The Weissglas “diet”

In a move eerily reminiscent of the Bush administration’s redefinition of “torture” to the point that “anything’s okay so long as the person doesn’t die or suffer permanent organ failure”, Dov Weissglas, the longtime adviser to Israeli premiers is now talking about projecting Israel’s war against Hamas onto the bodies of Palestinian children and other noncombatants.
This, from today’s HaAretz:

    “It’s like a meeting with a dietician. We have to make them much thinner, but not enough to die,” said the prime minister’s adviser Dov Weissglas.

A couple of posts ago, I was getting into a discussion about the quite foreseeable effects of a cutoff of external aid to the OPTs, which I said could lead to actual deaths from starvation.
I still think that. But to even get into that argument, it seems to me, is to set the bar for acceptable human behavior far, far too low. (Like the Bush definition of “torture.”)
After getting into that argument, it became clear to me that we should oppose all attempts to intentionally– in pursuit of a political objective– place any barriers at all on the flourishing of noncombatant persons. Just “not forcing them to starve” is ways too low a bar to hold up.
In a sense, nearly all of the present corpus of international humanitarian law as it has developed since the 1850s aims at separating civilian populations and other noncombatants from the harmful consequences of warfare. Certainly, any deliberate attempt to entangle civilians in a political battle between two political leaderships– in the way that, for example, Shimon Peres did in his disastrous April 1996 military aggression against Lebanon– should be completely rejected and opposed.
This is exactly the same basic principle that underlies the prohibition on terror attacks against civilians… There too the aim is to use the deliberate infliction of harm on civilians to sway the decisions made by political leaders.
In both cases, this deliberate entanglement of civilians in a political/military battle should be completely opposed.
Shimon Peres may claim (as indeed, he did to me in person in March 1998) that he “didn’t intend” to kill the 120-plus old people who were killed by IDF shelling in Qana. Ah yes, but what he and the rest of the Israeli leadership clearly did intend– and we know this because they said it very publicly at the time– was to put such huge pressure on the civilian population of Lebanon that they would rise up and beg their leaders to ‘cry uncle’ to Israel.
And along the way there, in the course of that panic-driven uprooting of one-third of the population of Lebanon (which yes, was enitrely a part of Peres’s plan… he said he wanted them to be forced to go to Beirut), quite predictably old people died and babies and the sick and infirm died, purely because of the uprooting. That was entirely foreseeable, given the record established during tens of previous rounds of IDF-spurred mass uprootings in Lebanon. Then on top of those foreseeable deaths, given the amount of lethal firepower used in the assault, it was not surprising at all that 120 old people ended up getting killed in Qana…
So anyway, as I said, that 1996 attempt to entangle a neighboring population in a hard-fought political battle ended up disastrously for nearly everyone concerned… except Hizbullah, which at that point won nearly all of its long-fought battle for the liberation of South Lebanon from Israeli occupation. (That victory didn’t fully unfold till 2000; but the strategic balance had tipped definitively in April 1996.)
See, here’s the thing about attempts to entangle civilian populations in violence and coercion: they very frequently backfire. I could argue this, certainly, about Peres’s pathetic and very harmful aggression in 1996. I think I could argue it convincingly about the terror campaign that Hamas and others waged against Israel’s civilian population since 1987… In both cases, the fact that the assault comes against civilians stiffens the reolve of civilians. It doesn’t cow them. (Maybe the Hamas leaders realized that. Maybe that’s why they agreed unilaterally to halt their operations against targets inside Israel back in February of last year?)
So where is Israel’s learning curve on this issue? Can’t Israel’s leaders, too, look back at the past (including April 1996 in Lebanon, but a lot of other occasions, too) and realize that this latest attempt to starve the Palestinians into submission is likewise doomed to fail?
That HaAretz piece goes on to say this:

    Some officials suggested separating the Palestinian population, which would continue receiving the aid, and its government. This was also the American administration’s position, it was said at the meeting.

Gosh, can these people really all be that stupid? But no, they’re not! Look at the next paragraph:

    Israeli National Security Council head Giora Eiland questioned whether separating the aid from the PA would be effective at all, since the overwhelming majority of Palestinian workers in the humanitarian organizations are Hamas people.

Exactly. (Readers might want to go back and check point #3 I made in this JWN post, Tuesday.)
… At a broader level, I must say I’m finding it a most enjoyable spectator sport, sitting here and seeing all these Israeli and US officials running round like headless chickens as they try to figure out how to respond to Hamas’s electoral victory. (All except Giora Eiland, that is. A very sensible man.)

