@WSJ editorial that argues Palestinians who voted for Hamas & their families & kids deserve to die!! http://online.wsj.com/articles/thane-rosenbaum-civilian-casualties-in-gaza-1405970362 … #Gaza
Citing part of an offending sentence from the same piece, here’s Joshua Foust:
“you forfeit your right to be civilian when you freely elect a terrorist organization as statesmen” Astonishing http://online.wsj.com/articles/thane-rosenbaum-civilian-casualties-in-gaza-1405970362 …
Foust’s and Moussa’s tweets are somewhat typical of reaction to the linked article, on twitter and beyond. Work this horrible and astonishing, published in a major American newspaper, deserves a closer look.
After several paragraphs describing the ways in which Hamas fighters blend with the non-combatant population of Gaza, and indulging in some unpersuasive speculation about what Gazans must have been thinking when a large majority of them voted for Hamas in the 2006 elections, author Thane Rosenbaum summarizes his argument as follows:
On some basic level, you forfeit your right to be called civilians when you freely elect members of a terrorist organization as statesmen, invite them to dinner with blood on their hands and allow them to set up shop in your living room as their base of operations. At that point you begin to look a lot more like conscripted soldiers than innocent civilians. And you have wittingly made yourself targets.
What should be initially clear, at least as regards Foust’s partial and incidentally inaccurate quotation, is that Rosenbaum’s argument does not rest simply on some notion of an electorate’s responsibility for its leaders’ subsequent conduct, even though that notion may be finally indispensable to a coherent theory of representative democracy. Rosenbaum does, however, clearly rely on a collectivization of complicity, as underlined by use throughout the paragraph of the second person plural, a mode often colloquially employed in ethical speculation of this sort, but in this context a significant choice: Rosenbaum is addressing the Gazans in a mode of address that erases distinctions – for instance between an ardent Hamas supporter and a bystander (or her children) – in somewhat the same way that the policy he seeks to justify does.
It may not be too much to say that the logic of war is encapsulated within the workings of this simple rhetorical tool. At the same time, however, this defense of a war policy is not on its own terms a justification of punishment: Specifically, Rosenbaum does not say that all Gazans, as per Moussa’s rendering, “deserve to die”: He argues, in effect, that cumulative decisions to embrace or passively accept Hamas have removed from the moral equation any question or possibility of justice for civilians as civilians, since meaningful civilian status relies on the existence of an in this sense civilized order. In other words, that there would or could be no true civilians or possibly even non-combatants in Gaza would not justify killing the inhabitants, or punishing or harming them in any other way, but it would mean that any condemnation of Israeli conduct would have to be made on some other basis than the civilian/combatant distinction.
The problem for Israel as well as for its critics is precisely that Hamas – like Al Qaeda and many others – represents a negation of the principles that can produce and sustain practical distinctions between civilians and lawful combatants. The Israeli state, as a rule of law state under the current liberalist international law regime, seeks to operate from this and related distinctions, but remains as susceptible as all other states to the specific problem of an enemy that rejects them. The key precedent was set by the Allies (or “United Nations”) in World War II. From their point of view, wars of aggression prosecuted according to a totalized logic both required and justified a commensurate response, only more so: In short, enemies who would bombard Guernica, “rape” Nanking, and “blitz” London, “indiscriminately” where not aggressively and specifically targeting civilians, were seen to have brought Dresden and Hiroshima upon themselves. During the Cold War, the same logic was brought to an even further extreme: From the side of the American-led West, Mutual Assured Destruction doctrine included an open insistence that an attack by the Soviet Union on America’s land-based ICBM force would require and justify the retaliatory obliteration of targets amounting to the enemy’s collective being in its entirety: The most “illiberal” policy conceivable was taken as essential to defense of the liberal order or the liberal possibility.
“Terrorism” is a term not just for a set of tactics that instil fear, but for defiance of implicitly liberal “civil”-ized norms. That the logic of war is a collectivizing logic explains why liberalism-individualism seeks to criminalize it, why liberalist-individualist polities have such difficulty orienting themselves morally within it, and why they are, finally, prone to overcompensating in response to it.