Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Proportionality and War

I know a thing or two about Just War theory, and even once wrote a book about its application in the Israel-Arab conflict. I find it hard to sleep these days, so I've spent the predawn hours carrying out a little experiment. Since by now there seem to be thousands of readers of this blog, I earnestly invite any of you who wish to join me in this, to strengthen or weaken my findings, either way. I'm serious, not facetious.

As is customary when Israel goes to war, the media fills up with pseudo-learned discussions of proportionality, just-war theory, and sermons of self-anointed human rights organizations. I'm interested to investigate whether this phenomenon happens all the time but I notice only when Israel is the target, or perhaps something else is going on. So I've gone to various news-related web sites, and have used their own search engines to seek proportionality war, a combination which seems plausible, wouldn't you agree? There undoubtedly are other possible searches one could use, and it would be possible to dig deeper than what I've done, so that's where the rest of you are invited to pile in and prove me right or wrong.

The New York Times search engine:
The first 20 results contain six articles about Israel's actions in Lebanon in 2006 or Gaza now. Three are from the 1970s, and talk about Vietnam; a fourth, from 2003, reviews a film about Vietnam. The rest, so my impression after skimming over them, focus one way or another on the war in Iraq, though interestingly they're concentrated in the second half of the list. Vietnam trumps Iraq and Israel trumps Vietnam when you look at the order of appearance.

The Guardian (and note, here I arranged the results using their "most relevant first" function):
Like in every other aspect, the Guardian and I see the world differently; even their search engine. Else how to explain that the first seven (!) have nothing to do with the matter, but include articles about the tour de France, private schools, and downloading a book by Cory Doctorow. The next six seem to deal either with Afghanistan or terrorism in Britain. The next seven items all deal with Israel.

The BBC:
Seven items seem to be about the War on Terror, including the first three. Four (all in the first ten) are about a film on Vietnam. three are about Israel. The rest I can't explain (more teachers and schools).

The Economist:
Their search engine, thankfully, doesn't send results merely for the purpose of showing results. So my query gave only 7 results. Four are about Israel. One is a book review of a relevant book (which sounds good), and the last two - well, I'm not sure why they got onto the list.

The Independent:
Their search engine is even stranger than that at the Guardian: ten of the first ten items had nothing to do with the matter (though there is one item about how an Israeli shipping magnate, Sammy Ofer, donated money to rebuild the Cutty Sark).

OK, enough for this morning, there are other things to do in life besides blogging. Before signing off, however, a quick summary:
1. Israel is disproportionally represented. Surprise.
2. More nuanced searches are required, since each media outlet uses different terminology. A website that rants only about Israeli crimes, never about its proportionality or lack of it in waging war, won't register in my search parameters. Ergo, comparisons need to address the varying vocabularies in different organizations and over time.
3. I didn't see any mention of Russia, nor or the Iraq-Iran war (remember that one? With more than a million dead?), nor of anything beyond the same recurring three: Israel's wars, America's and Britain's. Given that the publications I looked at were American or mostly British, this means the only foreign country, seen from the perspective of the publications, was Israel.

Please feel free to broaden the search.


Anonymous said...

Out of curiosity, do you think the situation would be different if the UN set aside a portion of Germany as the new Israeli state after World War II?

Was there a concern about living in the "holy land" or was it just a convenient location under British rule? I imagine the majority of Jews killed, displaced, and imprisoned were European not Middle Eastern... To whom were they attempting to grant solace?

On topic:

I believe evidence shows that Israel's actions have been justified. Inaction would be suicide in this theater of hate.

As I've posted before, until the nations of Islam realize that they need not kill Jews, Westerners, etc. to attain their fanciful afterlife, nothing will change.

* All views in this post expressed by and American atheist.

Anonymous said...

What a weird thought.There would have been no tunnels or bombs in civil areas.Germans, tho,have different ways, until today.Jews in Germany still aren't considered as human,really.They are either worshipped,for lots of strange reasons, or just ignored.Most Germans, assuming there are very few Jews around,prefer dealing with the dead ones.Way easier.And Israel,as the East Germans were taught, is the Zionist Aggressor.Lots of people do not even know Israel is Jewish- believe it or not.
And, by the way- this is not the time to play games, not even in your head.You obviously can afford that-being far away.Part of the Isaeli problem...

Anonymous said...

I used Google's search engine to do a series of searches for the term "disproportionate force".

Google search: "disproportionate force"

59900 Google results

"disproportionate force" AND Israel

43400 results

"disproportionate force" -Israel

17200 results

That's 43400 for Israel, 17200 for the rest of the world combined.

I also narrowed the search to several news sites, Amnesty International and un.int, and using separate news.google.com, searched for "disproportionate force" applied to Darfur, Russia, Chechnya, etc.

Full results are here.

Results are not scientific.


Anonymous said...

pji, there was no way that most Holocaust survivors would have consented to being settled in a part of Germany after what they had just gone through.

Also, prior to ww2, Jews had been saying for 2000 years, "leshanah habah beyerushalaim" (next year in Jerusalem). Israel, and not Germany, is the homeland of the Jewish people. For centuries, Jews were actively prevented from returning to their homeland by a succession of dictatorial regimes, but had never stopped trying to return.

As for Israelis today, half are descended from Mizrachim ("easterners"), the Jews of the Arab world, rather than from European Jews. During and after WW2, Arabs who thought to emulate the Nazis committed massacres and other atrocities that made many Mizrachim worry that they would eventually face a Shoah of their own. So to say that the Shoah was entirely a European affair is incorrect. You can learn more about these matters in the following documentary, The Forgotten Refugees

If one were to conduct an exercise in historical what-ifs, then a more appropriate what-if would probably be to ask, what if other Arab countries had granted citizenship to "their" refugees as Israel did to the 1,000,000 Mizrachi Jews, and as Jordan did to "its" Palestinians? What if the Arab countries had accepted the Partition Plan rather than attacking Israel and occupying the territories that were supposedly intended for a Palestinian state? And what if the Arab countries had treated the Palestinians as something other than a weapon to use to destroy Israel?

Anyway, though, I'm very glad that you agree that Israel has a right to defend itself.

Anonymous said...

pji, out of curiosity: Why set aside a part of an existing country after WW2 when there had already been a League of Nations mandate for more than 20 years to give the Jews their state?

(Just as a side note: I doubt that the post WW2 immigrants found their new home convenient. The refugee camps in which they had to be put up did not look like today's Israel. Sometimes I wonder whether those camps could have been closed in the early sixties if a UN relief organisation had been founded to take care of the olim.)


Anonymous said...

anonymous said:
Jews in Germany still aren't considered as human,really.

Is this your experience?
Neither my German acquaintances nor my German colleagues have done anything which could back up such a statement.


Anonymous said...

Thank you, all, for the links and information. Many of these facts were conveniently left out of American history books.

My thought about border readjustment of Germany after WWII was more of a reparation strategy, not really meant to fulfill the empty promise of the League of Nations, et al, to create a Jewish state. Something the Jews ended up having to do on their own anyway...