Israel’s Wanton Aggression

A reckless campaign of violence has now targeted American journalists.

In its most recent escalation in Gaza, Israel has indiscriminately killed women and children on a daily basis. Now, it’s targeting US media outlets. The Associated Press (“Israel strikes Gaza home of Hamas leader, destroys AP office“) reports:

Israel slammed the Gaza Strip with airstrikes, in a dramatic escalation that included bombing the home of a senior Hamas leader, killing a family of 10 in a refugee camp — most of them children — and pulverizing a high-rise that housed The Associated Press and other media.

The Hamas militant group continued a stream of rocket volleys into Israel, including a late-night barrage on Tel Aviv. One man was killed Saturday when a rocket hit his home in a suburb of the seaside metropolis.

With a U.S. envoy on the ground, calls increased for a cease-fire after five days of mayhem that have left at least 145 Palestinians dead in Gaza — including 41 children and 23 women — and eight dead on the Israeli side, all but one of them civilians, including a 5-year-old. President Joe Biden, who has called for a de-escalation but has backed Israel’s campaign, spoke separately by phone with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Still, Israel stepped up its assault, vowing to shatter the capabilities of Gaza’s Hamas rulers. The week of deadly violence, set off by a Hamas rocket Monday, came after weeks of mounting tensions and heavy-handed Israeli measures in contested Jerusalem.

Early Sunday, Israeli warplanes struck several buildings and roads in a vital part of Gaza City. Photos circulated by residents and journalists showed the airstrikes created a crater that blocked one of the main roads leading to Shifa, the largest hospital in the strip.

The Health Ministry said the latest airstrikes left at least two dead and 25 wounded, including children and women. There has been no immediate comment from the Israeli military.

On Saturday, Israel bombed the home of Khalil al-Hayeh, a senior figure in Hamas’ political branch, saying the building served as part of the group’s “terrorist infrastructure.” There was no immediate report on al-Hayeh’s fate or on any casualties.

The bombing of al-Hayeh’s home showed Israel was expanding its campaign beyond just the group’s military commanders. Israel says it has killed dozens in Hamas’ military branch, though Hamas and the smaller group Islamic Jihad have only acknowledged 20 dead members.

Since the conflict began, Israel has leveled a number of Gaza City’s tallest office and residential buildings, alleging they house elements of the Hamas military infrastructure. On Saturday, it turned to the 12-story al-Jalaa Building, where the offices of the AP, the TV network Al-Jazeera and other media outlets are located, along with several floors of apartments.

“The campaign will continue as long as it is required,” Netanyahu said in a televised speech on Saturday evening. He alleged that Hamas military intelligence was operating inside the building. Israel routinely cites a Hamas presence as a reason for targeting certain locations in airstrikes, including residential buildings. The military also has accused the militant group of using journalists as human shields, but provided no evidence to back up the claims.

The AP has operated from the building for 15 years, including through three previous wars between Israel and Hamas, without being targeted directly. During those conflicts as well as the current one, the news agency’s cameras from its top floor office and roof terrace offered 24-hour live shots as militants’ rockets arched toward Israel and Israeli airstrikes hammered the city and its surroundings.

“We have had no indication Hamas was in the building or active in the building,” AP President and CEO Gary Pruitt said in a statement. “This is something we actively check to the best of our ability. We would never knowingly put our journalists at risk.”

Israel, particularly when under Likud governance, has been intentionally brutal, happily flouting international human rights law and intentionally targeting civilians in its reprisals, for decades now. But, on the surface at least, things had gotten better in recent years, notably culminating in the Abraham Accords.

So, what happened? The NYT’s Patrick Kingsley pinpoints a little-noticed event:

Twenty-seven days before the first rocket was fired from Gaza this week, a squad of Israeli police officers entered the Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, brushed the Palestinian attendants aside and strode across its vast limestone courtyard. Then they cut the cables to the loudspeakers that broadcast prayers to the faithful from four medieval minarets.

It was the night of April 13, the first day of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. It was also Memorial Day in Israel, which honors those who died fighting for the country. The Israeli president was delivering a speech at the Western Wall, a sacred Jewish site that lies below the mosque, and Israeli officials were concerned that the prayers would drown it out.

The incident was confirmed by six mosque officials, three of whom witnessed it; the Israeli police declined to comment. In the outside world, it barely registered.

