Moral Equivalence

The ‘moral equivalence’ argument is a non-sequiter, and should not be used to justify the morally dubious actions of governments we are responsible for.

Nick Cohen’s article in this week’s Observer has prompted me to think about ‘moral equivalence’, and the degree to which we condemn the actions of other countries, and our own.

To me, the failure of the archbishop to speak plainly was not a sign of his diplomacy, but flowed from his row with the Jews. Before he escaped to Africa, he couldn’t say why he wanted sanctions against Israel but not against countries that committed far worse crimes – China, Syria, Iran, North Korea and, indeed, Sudan – or give any indication that he was morally obliged to provide an answer.

Cohen’s point is persuasive, and requires an answer, and he is right to take the Archbishop to task over these double standards. However, the argument he uses raises some questions, because the moral door swings both ways.

The idea of ‘moral equivalence’ requires some unravelling. It is always used in the negative, to condemn someone who is equating one reprehensible act with another. Above, Cohen notes that those of a certain political viewpoint are equating the transgressions of the Israelis towards the Palestinians, with a wider and much more horrible genocides, in the other countries he mentions. His complaint is that the two are simply not comparable: Israel is simply not as bad as Sudan.

Another example might be to equate the attacks on the World Trade Centre, with the human rights abuses at Guantanamo Bay. Imprisoning a few dozen militants without trial is simply not in the same moral ballpark as murdering 3,000 civilians on a cold September Tuesday. The actions of the Bush Administration are not morally equivalent to the actions of Al Q’aeda (so goes the argument) and it is offensive to suggest as much. Similar arguments can be made regarding transgressions in Iraq. One can always retort with “well, would you rather have Saddam back?” safe in the knowledge that the coalition forces never did anything as bad as the Ba’athists at Abu Ghraib. Discussions of this kind have been thrown around for decades, especially during the Cold War.

But they are all relative arguments. Relative to Sudanese actions in Darfur, Israeli transgressions against Arabs in the region could be described as minor. But thinking absolutely, they are nevertheless still transgressions. To reiterate, I do not disagree with Cohen when he asserts that Sudan is worse than Israel… but as soon as that point is made, someone is bound to ask the question: “Does that excuse Israel’s behaviour?”

The moral equivalence complaint is constantly used in political discourse, a smoke-screen to justify and excuse morally dubious action. An appeal to inhibit the ghettoisation of the West Bank is met with “what about the man on the Tel Aviv omnibus?” A fair point indeed, but in making it, the respondent has cunningly failed to answer the original point, and thus escapes from the discourse without condemning something that would not have looked out of place in occupied Poland, circa 1940. Likewise, legitimate questions about why, and when it was decided to go to war, are met by Tony Blair with the tired old cliché: “Would you rather have Saddam back?” Meeting questions with questions in this manner is to present a non-sequitur. By highlighting something morally worse, Tony manages to avoid answering the original question at all.

Complaining about the lack of moral equivalence between two acts should not be used as an excuse to avoid accounting for the actions of the governments we are responsible for. Although this final example, from ‘Tender’ at ProfessorBainbridge.com, I confess made me laugh:

As for morality – when the anal rape rate at Gitmo gets to say, half, of the rate at the Cook County jail let me know. I won’t worry till then.

The perceptive among you will have noticed that this particular gripe about the nature of moral arguments really only applies (by its very nature, I think) to governments such as that of Israel, the USA and the UK, rather than China, North Korea, and Sudan (to use some of Cohen’s examples). This is important, because I really want to write about why the former set of countries should be held to a higher standard – because we are responsible for them. I have’t finished with this yet. More in the next post.

14 thoughts on “Moral Equivalence”

  1. Great post, and better point. Politicans are masters of sleigt of hand and this is just another prime example of how they keep us looking in the wrong direction. Keep up the good work, little things like this that will help to slowly open our eyes.

  2. Cheers, although I would hate it if anyone percieved Sudan as somehow the “wrong direction”. That is obviously not the case… but not the point of this particular post either.

