Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Failed Arguments

When it comes to the Israel/Palestine conflict, bizarre, illogical and incoherent arguments are often produced to 'defend' Israel.  An example appeared in the Irish Times last Saturday May 12.  One Ivor Shorts suggested that criticisms of Israel would have greater credibility if they acknowledged the warlike intent and efforts of the Arab states against Israel in 1948, 1967 and 1973.  Here's his letter: http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/letters/2012/0512/1224315982020.html

Here's the text of a letter I submitted to the Irish Times by way of reply, which has not been published:

May 12, 2012

Dear Sir

Ivor Shorts (letters, Saturday May 12, 2012) argues that criticism of Israel has more credibility if it's preceded by criticism of wars launched by the Arab states against Israerl in 1948, 1967 and 1973, and rockets launched at Israel more recently.

Mr Shorts' argument is deficient on at least two counts, historically and logically. Historically: by the time that the Arab armies attacked Israel in May 1948, Jewish guerillas had already ethnically cleansed 250, 000 Palestinians, and assaulted the areas labelled as the Palestinian state to come under the UN partition plan. Everybody knows that Israel attacked Egypt, Jordan, and Syria first in 1967, arguably unnecessarily, by destroying their airforces on the ground. 1967 was a 'war of choice' for Israel. Even the 1973 war, launched by Egypt and Syria, never touched pre-1967 Israeli territory, but only territory conquered by Israel in 1967.

Logically: the barbarous crime of the 45 year occupation was not erased or exculpated in anticipation by the 1948, 1967 or 1973 wars. Who started those wars is irrelevant to the occupation now.

Yours sincerely

Conor McCarthy

I think that these points stand.  There are multiple  complications with Shorts's suggestion that Israel was the victim in 1948 and 1967.  Not only were the Haganah and the Irgun Zvai Leumi involved in offensive operations in the areas of the 'Palestinian state' envisaged under the UN Partition Plan as early as March 1948 - two months before the 'declaration of independence' after which the Arab armies intervened -  but infamous episodes such as the Dayr Yasin massacre of Palestinian villagers took place before the arrival of Arab troops.  Further, the Jewish militias were never outnumbered - by the end of the war in 1949, they outnumbered their Arab opponents by 2:1 - and after a crucial shipment of Czech armaments arrived during the first truce (June-July 1948), they were much better-equipped.  Jewish/Israeli forces successfully beat off their attackers, while the Palestinian exodus continued.

In 1967, similarly, the lead-up to the war was characterised by both Israeli and Egyptian brinkmanship.  As late as May 1967, Israel was told by American intelligence sources that it could successfully defeat any combination of the Arab armies.  Israel famously attacked first, in the swift and devastating 'pre-emptive strike' on the airforces of its Arab enemies, almost completely wiping out the entire strength of the Egyptian air force, and putting in strikes on the Jordanian and Syrian air forces later on the same day.   Israel's rapid and tremendous victory was due to its taking the initiative in this way.  Of course, what Shorts also fails to note is that during the fighting, another 250,000 Palestinians were expelled from the West Bank into Jordan.

Shorts fails to mention the 1956 Suez War, where Israel, Britain and France attacked Egypt, and he fails to mention the 1982 Lebanon War, where Israel invaded Lebanon, laid siege to Beirut, precipitated the Sabra and Chatila massacres of Palestinian civilians, and occupied large swathes of Lebanon for many years after.  

Having surveyed the historical record, one nevertheless then must note that the wars of Israel and the Arab states, started by one side or the other, in no way justify the occupation.  Are Israel's current crimes of illegal population transfer and colonisation, collective punishment, ethnic prejudice, extra-judicial execution, water and resource theft somehow wiped off the record by the fact that the Egyptian Army crossed the Bar-Lev Line in 1973?   Of course not, and to argue that they are is illogical and incoherent, a non sequitur on the grand scale.  So why does the supposed national newspaper of record  publish such crassly inaccurate and badly argued missives as that of Ivor Shorts?


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