But in hindsight, the police raid on the mosque, one of the holiest sites in Islam, was one of several actions that led, less than a month later, to the sudden resumption of war between Israel and Hamas, the militant group that rules the Gaza Strip, and the outbreak of civil unrest between Arabs and Jews across Israel itself.

“This was the turning point,” said Sheikh Ekrima Sabri, the grand mufti of Jerusalem. “Their actions would cause the situation to deteriorate.”

But that rather begs the question. This was obviously a deliberate provocation, intended to spark outrage and violence.

The crisis came as the Israeli government was struggling for its survival; as Hamas — which Israel views as a terrorist group — was seeking to expand its role within the Palestinian movement; and as a new generation of Palestinians was asserting its own values and goals.

Netanyahu has been desperately clinging to power—and freedom—for years. Palestinians, meanwhile, have been chafing at the illegal occupation for decades but had been kept on their chains, refraining from the terrorist and rocket attacks that had characterized previous rounds of violence for years. They didn’t even erupt when President Trump moved the US embassy to Jerusalem.

Regardless, as Kingsley’s colleagues Lisa Lerer and Jennifer Medina report, the recent events have spotlighted a rather stark divide on the Israel issue within the Democratic leadership.

While the Biden administration is handling the growing conflict as a highly sensitive diplomatic challenge involving a longstanding ally, the ascendant left views it as a searing racial justice issue that is deeply intertwined with the politics of the United States.

For those activists, Palestinian rights and the decades-long conflict over land in the Middle East are linked to causes like police brutality and conditions for migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border. Party activists who fight for racial justice now post messages against the “colonization of Palestine” with the hashtag #PalestinianLivesMatter.

With President Biden in the White House, traditional U.S. support for Israel is hardly in question from a policy perspective; he has made his support for the country clear throughout his nearly 50 years in public life. Still, the terms of the debate are shifting in Democratic circles.

On Thursday, a group of leading progressive members of Congress offered a rare break from party unity, giving fiery speeches on the House floor that accused Mr. Biden of ignoring the plight of Palestinians and “taking the side of the occupation.” Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York directly challenged the president, who had asserted that Israel had a right to defend itself. “Do Palestinians have a right to survive?” she asked in an impassioned address. “Do we believe that? And if so, we have a responsibility to that as well.”

Less than 24 hours later, on Friday, nearly 150 prominent liberal advocacy organizations issued a joint statement calling for “solidarity with the Palestinian residents” and condemning “Israeli state violence” and “supremacy” in Jerusalem.

The statement was signed not just by groups focused on Middle Eastern and Jewish issues but by groups dedicated to causes like climate change, immigration, feminism and racial justice — a sign that for the party’s liberal faction, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has moved far beyond the realm of foreign policy.

Interestingly, Biden is more aligned with Republicans—who have traditionally seen anything to the left of the Likud position as not only anti-Israel but anti-Semitic—than with his own party. Indeed, Democratic Presidents going back to Jimmy Carter have been much tougher on Israeli aggression than he looks to be.

While I’m more aligned with their views, and indeed Bernie Sanders (who is being advised by my friend Matt Duss) on this issue, Biden’s position has more political backing. Still, Netanyahu’s reckless disregard for decency makes it really hard to support Israel:

Yet, even Senator Robert Menendez, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee known for his staunch support of Israel, offered a rare rebuke on Saturday, condemning recent strikes that killed Palestinian civilians and destroyed media offices.

The UN Security Council is reportedly set to meet later today to push for an end to these hostilities. But, unless Biden switches positions here, one presumes the US will continue being the lone civilized nation that backs Israel’s stance.

FILED UNDER: Israel
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Sleeping Dog says:

    Oh James, prepare to be accused of being an anti-Semite, that accusation having become the default response by the pro-Likud defenders of Israel.

    Israel has moved consistently over the last 20 years to marginalize and subjugate Palestinians. Call it apartheid or apartheid-like treatment, but that is what exists. Yet we have Hamas, whose actions undercuts the justness of the Palestinian position.

    A pox on both their houses.

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  2. wr says:

    We have here the perfect example of “The Art of the Deal.” Trump solved the Israeli-Palestine conflict by coming up with a deal under which Israel would get everything they wanted and the Palestinians would get nothing and expected that both sides would go along with it.

    Now it seems that Netanyahu’s government has decided that “everything they wanted” includes getting rid of all trace of the Palestinians — and they, too, seem shocked that the other side isn’t simply living up to the “agreement.”

