MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Unfortunately, there are those people in the world who lust for revenge, whose souls are boiling with the toxic and barbaric notion of bloodletting in the name of a perceived "just" grievance. That is the case of Thane Rosenbaum, who The Wall Street Journal describes as "a novelist, essayist and professor at the New York University School of Law [and] the author, most recently, of Payback: The Case for Revenge."
Rosenbaum's "Payback" book argues for the legitimacy of revenge. According to the University of Chicago Press, publisher of Rosenbaum's screed, "What, if anything, distinguishes punishment at the hands of the government from a victim’s individual desire for retribution? Are vengeance and justice really so very different? No, answers legal scholar and novelist Thane Rosenbaum in Payback: The Case for Revenge - revenge is, in fact, indistinguishable from justice."
We admittedly have not had time to read the book since becoming aware of it in an incendiary and barbaric Wall Street Journal commentary written by Rosenbaum yesterday, but the book apparently contends that legal systems should be more active in carrying out revenge on behalf of those who feel wronged.
If that is the case, Rosenbaum runs far afield of any notion of vengeance-best-served-cold when he "argues" in his Wall Street Journal column that - in essence - there can be no civilian deaths caused by the Israeli attack and invasion because, he speciously and abhorrently claims, there are no civilians in Gaza:
On some basic level, you forfeit your right to be called civilians when you freely elect members of a terrorist organization as statesmen, invite them to dinner with blood on their hands and allow them to set up shop in your living room as their base of operations. At that point you begin to look a lot more like conscripted soldiers than innocent civilians. And you have wittingly made yourself targets.
It also calls your parenting skills into serious question. In the U.S. if a parent is found to have locked his or her child in a parked car on a summer day with the windows closed, a social worker takes the children away from the demonstrably unfit parent. In Gaza, parents who place their children in the direct line of fire are rewarded with an interview on MSNBC where they can call Israel a genocidal murderer....
So much innocence is lost in this citizen army, which serves as the armor for demented leaders and their dwindling arsenal of rockets and martyrs. In Gaza the death toll of civilians is an endgame disguised as a tragedy. It is a sideshow—without death, Hamas has nothing to show for its efforts.
To live in Gaza, Rosenbaum claims, makes one a de facto member or supporter of Hamas, and therefore a military casualty of war and not a civilian. Rosenbaum goes even further, asserting that it is the Netanyahu-led government of Israel who is the moral victim of this alleged army that consists of all the residents of Gaza (except the ones who have tried to get away from the Israeli attack - which is an impossibility in a zone that has been closed and contained as a sort of modern concentration camp by Israel for several years - and were “accidentally” killed). "The impossibility of identifying them, and saving them, is Israel's deepest moral dilemma," he writes.
As of today, at least 500 Gazans have died from military actions since the Israeli bombardment and ground war commenced (a figure which will go higher by the time you read this). According to Rosenbaum, only a few of these are "true innocents," and it has been a moral burden for Israel to try not to kill them.
These are the thoughts of someone without any ethical compass or basic logic, not a legal scholar.
It should be remembered that prior to Israel's recent military operation in Gaza, a truce of sorts had been in place and the rockets launched into Israel by Hamas were relatively few - and suicide bombings have virtually stopped within Israel. As for the tunnels, it is hard to understand how Israel will do anything but destroy the ones in existence - which will be then be rebuilt until a more permanent cessation of hostilities is reached. That, of course, can only be achieved once the collective punishment of the entrapment of Gaza by an Israeli-enforced siege is lifted.
Israel's revenge for the death of three youths from settlements on the West Bank, whose murders have not been linked to Hamas, has (as we have noted) resulted in the deaths of more than 500 Gazans - including children, whole families and the elderly - and as many as 25 Israelis or more (mostly soldiers), with one soldier apparently captured (again, a figure that has likely already increased).
Loss of life, whether Palestinian or Israeli, is to be deplored, but there is no justice in valuing the lives of one ethnic or religious group over those of another. Rosenbaum's twisted and frightening notion of justified collective punishment diminishes the sanctity of all human life by inherently implying, in the end, that some lives are of more value than others. Such a notion is despicable.
If the Israeli government is even remotely interested in peace and not endless war, it is going to finally have to accept that Palestinians are humans. In the mid-'90s, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated (November 15, 1995) by a right-wing Israeli for thinking and voicing such a notion. Since then, the Israeli ship of state has steered further and further toward a Dick Cheney notion of "endless war." That does not bestow virtue on Hamas, but it does preclude the possibility of ending the bloodshed.
There is a peace movement that persists in Israel. There are many who work toward Israeli-Palestinian reconciliation. But it is hard to project an image of being a victim, as Netanyahu and Israeli politicians often do, when - even if they are not a representative sampling - CNN showed video images to the world of some Israelis as The Guardian writes, "gather[ing] on hillsides to watch and cheer as [the] military drops bombs on Gaza. People drink, snack and pose for selfies against a background of explosions as Palestinian death toll mounts in [the] ongoing offensive."
Shylock of Shakespeare's "Merchant of Venice" has always been a controversial figure in the Bard's plays. Often, he has been used by nations and people who defame and denigrate Jews as a figure of loathing. Indeed, Nazi Germany used Shylock in propaganda against the Jews of Europe.
However, Shylock makes one of the most moving defense statements on behalf of humanity and how we are all equal as individuals, our lives all equally sacred and deserving of respect - and that a person of the Jewish faith is no different in body or soul than Christians (in the time frame when the play was written) or others. Shylock argues, in essence, that he is a victim of laws and attitudes that limit Jews to a second-class citizenship and leave few options for making a living in Italy - at the time in which “The Merchant of Venice” takes place.
The other day, I replaced the word Jew with Palestinian in Shylock's famous passage - and replaced the word Christian with the word Jew. Shylock's eloquence then becomes as applicable to a Palestinian as to a Jew:
He hath disgraced me, and
hindered me half a million; laughed at my losses,
mocked at my gains, scorned my nation, thwarted my
bargains, cooled my friends, heated mine
enemies; and what's his reason? I am a Palestinian. Hath
not a Palestinian eyes? hath not a Palestinian hands, organs,
dimensions, senses, affections, passions? fed with
the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject
to the same diseases, healed by the same means,
warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer, as
a Jew is? If you prick us, do we not bleed?
if you tickle us, do we not laugh? if you poison
us, do we not die? and if you wrong us, shall we not
revenge? If we are like you in the rest, we will
resemble you in that.
There is no exclusivity to victimhood.
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NOTE: Because the Wall Street Journal has a paywall, you may have to log on for a special free article pass to read Rosenbaum's commentary. You may also be able to read it for free by googling it.