March 28, 2002


Bomb Kills at Least 19 in Israel as Arabs Open Beirut Meeting (JOEL BRINKLEY, March 28, 2002, NY Times)

A Palestinian suicide bomber blew himself up in a crowded hotel dining room here tonight just as more than 200 people gathered for their Passover holiday meal, killing at least 19 and wounding more than 100 others, many of them children.

Here's the most inexplicable thing about all of this, that the Palestinians specifically and Arabs generally think they are winning. Look around the web today and you'll see any number of columnists, pundits, and bloggers who have thrown up their hands and see no solution to this mess except for Israel to liquidate (and I use the word advisedly) the Palestinian Authority, if not the Palestinians.

Just for example, William (Blithering Idiot) Sulik, who had begun the week discussing Holy Week, ended yesterday with the following :

Posted 3/27/2002 03:45:10 PM by William Sulik
Kill them. I get out of bed and check the news today -- another Palestinian terrorist strike on innocent civilians. My reaction is the same as General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson after re-entering Fredericksburg: "Kill them; Kill them all."

And you read those words and you think : I couldn't agree more.

Here's the question though, do the Arabs even begin to comprehend the eventual consequences of what they are doing? The most massive killings in history have been preceded by a process of dehumanizing and demonizing the eventual victims. In his book Hitler's Willing Executioners, Daniel Jonah Goldhagen talks about how anti-Semitism was a kind of persistent, low-grade infection in Christendom, but in Germany it was converted to an eliminationist anti-Semitism in part because propagandists portrayed Jews as subhuman, disease carrying, vermin. Here in America, slavery required that we believe blacks to be not fully human, as did the slaughter of Indians, and it is surely no coincidence that the atomic bomb was used on the Japanese, who had been portrayed as monkeys for years prior to the bombing (which is not to say that the bombing was unjustified [I believe it was justified] or that we would not have used it on Nazi Germany [I believe it would have been, though perhaps not as blithely]--but the fact remains it has only ever been used by one race against another). We can easily understand that treating those you intend to kill as less than human will take the moral edge off your own actions and make what might otherwise be unthinkable entirely doable.

How demented is it then that the Palestinians are engaged in the process of dehumanizing themselves in the eyes of the West? For surely it is antihuman to behave as they are behaving, to kill yourself, to murder innocents, to destroy and murder indiscriminately and incoherently. And at that moment, which may already have come, when the Israeli people and we in America come to see the Palestinians as truly less than human, then, make no mistake, we will kill them or countenance the Israeli killing of them in significant and horrifying numbers.

We are wont to engage in moral posturing and disclaim any understanding of how mass slaughter and genocide can occur, but which of us can look upon the scenes of devastation in Israel and not feel some visceral instinct poking at us and urging us to : "Kill them all. Kill everyone who had anything to do with this. Kill anyone who supports this. Kill them all"? And if some innocents die, as surely they will, we've always got the cold comfort that : the Lord knows them that are His.

The Palestinians are sowing the wind; are they prepared to reap the whirlwind?

I am sorry if I left the impression in readers' minds that I equate the use of atomic weapons against Japan with the German Holocaust. My point is that both require a prior dehumanization of those who are killed and that we do well to take note of the fact that the bomb has only ever been used by one race against another. But, more importantly, that the Palestinians are doing the dehumanizing themselves, creating the impression in all of our minds that they are barely even the same species as we are. This kind of dehumanization has in the past had catastrophic results and they might do well to reconsider their current course of action before we treat them as less than human, as a people whose lives are less significant than our own.

Meanwhile, perhaps my review of The Lessons of Terror : A History of Warfare Against Civilians: Why It Has Always Failed and Why It Will Fail Again (2002) (Caleb Carr 1955-) will clear up any questions about my views on the morality of attacking civilians in wartime.

Thanks to everyone who has commented or e-mailed about my lack of clarity. Please continue to criticize me; it's very helpful.

Billy Wilder (1906-2002) is dead. Milton
(1908-2002) is too. And Dudley Moore (1935-2002). That's great if you think
famous people die in threes or that a big name dies at every holiday. On another day it might seem fairly amusing to see these utter coincidences
proven once again. Today it seems to pale in comparison to the realization that Jews die in groups of twenty on their way to celebrate their holidays.

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 28, 2002 7:10 AM
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