Monday, June 25, 2007

Analysis and Facts

Gracchi's article on facts and analysis makes a simple but possibly important point. That reporting without sufficient analysis can be just as troubling as analysis without good grounds. I worry that he makes exactly the mistake, of noting a fact but not analysing what it means, that he cautions against:

"[More] Palestinians than Israelis have been killed over the last five years. [That fact doesn't] excuse but [does] help explain what has happened and why a peace process is necessary-"

The relevance of that fact isn't explained. Gracchi, a very careful and usually comprehensive thinker, has felt it appropriate to trust that fact's importance, and its contribution to the case for a peace process, is self-explanatory.

The old logic used to be that might was right. This was rationalised in all manner of ways. In the Arthurian sense, the logic that God strengthened the arm of the just. However, it seems plausible that logic was never really 'bought' by civilised peoples and it has certainly been left behind as rather subtler forms of morality have come to the fore. Now the idea that right being on one's side will make victory easier is a statement of hope for an already justified cause rather than a justification in itself.

However, an assumption in the other direction, that losing makes ones cause more just, is just as toxic. Gracchi has left behind the idea that might makes right and instead made a statement that sees weakness making right. Because the Palestinians have suffered they will need to have that hurt compensated for in some way with a compromise. He may think that being weaker makes them more worthy. They are the 'oppressed' or a plucky underdog; this is a common fallacy of the Left although not one I would expect Gracchi to hold to. Another possibility is that he simply thinks that we need to accept that, rightly or wrongly, the deaths do aggrieve the Palestinians and that will mean they need some form of 'compensation' in order to achieve peace.

There were undoubtedly more Arabs killed in their full-scale wars with Israel than Israelis. Does that mean they were in the right?

Clearly not. They lost more people because they did not fight as well. They were attempting to drive a legitimate state into abject surrender or into the sea. While those who died may have simply been following orders their nation had no right to feel aggrieved over their deaths. Any anger that the families of those who died felt should have been directed towards their leaders. The Arab states were defeated in wars in which they were the injust side.

If Gracchi were making the more practical argument that addressing a grievance is worthwhile whether that grievance is legitimate or not his logic is equally troubling:

The Germans clearly felt very aggrieved in the period before the Second World War. They clearly had suffered hugely in the First World War and with the economic instability that followed it. However, that does not mean that a compromise should have been forced on other European states. The Germans were still in the wrong when demanding territorial sacrifices from other nations. They needed to be confronted instead of being appeased. Anything else implied forcing an injustice on another European state and rewarding intransigence, such rewards usually feed rather than sate an appetite for more 'compensation'.

I do not think that Hamas, or Fatah in its extremist moments, has a legitimate cause. Israel is a state with a right to exist. Hamas are attempting to destroy them, do not wish for peace and show no desire to properly run the quasi-state that they have. Israel has honestly sought peace in the past and been utterly rebuffed by the Palestinian leadership, Arafat, simply so that he might appear credible at a meeting of Arab leaders.

Hamas gunmen may die attacking Israeli soldiers but that is the responsibility of Hamas. Hamas bear complete responsibility for innocent Israelis killed by suicide bombs targetted directly at civilians. Israel does not bear the same responsibility for innocent Palestinians caught in the crossfire of strikes that do all they can to avoid civilians but cannot do so entirely when fighting an enemy that hides among the population. Palestinian militants, just like Hizbollah in the Lebanon, use civilians as a shield to protect themselves and the resulting deaths as a propaganda tool. Their strategy is based around maximising casualties in Palestine as well as Israel. Israel is under no obligation to make some penance for the self-destructive actions of the Palestinians who choose leaders like Hamas.

Casualties do not create a just cause. Unless you think, for some other reason, that their cause is just deaths within a people do not strengthen the case that people deserve better treatment. Suffering and dying thanks to their own injust policies should not be seen as cause to give them favourable treatment. What this means, in turn, is that their sense of grievance against Israel is misguided, their sufferings are the fault of their own leaders, and should be disputed instead of being indulged.


Gracchi said...

Matt it was only a sidepoint- my attitudes to the conflict are far more complicated I'm not sure that I want to go into them in a blog comment or even a response but I do agree that it was a response which evaded some part of the complicatedness of the issue.

Just to make it clear to your readers. I wrote that in response to another article which talked only about Israeli deaths. My point was that others were dying on the other side as well- more actually- that the conflict was much more complicated than just Israelis dying afterall there were hundreds of Palestinians dying too and that a whole picture didn't just consist of opposing the terrorists though that would be part of the picture.

The man in question had seized a report about a terrorist event and blown it into a representation fo the whole conflict I thought that was unjustified and so gave one fact to muddy the picture- I wasn't trying to provide a complete analysis. At the moment I don't feel in a position to do that myself.

Anonymous said...

Matt, it seems to me that the only person being assumptive here is you, you say the arabs were wrong in the israeli-arab wars, and thus should not be compensated in any way, but where does youre moral compass begin to function, in 1967? What about 1948 when the palestinians were kicked off their land illegally? Should they not be compensated for that or are they in the wrong there? On what grounds do you hold the state of israel creation legitimate, apart from popular western public support?

Matthew Sinclair said...

1948 is far more complex than that. The Arabs attacked the Jews who had arrived through Zionist immigration. Then things got into a fight. Then the Palestinians were kicked out. That's my understanding of it.

Matthew Sinclair said...

Also, states do not need some kind of original legitimacy. Almost every people in the world lives where they do thanks to some kind of war in the past. Israel has a right to exist regardless of whether its creation was just.

After all, if you're unwilling to accept that some movements of populations at the end of the Second World War can't be accepted you have to withdraw the German, Polish and Russian borders pretty drastically.