Human-itarian Concern for Gaza

Interesting comments by Obama on the Israel-Palestine situation:

“I was deeply concerned by the loss of Palestinian and Israeli life in recent days and by the substantial suffering and humanitarian needs in Gaza. Our hearts go out to Palestinian civilians who are in need of immediate food, clean water and basic medical care, and who’ve faced suffocating poverty for far too long.”

What is noteworthy of course is that the Israeli occupation and blockade of Palestine isn’t mentioned, nor is the killing of palestinians by Israelis condemned.

The analogy is by no means perfect, but what sprang out at me was that I had seen this before: this sort of disconnected ‘concern’ for suffering, divorced from any issue of rights, this acceptance that suffering is bad and should be avoided, without any acceptance that the actions which produce it are actually wrong, impermissible, immoral. This idea that while Palestinians may have welfare, they do not have rights.

This is the dominant position on non-human animals. For example, it is, I recently learned, a legal requirement that at the end of any experiment carried out on animals, even a harmless behavioural one, they must, with a few exceptions, be euthanased – to prevent them suffering. To prevent even the risk of ‘unnecessary’ suffering, blanket, systematic killing is prescribed.

It would be alarmist and hyperbolic to say that the Palestinians are being treated like animals. But there is a noteworthy connection: in both cases, welfare concerns are accepted, but rights are not – with the result that while suffering may be regretted, it is out of the question for either humans or the Israeli state to be accused of doing something impermissible, something forbidden. I feel this needs to change in both cases.

This concern with welfare is, in a sense, the opposite of respecting someone’s rights. It means taking on the authority to evaluate and deal with how others are feeling, without recognising at any point the imperiousness of a prohibition – something that you simply may not do, regardless of whether you consider it a good idea.

If the Israeli assault on and occupation of Gaza and the West Bank are not condemned, the Palestinians are not being granted the level of respect we typically grant to humans, but rather that which we grant to animals.

A related discussion of double-standards is up at Lenin’s Tomb.

6 Responses to “Human-itarian Concern for Gaza”

  1. Gabriel Says:


    If X country was to declare war on Y, then the President of X could legitimately express concern about the consequences upon the citizens of Y, without declaring the military action wrong. If the President of X can do that, why not the President of observing country Z? Otherwise, anyone would be excluded from expressing sympathy with the victims of military action they considered justfied.

    Even you yourself must have at some point felt sympathy for the victims of military action you considered justified. Do you consider them animals? Perhaps this would explain why you lot* always act so catastrophically awfully.

    In any, case I don’t know why you’ve got your panties in twist. The U.S. is committed to creating a thug run hell-hole in the West Bank. And when there’s a cholera epidemic there in 15 years amidst 10,000% inflation (and you’re going apoplectic about, oh I don’t know, the French occupation of Marseilles or whatever) and Obama’s scratching his head saying “but I wanted a FREE Palestine, I iz confused”, then we can all look back and laugh.

    *Since you’ll probably ask, by that I mean Reds.

  2. Alderson Warm-Fork Says:

    First off, according to the justifying lie of modern warfare, it’s wrong to kill civilians, and it doesn’t stop being wrong because they were standing close to a soldier – I believe this, despite the fact that politicians in general appear not to.

    Secondly, Israel did about 50 things that are against even the ‘international law’ that sometimes gets followed, whether that’s shooting at schools or firing white phosphorus into residential areas (unless you’re going to claim that none of that is true).

    Thirdly, the military action wasn’t remotely justified, but as you correctly point out, Obama is hardly to be expected to say that.

    Point is, if you or Barry think that not one of the Israeli government’s actions are wrong, then we’re living on different planets.

  3. Gabriel Says:

    So you would have preferred The One to have gone on record with “In a discrete amount of cases, Israel broke international law. In these cases I condemn Israel and sympathise with the victims. All the people who died because of the other stuff that’s legal, fuck ’em, they can hang”.

    Obama expressed sympathy with people who have suffered because of actions of the Israeli army that he considers, or feels constrained to claim he considers, justified. That is, in fact, absolutely normal behaviour and not remotely weird or in need of tortuous theoretical explanation.

    Now, given his position of support for Israeli actions, he could have taken a number of other options

    1) He could have, like Palestinians on 9/11 and after most successful terrorist attacks, taken to the streets and celebrated.
    2) He could have said “actually, I couldn’t give a toss, just like I don’t really give a toss about Congo”
    3) He could have shut his stupid gob.

    But he didn’t, he expressed sympathy for people in Gaza who have suffered.

    You think his initial premise is wrong, fine, but that doesn’t mean he is treating Palestinians as people without rights, it just means he disagrees with you, as he disagrees with me.

  4. Alderson Warm-Fork Says:

    “So you would have preferred The One to have gone on record with…”

    I would have preferred him to say that something wrong has been done, because there isn’t really any coherent way to deny that. I think the whole affair was wrong: those who believe in ‘state’s rights to defend themselves’ or ‘Israel’s right to occupy other countries’ etc. must at least accept that the “illegal” things are wrong. The only position that implies that no wrong thing has been done is that the Israeli government has the right to kill any Palestinians in order to promote its political goals – which amounts to saying Palestinians have no rights.

    Since he did not suggest that anything wrong had been done, this sounds to my ears like the respect in which “he disagrees with me” is that he, implicitly, doesn’t regard the Palestinians as having rights.

  5. Gabriel Says:

    But I’ve answered that point already. Obama was clearly expressing sympathy with all the Palestinians who suffered in the war and, even for the real headbangers, only a tiny minority of deaths and injuries can be attributed to actions that even arguably illegal. So Obama was making a statement about one thing and your rebuking him for not talking about another thing.

    To then spin that into some insight into Obama’s denial of Palestinian rights is weird really, especially when one considers the obvious. Obama buys in, completely uncritically, to the central lie of Arab and Soviet propaganda since 1968: that there exists a discrete national entity called the Palestinian people, which has a RIGHT to form a state in, at minimum, Judah, Samaria and Gaza. Not only that, but he has vowed to mobilise American power in pusuit of this, despite the fact that it will produce no benefits whatsoever for America. I mean, for Pete’s sake, his first call to a “head of state” was to noted thug, extortion racketeer and holocaust denier, Abu Mazen.

    (In fact, his position on the war is exactly the same as the Israeli Labour party, namely that neutralising Hamas’ offensive capabilities is necessary in order to proceed with creating a Palestinian state in the West Bank – which it is, I suppose, if that’s what you want.)

  6. Alderson Warm-Fork Says:

    “only a tiny minority of deaths and injuries can be attributed to actions that even arguably illegal”
    You’re crazy. This amounts to saying that the illegality of the whole assault is not ‘arguable’. Get off the internet.

    “Obama was making a statement about one thing and your rebuking him for not talking about another thing”
    If I made a statement on Congo and said ‘blah blah Angolan, Congolese, Ugandan, Zimbabwean, and Namibian forces have all committed human rights abuses”, it would be reasonable to wonder why Rwanda didn’t get mentioned.

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