23 thoughts on “The Weissglas “diet”

  1. Joshua

    “At a broader level, I must say I’m finding it a most enjoyable spectator sport, sitting here and seeing all these Israeli and US officials running round like headless chickens as they try to figure out how to respond to Hamas’s electoral victory.”
    Yes, Helena enjoys seeing how democratic states respond to the rise of racist and facist political movement. What fun! Especially when their target is Jews!

  2. Jonathan Edelstein

    It’s like a meeting with a dietician. We have to make them much thinner, but not enough to die,” said the prime minister’s adviser Dov Weissglas.
    Jesus, the idiot’s got a way with words, hasn’t he?
    To be fair, though, Olmert’s in a very tight spot, with an election in a month and Bibi ready to jump all over him if he shows the least sign of going soft. There’ll be a lot more policy wiggle room once Israel has a government.

  3. WarrenW

    It’s all for show until the March elections in Israel. Except for when somebody dies.
    The philosophy and history of Hamas is a war of destruction against Israel. The Israelis are in many ways winning so Hamas wants an armistice to build up its forces and get better weapons. Israel would be taking grave risks to let Hamas build up it’s military, economic, or political power.
    Helena’s prescription against the budget cut would make more sense if there were a formal and reliable peace. But there isn’t.
    Helena is pretending to not understand that Hamas and Israel are bitter enemies. Peace is not here. Hamas engaged in a temporary cease-fire because it was losing it’s leaders at fast pace. As soon as they are ready Hamas will start the war again. That’s what they believe in. Now the Palestinians are saying they can’t recognize Israel because their religion forbids it!. I know baloney when I hear it. You should too.

  4. Henry James

    Makes sense…
    Ari Shavit. Onward, ship of fools http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/683436.html
    The Hamas victory of January 25, is an historic event from two perspectives. On the one hand, it has taken us back 30 years, to the pre-Israeli-Palestinian dialogue days, to the days of a real demand for the right of return for Palestinian refugees, and of a desire for total annihilation. It has taken us back to the days when Gamal Abdel Nasser and Ahmed Shukeiri would speak in the same, forgotten, threatening terms being used today by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Mahmoud a-Zahar and Khaled Meshal.
    On the other hand, the Hamas victory has put us in a position in which we have never been before. When the representative of the Palestinian people is not nationalist-secular but religious-fundamentalist, a nightmare comes true. The conflict no longer centers on the occupation of 1967, or the catastrophe of 1948. It is a religious-cultural conflict of the darkest kind. It is not a Gush Katif or Muasi conflict; it’s an Al-Aqsa conflict – a conflict between believers and nonbelievers, between Jihad fighters and Crusaders.
    Following a lengthy war of terror, Hamas is about to establish a hostile Palestinian state, without us being safe within the defendable borders of a recognized Jewish state. Hamas is about to push Israel back to the vicinity of the Green Line without being forced to forgo a single one of its demands from Israel within the Green Line.
    And more than ever before, we choose not to see the black sea on which our ship of fools is sailing. We choose not to see the rising waves. Onward, we dance. Onward, we call. Onward, ship of fools.

  5. Helena

    Joshua, my friend, you seem almost apoplectic and indeed a good deal irrational in your responses here recently. What’s your problem? Why, for example, are you so much more apoplectic than most people in Israel itself seem to be?
    You can call Israel a “democracy” till you’re blue in the face (and the recent condition of your rhetoric indicates this may already be the case.) But the fact remains that at best it’s a herrenvolk democracy. It is one, moreover, that has maintained a deeply anti-democratic military occupation regime over another people for nearly a Biblical-length era of 40 years.
    40 years, for a people to be totally denied their right to rule over either themselves or the last remnants of their national terrain. Can you imagine for one moment how that might feel?
    Israel has had any number of opportunities to find a decent way to divest itself of this occupation over the years… Either to hand the Palestinian territories “back” to Jordan and/or Egypt, right after 1967, in return for a full peace… or later, with the PLO. But its leaders consistently chose not to do that, preferring instead to keep the situation of “no-peace” alive as it continued to colonize the Palestinian lands. Which process considerably complicated the search for peace– just as Sharon all along (until 2003) intended that it should.
    So come on here with all your distraught wailing if you want… Alternatively, you could take a deep breath and vow that from here on out you will work just as hard as the rest of us who see that all G-d’s children are inherently equal, that colonialism is everywhere and anywhere a bad thing, and that Israel has a chance to divest itself of the occupied territories.
    Deal with it, man! Why, you might even find that life is a whole lot more interesting and rewarding once you divest yourself of the fear that still, apparently, paralyzes you and all your powers of rationalism and human feeling.
    Why, you might even start by saying something like, “If anyone ever said anything like what Weissglas is reported to have said, I’d be appalled.”
    No, you don’t even do that. You’re too deeply locked into your defensive crouch.

