Sunday, January 25, 2009

Association of Civil Rights in Israel: Adolescents or Snobs?

From Day One of the Gaza operation the Association of Civil Rights in Israel, ACRI, perhaps the most venerable of Israel's so-called Human-Rights-and-Peace-Organizations, was virulently opposed. They sent off letters to the authorities, petitions to the courts, advertisements in the media, and participated in setting up two websites to document Israel's crimes: one in Hebrew for the locals, the other in English for their friends abroad to see how brave they are and their supporters abroad to keep the money coming. They didn't need any time for fact-collecting, analysis of the situation or reflection; their position was shrill and strident.

Near the end of the operation I sent a rather curt note to their CEO, Hagai El-Ad. El-Ad is rather new on the job, and he and I have never met, but as my letter explained, I know about his organization. I'm also some years older than him, am better educated, know more languages, have published more than he. I requested of him that he regard me as his equal, not an inferior. Yesterday he responded. Here's the correspondence, rendered into English (The Hebrew original is at the bottom of the post, if you prefer it).

18 January 2009
Hagai El-Ad, CEO
ACRI

Shalom,

My name is Yaacov Lozowick. For some ten years I've been discussing things with Dan Yakir [the Legal Counsel of ACRI]; sometimes we banter, sometimes we're tense. Since the advent of hostilities Dan prefers not to respond to my questions, knowing that I may publish them, so I'm turning to you.

I have three questions for you, but first, a clarification. The defense of civil rights and prevention of injustice against innocents are as important for me as they are for you. In your response to this letter, please do try not to preach to me, nor to patronize.

1. The laws of war and international law permit the harming of civilians in come conditions. Do you not fear that when your protestations overlook this, you run the danger of discrediting international law and presenting it as irrelevant to real life?

2. The commanders of the IDF, its officers and men, and the citizens of Israel are aware that war can violate human rights; at times, we take upon ourselves enhanced danger to our troops and our civilians so as to limit potential damage to enemy civilians. ACRI could play an important role in these efforts by serving as a reliable watchdog of our moral behavior; its most valuable tool is is its credibility. Do you not fear that by using a preaching and patronizing tone, you run the danger that no-one will listen, and the justification for your actions will be diminished?

3. We face an immoral enemy, who blatantly broadcasts his intention to destroy us while committing crime against our civilians and his own. You are explicit about what you wish us not to do. What, therefore, do you advocate? During war there can be no moral standing to a position which merely says what not to do without suggesting alternatives.

I look forward to your response. By way of due disclosure please note I am likely to publish our correspondence.

Dr. Yaacov Lozowick

El-Ad's response arrived a week later:

Shalom Dr. Lozowick,

My apologies for the delay in responding, This is a busy period, and I don't manage to respond to every task at the pace I'd like. Thank you for your patience and for your letter.

1. Our protests during the war did not disregard the laws of war and international law, on the contrary. They were informed by them. Moreover, there may have been serious breaches of them,and we call for them to be investigated by reputable independent entities.

2. At times, it is hard to hear the truth. The moral mirror which ACRI holds and will continue to hold before Israeli society, calls out for soul searching. We think this enhances our reliability as we continue to protect human rights in Israel and the conquered territories.

3. We have proposed and will continue to propose that Israel act in accordance with the laws of war, international law, and should respect the sanctity of human life.

Sincerely,
Hagai El-Ad, CEO
ACRI

What can I say. If any of you ever lived through adolescence, and especially if you've ever endured how your eager and perhaps sweet children turned into insufferable, raging arrogant teenagers, but then eventually grew out of it and became thoughtful adults capable of complex value judgments in the real world, you may agree with me that these folks are simply puerile. However, given their biological age - they tend to be in their thirties and forties - I'm not certain they should be excused so easily for being arrogant pricks.
---------------------------

18 בינואר 2009

אל: חגי אלעד

מנכ"ל האגודה לזכויות האזרח

באמצעות אי-מייל

שלום,

שמי יעקב לזוביק. מזה כעשר שנים אני בשיח עם דן יקיר – פעמים מחוייך, פעמים מתוח. כעת אני פונה אליך כי מתחילת המלחמה בעזה דן מעדיף שלא אפנה אליו ביודעו שאפרסם את תשובותיו. היות שכך, אני פונה אליך.

יש לי עבורך שלוש שאלות, אך לפניהן הבהרה. ההגנה על זכויות אדם ומניעת עוולות נגד חפים מפשע חשובות לי לא פחות מאשר לך. בתשובתך אנא השתדל לא להטיף לי, ולא להתנשא.

