This new Mideast war has been full of mealy-mouthed, dishonest rationales for killing the hell out of some people. What's been missing is a clear, honest rationale for killing the hell out of everybody. Fortunately, the Wall Street Journal has a wild-haired charlatan on it.
Your run-of-the-mill self-justifier pays tribute to all those cultural mores like "justice" and "fairness" and "self-defense" in infuriatingly smarmy fashion. But not Thane Rosenbaum—author, lawyer, director of some Upper West Side TED Talks simulacrum, and potential Willy Wonka understudy. He literally wrote the book on how justice is a sham, and vengeance is the thing. Wonder how he feels about Israel-Gaza? The Journal's got you covered:
Keep the diapers thing in mind. It'll come back. But first, Thane gets in touch with his inner thanatos:
Let's state the obvious: No one likes to see dead children.
No one likes to see them. This is not the same thing as saying no one likes to create them.
Well, that's not completely true: Hamas does. They would prefer those children to be Jewish, but there is greater value to them if they are Palestinian. Outmatched by Israel's military, handicapped by rocket launchers with the steady hands of Barney Fife, Hamas is playing the long game of moral revulsion... If you can't beat Iron Dome, then deploy sacrificial children as human shields.
Okay, nothing new here, more rehash of Bibi Netanyahu's bluster about "telegenically dead Palestinians." Yes yes, Hamas has no qualms about using martyrs to turn opinion against the violence of the army that did the martyring. Even though that hardly explains the targeting of four boys playing soccer in the open on an empty Gazan beach in front of multiple journalists, and the walking of artillery up to the boys as they flee the first barrage, "as if the shells were chasing them."
But keep your eyes on the prize here: Palestinians love to parade their martyred dead for dramatic effect, Rosenbaum says. What can we possibly do to overcome this? I mean, besides martyring fewer Palestinians.
Under such maddening circumstances, are the adults, in a legal and moral sense, actual civilians? To qualify as a civilian one has to do more than simply look the part. How you came to find yourself in such a vulnerable state matters. After all, when everyone is wearing casual street clothing, civilian status is shared widely.
Hmm. Where is this going, Thane?
The people of Gaza overwhelmingly elected Hamas, a terrorist outfit dedicated to the destruction of Israel, as their designated representatives. Almost instantly Hamas began stockpiling weapons and using them against a more powerful foe with a solid track record of retaliation.
What did Gazans think was going to happen? Surely they must have understood on election night that their lives would now be suspended in a state of utter chaos. Life expectancy would be miserably low; children would be without a future. Staying alive would be a challenge, if staying alive even mattered anymore.
"If staying alive even mattered anymore." I mean, they voted for Hamas, so clearly it doesn't, right? Isn't Hamas, like, Arabic for the "I choose not to live anymore" party? Must be.
To make matters worse, Gazans sheltered terrorists and their weapons in their homes, right beside ottoman sofas and dirty diapers. When Israel warned them of impending attacks, the inhabitants defiantly refused to leave.
Terrorists, weapons, ottoman sofas (which is it, ottomans or sofas?), and dirty diapers all just hanging out together in Gazan living rooms? Sounds gross. Are these people gross? They must be gross, according to Rosenbaum, whose work at Fordham's law school clearly has taken him to a lot of Gazan living rooms.
Back to the Othering:
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.
This reasoning seems so... familiar. The notion that an entire population, civilians and all, are legitimate targets of combat because, hey, they "wittingly" voted for violence... where have I seen that before?
Oh, right, Osama bin Laden, 1998.
This is my message to the American people: to look for a serious government that looks out for their interests and does not attack others, their lands, or their honor. And my word to American journalists is not to ask why we did that but ask what their government has done that forced us to defend ourselves.
And Osama again, in 2002:
Why are we fighting and opposing you? The answer is very simple... the American people are the ones who choose their government by way of their own free will; a choice which stems from their agreement to its policies... This is why the American people cannot be not innocent of all the crimes committed by the Americans and Jews against us. Allah, the Almighty, legislated the permission and the option to take revenge.
The concept to which Thane Rosenbaum and Osama bin Laden refer is something called "collective punishment"—inflicting damage on entire populations to avenge the acts of individuals in those populations. Also, it's a war crime under multiple Hague Protocols, Geneva Conventions, U.N. edicts, and the military and domestic criminal codes of many nations, including Israel and the United States.
Not that this should surprise anyone who read Rosenbaum's screed two weeks ago at the Daily Beast, in which he explains that the old law of revenge, "eye for an eye, life for a life," is good—except Israelis are so effective at not dying that you can't possibly expect them to exact revenge on a mere one-to-one level. Let's make it more like 100-to-1. That's good revenging.