Liberty Commentary

We Bought The Bullets

by William N. Grigg

The bullets used to kill19-year-old Furkan Dogan, a Turkish-American college student born in Troy, New York, were fired by soldiers in a foreign army — but they were paid for with money extorted from U.S. taxpayers.
A post-mortem documented that Dogan was shot four times in the head and once in the chest by the commandos of Unit 13, which assaulted the humanitarian flotilla attempting to break the Israeli government’s blockade of Gaza. Dogan was one of nine Turkish nationals killed in the attack.

Of the incident in which this young American citizen was murdered, Vice President Biden — an infinitely self-replenishing Artesian gusher of unfiltered foolishness — had this to say: “What’s the big deal here?”

Although Dogan was the only U.S. citizen to be killed, other Americans who protested the Gaza blockade suffered grievously at the hands of U.S.-subsidized Israeli soldiers.

Paul Larudee, a 64-year-old peace activist who was also involved in the flotilla, was severely beaten and otherwise abused during his two-day detention in Israel because he refused to defer to the “authority” of the Israeli hijackers.Emily Henochowicz, a 21-year-old from Maryland, lost an eye while taking part in a demonstration in Jerusalem protesting the attack on the flotilla, and the ongoing blockade of Gaza: She was shot in the face with a (U.S.-subsidized) tear gas grenade fired by an Israeli soldier.
Blinded eyewitness: Emily Henochowicz in the hospital.
By any rational definition, the attack on civilian ships in international waters was an act of criminal aggression.

Apologists for the Israeli government’s actions insist that the commandos who invaded the Turkish-flagged ships were forced to defend themselves when they found themselves outnumbered by civilians armed with knives and pipes. But just as pirates and armed robbers have surrendered the right to self-defense, the commandos had no moral or legal right to continue their aggression through violent means once they met resistance.

The commando raid was simple piracy and murder. The blockade it was meant to enforce is a campaign of state terrorism.

Defenders of the Israeli government describe the blockade as (to borrowCharles Krauthammer’s expression) a form of “passive defense.” It is better described as a policy of collective punishment. Supposedly intended to deprive Hamas of war materiel, the Israeli blockade also interdicts many indispensable foodstuffs, along with building materials, medicines, and such strategically critical items as wheelchairs and children’s toys. More importantly, the Gazans themselves are effectively penned in an open-air prison camp. It’s doubtful that there is an approach more perfectly calibrated to cultivate terrorism, rather than dissuade it.
It is hyperbole to describe Gaza as a modern equivalent of the Warsaw Ghetto. It is no exaggeration, however, to say that the Israeli government is using, on a much larger scale, the same tactics against the 1.5 million Gazans that were used by the FBI against the Branch Davidians. One federal official who disapproved of the 51-day siege at Mt. Carmel — during which time water and other necessities were cut off — described it as an exercise in torturing children to force their parents to surrender.

The face of “Terrorism”: Ekrem Cetin and his son, Turker Kaan

Appropriately, that tactic reportedly played a role in the assault on the Gaza relief flotilla.Eyewitnesses testifythat Israeli troops seeking to commandeer the Mavi Marmara pointed their guns at the one-year-old son of ship engineer Ekrem Cetin, threatening to murder the child unless the captain stopped the ship.

Had the trigger been pulled and the child — who, I’m constrained to point out, somewhat resembles my own one-year-old son, Justus —  been slaughtered, we would have been treated to another chorus of an increasingly familiar refrain:It wasn’t the fault of the Israeli commandos that the child’s parents brought him to a war zone.

During the 2009 Israeli Defense Force “Operation Cast Lead” offensive in Gaza,one sniper platoon expanded that principle of collective responsibility to include pregnant mothers and their unborn children. A souvenir t-shirt distributed to snipers depicted a visibly pregnant Palestinian mother in the targeting scope of a rifle; the illustration bore the caption, “One shot — two kills.”

The official t-shirt of the Lon Horiuchi Brigade?

Israeli officials insisted that those t-shirts were a product of bad taste, rather than a reflection of official policy. Those assurances are stoutly disputed by numerous Israeli veterans who have served in Gaza, who testify that indiscriminate attacks on civilians are passively encouraged by the IDF, and generally covered up by it after the fact.

In search of a candid description of the doctrine of collective responsibility and indiscriminate warfare that prevails in both Jerusalem and Washington, we turn to the detestable Alan Dershowitz.

Unless he’s being paid a sultan’s ransom to defend a celebrity murder defendant, Dershowitz is a consistent defender of state power. He supports the institutionalization of torture, and endorses preemptive nuclear war against Iran. Four years ago, in his book Pre-emption, Dershowitz introduced a concept of collective punishment based on what he calls a “continuum of civilianality” in which protected civilian status “is often a matter of degree, rather than a bright line.”