  6. Dick Fitzgerald

    Weissglas has a long history of racist comments worthy of a Nazi. What should we expect of a country conceived and born in terrorism and ethnic cleansing? That it has taken on the charactor of its former oppressors should not surprise anyone.

  7. Joshua

    “Joshua, my friend, you seem almost apoplectic and indeed a good deal irrational in your responses here recently. What’s your problem? Why, for example, are you so much more apoplectic than most people in Israel itself seem to be?”
    That you are making excuses for and apologizing a racist hate movement.
    Helena, I understand that you don’t like people to challenge you or disagree with you. I understand that you think you have a right to take nasty potshots at anyone you want. Yet when someone calls you on it, you demean them as “irrational” or “emotional” or whatnot.
    I don’t like extremists or one sided apologists on other side. Just my contrarian nature, I guess. However, what is particularly reprehensible is when someone disguises their racism and bias in the cloak of liberalism and pacificsm. At the very least, Hamas is honest and straightforward about what they want.
    You have taken the opportunity to take incessent potshots at Israel and its supporters every chance you get. You make bizarre claims that your lovely paper is somehow superior in its middle east coverage because it accepts no advertising (the obvious implication is that Israel’s supporters can somehow control editorial content through advertising). You are outright mocking of Jews who have to move their dead, and then go all into a tizzy when it’s Muslims.
    As for your assessment of history since 1967, it is laughably dishonest. Has Israel made mistakes along the way? Sure. But you conveniently gloss over the “three nos” of Khartoum, the ongoing campaign of terror, the insistance that the PLO (committed to Israel’s destruction until the 90s) was the “sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, and the fact that even in good times, a significant portion of Israel’s neighbors has refused to grant it a right to exist at all. In case you haven’t noticed, they’ll be leading Palestine on Saturday.
    But the bottom line, Helena, is that if you dish it out, expect to get some back. Maybe it’s you Helena. Just maybe.

  8. Helena

    You are outright mocking of Jews who have to move their dead, and then go all into a tizzy when it’s Muslims.
    Please explain to us all how, when a Jewish state that authorizes the burial of Jewish bodies in somebody else’s land and subsequently requests their quite respectful relocation and undertakes that in a very appropriate manner, that might be analogous to a state– any state, but this one happens to be one that claims to be a Jewish state– that so far has seemed almost oblivious to the desceration of a number of graves belonging to a religious minority?
    Then, where is my “outright mockery”? Maybe last August when I wrote this: I’m glad for the sake of Israeli families that they can deal with the mortal remains of loved ones in a way they find respectful and appropriate”?

  9. Salah

    sitting here and seeing all these Israeli and US officials running round like headless chickens
    Helena, I think the ” headless chickens ” are all the nations and people around the world who see the minority whom holding the power doing bad things, they don’t know what to do… to stop this Beast on the Run

  10. WarrenW

    40 years, for a people to be totally denied their right to rule over either themselves or the last remnants of their national terrain. Can you imagine for one moment how that might feel?
    Well, you could ask the Jordanians, the Egyptians, the Syrians, the Saudis or the Iraqis, who have not ruled over themselves. Or you could ask the Jews, who had neither self-rule nor land for about 2000 years, not 40.
    The Palestinians have not been “Totally denied” the right to rule over themselves. They have had partial self-rule by their own dictator since 1993 or so. The Palestinians have been “Totally denied” the right to wage mass murder against the Jews. Some people think this is a right they should have. I do not. You, obviously, think that would be just fine. Helena, you stopped being a pacifist many years ago. Wake up and smell the cordite.
    The claim that “Israel has had any number of opportunities to find a decent way to divest itself of this occupation over the years… Either to hand the Palestinian territories “back” to Jordan and/or Egypt, right after 1967, in return for a full peace… or later, with the PLO” is an outright deliberate lie, and you should retract it.
    Handing the land back under those circumstances is just paying the enemy to attack you again. And neither Jordan nor Egypt would have granted the Palestinians democracy or self-rule. And you know that very well. The only difference would have been the religion of the occupiers and which way the guns were pointing. The whole idea is anti-semitic. You are placing the Palestinians right to vote over the Israelis right to life. This is not a pacifist position.
    Where in hell do you get the nerve to ask that Israel, after having been attacked, should give land to the aggressors? You should be deeply ashamed of yourself for your love of aggression, and your deliberate willful encouragement of bloody warfare.
    Helena, you know perfectly well that while there were some Israelis who wanted to expand their country from the river to the sea, it has been the policy of the Israeli governments to seek to trade “Land for Peace”. It worked with Egypt and there is no reason it should not work with the PLO, except that the PLO thought it could hold out for more land through low-grade warfare.
    And you know perfectly well that arguing for a return to the 1967 lines is a deliberate reward for aggression and an invitation for more aggression. You are asking the Israelis to bare their necks and pretending to be outraged when they refuse. This is not a pro-peace position, it is an attempt to start another war.