    11
  3. Stormy Dragon says:

    He alleged that Hamas military intelligence was operating inside the building.

    Given the IDF’s history of lying to the press to justify attacks on non-military targets, is there any independent evidence this is true? Even worse, do we know he wasn’t referring to the Al Jazeera office in the building under some grotesque “Hamas leaders watch Al Jazeera on TV so it counts as Hamas military intelligence” logic? Deliberately targeting press so that there’s no coverage of what’s actually going on in Gaza to contradict IDF propaganda would again be very much in keeping with the way IDF does things.

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  4. Neither Israel nor Hamss have clean hand in this current conflict.

    The Hamas rocket attacks on civilian areas of as well as the indiscriminate attacks by Israel in Gaza that have resulted in almost 150 civilian deaths, including dozens of children.

    A pox on both their houses.

    12
  5. Michael Reynolds says:

    I got involved in a long Twitter DM debate with one of my followers, a Palestinian. His solution? Destroy the state of Israel. It’s 2021 and he’s right where his ancestors were, same ideology, same maximalist positions, but in a smaller, weaker ‘Palestine’ that’s been written off by the Arab world.

    So, in concluding the debate, I put out a public tweet that I won’t be bullied into supporting either extreme, that I will never support Likud or the settlers. But I would also never support the destruction of Israel. A pox on both their houses.

    This is a political fight involving Hamas vs. the PA, and Netanyahu vs. prison. Hamas is happy to have its own people die for their cause, and Netanyahu is more than happy to do the killing. 54 years (since the 67 war) I’ve paid close attention, cared, hoped, been disappointed. I’m about out of shits to give.

    25
  6. George says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Its hard not to wonder if Hamas and Netanyahu aren’t working together on this — it helps both nicely with their internal struggles. As you say, a lot of wanton firing at civilians all around.

    9
  7. R. Dave says:

    @Sleeping Dog: Israel has moved consistently over the last 20 years to marginalize and subjugate Palestinians. Call it apartheid or apartheid-like treatment, but that is what exists. Yet we have Hamas, whose actions undercuts the justness of the Palestinian position.

    A pox on both their houses.

    I mostly agree with this. On the one hand, Israel’s Apartheid-like treatment of the Palestinians and continuous gradual annexation of more and more territory are appalling and will inevitably produce backlash. On the other hand, none of that in any way justifies or excuses Hamas targeting civilians with rockets and bombings. No clean hands for either of side here.

    That said, there’s no moral equivalence between Israel and Hamas writ large – Israel is an imperfect liberal democracy with a glaring blind spot in its treatment of a particular ethnic group that needs to undertake reforms to correct that failing and live up to its supposed ideals, much like the US during the Jim Crow era, whereas Hamas is an avowedly eliminationist terrorist group that richly deserves to be destroyed.

    6
  8. Scott F. says:

    Netanyahu has been desperately clinging to power—and freedom—for years.

    Foreshadowing for America?

    4
  9. Mister Bluster says:

    A pox on both houses.

    On a weekend afternoon some 30+ years ago I watched a TV program hosted by Linda Ellerbee. She had invited children from the Middle East to talk about current events. There were maybe 5 or 6 Israelies and 5 or 6 Palestinians. Teenagers. 13 to 17 or so.
    A boy child started the conversation: “It says in our Holy Book that thousands of years ago God gave us this land and we must fight to keep it!”
    A girl child from the other side chimed in: “It says in our Holy Book that God gave us this land thousands of years ago and we must fight to keep it!”
    The discussion went on like this for a while and nothing was resolved.
    From that day on my solution to this dilemma has been to burn the Holy Books.

    This was the mid/late ’80s.
    Every time this conflict flames up since then I wonder “where are those children today?”

    9
  10. Michael Reynolds says:

    I guess it’d be wrong to fire a spread of cruise missiles at Temple Mount and let them fight over the rubble.

    7
  11. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Michael Reynolds: Only because they will fight over the rubble.

    15
  12. Mikey says:

    Human Rights Watch has declared Israel’s domination of Gaza and the West Bank an apartheid.

    When I arrived in Jerusalem in 1989 as Human Rights Watch’s first Israel-Palestine researcher, I did not imagine the word “apartheid” applying to the Israeli and Palestinian context. But this week, HRW published a report that I edited, as the organization’s acting Middle East director, finding that Israeli officials are committing the crimes of apartheid and persecution — crimes against humanity.

