Question answered

Why do the Israelis fight, asks Charles Krauthammer, especially in light of the following circumstances:

>Exhibit A: Gaza. Just last September, Israel evacuated Gaza completely. It declared the border between Israel and Gaza an international frontier, renouncing any claim to the territory. Gaza became the first independent Palestinian territory in history. Yet the Gazans continued the war. They turned Gaza into a base for launching rocket attacks against Israel and for digging tunnels under the border to conduct attacks such as the one that killed two Israeli soldiers on June 25 and yielded a wounded hostage brought back to Gaza. Israeli tanks have now had to return to Gaza to try to rescue the hostage and suppress the rocket fire. [emphasis added]

I’m very much a non-expert about the region (see previous post), but I’m curious about the language Krauthammer employs.

In the first part of the paragraph, Israel is the agent–it declares it has no claim on Gaza (where’s Gaza in this? Was it agreed that the case was then closed by Israel’s withdrawl?).

Despite Israel’s action Gaza continues (unreasonably we can only suppose–at least Krauthammer doesn’t mention any reasons) to wage “war”.

In this “war” the Gazans captured a “hostage”. Typically in war one captures “prisoners.” One might wonder if Israel has any “hostages”. Or do they have “prisoners”? Perhaps like us they have “detainees.”

Now in light of the action of the Gazans, Israel is forced into the role of passive responder: they have had to–they have no choice but to–return to Gaza with tanks. As I say, I’m not an expert, but maybe there were other options.

11 thoughts on “Question answered”

  1. when the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem begins to resemble a nail.

  2. I find it amusing that he uses the word “hostage” instead of “prisoner”, thereby implying that those who captured the Israeli soldier have no legitimate cause because they are criminals or terrorists, hence outside the bounds of what one might call legitimacy. By using the word “hostage” instead of “prisoner” he seems to imply that the Palestinians are just criminals since only criminals, or terrorists, acquire hostages. Nation states acquire prisoners, or detainees as they are called in our enlightened nation. Thus Krauthammer is implying that the Palestinian “terrorists” have no legitimate cause for the capture since they are only criminals.

  3. to get up to speed on the conflict, see here:

    Institutional racism charges are sometimes not matters of oversimplification. Krauthammer’s article is the type-case for institutionalized media racism based on biased simplification of a complex problem. The bias, as the linked article suggests, can either be atrributed to actual an ignorance of facts, or a willfull dismissal of contrary evidence.

  4. i think something important has been lost in the discussion of semantics. the fact remains that an israeli person is currently being held captive, as are many arab persons. however they are described is less important and totally unrealted to the fact of their imprisonment. the issue that really needs to be addressed is the rightness of holding these people at all, not the proper label that is to be placed on them. that’s like writing place cards for the dinner party instead of cooking the meal.. while i realize that often the preferred descriptor of detainee, or prisoner of war, or hostage is used to baptise or criticize these imprisonments, it’s really just a semantic nutshell game. so long as we are contented to dicuss the semantics of the situation and not the human lives involved, on both sides, the desired effect has been achieved.

  5. Let it go without saying that the Israeli prisoners are human beings just like their Palestinian counterparts. The issue for this post concerns precisely the deceptive and dehumanizing effect of language. As the current administration knows, a “prisoner” has rights a “detainee” might not seem to have. So we ought to be careful of the kind of language we use, especially in circumstances of war and violence.

  6. Speaking of stage-setting news language and emphasis, Eric Boehlert puzzles over how several dozen dead Lebanese civilians warranted so little interest from CNN.

    >Thanks to CNN, I’d learned that Israeli forces had bombed Beirut International Airport and a blockade was in place to cut off Lebanon’s ports, that president Bush announced Israel had the right to defend herself, that Hezbollah had fired missiles into the seaside city of Haifa, and that an Israeli woman in Nahariya had been killed amidst the cross-border violence. But I hadn’t learned many details about the more than four dozen civilians in Lebanon being killed, a fact that struck me as central to the unfolding story.