  11. Christiane

    Warren and Joshua,
    Your accusations against Helena’s peacefull leading blog are all ridiculous.
    Warren for instance wrote :
    “And you know perfectly well that arguing for a return to the 1967 lines is a deliberate reward for aggression and an invitation for more aggression.”
    Well, no it won’t be a reward for aggression. It will only be complying with a number of UN resolutions. You should stop making highly ideological and baseless assumptions.
    We, here, are interested in looking into how former injustices can be repaired in a way allowing the peaceful cohabitation of two peoples. Each people will have to make concessions in order to get peace. Each people will have to speak with the leaders elected by the other people; you can’t chose the leader of your enemy, you have to talk with the one representing the enemy.

  12. Shirin

    To be fair, though, Olmert’s in a very tight spot, with an election in a month and Bibi ready to jump all over him if he shows the least sign of going soft. There’ll be a lot more policy wiggle room once Israel has a government.
    To be fair, though, according to this analysis, it is justifiable to save Olmert’s political skin by starving an entire population – just not by starving them quite to death.

  13. Inkan1969

    Joshua, what makes you think Helena doesn’t people to challenge her? While there’s been plenty of bashing of people on this blog, and I’ve done that myself, I don’t feel Helena has done as such. I disagree with her a lot, too. But she’s never really raised her voice against anyone when she tries to argue something. I agree with some of what Joshua and Warren worry about, but they’re out of line giving Helena that tone.
    ———————————————
    Speaking of disagreeing, Shirin, Weissglas’s statement, if he actually said it, is definitely appalling. But we often talk on this blog about appalling rhetoric from Hamas and Hizballah about destroying Israel. Helena, when that happens, you always assure us that such rhetoric is only hot air made for the dumb masses; that H&H don’t really mean it. The appalling rhetoric then is just to protect H&H’s political skin among the masses.
    Shirin, if we’re supposed to not get so upset about H&H’s hate rhetoric since it’s just demogoguery to tranquilize the masses, shouldn’t we also not get upset at any Israeli hate rhetoric like this as that’s just demogoguery for the masses as well?
    Me, I wish ALL sides would stop feeling all right with demogoguery.

  14. Shirin

    Inkan, there are plenty of differences between the rhetoric of Hamas and Hezbollah and the official and unofficial statements of Israeli politicians and their mouthpieces that make it quite reasonable to dismiss the former as rhetoric while being appalled at the latter. These differences include, but are not limited to the following:
    1. Hamas’ and Hezbollah’s statements are not coming from representatives of a state, but of resistance groups who espouse an extreme and – sorry to say this – backward ideology. Their raison d’etre is to fight foreign occupation, and they use, among other things, violent means to do this. In the case of Hamas it is fair and accurate to call some, but not all of these violent means terrorism. Wild, outrageous and sometimes laughable rhetoric is and always has been part of the stock in trade of such groups.
    When Israeli politicians and their mouthpieces make statements they are speaking as representatives of a modern, supposely civilized, nominally democratic state that claims to be a member in good standing of the international community, not to mention a “light unto the nations”. It is reasonable to expect Israel, as such, to at least pretend to behave in at least a minimally civilized manner in terms of things like human rights. It is quite reasonable to take statements about starving an entire population very seriously coming from Israeli leaders.
    2. In no way does Hamas or Hezbollah have the means to destroy Israel, and even they know that were they foolish enough to try they would never get away with it. Therefore it is utterly irrational to think that they would even try. Israel, on the other hand, has proven time and again that it has both the means and the will to commit just about any kind of action against the Palestinian population and its territory, and that it will get away with it. That includes starving Palestinians to death, not merely just short of death. Therefore, when it comes to what they will do to the Palestians it is entirely rational to take any statement by an Israeli leader or mouthpiece very seriously.

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