    I knew 30 years ago that apartheid had legal meaning beyond its origins in South Africa. For more than a decade there had been an international convention that defined apartheid as a crime committed when officials systematically oppress one group in the territory under their control, and subject it to inhumane acts, with the intent to maintain the domination over that group for the benefit of another group.


    Say Israel is Committing Apartheid? It’s Not a Decision We Reached Lightly.

    7
  13. Gustopher says:

    @R. Dave:

    On the one hand, Israel’s Apartheid-like treatment of the Palestinians and continuous gradual annexation of more and more territory are appalling and will inevitably produce backlash. On the other hand, none of that in any way justifies or excuses Hamas targeting civilians with rockets and bombings. No clean hands for either of side here.

    Meh. Civilians get killed in war. It’s part of what makes war terrible, and part of what makes populations want peace.

    We’ve had wars going on for two decades in the Middle East, and a large part of why that happens is that most Americans don’t feel any of the cost.

    2
  14. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Gustopher: Interesting comment from the standpoint of who the “we” is vis-a-vis whose feeling the cost might make a difference.

  15. grumpy realist says:

    Israel has already been having internal stresses with the increasing percentage of citizens being Ultra-Orthodox and moving into non-Ultra-Orthodox neighbourhoods. Netanyahu has been clinging to power for years by supporting the Ultra-Orthodox parties in Parliament and giving them what they demand. The more secular Israelis are getting more and more pissed about this.

    And you can’t have an economy depending on high-tech and pharmaceuticals (Teva) when more and more of your male population plans to sit at home, study the Torah, and live off welfare or their wife’s earnings. I’ve heard that more and more Ultra-Orthodox women have been starting to work in high-tech areas, but I’m dubious that they have the educational background to do anything more than be laboratory technicians. They’re not going to be producing the next generation of high-tech inventions.

    Netanyahu is between a rock and a hard place and my suspicion is that the whole Temple Mount incident was carried out precisely in order to provoke this sort of reaction from Hamas and give Netanyahu something to rally the crowd around.

    10
  16. David S. says:

    @grumpy realist: Feels as certain as it can be without a direct confession, to me. The concern was he couldn’t give a speech? I wipe my ass with tissue paper less flimsy than that justification.

    5
  17. Lounsbury says:

    @George: Well they need not be in any way explicitly working together to easily work together…. It easily serves both the Likudnik and the Hamas self-interest to have incidents to provoke rally-round-the-Defenders which both play off of.

    I am terribly happy that I no longer work in that particular corner of the region however amusing my memories of being detained by IDF are (for taking pictures of our West Bank investment site that had been flatted by Israeli tanks [quite impressive how squashed a BMW can be after a Merkava rolls over it], really very charming).

    3
  18. Stormy Dragon says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    I guess it’d be wrong to fire a spread of cruise missiles at Temple Mount and let them fight over the rubble.

    This would likely make things worse since there would now have to be a discussion about whether to rebuild the Al Aqsa mosque, the Jewish temple, or both.

    2
  19. Gustopher says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    Interesting comment from the standpoint of who the “we” is vis-a-vis whose feeling the cost might make a difference.

    Well, has the Afghanistan war affected most Americans in any significant way? It’s so background that most Americans don’t even think about it.

    It also seems absurd that we decide that directly targeting our civilians is bad, but then we blow up the infrastructure and cause a hundred thousand indirect civilian deaths like in Iraq.

    “We are going to wage war upon you. You may only strike the targets we have hardened against your attacks.” Yeah, I don’t see a reason why anyone would comply with that.

    We get away with it by being thousands of miles away and maintaining a surveillance state inside our borders.

    Israel… well, they’re doing that with people on the other side of a fence. People will strike back however they can, whether we think it is right or wrong.

    People are animals, and cornered animals defend themselves and lash out.

    “Mommy dear, I was kicking a dog and it bit me in the testicles!”

    Would you expect a response of: “That was very unchivalrous of the dog, biting below the belt. I don’t care if it was a wiener dog.”

    Or: “This is why we don’t kick dogs.”

    (Or, in the case of Israel, they will pretend the dog bit them in the testicles for no reason whatsoever…)

    5
  20. Gustopher says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    This would likely make things worse since there would now have to be a discussion about whether to rebuild the Al Aqsa mosque, the Jewish temple, or both.