    Read the rest here:

  7. let it also go without saying that any major-media outlet news coverage of these events will be decidedly slanted. on the subject of words, why should a prisoner be considered to have more rights than a detainee? at least the prisoner has, ostensibly committed and/or been convicted of some crime–the detainee is simply held, supposedly temporarily, on suspicion of some alleged misdeed. if we are truly to discuss the harmful effects of language what about the damage done to the language by the Bush administration in this arena? they have completely collapsed the distinction between prisoner and detainee, insofar as to make the latter a more severe term, which it is not. they have so broadly defined terrorism as to include almost anyone, a definition whereby any one of us might become a detainee. more importantly, perhaps, any debate on these issues, as evinced by Krauthammer’s column, is being conducted entirely on their terms.

  8. I thought it was clear that I meant “prisoner of war.” My mistake. But I’m not claiming a real distinction exists so much as certain legal and moral questions come into play. A prisoner of war is clearly subject to the Geneva conventions (and implies a certain moral “regularity”); a detainee has an ambiguous status. An illegal combatant a different status altogether. These are mere distinctions among concepts, not, I think, real distinctions between the ways people should be treated. But back to the original point, as Mr.Grey noted above, we should take note that Krauthammer’s calling the unfortunate Israeli soldier’s “hostages” can only mean their cause is an illegitimate one.

  9. what is this cause that Krauthammer is supposedly labeling illegitimate? some say its the extermination of the isreali state–in this case it is illegitmate. some say its reclamation of territory and in this case, the feud dates to pre-biblical times and its really hard to say who is right and who is wrong. i think what everyone should agree on is that the taking of prisoners/detainees/hostages in the furtherance of political goals is unacceptable, by any government or extra-governmental oraganization. this israeli soldier was not captured in the midst of a shooting war, on a field of battle. he was taken from his observation post, in the midst of a cease-fire. so how should he be classified? i think much closer to hostage than POW.
    that said, i think the lion’s chare of the “detainees” at GITMO are in this same boat, as many of them were rounded up summarily by US forces after the ouster of the Taliban.
    as for the POW rules/Geneva Conventions, the men at GITMO are only covered by a small provision, as they are not uniformed representatives of a nation/state–at least under a VERY strict interpretation–and are therefore only guaranteed basic humman rights–food, water, shelter, etc.

  10. To be more precise, the “feud” (interesting choice of term while we’re on the subject) dates from 1967 when Israel subtracted a whole lot of land from the surrounding nations in an offensive war. For those on the losing end, that war has never ended. They also claim–I’m not passing judgements here–that the creation of the state of Israel in their midst and without their permission was wrong. In any case, both sides have been at war since 1948. In this war, Israel takes captives who are not called “hostages”. I find that strange.

  11. well, this land dispute dates back further than 1967 or 1948, even if you don\’t trust biblical accounts, there ae historical accounts. heck, even europe got involved during the crusades–can\’t let the infidels have the holy city and all. the israelis permanently lost their state after the burning of the temple by, i believe, the roman emperor titus. from that point, what is now israel was claimed by numerous peoples. here is where it gets prickly, howevr, especially for the US, for who are we, created by upstart landowners as we are–to deny anyone the right to their own country, be it israel or the palestinians. however, due to the longstanding and historically muddled state of the land claims in this paerticular dispute, whom or what mighht we turn to in judging the matter?
    on the second point, i agree wholeheartedly. any news coverage of happenings in the arab world is decidedly skewed towards israel and the west. while many of the captives taken by israel were captured at the border with bombs strapped to theier persons–there was actually a Frontline e[pisode on this subject, now that i\’m thinking about it–many otheres were simply scooped up for more sinister reasons, i.e. the round up of Hamas party officials after the latest attack, and should, probably, be considered political prisoners and hostages. we\’ll never hear about that in this country, i would be willing to bet, or at least not on the same scale as we\’ll hear about the abducted israeli soldier.

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