Sunday, February 14, 2010

Rebutting Israel's "We don't kill civilians on purpose" argument

Zionists try to refute the Goldstone Report by arguing, "Unlike Hamas, Israel does not intentionally kill civilians." They emphasize the difference between intentional and accidental ("collateral") killing of civilians. [See, for example, this video: ]

This difference between intentional and accidental killing is, however, only relevant when the aim of the violence is a just one. Accidentally killing civilians in the course of using violence to stop oppression is one thing. Doing it in the course of using violence to oppress people is a very different thing.

In the case of Israeli violence, the question is not whether Israel intentionally kills civilians. The question is: What is the purpose of Israel's violence?

Israel uses violence today to prevent the Palestinian refugees from returning to the homes and territory (inside the part of Palestine now called Israel) from which they were expelled by Zionist violence in the past. They were expelled for only one reason--they were not Jewish. This violence has an unjust purpose: ethnic cleansing. Its purpose is to ensure that the population of Israel will be at least 80% Jewish, which is what Israel's leaders say it must be in order to be a Jewish state. Violence in defense of the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state is violence in defense of ethnic cleansing. When this violence kills somebody, no matter whether on purpose or accidentally, and no matter whether the victim is a civilian or a soldier, it is 100% unjustifiable homicide. It is a criminal act.

What about Hamas's killing of civilians?

There are two separate questions involved here. The first question is this: If Hamas does something morally wrong, does that in any way justify Israel's denial of the right of return to millions of Palestinian refugees? The answer is clearly, No. For example, would anybody claim that nineteenth century slavery in the U.S. was justified by the fact that some slaves (like Nat Turner in 1831) wrongly killed white children during their resistance to slavery?

The second question is: Does Hamas intentionally kill civilians? The latest report (seen by this author) is that Hamas had withdrawn its earlier apology for Israeli civilians killed by its rockets. This suggests that the killing was intentional. If Hamas intentionally kills civilians, then that is wrong. But it is a wrong that in no way justifies Israel's violence for the purpose of denying Palestinian refugees their right of return. (Furthermore, if Israel did grant the right of return and compensation for stolen property--as Germany did for Jews-- then those individual Palestinians, in Hamas or not, who continued to advocate violence against Israeli civilians would no longer have enough support from the Palestinian people to carry it out; instead Palestinians would want them to be arrested as criminals.)

It's not how many are killed on each side, but why they are killed

Some anti-Zionists argue that the most morally relevant question is: Who kills more civilians, Israel or Hamas? This is wrong, and the Zionists easily win the argument when it is framed this way. How come? Zionists argue that accidentally killing a thousand people in the course of fighting a just war is morally defensible, whereas intentionally or accidentally killing only one person in the course of fighting an unjust war is morally indefensible. Would anybody, for example, argue that if the Nazis had killed fewer people than the Allies then the Nazis would have been morally justified in their violence? The Zionists win this argument when anti-Zionists merely contrast the numbers of civilians killed by each side, because the contrasting numbers deflect attention from the fact that it is the purpose of Israel's violence, not its magnitude, that makes it immoral.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Elections and Bill Moyers

Last night, on Bill Moyers' Journal TV show, there was a debate about the recent Supreme Court decision that gives corporations the same rights as people to spend money in support of politicians during election campaigns. There was also an interview with Margaret Flowers, M.D., who was arrested in the course of trying to present the case for "Medicare for all"--what the majority of Americans want--to the Senate. [see ] Dr Flowers was also arrested trying to deliver this message to President Barak Obama. [see ] Obama, if you recall, declared in his state of the union speech: "If anyone from either party has a better approach that will bring down premiums, bring down the deficit, cover the uninsured, strengthen Medicare for seniors, and stop insurance company abuses, let me know. Let me know. Let me know." Yeah, right.

The debate about the Supreme Court decision was wrong-headed on both sides. Opposing the decision was Harvard law professor Larry Lessig, and supporting it was libertarian Reason editor Nick Gillespie. Lessig said he had nothing against corporations or their right of free speech. His only concern was that the Supreme Court's decision would further erode the public's trust that Congress represented the people instead of Big Money, and he noted that already most people think Congress acts for the latter not the former. Lessig advocated an amendment to the Constitution that would permit laws regulating corporate electioneering in the 60 days preceding the election. Gillespie argued that the Supreme Court's decision advanced free speech, and how could that be a bad thing? The evil, he said, is restricting free speech.

As is typical of elite-owned, mass-media-sponsored debates, both sides of this debate implicitly accepted an extremely controversial but elite-friendly premise--that there is nothing wrong per se with the extreme inequality in our nation that is manifested primarily as corporate wealth concentrated in the hands of a small plutocracy. Sophisticated propaganda does not announce itself and thereby alert its intended audience to be on guard against it; rather it delivers its message through the "back door" of our consciousness, by asking us to focus on deciding which side of a debate we support without noticing that with either choice we are accepting the elite-friendly view that is the truly controversial one. Thus the only thing these two debating gentlemen on Bill Moyers' show disagreed on was how, or whether, the plutocratic owners of our huge for-profit corporations should be regulated in regards to their overt efforts to determine the outcome of elections.

Neither gentleman dared so much as to hint that the reason Big Money controls our government is because billionaires will be the dominant power in a society like ours, where most people are much poorer, no matter what laws or regulations purport to make it otherwise. Just as surely as the water in a river will reach the ocean one way or another no matter how many dams are built, big money will influence people one way or another, by hook or by crook, no matter how many laws are written to prevent it.

If we want power to be in the hands of We the People and not Them the Billionaires then we need to get rid of billionaires. It is that simple. If we, as a society, honor the outrageous claims of individuals to personally "own" billions of dollars of what is actually social wealth, produced and made possible by the collective labor and knowledge and skills of thousands if not millions of people, then we will never have anything except what we in fact have today--a plutocracy, not a "representative democracy."

The plutocracy knows that very few Americans still believe that we have a genuine democracy. Most people know that Big Money calls the shots. Most people know that the reason Dr. Flowers isn't listened to by politicians when she advocates Medicare for All is because what most Americans want does not count in the corridors of power in the nation's Capitol. What the big corporations want, the big corporations get. And they obviously want Americans to be forced to pay big premiums to insurance companies for health insurance that may not even cover their health care expenses when they are seriously ill.

The plutocracy hopes that people like Bill Moyers will succeed in directing the anger of Americans into channels that will not threaten the existence of the extreme inequality that is what for-profit corporations are all about. They hope to persuade us that inequality is not the problem, that the problem is merely insufficient regulation of corporations.

But inequality, itself, is the problem. We need to focus on abolishing class inequality, as I discuss in some detail here [ ].

Elections in the United States have never been an instrument enabling We the People to shape government policy; they started out in 1776 as a means for male owners of substantial property (including slaves) to shape government policy, and suffrage was only extended to others gradually and to the extent that the wealthy upper class was certain they would be able--because of their wealth--to control the outcome of elections well enough to retain control of the government.

We live in a dictatorship of the very wealthy. It is a dictatorship that seeks legitimacy on the grounds that it permits us to vote. By voting, all we do is confer legitimacy on a dictatorship. That is why it is IMMORAL to vote for politicians today. All voting does is give legitimacy to the politicians who are beholden to the plutocracy and who commit immoral crimes against us (like denying some of us health care) and against people in other nations by waging Orwellian wars based on lies.

The first step towards winning a genuine democracy is to acknowledge that we do not have one today. Only then will it be possible to have the kind of public discussion about what we can do to win a real democracy. Deciding not to vote for politicians, and telling our friends and neighbors why not, is the first step in this direction. Let's take it.