    Obviously they should build a Christian Megachurch.

    8
  21. wr says:

    @Doug Mataconis: “Neither Israel nor Hamss have clean hand in this current conflict.”

    You are absolutely right. Too bad simply saying that is enough to get you labelled an anti-semite by the ones who are currently screaming about the horrors of cancel culture.

    4
  22. R. Dave says:

    @Gustopher: Meh. Civilians get killed in war. It’s part of what makes war terrible, and part of what makes populations want peace.

    YMMV, I suppose, but in my view, unintentional killing of civilians and deliberate targeting of civilians are not morally equivalent acts, and a country that attempts to minimize civilian casualties and a group that attempts to maximize civilian casualties are not morally equivalent actors.

    5
  23. Raoul says:

    Does Israel even have an endgame here? How long do they think they can you oppress, victimize, steal and humiliate Palestinians before they react. To be sure rocketing Israel is a dastardly deed and should be condemned but so is bombing civilian areas in Gaza. The hand of the oppressor always has the keys to a solution if they chose so.

    5
  24. Teve says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    This would likely make things worse since there would now have to be a discussion about whether to rebuild the Al Aqsa mosque, the Jewish temple, or both.

    do it like one of those combo KFC/Taco Bells.

    6
  25. Teve says:

    Israel terrorizes the Palestinians on a round-the-clock basis, but its behavior is described as security and military actions and the Palestinians’ as terrorism.

    But it was 20 years ago that I wished for a browser extension which could block any and all mention of anything in that ruinous part of the world outside of cuisine. Lebanese food is the shizzle.

    2
  26. JohnSF says:

    @Stormy Dragon:
    Oh my.
    Look up advocacy of the Third Temple some time.
    Eeek.

    Half-remembered things: some thirty years or so ago I came across a comment by an American politician from sometime between 1947 and 1948, along the lines of:

    “If only the British would get out and stop their divide-and-rule tactics, the Jews and Arabs would soon sort out their differences.”

    Yeah?
    How’s that working out?

    2
  27. Gustopher says:

    @R. Dave:

    unintentional killing of civilians and deliberate targeting of civilians are not morally equivalent acts

    five days of mayhem that have left at least 145 Palestinians dead in Gaza — including 41 children and 23 women — and eight dead on the Israeli side, all but one of them civilians, including a 5-year-old.

    Well, there are 42 children that might disagree with you.

    Which is worse: Ineffectively targeting civilians and killing 8 people, or aiming right next to civilians and killing 145 people including a lot of civilians?

    I don’t think it’s clear cut. The dividing line between terrorism and proper war is often based on who does it.

    I guess we could arm Hamas with smart bombs and more sophisticated weapons so they can more effectively strike back at pure military targets, but that seems like a really bad idea.

    4
  28. JohnSF says:

    @Gustopher:
    The Israeli problem is, that Hamas, in the longer term, will arm itself with said weapons.
    Not to mention the potential for new and interesting payloads.

    Additionally, the Palestinians have a general sympathy from the Arab and Muslim populations.
    (e.g. Shia Iranian favour for Palestinians who are overwhelmingly Sunni)
    This tends to get set aside in the short term, when the particular interests of a state are in play, such as the Saudi-Iranian enmity, or similarly Turkey or Egypt.

    The Likud error is seeing such short-term tactical edges as as viable long term strategy.
    The peril is of the effect of eventually consolidated Arab, and Muslim influence.
    Likud policy seems predicated in the eternal rule of the House of Saud and the the Egyptian military, and the continued skew of European policy by the Germans.
    Eventually, if Israel is not careful, the German post-holocaust stance may be outweighed by the Arab/Muslim diaspora in Europe.

    With the EU goods trade being 35% of imports and 22% of exports, this could have dire economic consequences.
    And if in the longer term anti-Israel forces were able to obtain weapons on a comparable quality/quantity level?

    Stasis may suit Netanyahu, and may appeal to Likud headbangers for now.
    Long term, it’s a losing hand.

    3
  29. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Gustopher:
    There’s an interesting book out by Malcolm Gladwell called The Bomber Mafia. It goes into the idealism of American air war planners going into WW2. Daytime precision bombing was seen as more moral than what those dirty Brits were doing, bombing cities at night. Great idea, didn’t work for shit, we just got a lot of American flyers killed. Then we went to Japan and didn’t even pretend to play nice. We firebombed the living hell out of every city we could find on a map and wrapped it all up with Little Boy and Fat Man. That worked super well, but mostly because the Japanese had conveniently built extra flammable cities.

