Wednesday, June 20, 2007

A reader responds (I have readers?)

Left: It's not a walled-off jail, it's an anti-suicide bomber fence. Check your facts, graffiti artist.

Sorry for not posting, our Internet access has been spotty the last few days.

Someone named Joel who lives in New York took issue with one of my postings (why anybody would bother to analyze what I've written here is beyond me, but...). This resulted in the following exchange of letters, which I'll update if updates arise. I've removed his email address. Why he cc'd Norman Finkelstein and several other people (none of whom I know or have ever heard of) I have no idea.

(This is a copied and pasted Gmail conversation, so read it from top to bottom.)

Joel writes:

Subject: Checkpoint Syndrome, Check your facts Feroze.
4 messages
Wed, Jun 20, 2007 at 7:08 AM
Reply-To: XXX
Cc: norman finkelstein , XXX, XXX, XXX, XXX

I am a forty-nine year old New York Jew and Zionist. I have been reading your blog,, with mixed emotions, which is to say, I admire your dedication and sacrifice, but strongly disagree with you politically.

Lets critically examine your handling of Checkpoint Syndrome, the pamphlet (not a book) about IDF soldiers ill treatment of Palestinians.

"Palestinians were made to sing Israeli songs “like a choir”;"

Not nice, but you don't mention that the Arabs in this incident were young men, some of whom thought it was funny and laughed themselves.

" ...fellow soldiers shooting children with weapons that blew their legs off"

You didn't mention that the soldier involved in this incident had generally been kind to the Arabs during his checkpoint duty and that this soldier had been ordered to shoot the Arab child by his Battalion Commander. More important, you fail to mention that this shooting had been thoroughly investigated by IDF.

."..about making Palestinian children clean the checkpoint for the soldiers".

A one time incident for which the children were rewarded with chocolates.

"throwing Palestinians’ IDs and permits into the air so they have to scrounge around on the ground to collect them and forcing elderly Palestinians to give them their prayer beads."

This is disgusting and unprofessional behavior no matter who is doing it.

"beating, humiliating and photographing a Palestinian dwarf".

The mistreatment of the dwarf was not done by the author or his friends at the checkpoint, but by other soldiers.The author said that he and his friends never abused the dwarf, but rather, felt sorry for him. The mistreatment of the dwarf is apparently, second hand information.

"breaking a young man’s hand and slashing his tires because he refused to give a soldier his cigarettes".

Brutal and sadistic, but you fail to mention that the guilty soldier was tried by a military court for this crime and jailed.

"of savagely beating a helpless, unarmed mentally retarded 16-year-old, kidnapping him and then letting younger soldiers abuse him at their base for fun"

Brutal and sadistic.

"of beating a father in front of his family until he cried"

The father tried to cross the checkpoint without documents and freaked out. This probably doesn't warrant a beating, but you fail to mention that the IDF soldiers would selcectively beat people out of sight. Which is to say that the soldiers were fearful of being witnessed and reported. Which is to say that there was a grievance process for these Arab victims and that, sometimes, military justice was meted out against soldiers.
You never mention this.

"about beating a wanted Palestinian until his face was covered in blood and then photographing him"

The Palestinian in this incident was a wanted terrorist and had resisted arrest.

"of beating and urinating on a Palestinian because he cursed at one of the soldiers; of forcing a Palestinian to get on all fours and bark like a dog after beating him;

Brutal and sadistic

"All of this was from 1996-1999, the “quiet years” of the Oslo Accords".

Quiet because you say so?