  1. דיני המלחמה והחוק הבין-לאומי מתירים הרג של אזרחים בתנאים מסויימים. האם אינכם חוששים שכאשר מחאותיכם מתעלמות מהיתר זה, אתם מעודדים זילות של החוק הבין-לאומי, והעמדתו ככלי ריק?
  2. מפקדי צה"ל, חייליו ואזרחי ישראל מודעים היטב שמלחמה יכולה לפגוע בזכויות אדם; יש שאנחנו מגדילים את הסכנה לאזרחנו וחיילינו על-מנת למזער פגיעות באזרחי האויב. האגודה לזכויות האזרח יכולה להיות חלק חשוב ממערך האבטחה של התנהלותנו המוסרית, כאשר תפקידה הוא לעמוד על המשמר ולהתריע כאשר שמירת זכויות האדם נפגמת; כלי העבודה העיקרי שלה הוא האמינות. האם אינכם חוששים שטון מתנשא או מטיף המתעלם מעובדות אלה גורע מאמינותכם עד שיתעלמו מכם גם במקרים שקולכם אכן צריך להישמע?
  3. אנחנו עומדים מול אויב חסר מוסר לחלוטין, המצהיר בקולניות ששאיפתו היא להשמדנו, ומבצע פשעים נגד אזרחנו ונגד אזרחיו. אתם מספרים לנו מה אתם רוצים שלא נעשה: אז מה אתם מציעים שכן נעשה? בעת מלחמה אין תוקף מוסרי לעמדה שרק מבקרת אם אין בצידה גם הצעה מעשית.

אשמח לקבל את תגובתך. למען גילוי נאות סביר שאפרסם אותה.

בכבוד רב,

דר' יעקב לזוביק


לד"ר לזוביק שלום,

ראשית אני מבקש להתנצל על העיכוב בתשובתי. זו תקופה עמוסה ביותר, ולא לכל המשימות שלפני אני מגיע במהירות לה הייתי שואף. תודה על סבלנותך, ועל עצם הפנייה. לעצם השאלות:

1 – מחאותינו בזמן המלחמה לא התעלמו מדיני המלחמה ומהחוק הבינלאומי, אלא הונחו על ידם. זאת ועוד, ישנם חשדות להפרות חמורות של דיני המלחמה, ואנו קוראים לחקירה עצמאית ויסודית של חשדות אלו.

2 – יש שקשה לשמוע דברי אמת. המראה המוסרית שהאגודה הציבה, ותמשיך להציב, בפני החברה בישראל, מחייבת חשבון נפש. אני מאמין שיש בכך בכדי לחזק את אמינותנו במסגרת מכלול העשייה המתמשך, הענייני והנחוש של האגודה לשם הגנה על זכויות האדם בישראל ובשטחים הכבושים.

3 – הצענו ונמשיך להציע שישראל תתנהל באופן השומר על דיני המלחמה, מכבד את החוק הבינלאומי ומתחשב בקדושתם של חיי אדם.

בברכה,

חגי אלעד

מנכ"ל

האגודה לזכויות האזרח בישראל


5 comments:

Gavin said...

Heh, I'd already figured out what you'd say at the end before I read it Yaacov. It looks more to me like you've been fobbed off there, I'd suggest Hagai El-Ad called the lawyer fella Dan Yakir & was warned off getting into any sort of debate or argument with you. Thus the carefully crafted mumbo-jumbo that gives you nothing to latch onto.

It's always been my experience that when you use the principle of cause & effect as the basis for an argument with anyone on the left they cut & run. They can't debate it, their shallowness of thought & inability to reason properly is too easily exposed when you follow that line.

Maybe you need to start using a pseudonym when you talk with the useful idiots. If they think you're one of them they talk a lot more freely. Rgds, Gavin.

David said...

The real prick is you, but of course you won't dare publish any negative comment in your blog. "I'm more educated and publish more than him" - give me a break. You're an arrogant ignorant childish piece of self-righteous fascist. Get a life.

Fabián said...

Yaakov: They are giving you the "our company strives every day to create better products to satisfy our dear customers" speech.

There is not an ounce of analysis in what they wrote.

If that were the answers to a test I give to my students, they will get a note demanding to do it over again, and please stick to answering the questions.

Daniel said...

Yaacov: Despite your intellect, experience and publications, you may not yet have grasped the raison d'etre of ACRI - to shine a spotlight on civil rights abuses by Israel. It does not define its task as analyzing or defending the Israeli government's policies in the occupied territories or in the State of Israel except insofar as they fall foul of the civil rights of individuals or groups. Don't expect them to re-define themselves to make you feel more comfortable about the latest operation in Gaza - perhaps your analysis needs to be a little bit more profound so as to accept that the operation may have been necessary overall but there were lapses in the protection of civil rights in certain circumstances which may have been avoided. Such an analysis does not make the operation immoral or the State of Israel illegitimate.
The job of Israeli governments should be to recognize this and seek to put ACRI out of business by not providing instances of civil rights abuses which ACRI can investigate. On a positive note, it should be a badge of honor for Israel that ACRI and similar organizations exist freely, as they do in other democratic countries.
Finally, your last paragraph was unfortunate - if you were as accomplished a debater as you seem to be in many other areas, you would know that ad hominem attacks hurt the aggressor rather than the victim. Maybe there is a wider lesson to be learnt here about ourselves and our neighbors after all.....

kai said...

There is a good and a sad message.

The good one is: these guys go and read Yaacov's blog! See David and Daniel above.

The sad one is not so surprising and just confirming some hundred (if not thousand) years of history: once you have chosen an ideology to explain the world, no real facts will ever change your mindset.