    In war most sides start out with some notions of right and wrong, or at least wrong and wronger. It doesn’t usually last. Dresden wasn’t an opening act, nor was Tokyo, or in a later war, My Lai. Going back to our Civil War, what started out with Bull Run (part le premier) with a 7% casualty rate, ended up with battles where the casualty rate was four times that. Israel’s been at this for 73 years but are still expending costly precision bombs rather than nice, cheap dumb bombs or napalm. That’s not much, but it’s not nothing. It’s a hell of a lot more polite than the way we dealt with our Palestinians, er, Indians.

    I’m afraid our example is exactly what Israel is following. What are Gaza and the West Bank if not reservations?

    6
  30. JohnSF says:

    @Michael Reynolds:
    I have a big argument with Gladwell’s thesis.

    It’s true that the Norden bomb-sight was over-sold in the context of the overall weapons system (i.e. don’t work so well well when you pilot is busy trying to dodge a FW-190) and that the “self defending bomber formation ” was a crock of poo.

    But when the daytime bomber ops were mated to long-range fighter escort, the result was devastating for the Luftwaffe (when combined with the massive attrition of German air power vs Russia) and also contra Gladwell, the anti-transport/anti-oil attrition targeting was quite effective.

    The results: Allied tactical air supremacy in Normandy, and the massive transport/fuel problems of the Germans.

    Gladwell IMHO is the latest in line of people saying “because air power didn’t meet the sell of the inter-war enthusiasts, therefore it was pants”.
    Exaggerating is exaggerating, whether in one direction or another.
    “Don’t over egg the pudding!”

    5
  31. JohnMcC says:

    @Stormy Dragon: And as I’m sure quite a few of the readers here know, the fundamentalists expect that a new (third) temple is going to be built on the site of the Temple Mount as a sign of the coming AntiChrist/Messiah end-times drama.

  32. JohnMcC says:

    @JohnMcC: Well, now that I’ve finished reading I see the other John has mentioned the ‘Third Temple’.

    @JohnSF: Norden bombsight is an interesting discussion. Originally made for bombing ships after Billy Mitchell proved that battleships could be sunk by aircraft if they could only HIT the damn things. (‘Course, the ones they sunk were anchored. And bombing ships from far above proved almost impossible.) There was an industrial accident in the late ’20s that stopped US production of ball bearings. Huge shock to almost entire economy. War planners looked at the bombsight that could hit a battleship and at that single manufacturing plant’s effect on the economy. Hmmmm….

    As you say, when the Luftwaffe shot cannons from beyond the range of a .50 MG, was a very big surprise.

    1
  33. Teve says:

    “Israel’s Wanton Aggression”

    What do Jews have to do with Chinese dumplings? Oh, yeah, Jews eat Chinese food on Christmas. Makes sense.

    2
  34. Teve says:

    @JohnSF:

    Half-remembered things: some thirty years or so ago I came across a comment by an American politician from sometime between 1947 and 1948, along the lines of:

    “If only the British would get out and stop their divide-and-rule tactics, the Jews and Arabs would soon sort out their differences.”

    Yeah?
    How’s that working out?

    American right wingers blamed everything on Yasir Arafat. I can’t tell you the number of times I heard some asshole like Rush Limbaugh say that a peace solution would be worked out a few short months after Arafat died.

  35. Teve says:

    @JohnMcC:

    Norden bombsight is an interesting discussion. Originally made for bombing ships after Billy Mitchell proved that battleships could be sunk by aircraft if they could only HIT the damn things. (‘Course, the ones they sunk were anchored. And bombing ships from far above proved almost impossible.)

    Yep. Like the history of the terrifying practice of Dive Bombing.

    1
  36. gVOR08 says:

    @Michael Reynolds: @JohnSF: It’s a long time since I read Max Hastings history of the British bombing effort, Bomber Command. He recounted the RAF’s efforts to conduct daytime raids against military targets, and their failure at great cost. The British switched to night bombing because it was all they were able to do, and to area bombing of cities rather than specific military targets because at night they were lucky if they managed to hit a city. This was a morally fraught decision, aided by the fact the Germans were following the same evolution. It’s hard to argue you shouldn’t bomb Hamburg when the Germans were night bombing London.