10 Jan 1996
13 injured by bomb in Tel Aviv bus station; a second bomb exploded 10 minutes later
16 Jan 1996
2 soldiers killed in shooting attack on car between Hebron and Jerusalem
30 Jan 1996
1 soldier killed in stabbing attack near Jenin
25 Feb 1996
26 killed (including 9 soldiers and 3 Americans), 80 injured (including 3 Americans) by two suicide bombings on buses in Jerusalem; first bombing killed 23 (including 3 Americans) and injured at least 50; second bombing 30 minutes later killed 3, injured at least 25
25 Feb 1996
1 soldier killed, 34 injured by suicide bomber near Ashkelon
26 Feb 1996
1 killed by car driven into bus stop in Jerusalem
3 Mar 1996 (0627)
19 killed (including 3 soldiers, 1 Ethopian, and 7 Romanians), 7 injured by suicide bombing (one terrorist killed) on bus in Jerusalem; one of the Romanians died on 9 Mar of wounds
4 Mar 1996
14 killed (including 1 soldier), 163 injured (including 2 Americans) by suicide bombing at Dizengoff Center in Tel-Aviv
9 Apr 1996
30 injured by rockets fired from Lebanon
14 May 1996
1 killed (an American), 3 injured in shooting attack at bus stop near Beit-El, West Bank
9 Jun 1996
2 killed in drive-by shooting attack in Zekharya, West Bank
16 Jun 1996
1 policeman killed in shooting attack in Bidiya
26 Jun 1996
3 soldiers killed in ambush north of Jericho
26 Jun 1996
3 killed (including one who died a few days later) in drive-by shooting attack near Beit Shemesh
11 Dec 1996
2 killed (including 1 child) in shooting attack on car near Surda
1 Jan 1997
6 Palestinians injured in shooting by Israeli soldier at market in Hebron
9 Jan 1997
13 injured (including 2 police officers) by two pipe bombs exploding ten minutes apart in Tel Aviv
21 Mar 1997
3 killed (including 1 infant), 48 injured by suicide bombing at cafe in Tel Aviv
10 Apr 1997
1 soldier killed after having been kidnapped near Moshav Zanoah
25 Apr 1997
2 killed in stabbing attack in Wadi Kelt
22 Jul 1997
1 killed, 12 injured (including 10 British and 2 Canadians) by man who drove a car into a group of teenagers, then attacked with bladed weapon
30 Jul 1997
16 killed (including 1 American), 178 injured (including 2 Americans) by two suicide bombings in Mahane Yehuda market in Jerusalem; three of those killed died subsequently of wounds (on 11 Aug, 29 Aug, 3 Oct)
4 Sep 1997
5 killed (including 1 American teenager), 181 injured by three suicide bombings in Ben-Yehuda pedestrian mall in Jerusalem
19 Nov 1997
1 Hungarian killed, 1 Israeli injured in shooting attack in Jerusalem
31 Dec 1997
shooting attack near Alei Zahav injures one who died 6 Jan 1998
31 Jan 1998
1 student injured in stabbing in Jerusalem
11 Feb 1998
1 killed in stabbing attack in Jerusalem
14 Mar 1998
1 injured by bomb at bus stop in Afula
Mar 1998
1 Palestinian injured by stabbing in Jerusalem
~Mar 1998
1 Palestinian injured by stabbing in Jerusalem
~Apr 1998
1 Palestinian injured by stabbing in Jerusalem
19 Apr 1998
1 killed near Maon
29 Apr 1998
1 Palestinian injured by stabbing in Jerusalem
6 May 1998
1 teenager killed in stabbing attack in Jerusalem
6 May 1998
1 killed in car bombing in Zerifin
13 May 1998
1 killed by stabbing in Jerusalem
31 Jul 1998
1 injured by bomb thrown at truck in North Jerusalem
5 Aug 1998
2 soldiers killed in ambush at Yizhar
20 Aug 1998
1 killed in stabbing attack in Hebron
27 Aug 1998
21 injured by bombing outside the Great Synagogue in Tel Aviv
9 Oct 1998
1 soldier killed in stabbing attack at Moshav Tomer
14 Oct 1998
1 killed in shooting attack near Moshav Ora
26 Oct 1998
1 killed in shooting attack in Hebron
29 Oct 1998
1 soldier killed by car bomb driven into jeep escorting a school bus in Gaza

Moody friends. Drama queens. Your life? Nope! - their life, your story.Play Sims Stories at Yahoo! Games.

I respond...

Feroze Sidhwa
Wed, Jun 20, 2007 at 1:38 PM
To: joel272us
Dear Joel,

I'm glad at least one person is reading my blog!

I don't want to argue about whether Checkpoint Syndrome is a pamphlet or a book, but I think in your responses to Furer you missed the point (also note that I provided the URL and asked people to read Checkpoint Syndrome for themselves). An armed soldier who, for example, tells children to clean a military installation is violating numerous laws of war and basic morality, whether or not he rewards them with "chocolates" afterwards is irrelevant (if I remember correctly he gave them one piece of chocolate and then delighted in watching them fight over it). A rapist can "reward" his victim with a piece of chocolate or however he pleases, that doesn't change the fact of rape or the asymmetry of power involved in the despicable act.

That the shooting of a child was ordered is 100% irrelevant. If I join the US army and my commander tells me to execute one of your children for no reason, I am obligated by the international laws of war and the US army's own rules of armed conduct (not to mention normal human decency) to tell my commander I will not carry out such an order. Furthermore, I am quite shocked that a Jew, as you said you are, would imply that an army's investigation of an incident in which a soldier shot a child is somehow sufficient judicial process. Jews have a long legacy of falling victim to foreign armies which then proceeded to "investigate" themselves in secret; the Kishnev massacre is the first example that comes to mind.

