Debate Magazine

Australian Professor Lost For Words

Posted on the 07 August 2014 by Mikelumish @IsraelThrives

Another piece at the Conversation  from Prof Mark Beeson attacking Israel's actions in Gaza, on "moral" grounds.  An earlier piece, and responses are here. 


Australia and the worldAntipodemia

Mark Beeson Professor of International Politics at Murdoch University

Gaza : When Words Fail

The continuing slaughter of women and children in Gaza is a painful reminder of the inadequacy of international institutions and our collective inability to impose order, let alone justice, in the world. The absence of a united ‘international community’ is plainly one reason it is so difficult to address even the most confronting and unnecessary of humanitarian crises.There are others, though, which may point to an even more pervasive and corrosive threat to the way we conduct and think about international relations.It is not only the Palestinians who are being brutalised at the moment, though. So are we, albeit at an altogether less traumatic, sensory level. The increasingly routine nature of human suffering not only deadens our emotional responses, it also risks normalising high levels of indiscriminate organised violence as an acceptable part of international affairs.Cynics may say it was ever thus, but it’s important to recognize that – until recently, at least – there seemed to be a growing aversion to using force to ‘solve’ international problems.This is – or was – not only surprising, but mildly optimism-inducing, especially when seen against the backdrop of what some of the leading lights of international relations theory would have us believe........................................The piece continues here. but you get the flavourYour blog commented.geoffffHuman Rights Activist and Animal ProtectorThis is the second article about the latest Hamas/Israel war by Mark Beeson and indeed taken together they do provide an illustration of the moral dilemma that underpins this eternal conflict, not only because of what the articles say but by what is omitted. Consider this. Maybe I missed it but I have reread the pieces so as to be careful about this. Neither piece mentions even in passing the hundreds of mortars and missiles fired by Hamas and IJ at the civilian population of Israel. 3300 by the beginning of the latest ceasefire including the most sophisticated weapons Iran can supply that can reach all over Israel. This is an article about "morality" so you do have to ask what is going on here? It is as if the huge investment by Israel in missile defences and shelters to protect her civilians some how cancels out the sheer bloody minded evil that drives this determined attempt to murder as many as possible Neither piece mentions even in passing the shocking revelation of the extent of the attack tunnels, basements and underground network in Gaza . 100, 000 of tons of concrete imported through the "blockade" and earmarked for civilian projects have instead been diverted to a massive threat to Israel. When talking about "morality' no mention is made of this. Instead of schools and housing they built a vast network of war tunnels in many cases right under existing schools and housing. Instead of spending on salaries and food they imported and manufactured a vast arsenal.Neither piece mentions of course the extraordinary lengths the IDF went to give warning of imminent attacks (warning missiles, phonecalls for chrissake) nor the lengths Hamas went to keep civilians including children in harm's way despite all the evidence this happened. No mention to how Hamas DIRECTLY caused civilian casualties with missile shortfalls (over 10%) No mention of IDF soldiers shot dead by fire from UN schoolsNo mention of course of who started the war. Only a spurious reference to "violent disagreement" over this. Absolute rubbish. It is known what happened and why. It is as if unleashing a vicious attack on Israel and the Jews has somehow lost all cause for moral opprobrium. No mention of course that the powder keg of Gaza is not at all limited to Gaza and never has been. What caused this war is not about "Palestine" and it would help enormously if we stopped pretending it was.Israel lost over 60 brave young men rooting out this evil enterprise before withdrawing. What they achieved could have been done with artillery or missiles but only at a potentially enormous cost to civilians dragooned into the front line by Hamas. That Israel did not do that has everything to do with just basic decency and morality that her enemies lack entirely and her critics in the West, and especially in the universities, increasingly exhibit confusion.There once was a time when murder was murder and self defence was self defence. There once was a time when to use children as shields in warfare would have attracted universal and unanimous moral outrage. Not any more. There is something else going on here in our universities and media and it is not at all pretty.Prof Beeson replys

Mark Beeson

Professor of International Politics at Murdoch UniversityIn reply to geoffffThanks, Geoff. No doubt Hamas has much to answer for, too, but there's a question of proportionality. There is no conspiracy among left-wing academics to damage Israel's reputation. Its government needs little help with that at present. Read the thoughtful editorial in this week's Economist.Reducing Gaza to rubble and killing more women and children in the process just looks entirely counter-productive and pointless to me. I would think the same no matter who was doing it.I don't suppose anyone is going to suggest that the IDF operation was in the cause of a non existent political process intended to address the long term grievances of the Gazans. Just to stop Hamas trying to murder people is all.Any way I replied:Australian Professor Lost For Words


