(Every now and then something happens that inspires us to depart from our usual, preferred topics of eminent domain and land use, and comment on something else. This is such a post.)
Unless you have been vacationing on the Moon lately, you must know that there is another war going on in the Middle East. After years of absorbing rocket strikes from Gaza, the Israelis finally got pissed off and struck back big time. But it turns out that the vaunted Arab rockets are crap and, as real wars go, have been overwhelmingly unable to strike their intended targets. Add to that Israel’s amazing Iron Dome missile defense system and the Arab rockets haven’t achieved anything to speak off. Still, the Arabs have managed to kill some three dozen Israeli soldiers, and conduct a propaganda campaign.
But in spite of the Arab “fighters'” lack of military prowess, they have been real good at hiding behind women and children, so that when the Israelis fire back, they perforce inflict what has become known as “collateral damage” on civilians. Add to that the fact that the Arab “fighters” like to hide in schools and hospitals, and the latter casualties are higher than they should be. What to do?
If you want to be honest, there is nothing that can be done; no rational person can ask that the Israelis cease defending themselves effectively; that they cease firing back at people who fire at them. But that process of self-defense produces those “collateral damage” casualties when the Arab “fighters” hide in schools and hospitals. Thus the Arabs effectively say: “When we kill Israelis, it’s hunky dory and we are proud of it, but when they fire back, that’s an “outrage.” So reports the NY Times, on the front page above the fold. Missile Strike Near U.N. School in Gaza Kills 10, Aug. 4, 2014, at p. A1.
That’s moral bullshit, of course, but that’s they way it is. Thus, the Times is throwing a conniption fit over the death of ten — count them, ten — Arabs who got hit when Israeli shells fired in response to Arab rocket fire, and hit an area near a school. Please understand, your faithful servant was a target in WW II, and so we are not unsympathetic to the plight of civilian populations on both sides of a shooting war, even though civilian Arab casualties are “collateral,” i.e., unintended, and deemed regrettable but unavoidable, whereas Arabs do what they can to maximize Israeli civilian casualties, and are proud of it.
At the same time — that’s today’s NY Times — we learn that over in Libya there is an internecine war among Arab factions in that country and — guess what? — 25 Libyans have been killed (British Citizens Flee Tripoli on Ship as 25 Libyans Are Reportedly Killed in Fighting, Aug.4, 2014, at p. A4). But what’s remarkable about that Times dispatch is that it utters not a peep of indignation over the deaths of 2.5 times as may Libyan as Gazans. So what happened? How come no displays of indignation? No accusations of “outrageousness.” No demands for UN action? No nothin’ even though things in Libya must be pretty nasty and pretty dangerous to civilians, what with all those Brits’ splitting as fast as they can.
We have no intention of plumbing the depths of the moral disparity of this reportage. We think it’s sufficient to note this gross asymmetry in the displays of moral outrage in these two locales. When Libyan Arabs kill 25 people, it’s hey man, c’est la guerre. But when the Israelis defend themselves and kill Arabs, that’s an outrage. You don’t suppose that this has something to do with the fact that the folks who are the object of all that “outrage” are Jewish, whereas the Libyans aren’t. Could it be that the Times considers the latter barbarians of whom nothing better is expected, while the former are . . .well, Jews, so they are held to high standards whereas for their enemies, anything goes, so that the Times need not concern itself with moral symmetry, consistency of moral judgment, and all that other good stuff. So as we suggested above, all that Times display and reportorial “outrage” is plain old bullshit.
It was an American, General Sherman, who told us that “War is hell.” Not “heck,” but “hell.” So that people who start a war (as did the Arabs in this case by firing thousands of rockets at Israel) have nothing to complain about when the gates of hell that they opened release forces of violence that they now have to confront and live with.
Follow up: If any of this leaves you with the impression that the moral asymmetry we note extends to reportage, go to the head of the class. For an article dealing with press intimidation by the Arabs go to http://blogs.forward.com/forward-thinking/203449/why-no-photos-of-hamas-militants/?