  3. Actually, I don’t think the response to my “appeal to inhibit the ghettoisation of the West Bank” – “What about the man on the Tel Aviv omnibus?” – was a fair point. Israel not only has a right but a duty to protect its citizens. But it is prohibited by international law from attempting to do that by using methods which violate the rights of Palestinians to the extent that the Wall’s construction does. That’s effectively what the International Court of Justice said on July 9, 2004.
    See: http://www.icj-cij.org/icjwww/idocket/imwp/imwpframe.htm

    If Israel thinks a Wall will help protect its citizens, it has every right to build a Wall as tall and wide as the Great Wall of China. But there’s a catch – it has to be built on its own land. As it stands currently, with 80% of it running through the occupied West Bank, this Wall has little to do with security but a lot to do with maintaining Israeli colonies and the controlling technologies of occupation. Moreover, the Wall’s efficacy at protecting the man on the omnibus in Tel Aviv is highly questionable. Even Israel’s secret service the Shin Bet admit that the Wall is not primarily responsible for protecting Israelis.
    See: http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/objects/pages/PrintArticleEn.jhtml?itemNo=664916

    Which brings us back the central point. The surest way to achieve security for the man on the Tel Aviv omnibus is to ensure that the children on Gaza’s streets are also safe.
    (See: http://www.pchrgaza.org/files/PressR/English/2006/28-2006.htm)
    That requires a resolution to the conflict, which brings us back to negotiations. Unilateral measures are about conflict management, not conflict resolution, and they serve neither the people of Tel Aviv nor the people of Gaza.

    By contrast, international civil society initiatives that work towards resolving a conflict by censuring the aggressor (in this case, Israel, as the occupier of Palestinian land and suppressor of Palestinian rights) – provide a means by which a future can be attained in which both Tel Avivians and Gazans may ride the buses or walk the streets without fear of elimination.

    It doesn’t matter whether or not the ‘soft’ ethnic cleansing perpetrated by Israel is less violent than that perpetrated in Sudan – in both cases, sentient people have a responsibility to oppose such acts, and to support peaceful initiatives that aspire to the resolution of conflicts.

  4. This is another valuable piece Robert.

    I have a couple of niggles that I can’t quite form into lucid criticisms, so this may be a touch on the rambling side.

    If you are going to post more, I would be very grateful if you were able to address the following thoughts:

    1) Whilst the “non-sequitur”/”that does not excuse xxx” is almost always a valid point, there are times when perhaps it isn’t it. I am thinking of criticism of a reaction to an outrage rather than criticism of the outrage itself.

    For example, Cohen is taking issue with the CofE RESPONSE to Israel, not Israel itself. If we believe that there isn’t really any moral equivalence between Israel and Sudan (for many this may be moot, but bear with me), then responses should reflect that. If the response to Israel is harsher than that towards Sudan, then it appears that the CofE rates the Israeli outrages as worse than Sudan, hence the charge of moral equivalence. I suppose this is a sort of “allocation of resources” issue: deal with the biggest outrages first sort of thing.

    2) “This is important, because I really want to write about why the former set of countries should be held to a higher standard – because we are responsible for them. ”

    This goes to the crux of the issue. You are absolutely right that we have to demand and maintain higher standards. HOWEVER……..

    If we admit that we are applying different and higher standards, then any criticism MUST be couched in those terms. To criticise Israel, or the UK or the US against this higher standard is OK, so long as we also make clear just how contempible we believe China, Sudan, North Korea to be.

    There is a rather large consequence of this view: we reject entirely any criticism from those countries about our own behaviour. If we openly apply different standards to Israel and Sudan, Sudan cannot really have any part to play in the castigation of Israel. Where does that leave Sudan’s membership of the UN Human Rights commission?

    Indeed, should we not be focussing more of our attention on those countries to which you would apply a lower standard? Isn’t that rather the point?

    Obviously, if these points are tosh, then squash them here and be done with it.

    Toodle Pip!
    PG

  5. My wife left me. She said that I smelled of dead animal. I tried to tell her that I didn’t smell as bad as a sewerage farm worker. It didn’t seem to convince her. Funny that.

  6. Did you miss the part of Cohen’s article that said:

    “Quite rightly, the crimes of American, British, European and Israeli democracy are dissected and denounced. But an intellectual blockage – a Chinese wall in the mind – prevents the critics applying universal principles to far greater outrages.”

    In fact, this is the first article I’ve read about Sudan this year, yet the MSM has been awash with Israeli bulldozers, cartoons riots, and Palestinian street violence. Why the preference? Do the Palestinians get in more viewers perhaps or is it just easier and safer to take advantage of Israel’s and Europe’s free press?

    Oh, and when exactly did the Polish breed kids to carry out suicide bombings on German buses and in German restaurants, markets, and at religious celebrations? People respond to the so-called “wall” (or Israel’s security fence) with the question: “what about the man on the Tel Aviv omnibus?” because it was built primarily to protect that man on the Tel Aviv omnibus. All we can really hum and har about is why much of it is on the Palestinian side of the green line instead of on the Israeli side (the PA signed away their right to the green line in the 90s).