During the summer of 2006, Israeli troops invaded Lebanon following terrorist attacks by Hezbollah. In a July 22, 2006 Los Angeles Times column, Dershowitz insisted that those Lebanese who refused to abandon their homes when commanded to do so by an invading foreign army became retroactively “complicit” in Hezbollah’s attacks, and were thus fair game. Those who were unable to leave, such as the elderly and infirm, were “innocent victims,” he allowed — but the IDF shouldn’t be expected to spare them if doing so detracted from their military objectives.

Two weeks later, Dershowitz abandoned any pretense of proportionality, insisting that the only requirement to be considered a “terrorist” is to be a citizen of a country that has been invaded by the Israeli (or, presumably, the U.S.) Army.

“Lebanon has chosen sides — not all Lebanese, but the democratically chosen Lebanese government,” wrote Dershowitz. “When a nation chooses sides in a war … its civilians pay a price for that choice…. Lebanon has chosen the wrong side and its citizens are paying the price. Maybe next time a democracy must choose between collaborating with terrorism or resisting terrorism, it will choose the right side.”

Reading those words I was irresistibly reminded of a conversation I had with a self-described Holocaust skeptic in White Plains, New York during the fall of 2001. During our conversation, this fellow admitted that under Nazi rule German and other European Jews were branded like cattle, deprived of their property, and penned in concentration camps, but insisted that this was necessary because they constituted a “security risk.”

Owing to the fact that a portion of the German Jewish population consisted of Marxist radicals who threatened the German state, that entire sub-population had defined itself as the enemy, and could be dealt with in any fashion necessary in order to preserve the Volkish state.

If there is a moral difference between that individual’s view of collective punishment, and the one expressed by Dershowitz and other people of his ilk, I’ve yet to learn of an instrument capable of measuring it.

It’s not at all surprising that Dershowitz invoked his concept of the “continuum of civilianality” to justify both the Gaza blockade and the attack on the relief flotilla.

“The act of breaking a military siege is itself a military act,” pontificated the love-child of Lazar Kaganovich and Bozo the Clown. “It is a close question whether `civilians’ who agree too [sic] participate in the breaking of a military blockade have become combatants. They are certainly something different than pure, innocent civilians, and perhaps they are also something different from pure armed combatants. ”

The place assigned by Dershowitz to such people on his “continuum of civilianality” depends entirely on their response toaggression by people wearing state-issued costumes: If their reaction is anything other than immediate, unconditional submission, then — according to Dershowitz — those defending themselves become terrorists, and the costumed aggressors are the victims.

Where the use of aggressive force is concerned, the only serious moral question — for Dershowitz and other high priests of statism — is whether those committing it are swaddled in government-approved attire.

As Augustine pointed out, the key difference between a state and any other criminal gang is not the “renouncing of aggression” but rather the “attainment of impunity.” Like the behemoth in Washington that lavishly underwrites it, nurtures its worst and most corrupt instincts, and shields its rulers from accountability, the Israeli government is a criminal band that acts with utter impunity — not to protect its citizens, but to defend and enhance the state’s power and the material advantages of those allied to it.

The Israeli government, like the one ruling us, thrives on crises and seems to go to great lengths to cultivate them. As I’ve pointed out before, there is a sick symbiosis between the Israeli regime and Palestinian terrorist chieftains, a relationship documented by Richard Ben Cramer in his valuable and infuriating book How Israel Lost.

“Things are not as they seem,” writes Cramer. “The [Palestinian Authority’s] business intersects with Israeli business at the highest levels of Israeli political life.” This explains the tacit “arrangement” in which Israeli and Palestinian rulers sustain each other through carefully timed incidents of lethal violence.

Before Yasir Arafat died, he would be regularly “rescued” by Israeli military strikes against Palestinian targets, Cramer observes. The same was true of Arafat’s supposed arch-enemy, Ariel Sharon: “If his polls dropped, something terrible happened — dead Jews all over the TV” — and Sharon’s political fortunes would dramatically improve.

One reason Israeli intelligence helped create Hamas in the first place was to provide a hunting preserve of Palestinian radicals who could be killed in this ongoing charade. Now we’re told that the establishment of a Hamas-dominated political regime in Gaza justifies the starvation blockade and the slaughter on the high seas of anyone — including American citizens — who tries to run that blockade.

All of this is necessary, we are incessantly told, in order to ensure the survival of the Jewish State. But self-defense is an individual right. No state, Jewish or otherwise, has the “right” to exist, and all of them — the Israeli state emphatically included — prosper at the expense of those they supposedly protect.

We can’t guarantee Israel’s security and have no authority to do so even if we could, but we’d do both ourselves and the inhabitants of that country a tremendous favor if we were to stop paying for the Israeli government’s bullets.