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.
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).
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.
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.