    Whichever side of the wall/fence you’re on, you can’t deny that a wall/security fence can be moved or demolished; the blown-up body parts of an Israeli can only be scooped up and buried. In the realm of morality, which do you think takes priority: a moveable wall/fence or the lives of civilians? Do you need more self-criticism to come to your decision?

    And look how fair I can be to both sides by calling the offending construction both a wall and a fence. Someone on here calling himself “intifada kid” can’t bring himself to call a spade a spade, let alone see things from both sides. He’s so far gone, he even capitalises ‘wall’; it’s a proper noun in his mind with the permanence of a city! What dialogue is there to have with such a mind? And do you really think a bit more self-criticism is gonna cause him to self-reflect?

    You want to talk about absolutes, let’s talk about reality.
    Take the point of Israeli transgression: when will we see Arab government condemnation of widespread antisemitism and holocaust denial in the Islamnic media, real Arab condemnation of suicide bombings in Israel and the breeding of kids to carry out such acts, or are we dealing with a different mentality entirely, an honour-shame culture, that knows no real self-criticism and, in fact, even goes as far as to supplant it with Jew-criticism and Western-criticism?

    The reality is that people and regimes with such an agenda (or mouthpiece thereof) do equate their actions with democratic nations with the obvious intention of evading responsibility. We don’t achieve anything by avoiding the term that best describes this reality and neither do we achieve anything by mere self-criticism alone. It’s precisely because regimist states are not self-critical that we must turn up the heat on them, not turn up the heat on ourselves. We have human rights courts and independent judiciaries and democratically elected governments with degrees of separation of power, what do they have in most Islamic states? Dictatorships and sharia law from the middle ages. Yes, we’re so on the same level, aren’t we?

    You dont get such backward thinking to reform by turning the spotlight on yourself. They only take advantage of such liberalism; they dont learn anything about their own crimes. How responsible would a parent be to discipline only himself but not his child hoping that the child will merely learn by example? Usually examples should only be used to demonstrate the rules in practice, not used so that one side can evade the rules.

    You have to hold regimes accountable to the same degree that any democratic country should be held accountable – if not more so because they have no internal means to do so. This is the point of Nick Cohen’s article and that’s what the UN should be there for: an unbiased arbitrator of universal principles. Is it and has it ever been? Which countries sit on the human rights commission again?

  7. Dan, I feel my replies might be going over old ground here. I was very careful in the articles to point out that I agreed with Cohen. His article merely happened to be a convenient springboard for my thoughts.

    Regarding the difference between Arab dictatorships/theocracies, and western democracies, I do not say that we should not criticise them. I’m merely arguing why it is right that we do continue to criticise those nations such as Israel, who are supposed to be on ‘our’ side… precisely because they are supposed to be on our side. I elaborate on this more in the article that follwed this one.

    I have also made comments on the difference between the actions of suicide bombers and US/UK/Israeli soldiers: The former are not agents of the state and their actions are not endorsed by the Palestinian Authority, and it is a willful smear to suggest that they are. Soldiers, on the other hand, are agents of the state, following orders from the state.

    Likewise with the wall. Its definitely not a fence. It is definitely not for protection of Israeli citizens – That is propaganda of the most primitive kind, and only the most unenquiring minds still believe it. Intifada Kid presents some compelling reasons for this case above. If there is a dispute over whether the green-line still holds, the Israeli government should be negotiating, not engaging in unilateralism. Saeb Erekat explains exactly who their partner in negotiation should be: the PLO.

    Polish Jews never engaged in suicide bombing, of course. But the tactic is the same – blame an entire race of people, and wall them up. It will not work, it is not conducive to peace. Some Arabs may well be more radicalised and militant than the European jews of the 1930s, but that does not excuse treating the rest like prisoners. That is the very definition of racism.

    The Israelis simply cannot allow themselves to lose their humanity – the moral high ground – over the way they treat the Palestinians. Yet with every action they slide down the muddy slope. Why do you think it is OK for them to comprimise their morals? The ‘reality’ you speak of is like The Wall: its only permenance is in our minds.

  8. Your response is so replete with factual errors that it’s easy to see why both logic and humanity play next to no part in your thinking.

