On Assad, Israel and external enemies


By Jennifer Lipman
June 6, 2011
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In his 2004 book The Case for Democracy, Natan Sharansky says it better than I ever could:

"Non-democratic regimes always need to mobilise their people against external enemies in order to maintain internal stability."

It is undoubtedly terrible to think of the 20 people who were said to have been killed yesterday on the border between Syria and Israel.

Their deaths achieved nothing, not for Israel – once again the subject of international condemnation - not for the Palestinians and certainly not for the peace process.

Well, not nothing. Because there is someone for whom those deaths were not an unmitigated disaster.

At this point, Syrian President Bashar Assad's involvement in yesterday's border provocations remains the subject of speculation, although Israel's Danny Ayalon seems clear that Assad and his forces encouraged a group of angry Palestinians to go and effectively poke Israel with a stick.

Even more curious than the fact that yesterday, hoards of protesters could find their way to the border without intervention from the Syrian police, is the fact that today those protesters are being sent home.

Clearly, the Syrian authorities could have stopped yesterday's protests quite easily (Assad's forces have shown themselves quite capable of stamping out dissent). Surprising, then, that they didn't.

At this point, it's still only speculation. But if you were in public relations, looking to advise a dictator who had allegedly authorised the butchering of 1,200 citizens in the space of three months, what would your suggestion be? Bearing in mind the West had already put their money where their mouth was with another despotic regime not far away.

At a guess, I'd say it would be to change the story. Find a new headline. Distract the media and take the heat off. And what better way to do that than blame everyone's favourite bogeyman.

Israel is responsible for the deaths, as any state is responsible for enemy casualties during a war. But Israel didn't send those protesters there; in fact, Israel repeatedly warned that doing so would be viewed as a provocation, just as Britain would be wary of an invading army of angry Frenchmen approaching the border.

As I said, what happened was horrific. Not least, because imagine living in a country under a leader who would deliberately and willingly send his countrymen to a situation which could only ever end badly.

COMMENTS

simon sandberg

Tue, 06/21/2011 - 12:24

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This is akin to Jonathan Sack's notorious comment when he blamed the Palestinians for making the IDF kill them thus betraying Jewish values.

As for a bunch of Frenchmen or even Arabs crossing illegally into the UK I'm struggling to remember a single instance of the UK Army or police shooting anyone crossing our borders. They appear to arrest illegal entrants and deport them and manage to do this without resort to lethal force. OK Frenchmen or other illegal entrants tend not to throw rocks but I'm confident that even if they did they would not be shot (even after a warning shout or two).

Equally I had no idea that Israel was at war with anyone let alone 300 unarmed Palestinians seeking to enter territory illegally occupied. Does 300 unarmed protesters constitute a 'hoard' (of locusts or other insects) or an army? I don't think so. Ms. Lipman should be ashamed of her racist dehumanising language.

While at least she does admit that the IDF bears ultimate responsibility for the deaths, this is glossed far too lightly and indeed seeks herself to deflect blame back to Assad. That Assad is very plainly a brutal tyrant does not exonerate the IDF from responsibility for their actions.


Advis3r

Tue, 06/21/2011 - 13:13

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0 points

This poster shows his complete ignorance.
1. Illegal immigrants into the UK do not come for the purpose of trying to lay claim to the UK or with murderous intent.
2. Israel is in a state of war with Syria (there is no peace agreement in existence) accordingly attempts to cross the border are acts of war which Israel has every right to repulse by force if necessary.
3. There is ample evidence to show that Syrian regime provoked the clashes on the border to deflect from its excesses against its own people.


simon sandberg

Wed, 06/22/2011 - 01:05

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-1 points

What was murderous intent of people crossing the border (we'll leave aside the point that the territory is illegally occupied for the moment)? I've seen footage of the crossing and previous crossings and seen nothing that looks like murderous intent. The second point made by Advis3r simply misses the point. Even if the Israelis have the right to repel people by force that does not make it justifiable or justified. The third point is irrelevant- I don't deny either that Assad is a cruel tyrant and that the Syrians allowed the border crossing perhaps to distract a little from internal problems. My point is to decry the action of the Israelis which was typically disproportionate and sits very uneasily with the increasingly thin claims that the IDF is the most moral army in the world. For clarity even if I am provoked my actions need to be defensible morally. If I kill someone it should be because I fear for my own life or for those around me. I cannot shoot unarmed people who pose no threat.

I was watching a programme tonight about British troops in Afghanistan who unlike the Israelis were being shot at (by the Taliban) but who declined to return fire because there were innocent people in the area (this they term courageous restraint). Why can't the IDF display courageous restraint just occasionally?


Advis3r

Wed, 06/22/2011 - 09:10

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1 point

As I type this the sirens have just gone off – one more reminder if it were needed of the situation we find ourselves in while you relax in your armchair and pontificate on how we should (or should not) defend ourselves.
Again you are showing your ignorance the Golan is not “illegally” occupied - in the same way that Germany was not “illegally” occupied by the Allies after the Second World War. There is no peace treaty with Syria – the countries are still technically at war, a war started by Syria.
Secondly you question murderous intent – if they were peaceful why were they throwing Molotov cocktails, as clearly seen on the TV footage?
Thirdly, you accuse Israel of having killed people but there is no independent corroboration that any of the people claimed only by the Syrians (and much store cannot be held by anything they claim) to have been killed attempting to illegally enter Israel were killed by Israeli troops. It seems only Israel is guilty until proven innocent and only when it comes to accusing Israel is Syrian State TV reported without question.
Fourthly, the IDF soldiers shot into the air and then when the mob failed to heed the warnings shot at them at below knee height that was showing remarkable restraint when faced with a mob that could as has happened on previous occasions have been shielding armed terrorists. In fact it has emerged that most of those killed were as a result of your so-called “peaceful” protestors having thrown Molotov cocktails which landed on and ignited land-mines which had been left by the Syrian Army; that is corroborated. Jennifer Lipman should have updated this report.
Fifthly, you refer to British troops in Afghanistan I did not know Afghanistan was part of the United Kingdom. The war being fought in Afghanistan bears no comparison to the existential threat faced by Israel. The British Army has to take into account that it is operating in a country where it is a guest and it won’t win hearts and minds if in killing ten Taliban terrorists it kills twice that number of innocent civilians – which unfortunately has happened or more than one occasion. Just last week innocent civilians were accidentally and regrettably killed in Libya during a failed NATO attack - would you accuse NATO of not showing restraint and war crimes? Yet Israel was so accused when the self same thing happened in 2002 when it targeted and killed a leading Hamas master terrorist in Gaza.
Finally, TV news-crews do not as rule show Israelis exercising restraint because it does not make good television and in the case of the BBC/Guardian especially would spoil their agenda of trying to portray Israel and Israelis as ruthless and brutal, something which you have obviously bought into. There are countless times when Israeli troops have declined to initiate and/or return fire because there were innocent people in the area - because you have not seen them on your TV screen does not mean they do not happen.


simon sandberg

Wed, 06/22/2011 - 10:32

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-1 points

I've watchhed the footage and listened to Mark Regev being interviewed. There is no evidence whatsoever of anything other than occasional stone throwing (a point not challenged by Mark Regev). I'm afraid the whole world disagrees with you about the legality of the occupation. The people who died were shot. No one denies this - not even Regev. Your Molotov cocktail story appears to be a fantasy.

The Afghan point is simple. Here is an example of a (British) army that is really at war fighting a committed and armed enemy force that are really trying to kill them and yet they manage to behave honourably and courageously in large part. Although Regev talked about orders to show maximum restraint the actions belie the words. Of course I recognise that there are occasions when some Israeli troops show restraint. Indeed I am full of admiration for the increasing number of soldiers who take a moral stance and refuse to commit war crimes. But there are legion examples - almost everyday where the opposite is all too plainly true. There is a great deal of incontrovertible evidence that IDF policy is not to show restraint, not to follow either the normal rules of war and worse not to treat non-combatants who pose no mortal threat with something other than lethal force.


amber

Wed, 06/22/2011 - 11:16

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0 points

Sandberg, must be nice to be able to speak for the entire planet.