What was the result of this army self-investigation? Was anybody punished? I think for sure the answer is no, which is in and of itself proof that the investigation was a sham. Under what circumstances is it acceptable to shoot young children? Also, the fact that this soldier was "generally kind" to Arabs is not only irrelevant but actually disturbing.

You are correct that the mistreatment of the dwarf wasn't by Furer (I don't think I implied it was, but if I did please accept my apologies; the point is irrelevant in any case), but it is also not just hearsay since Furer says photographs were taken.

The soldier who broke a Palestinians' hand for refusing to give him his cigarettes was jailed for one month if I remember correctly. By contrast, the Palestinian whom I'm living with was imprisoned for six months during the first Intifada on "administrative detention" for doing exactly nothing. You can guess who was treated better in an Israeli prison, the soldier or the Palestinian English teacher. Note further that, again recalling Jewish history, I'm amazed that you imply that this punishment somehow alters the fundamentals of the situation. Many people were punished for their roles in the Kishnev massacre, none to any serious degree. But much more importantly, there was no attempt by the authorities to investigate who had instigated and guided the massacre, and quite properly so, since it was they themselves, and no serious person expects leaders to purge themselves after committing crimes of state. Similarly, the Israeli Army doesn't investigate anything in any serious sense: it is well known that soldiers feel they can do anything they want at the checkpoints or, really, anywhere; recall the brutal murder of Iman al-Hams in Gaza and the subsequent promotion of the man who machinegunned her tiny body after she had already been wounded. And the soldiers are correct: if for assault and battery, destruction of property and theft a soldier is put in jail for 30 days, and for brutal premeditated murder of a wounded little girl a soldier is promoted, what's the message to soldiers? Are they going to be deterred from mistreating Palestinians or encouraged to push the limits of their own capacity for violence, as Furer says the checkpoints do?

Regarding Israeli beating of Palestinians "out of sight" because they're worried that they'll be exposed: yes, that's true. That's also why child molesters don't molest children in Times Square, and why why concentration camps were located away from European population centers. I don't see the relevance, and again, I'm shocked that a Jew would make such statements.

Finally, regarding the list you copied from (I assume) the TAU institute, I forget it's exact name: I didn't go through and count but the majority of incidents I noticed on that list took place in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, and a good number involved Palestinians killing Israeli soldiers. I don't like it when anybody dies - not Americans, not Israelis, not Iraqis, not Palestinians, etc. - but to argue that Palestinians don't have the right to resist Israel's colonization of the West Bank by killing soldiers is silly; if we accept that Palestinians can't kill Israeli soldiers then we have to declare the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising an act of terrorism, and I'm not willing to do that. Many people - the military leaders of the South African anti-Apartheid movement, for example - would argue that targeting the colonists themselves is also legitimate. So the fact that Palestinians were being violent towards Israeli Jews is not evidence that there was some sort of massive terrorist campaign going on.

(You might also try to compile a list of every act of Israeli violence towards Palestinians during the same time period; we both know it will be thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of entries long and will vastly exceed anything even the most imaginative minds will attribute to the Palestinians.)

Nevertheless, you are correct that "quiet" is a relative term. Perhaps you consider 1996-1999 an especially violent time in Arab-Israeli relations, and you'd be right in terms of land confiscation for settlement construction (an extremely violent process), numbers of arrests, the killing of about eighty Palestinians during the so-called Tunnel Intifada, etc. But in terms of terrorist attacks on Israeli civilians in Israel, you'd be absolutely wrong, and I think that's obvious.

I hope you are well, take care.

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Oops, I forgot to say...

Feroze Sidhwa
Wed, Jun 20, 2007 at 1:44 PM
To: joel272us
Hi Joel,

And on the photographing and brutal beating of a "wanted" Palestinian after he was restrained: there is no more justification for this than for police beating a "wanted man" in Los Angeles after they've restrained him and then photographing themselves with his bloodied head.

Or, to use a different example, every Israeli soldier in the West Bank and around Gaza is a legitimate target of Palestinian violence under international law. That does not mean that Palestinians can savagely beat Corporal Gilad Shalit and photograph themselves with him, despite the fact that he is a soldier in an army that was (correction: is) actively attacking Gaza at the time he was captured.

And on a further note: the fact that the Israeli army declares someone "wanted" doesn't mean much, as we can see from the long list of people Israel has assassinated since the founding of the state. Again, a Jew ought to have a better grasp of what it's like to be at the wrong end of a truncheon.

On 6/20/07, joel272us wrote:
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