    The PA’s military wing is Fatah. Fatah has often admitted to terrorist attacks on Jews both within and beyond the green line. You’re also not a big fan of Palestinian TV and literature as Jews are systematically defamed and nazified using old European and Muslim antisemitic language and tactics. Such broadcasts and literature are PA controlled and sponsored. The same is very much true in Syria, Egypt, and Lebanon, where their governments also condone such behaviour by either encouraging it or ignoring it. You are either intellectually stupid or dishonest to whitewash this. Neither is desirable.

    Try some Arab TV for yourself:
    http://www.memritv.org/search.asp?ACT=S9&P1=1050
    http://www.pmw.org.il/tv.html

    And your Saeb Erekat reference is a bit out of date, isn’t it? Hamas is in government now. And the PA was not dealt with because it continued to support, aid and abet, attacks on Israelis.

    You seem to feel quite secure in your dehumanising and idiotic strawman that soldiers are more responsible as state agents than terrorists. However, this first conflicts with your point that the result is often the same: death on both sides; it second denies history where Palestinians are openly bred to fight like an army of martyrs against Jewish civilian targets – blessed by PLO/PA leader Arafat for decades; and it third dehumanises the suicide bombers as you deny them the basic human right of deciding for themselves why they do what they do and who inspired them. They admit openly that they are agents of the PA (Fatah), Hamas, Islamic Jihad, or the PFLP. They even call themselves militants and not terrorists, so by definition they operate as a military/militia fighting force. And they’re still human, as open to criticism as any westerner.

    For you to let them off the hook simply because they’re not an established army of an established state and because they’ve been blighted by the corrupt PA is merely an exercise in bias. It brings nothing to this debate and more importantly, it solves nothing. Each individual is still responsible for his/her actions right up to and beyond the act in question. This is one of the cornerstones of humanity. Without it, we’re not more than savages.

    Now for the rest of your gaping bias. According to the Israeli government and other observers (some even from the UN), 97% of the security fence/wall will comprise of a “chain-link fence system” and only 3% of concrete. I’ll continue to be fair and open-minded to both sides and call it a fence/wall until further proof can be found that it’s more one than the other.
    http://www.palestinefacts.org/pf_current_security_fence.php

    In proper journalist-style, all we have to do is type one extra word to show that the label is in dispute. But you’ve already taken the Arab side and called it a wall, so with a friend like you, does Israel really need enemies? Your friendship is merely a ruse so that you dont get labelled.

    With your bias open for all to see, you are a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Calling Israel a friend but then spinning Arabist lies as Gospel to undermine Israel’s security – accepting only Israel’s side as far as it agrees with Palestinian terms. That’s not a negotiation, it’s a self-proclaimed diktat.

    As for the efficacy of the wall/fence, I believe the statistics speak volumes where you just equivocate and allege. We could argue about Israel’s reasons for building much of it on the east side of the green line (altho they claim most of it is on the green line), but then if you were interested in their explanation you would have bothered to research the point and raise it in your peace-and-love-disguised diatribe.

    You wilfully neglect to mention that it was the Palestinians who physically walked out of negotiations and took up violence. That was Palestinian unilateral action that doesnt even get so much as a mention from you. Instead you focus on Israel’s unilateral action – which in fact is a reaction to earlier events. Israel is justified in the same way as America if it ever had to build a wall/fence along the US-Canada border to sustain a decade of suicide attacks by Canadians nipping over the US northern border. If the US had pockets of Americans it needed to protect in southern Canada, it would be justified in building the wall/fence around them. The alternative is to keep them there unprotected and let them be killed.

    Again, you’d have to research why Israel built the wall/fence on the east side of the green line, and give both sides of the story. As far as I understand it’s only on land that Israel has agreed to annex according to the peace accords which the Palestinians walked out of in favour of violence and intimidation. Where’s your moral high ground where such primitive Palestinian behaviour is concerned or are they not as human as your Israeli “friends”, therefore not as responsible for their own actions?

    And isn’t that the first seeds of racism planted and growing quite happily in your mind? Israelis, i.e. Jews, are too human like us to be worthy of any less criticism. Arabs are something “other”, they’re different, so we treat them according to lesser standards. I can find no more warped a defence for racism than the one you’ve already thought up in your head.

    I’ll clarify as you’re clearly too far gone:

    Palestinians are *human beings*, equal to humanity as much as Israelis and we are. If they are to remain fully human in your mind, you must not just fight for their rights as much as you would any other human being but also judge them according to the same criteria and same standards you would any other human being. To do otherwise is to dehumanise and animalise them. And that is the true nature of racism.