    But IIRC Hastings concluded the primary effect was to kill of tens of thousands of the cream of the British manpower pool with little effect on the enemy. And to Hastings the morality was settled when Bomber Command continued night area bombing although they had developed the technical capacity: aircraft, radar and a bombsight equal to the U. S. Norden, to hit military targets and the Allies had air superiority by day. To have switched would be to admit that all the arguments for area bombing were rationalizations, and their commander, Arthur “Bomber” Harris, couldn’t do that. Within the RAF his nickname was “Butcher” Harris. The RAF did finally switch to daylight raids very late in the game. Harris was snubbed post-war as the politicians were happy to let him bear the moral opprobrium.

    FYI the Germans also had a bombsight equal to the Norden, so all the secrecy was unnecessary. Just as well, as we scattered a lot of bombsights over Germany and occupied Europe. IIRC crashed radars did teach the Germans how to make a klystron tube.

    2
  37. JohnSF says:

    @JohnMcC:
    War tale from my late father:
    On bombing op over Burma, cloud cover below, searchlights and flak lighting them up, possible night fighters waiting under the deck.
    Captain says:
    “Hey lads, we can either drop ’em from up here or go down for a better look. Bombardier, are we on?”
    “Bloody well on enough for me.”

    4
  38. Teve says:

    @JohnSF: I like Gladwell articles for the same reason kids like cotton candy. But they’re not serious history.

    But Gladwell has been very successful doing what he does. When I saw him at Duke in the early 2000s he was making something like $40,000 per speech. (I didn’t go to Duke, I went with a friend. I feel it necessary for my self-respect to point out I went to a nice state school.) 😀

    4
  39. JohnSF says:

    @JohnMcC:
    @gVOR08:
    @Teve:
    Non-dive bombing of discrete targets (e.g. ships) could work; but it was not easy.
    See the long, finally successful, effort of the RAF to take out the Tirpitz
    OTOH a lot of examples form the time indicated that ships could not live long within the range of
    land air superiority.
    Hence the basis of the Battle of Britain.

    2
  40. gVOR08 says:

    @JohnMcC: I recall reading someone’s description of how you restore a ball bearing factory after it’s bombed. You stand the machine tools back upright, reconnect the power lines, throw a tarp over the holes in the roof, throw the switches, and start making ball bearings. What the bomber mafia derided as “panacea targets” when economists suggested them, fuel and transport, were where bombing finally had a major impact.

    The ME 262 jet fighter was superior to anything we had, except that our airplanes had fuel, and the 262s didn’t. Plus the engines only lasted about ten hours. And we had timed their response to the B-17 raids. About the time the 262s were taxiing out to their runways, a couple squadrons of P-51s or P-47s would show up and beat up their airfields. And maybe again when they landed.

    And I’ve always wondered how many of the holes in B-17s were .50 caliber.

    2
  41. JohnSF says:

    @gVOR08:
    Again, Hastings has a pattern of deprecating the effect of the bomber offensive.
    Along with a lot of others.
    There is something in their analysis, but IMO they let their justifiable moral qualms effect the determination of military effect.
    Though the bomber offensive took a horrid toll on some of the best of the RAF, it also hurt the Germans a lot worse than some of the critics of the bomber offensive seem willing to admit.

    At the very least there were some 40,000 guns pointing up rather than pointing at ground targets (i.e. roughly ten times the Wehrmacht artillery available for the Kursk battles).

    Though the RAF decision not to switch to daylight ops. was a folly comprised of Harris’s pig-headed immovable stubbornness, the reluctance of RAF FC/TC to divert resources to escort role, and the bloody-minded unwillingness to coordinate with each other of RAF and USAAF.

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  42. Moosebreath says:

    @Teve:

    ““Israel’s Wanton Aggression”

    What do Jews have to do with Chinese dumplings?”

    It’s because the Palestinians have gotten tired of being the lo mein on the totem pole.

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  43. JohnSF says:

    @gVOR08:
    Anyone with much acquaintance with a bunch of machine tools vs. a refinery will likely agree the latter not likely to function well once you set it alight.
    Also, transport (in those days, rail) was vulnerable because bridges were “single point of failure”, no matter how busily you rebuilt, and shunting yards were big and easy to hit.

    1
  44. Stormy Dragon says:

    @JohnSF:
    @JohnMcC:

    I am aware of it, which is part of why I was pointing out MR’s plan would make things even worse.