Human Rights Activist and Animal ProtectorIn reply to Mark BeesonI subscribed to The Economist for nearly thirty years. I let it lapse some years ago when its anti-Israel bias finally became intolerable. I will read this editorial at your suggestion and probably comment here and at blogs I contribute but I declare my own bias upfront. I am anticipating that tone of smug supercilious hypocrisy that Orwell pointed out only the English truly excel. The issue of "proportionality" is important and I will comment about that too. For now it enough to say there are a number of dimensions to the issue. Just one is the attention and tone that Gaza/Israel attracts. About 2000 people are killed ( the figures vary dramatically depending on whether Hamas is the direct source or they have been filtered through Hamas organs such as the Gaza health authorities and UNWRA) of whom about half are Hamas or IJ fighters and commanders.A terrible civilian toll of course but a much better ratio than has ever been achieved by any modern military engaged in urban warfare. US, Iraqi, British forces killed twice, three or four times as many civilians as fighters in the Fallujah battles and there is no evidence that the insurgents were dug in under homes, hospitals and schools or used civilians as shields. During this war many thousands more civilians were killed in fighting in Syria, Iraq and North Africa where Islamist forces of one sort or another waging aggressive wars against others, usually other Muslims. Of all Muslims killed in conflict or genocide since the creation of Israel barely 0.3% are casualties of the Arab/Israel conflict. Over 90% were killed by other Muslims.And yet of this you hear barely a thing. When Arabs are killed in a war with Jews they have waged against them for nearly a century it is about the only issue that concerns the world. For how many decades has the now flagrantly exposed nonsense, that it is Israel that is the root cause of the instability of the Middle East, or even a root cause, been allowed to control the thinking about this and every other self inflicted humanitarian crisis that sweep across the Arab and Muslim worlds as regular as the seasons?Surely there is an issue of proportionality in that, Mark?And,


Human Rights Activist and Animal ProtectorIn reply to Mark Beeson
"There is no conspiracy among left-wing academics to damage Israel's reputation."
It is what they do without having to conspire that troubles me. And that once again proved to be the end of the Conversation. It is pleasing to see that the thread has attracted comments from Dr Will Howard, an American citizen and long term Australian resident, and one of the sanest and best informed left of center academic commenters in Australia, on Israel and the Middle East. It is a pity it is not his field. Perhaps that is just as well.Here are a couple of his comments (and Prof Beeson's response)
  1. RecommendAustralian Professor Lost For Words

    Will Howard

    Research scientist at University of MelbourneIn reply to Mark BeesonProf Beeson, you note "No doubt Hamas has much to answer for, too, but there's a question of proportionality."Taking your point, 1) what in your view does Hamas have to answer for?You say there's a "question of proportionality." As I have asked you previously, what would you consider an appropriate level of "proportionality" from either/both sides in this conflict?
  2. Mark Beeson

    Professor of International Politics at Murdoch UniversityIn reply to Will HowardWill,I think we shall have to agree to disagree on this. I really can't see the point in getting into a body counting exercise. Nothing I say is likely to influence your opinion. If you don't think what's been going on over the last few weeks is excessive and ultimately pointless, nothing I can say is likely to convince you.
  3. Will Howard

    Research scientist at University of MelbourneIn reply to Mark BeesonI don't even know what we "disagree" on as you haven't clarified your position. I asked you earlier, in response to your statement that Israel had a right defend itself, what does it have the right to do?If, as you seem to say, what it has done is "disproportionate", then what *would* be "proportionate"? It's a question, not my opinion."If you don't think what's been going on over the last few weeks is excessive and ultimately pointless, nothing I can say is likely to convince you."You mean Hamas's or Israel's actions, or both?I do think "what's been going on over the last few weeks is excessive and ultimately pointless," I completely agree with you. It's just I think what *Hamas* is doing is excessive and ultimately pointless.
    Do you agree or not?
  4. I think Will will discover that this will be the end of the conversation as well. The question is unanswerable. Just what would Prof Beeson have Israel do? Just what the hell is Israel expected to do?
  5. Cross posted Geoffff's Joint

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