    As for Poland, I was talking about Polish Catholics but you clearly have “Jew” on the brain. Never mind, let’s apply the logic above to the Holocaust for it is the same. If Jews had blown up buses and restaurants in Germany in response to Nazi mass-murder, they, too, would have had to answer for such crimes for two wrongs do not a right make. One act of murder does not justify another act of murder, whether state sponsored or otherwise. A wall/fence separates the two so it’s not so easy for them to kill each other.

    How could the mass-murder of Jews in Poland justify legally or morally the murder of innocent civilians in Germany who randomly may or may not have supported Nazism? Jews considered this at the time and made the morally right decision.

    If I can make that distinction with the Holocaust so that both the victims and perpertrators/bystanders/innocent citizens retain a level of humanity, why can’t you make the same distinction so that Palestinians retain their humanity?

    This is why your broadcasts on here are disingenuous. You’re hiding behind protecting Israel from allegedly “dehumanising itself”, but as soon as the Palestinians do the same thing, you use their victimhood as a defence. So it’s okay to randomly murder if you’re a victim (i.e. become a murderer) and we won’t treat you with the same standards of humanity that we’d give any normal full human being, say, in a democratic state.

    What a warped world we live in, where victims who need more humanity are treated as less than responsible, i.e. less than human!

  9. A couple of points before bed, Dan. First, I was talking about European Jews when I mentioned Poland in my original post. I’m not reading ‘Jew’ into anything you’ve said.

    Second, I too was apprehensive about the wall-slash-fence until I went to have a look at it. The reason I know it is not for security is that there are actually gaping holes in it, where pedestrians passed through on foot. I watched soldiers laughing as people clambered around it, making no attempt to challenge them. It also travels down particularly inconvenient routes. It is there to piss off the people that live either side of it.

    Third, to repeat: The door swings both ways with all my arguments. Any argument I apply to one set of peoples, could be applied to another. You rightly point out the obverse argument, which I will leave to Intifada Kid to retort to if he wishes. But in these posts I am merely suggesting that criticising our political allies is necessary (and I’ll repeat) because they are our allies. Yes, I am indeed treating people differently in the argument – One set of people are our “allies” and the other set are not. That’s my starting point for the argument here, and taking that to its conclusion does indeed result in people being treated differently.

    As for the suggestion that I use Palestinian victimhood as a defence for atrocities committed by terrorists… that’s bullshit. I really don’t think that and I most certainly don’t say it. In fact I’ve said the opposite. Clearly the TV channels etc, Arafat sponsored violence, and indoctrination of kids falls into this category too. Nevertheless, the point remains: Extra-governmental terrorist acts are different from governmental acts of soldiers. That’s all, and it doesn’t actually matter who the soldiers and terrorists belong to – the argument applies to the UK case as well. We can argue about whether or not atrocities were in fact extra-governmental, or whether they were sponsored by Fatah – I question you on this point, especially with regard to Abbas. But these are arguments over the facts of a particular matter, and convincing me over the facts of the matter (which some of your links go a long way to doing)won’t change the argument about moral agency and responsibility in the abstract. That discussion is nothing to do with ignoring or being ignorant of the facts. I’ve got one eye on the De Menezes case with this argument too. Crucially I do not say that soldiers or policemen are responsible for state acts as you seem to imply. I’m saying that we are.

    I suspect that you actually find this point more banal than I do, but that’s not something I can address!

  10. OK so you were talking about Polish Jews in your original mention of Poland and I extended it to cover all the human beings living in Poland at the time as it wasn’t only the Jews that suffered under Nazi occupation. Polish Catholics were next on Hitler’s hitlist.

    Israel-Palestine: The wall/fence is not complete. Could you be more specific about when and which part of the wall/fence you observed and who on “both sides” were pissed off by it? How do you explain the statistics that the more the wall/fence is built, the fewer suicide attacks take place in Israel with your sweeping statement that “it’s not for security”?

    I’m still convinced by the stats and when I saw it, it was mostly a fence altho close to populace areas it was mostly concrete. However, as convincing as the stats are, the cynic in me also thinks this is part of Israeli unilateralism to take what they want from the West Bank and pull out of what’s left like they did with Gaza.

    One thing’s for sure, the animosity between the two sides is so deep now that a physical separation – though hopefully not a permanent one – seems sensible.

    I certainly agree with you that self-criticism is important in a healthy civil society. What I’m trying to get at here is that just because some of us reject hugely inflated and biased criticism doesnt mean that we reject all criticism.

