believe its the Palestinian homeland. Come on people wake up when are you going to live in peace. My opinion erase Israel as a country also erase Palestine as a country. Call the new country Jerusalem have the capital as Jerusalem City. Have the Jewish people control their cities and towns and have the Palestinians control theirs. Forget about the past and live in peace once and for all. Otherwise things will never change.

Thomas Gross

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Sirs:

Your editorial of March 24, 2011, "Israel-Palestine: Tit for Tat?", states clearly that in your view there exists a cycle of violence between Palestinian terrorist organizations and Israel.

Your opinion is incorrect.

The fact is that the violence is initiated by the terrorist organizations, and the response to the violence comes from Israel.

Were the terrorist organizations to cease the violence, then so too would Israel face no need to respond.

Juxtaposed to this, were Israel to fail to respond, the terrorist organizations' violence simply would continue unimpeded.

Kindly understand the following: If all Palestinians laid down any and all of their means of conducting violence, then ALL violence would stop.

Contrariwise, if Israel laid down all their means of conducting warfare, then the violence from the Palestinian terrorist organizations would continue unabated, until Israel was defeated, and her Jewish population killed, ethnically-cleansed, or (in the best case) reduced to an intolerable existence.

Please take the time to read the Hamas Charter carefully. Their opposition to Israel is unrelated to Jewish settlements. Rather, they oppose the existence of Israel. This is the reason that they choose to initiate violence.

I suspect that during WWII you didn't blame the US for the "cycle of violence" that took place between the Allies and the Axis nations. Quite properly, you placed the sole responsibility on Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. The mass murderers initiated hostilities, and the defenders of liberty and justice fought back, until the guilty parties surrendered.

The conflict between Israel and the terrorist organizations is quite similar. The deliberate murderers of children in their sleep initiate the attacks. The defenders of liberty and justice retaliate.

I am astounded that you fail to see this simple yet crucial difference clearly.

Thomas Gross
Herzliya, Israel

Eamonn Riley

Thank you for this brave article, which refuses to allow the usual nonsensical accusations of anti semitism to prevent you from telling the truth. There is a cycle of violence, and it is tit for tat. Children die on both sides. Only a fair peace settlement can stop this violence, and only the settlers and their Zionist supporters stand between Israel and the peace and security that it deserves. The Palestine Papers show that the PLA has made a very generous offer, it should be accepted NOW, before any more innocent people die. Stop building settlements and start the peace talks NOW.

Allan P. Freedman, MD

"You can argue forever about ....how much worse it is or isn't to kill civilians on purpose than it is to kill them as collateral damage. "

I chair several medical ethics committees and can't believe any responsible journal would make such a statement. Some things are no longer just alternate value systems.

Gabriel Turner

Dear Editor

Having done my masters in philosophy I thought it perhaps my obligation to clear up any confusion the vagueness you're response might have someone left in, leaving the subject of killings as 'questions for philosophers to wrestle with'.

Let me make it clear that the job of philosophers is not to dictate what is or is not moral. Philosophers' task is to trace back moral decisions. Ethical philosophy's starting point is 'Why is X considered wrong?' rather than 'Is X wrong or not?'

Thus you leave this problem to the likes of me to solve, when it is clearly a question the man on the street can answer just as well - killing without intention IS considered in my society in England and you're own in the USA as less morally culpable than killing with intention. Such is the division between 'manslaughter' and 'murder' that is recognised in law.

However, this being said, I have a suspicion you may already know that there is a difference between the two terms, and that by saying the word 'philosopher' you are trying to place the argument beyond yourself and you're readers, and use a supposed ignorance of clear moral principles as a defence for tarring Israel's actions and those of a Palestinian with the same brush. This is not a strong approach to commentary on conflict, nor is it indicative of impartiality.

Gabriel

Ran

I would like to remind all of you that Isarel evicted all the israelis from Gaza strip 6 years and its army doesnt staying there anymore. but the Palestinian dont stop the terror. the Hamas wants to destroy Israel for good.
The israelis want peace and quiet. How would you feel if rocekts were fired at L.A??

Ex-LA Times Reader

That's it. I finally cancelled my subscription to the LA Times for good. For anybody posting comments that Israel is the "oppressor" just know that much of the Arab world doesn't want Israel to exist. You can't negotiate with that. Murders like the Fogel murders were happening long BEFORE apartments were being built in disputed land so it's a false tit-for-tat. And to be clear, the "disputed land" happens to be Israeli land which they won in a defensive war. If the Arabs had won any of the 6 wars they initiated nobody would be crying for Israel's rebirth. It's only because Israel has the gall to refuse to lose wars they didn't start that we're having any discussion at all. But much of the land will probably be given as a gift to the Palestinians anyway if they show any sign of real peace. The entire SINAI was given back to Egypt when they signed a peace treaty. Israel does not want land, they want peace.


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