  45. mattBernius says:

    @JohnSF:

    Gladwell IMHO is the latest in line of people saying “because air power didn’t meet the sell of the inter-war enthusiasts, therefore it was pants”.
    Exaggerating is exaggerating, whether in one direction or another.
    “Don’t over egg the pudding

    FWIW, this has been a consistent issue with Gladwell. I say that as someone who really liked “The Tipping Point” at the time. Unfortunately, the further you go into his work you find that he tends to flatten complex situations to fit his narrative (and ignore many other situations that undercut his thesis).

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  46. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Gustopher: I don’t disagree. It’s just an interesting “what’s wrong with this picture?” puzzle to me.

  47. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @R. Dave: Interesting supposition. I’m just wondering which side is which. From the article:

    With a U.S. envoy on the ground, calls increased for a cease-fire after five days of mayhem that have left at least 145 Palestinians dead in Gaza — including 41 children and 23 women — and eight dead on the Israeli side, all but one of them civilians, including a 5-year-old–

    Clearly, one side seems to be either better at this war/killing civilians thing than the other.

  48. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Teve: No, that would be “won ton aggression.” But it is just a bad.

    1
  49. Slugger says:

    On the WW II bombing issue, I recently heard a podcast that replayed a documentary on the bombing of Tokyo. The original was narrated by Ronald Reagan. Precision bombing required daylight. Daylight meant that the B-29s had to fly above the reach of AA. At that altitude they encountered the jetstream that caused erratic flight. Gen. LeMay decided that a nocturnal attack on residential parts of the city would impact Japanese war industries. The night of March 9-10, we dropped 1665 tons of bombs, mostly napalm. A firestorm resulted. A hundred thousand were killed. I remember reading that Japanese trying to escape the flames by jumping in the Sumida River were parboiled.
    War is monstrous. We must strive for peace.

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  50. SC_Birdflyte says:

    @JohnSF: Just so. I taught a continuing education course at the local university last fall that made the point that the Germans had won the air war over their homeland at the end of 1943. Two things changed: mass production of the P-51 and the combined transportation/oil campaigns.

  51. R. Dave says:

    @Gustopher: Which is worse: Ineffectively targeting civilians and killing 8 people, or aiming right next to civilians and killing 145 people including a lot of civilians?

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: Interesting supposition. I’m just wondering which side is which. From the article:

    With a U.S. envoy on the ground, calls increased for a cease-fire after five days of mayhem that have left at least 145 Palestinians dead in Gaza…and eight dead on the Israeli side.

    Clearly, one side seems to be either better at this war/killing civilians thing than the other.

    The numbers don’t change the moral difference between intentional and unintentional killing, though you could of course make a consequentialist argument that intention isn’t the only (or even the best) measure of morality. Personally, I put a very high moral premium on intentionality, but I’m not an absolutist about it. In my view, intentionally targeting civilians automatically puts you into the worst moral category, but the converse isn’t true – accidental or unintentional killing of civilians is not automatically blameless. The amount of moral blame you have for unintentional killing of civilians depends on a bunch of different factors – how much moral blame you have for causing the conflict in the first place, how morally righteous your goals in the conflict are, how important the military objective is, how much care you took to avoid the civilian casualties, etc. There’s a definite case to be made that Israel is morally blameworthy on some or all of these fronts. Still not in the worst of the worst category of intentional targeting, but not a clean-hands actor for sure.

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  52. Grewgills says:

    R. Dave,
    At some point after repeated attacks that result in large numbers of civilian casualties, even when warning are given, saying the casualties are unintentional doesn’t mean much.
    If you know that the warnings will be insufficient for civilians to evacuate and that in all likelihood that 4 out of 5 strikes will result in significant civilian casualties are those casualties really unintentional? At what point are the warnings and declarations of negative intent just fig leaves?

    1
  53. The Q says:

    Let’s say you have a neighbor with a dog who barks constantly at night, keeping you awake. You politely complain to the owner. So he shoots the dog.

    Problem solved but the manner in which it was handled may be more disturbing than the initial offense.

    Hamas is the dog. Israel is the owner.

    Hamas lobs missiles that are highly inefficient in killing but a gross violation nonetheless, Israel responds by efficiently blowing away innocent combatants.

    Let’s hope we have the wisdom to back the “right” side.

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  54. dazedandconfused says: