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Ron Radosh

Anti-Zionism=Anti-Semitism, and More on Torture

January 7th, 2009 - 5:12 pm

Martin Peretz, editor-in-chief of The New Republic, has gone to Israel, where he is reporting from and presenting his usual first-rate and incisive comments on the military situation. Unlike so many others who write, Peretz understands that one side is moral and the other- Hamas-is thoroughly immoral. As he points out, “the Palestinian Taliban, which is what Hamas is, targets nothing and everything indiscriminately.” He knows that the war is the total fault of Hamas, which it started by breaking “the already-violated cease-fire in two decisive ways,” by declaring it a dead letter, and by sending up 70 rockets a day immediately after ending the truce.  His main point:

In any case, whatever anybody thinks, Israel will not allow the circumstances to revert to a situation in which Hamas receives or builds more and more advanced weapons for later use. I proposed earlier this week that a force of real soldiers from real European states (and not U.N. blue helmeteers) be dispatched to impose an arms embargo on Gaza. Then maybe–and just maybe–negotiations between the Palestinian Authority and Israel can be pressed. There are already many issues on which the two parties agree. And the fact is that Hamas will agree to nothing meaningful. That is not its agenda–and, increasingly, European and even some Arab leaders agree, a few of them in public.

The truth is, as Peretz notes, that “Hamas is sworn to the elimination of Israel.” Virtually everyone knows this, although many prefer to ignore it. On his blog at The Atlantic, Jeffrey Goldberg- the single best reporter writing on the Middle East- notes that Mahmoud Zahar, the Hamas leader, “is making an explicit plea to jihadists everywhere to take matters into their own hands and kill Jews.” These men leave no doubt that in their mind, Israel and Jews are one and the same: the enemy of Islam.  

It is becoming more clear, if it was not for some at the start, that the new anti-Zionism equals anti-Semitism. They are one and the same. Those who say they only oppose Israel and are not anti-Semites are fooling themselves. The signs at the demonstrations in Europe calling for “death to the Jews” and “throw them into the ovens” are merely the open expression of what these monsters sought to hide at first.

In our own country, “experts” like the former CIA operative Michael F. Scheur, who regularly appears on the News Report with Jim Lehrer on PBS, writes that “Israel is not only an unnecessary and self-made liability for the United States, it is an untreated and spreading cancer on our domestic politics, foreign policy, and national security.” As Goldberg comments, those who refer to Jews and the Jewish State as a “cancer” are usually the leaders of Hamas, Iran, Hezbollah or Al-Qaeda. And, of course,  the leaders of the defeated Third Reich.

So, to end with Peretz. “There are times,” he writes, “when people must choose, and this is one of them.”  We must stand in solidarity with Israel in its time of need, and help it to defeat Hamas—which, we must understand, will be a victory for the West and the United States, which needs to do all possible against radical Islam.

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On the matter of torture, I received the following brilliant comment from Mark Kramer, editor of The Journal of Cold War Studies and head of the Harvard Project for Cold War Studies.  Here is Kramer’s response to my blog on the issue of torture:

Ron, I fully agree with your comments here, with one exception.  I was strongly opposed to the Bush administration’s decision in late 2001 and early 2002 to set aside the Geneva Conventions, and I’ve been staunchly opposed to the administration’s efforts to institutionalize the use of torture.  But my grounds for opposing torture are not the question of efficacy, which I don’t think is a valid argument.  If torture were ineffective, this would be an easy issue, and we wouldn’t even need to debate it.  Everyone could agree that we should give up an ineffective and immoral tactic.  But the historical record suggests that torture can in fact be effective in some cases.  The French never would have won the Battle of Algiers in 1957 if they hadn’t resorted to the systematic use of grisly torture and extrajudicial killings.  Similarly, the Millennium Plot was disrupted in 1999 mainly because the Jordanian police used torture to pin down the details and locate the would-be perpetrators.  These are just a couple of the many cases that could be cited.  It’s true that in a large majority of cases, information can be extracted through methods short of torture, but in at least a few important cases torture has proven effective when other methods did not.

 

So, my opposition to torture has never been based on the question of efficacy.  I’m willing to concede that torture can in some cases be effective when other methods wouldn’t have been.  But even on practical grounds you can argue that what’s tactically useful is apt to be strategically disastrous.  For example, in the short term, the use of torture gained the French a lot in Algeria with the victory in the Battle of Algiers, but in the longer term it proved to be a grave setback not only because French intelligence sources dried up in Algeria but also because the torture sparked a backlash in France once the use of it was revealed, reinforcing public opposition to the war.

 

Beyond that, I oppose torture on the grounds of what I’ve always felt the United States stands for (or at least should stand for).  As a hawk but also a staunch civil libertarian, I don’t want to live in a country in which the government tortures people.  I’m willing to forgo the potential benefits of torture because the benefits of not engaging in it are so much greater for our identity as Americans.

 

I would contrast the Bush administration’s demeanor on this issue unfavorably with what happened during the Cold War.  The United States signed and ratified the four Geneva Conventions of 1949, but during the Vietnam War the Johnson administration initially was unsure whether to extend full Geneva protections to Vietcong prisoners.  Even though U.S.

troops in Vietnam were fighting a war against ruthless guerrillas who themselves did not abide by any laws of war, the Johnson administration ultimately decided — wisely — to accord full coverage to all prisoners, Vietcong as well as North Vietnamese.  In Latin America the United States at times was implicated in the abuse of presumed subversives, most notably when CIA personnel distributed a manual containing guidance on torture, but when political leaders learned about the torture manual they saw it as an embarrassment and as something antithetical to U.S. values.  Despite the many tradeoffs and compromises the United States felt compelled to make during the Cold War, U.S. officials were unwilling to emulate the Soviet Union in resorting to torture.  John McCain in his memoir recalls that one of the main things that sustained him when he was being tortured by his North Vietnamese captors is that he knew he was fighting for a country that did not engage in such practices.  I fully agree with McCain, and I wish that John Yoo and David Addington did, too.

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