    A pathological form of self-criticism which i call obsessive self-blame and psychologists call masochistic omnipotence syndrome (MOS), is what results when we don’t or can’t keep self-criticism in its proper perspective. MOS always returns to the same conclusion that it’s all our fault anyway and only if we change our bad ways will “the others” stop hating us or wanting to kill us.

    However, this dehumanises and patronises our opponents/enemies because it denies them their true motivations for wanting to kill us which is often more to do with the dominating imperative or “rule or be ruled” and a return to middle ages Sharia than how many centimetres beyond the green line a wall/fence runs, or whether Saddam is toppled or kept in a human rights-breaching dictatorship. This is certainly unmistakeable if the Hamas Covenant is anything to go by. Hamas wants to destroy Israel because (they believe) it’s the product of evil conspirator Jews. However, if Hamas were remotely self-critical to one/tenth the extent that you are, Robert, they’d probably find that their real hatred of Jews stems from their inability to accept defeat in conquering Israel and islamising it in true Islamo-proselytising style:
    http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/mideast/hamas.htm

    Instead of this reality, in the mind of the MOS sufferer, “our” crimes are inflated beyond the pale and our “opponents” crimes are minimalised because they’re not civilised like us to understand or take responsibility for their own actions (e.g. the MSM calling terrorists insurgents or “attackers”; or calling Israeli, British or American actions “state terrorism” while Palestinian terror becomes an understandable rite of passage for anyone suffering discrimination or poverty – hence why there was so much of it during the Holocaust and Africa is practically held to ransom by suicidal/homicidal maniacs today – not!).

    If we only reverse this bizarre picture on ourselves (going back to healthy self-criticism) our alleged western crimes would hardly register and the Jihadist would appear as he really is: a monster who cares for no one’s human rights, not even his own. It is after all the Jihadist who submits himself to and cares only about his interpretation of Allah’s will. Human rights dont come into it. He ends his life believing this world to be flawed and a mere illusion of what lies ahead in his real life up in heaven. He does what he does out of religious faith and martyrdom and MOS sufferers deny him his dying wish only to supplant it with their projections of material need and suffering, which the Jihadist finds anathema to his Islamic fundamentalist beliefs. Bruce Thornton has an interesting article on Jihadist motivation towards terrorism here:
    http://victorhanson.com/articles/thornton022606.html

    The worst thing we can do as human beings is treat one group of human beings as morally responsible and another group as morally exempt because they are “victims” or not directly representing government will.

    When a US/UK/ISR soldier intentionally kills a civilian, that soldier (and/or his seniors) should be brought before a court (the Abu Ghraib guards are still in prison tho responsibility may go higher up the chain). We shouldnt beat ourselves into a stupur of obsessive self-blame over it but invest our time showing the world what our legal systems are made of. When a terrorist plants a bomb or blows himself up on a Tel Aviv omnibus he (if he’s still alive) or his indoctrinators should be brought before a court (e.g. Ahmed Saadat of PFLP fame). Both the soldier (or chain of command) and the terrorist should be treated as equally responsible for their actions as both are equal human beings answerable under the same charter of human rights and values.

    What is not morally equivalent though is a democratic state taking action against terrorists to protect its civilians from constant attack and fear and terrorists who seek to destroy that nation’s very statehood (See Hamas Covenant above). Often democratic states attempt to limit civilian casualties and terrorists go out to kill as many of them as possible – clearly no equivalence there – altho “our” killing of civilians is still a crime, we lack the mens rea of murder, and manslaughter is not morally identical to murder, is it?

    In between all of this are a lot of civilians (especially in Palestine and Dafur) and we do them no service by patronising humans into Class A (allies) and Class B (other culture). There’s no reason why Palestinians can’t also be our allies, we have more in common with them than you might at first think. This is understood no better than in the medical corridors of Israel’s hospitals:
    http://www.melaniephillips.com/diary/archives/001633.html
    http://www.haaretzdaily.com/hasen/pages/ShArt.jhtml?itemNo=211347&contrassID=1&subContrassID=0&sbSubContrassID=0

    The best thing we can do if we’re really concerned about human rights for the Palestinians and Sudanese, etc. is put all moral subjects under the same moral scrutiny. When we do that some will turn out to be more evil (e.g. Nazis, Stalinists, Jihadists) and others will turn out more compatible with our civil society. Only moral equivalence stands in our way, constantly equating Israelis with Nazis, Americans with terrorists, and Jihadists with liberal peace-loving pacifists. It’s a warped, warped world we live in!

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