What a ridiculous ego you must have.

By the way, the UK armed forces have killed far more civilians in Afghanistan than Israel has in its confrontations with Hamas or Hizbollah - and in circumstances where there is no direct existentail threat to the UK.

Hypocrisy I think is the word.


amber

Wed, 06/22/2011 - 11:17

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Sandberg, your accusations against Israel constitute a blood libel.


Advis3r

Wed, 06/22/2011 - 11:18

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The Molotov Cocktail story as resported by CIF Watch
Monday morning:
1) IDF inquiry shows some protesters (8) caused their own deaths by igniting brush fires which triggered Syrian landmines.
In addition, when cease fires were called to allow the Red Cross to evacuate injured protesters continued to engage in violence – delayed evacuation and possibly contributing to fatalities.

So much for your peaceful protestors.
If Israel would not have acted without restraint there would have ben considerably more fatalities but please don't let facts get in the way of your clear agenda. You have no incontravertible evidence that IDF policy is not to show restraint, not to follow either the normal rules of war and worse not to treat non-combatants who pose no mortal threat with something other than lethal force - if you have produce it. Let me however point out that because you were not there and so without seeing/hearing both sides of the story all you are relying on is one sided footage. I would cite the Al Dura hoax as evidence of this.
Since you mention Afghanistan this is what Colonel Richard kemp former commanding Officer of British troops in Afghanistan has recently said:
“Many have contradicted my assertion about the IDF. But no one has been able to tell me which other army in history has ever done more to safeguard the rights of civilians in a combat zone.
“In fact, my judgments about the steps taken in that conflict by the Israeli Defense Forces to avoid civilian deaths are inadvertently borne out by a study published by the United Nations itself, a study that shows that the ratio of civilian to combatant deaths in Gaza was by far the lowest in any asymmetric conflict in the history of warfare.
“The UN estimate that there has been an average three-to-one ratio of civilian to combatant deaths in such conflicts worldwide. Three civilians for every combatant killed.
“That is the estimated ratio in Afghanistan: three to one. In Iraq, and in Kosovo, it was worse: the ratio is believed to be four-to-one. Anecdotal evidence suggests the ratios were very much higher in Chechnya and Serbia.
“In Gaza, it was less than one-to-one.
“This extremely low rate of civilian casualties flatly contradicts many of Goldstone’s original allegations, and the bleating insistence of various other human rights groups about Israel’s alleged crimes against humanity.
“And last month, even Judge Richard Goldstone changed his mind.”
So your allegations are baseless however I have no reason to believe you will withdraw them.


simon sandberg

Wed, 06/29/2011 - 02:28

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If you believe an IDF piece of propoganda (no eye witness account, no film, no photo lends any credence to this story) then you'll believe anything. What percentage of IDF inquiries lead to findings that the IDF was at fault. I can think of a handful only. You might choose to believe that the IDF are angels. I by contrast have read and listened to eye-witness accounts of IDF actions (try listening to IDF personnel 'Breaking the Silence' for example). Your point appears to be that Israelis troops had not shot so many Arabs then even more Arabs and perhaps Jews would be dead. It's a ridiculous argument. I expect the relatives of those shot dead by Israeli troops will take comfort from the great restraint shown. In fact as I pointed out in an earlier post the IDF and Israeli government are not suggesting they showed restraint. Their argument is more of the 'we had to take firm action to protect ourselves from hostile invaders once we had shouted at them to desist crossing'.

I take the evidence of IDF soldiers testifying to their moral objections to IDF policy be as close to inconrovertible as you can get. I'll take combatants' views more seriously than some some British Colonel who was not present at any of the events.

And Goldstone did not change his mind about his report. He backed away from one important argument to his discredit (given the paucity of new data offered from more of your marvellous thoroughgoing IDF inquiries).

The allegations are plainly not baseless - as all fair-minded commentators attest (so for example the UK press and websites have written about or even shown footage of civilians being shot from afar by IDF troops - see the Daily Telegraph website for example). Only the most partisan observer could fail to be troubled by what is happening.

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