Monday, May 31, 2010

Paging John Yoo--Israel Needs You

I disagree with TPM's take on Bradley Burston's Haaretz op-ed about today's Israeli raid on the peace activist flotilla headed toward Gaza. Burston writes in response to the botched raid that the Israelis "don't know themselves" and that Hamas and the Iranians know Israel better than the Israelis.

There was a time, when it could be said that we knew ourselves only in wartime. No longer. Now we know nothing. Yet another problem with refraining from talks with Hamas and Iran: They know us so much better than we know ourselves.

They know, as the song about the Lebanon War suggested ("Lo Yachol La'atzor Et Zeh") that we, unable to see ourselves in any clarity, are no longer capable of stopping ourselves.

But that's all nonsense and not just because it has a whiny tone about it.

In fact, the Israelis know that they're an aggressive imperialist state that is swallowing up as much Palestinian territory as their American patrons will allow. The Israelis also know that their government is committed to dealing with their Muslim opponents in a bullying fashion. The fantasy seems to be that if the Palestinians might never resist again if only they get beaten up one more time.

Not that self-knowledge means unity. The Israeli right celebrates the Israeli Defense Force's imperial elan. The Israeli left deplores it. But everybody in Israel knows what Israel's about. So does the Arab world and the Europeans for that matter.

As for the current dilemma of the Israeli government, they might as well hire famous American torture lawyer John Yoo to represent their case. Certainly, their current arguments aren't going to hold much water. The Israelis claim that their soldiers were "attacked" after they repelled onto the ship. Well, "duh." Everybody has a right to self-defense, including peace activists. If hostile troops landed on my ship, I would attack them myself if I had any chance of being effective. The largely Turkish peace activists never took a Gandi-esque vow of non-violence. They had just as much right to defend themselves as anyone else.

But this is where John Yoo comes in. Yoo's argument in defense of torture was that the American president has the authority to lawfully ignore provisions of the Constitution, American law, and international law if he believes the U. S. is under threat.

And the U. S. is always under threat. So, the Yoo Doctrine was that the American president could torture anybody anytime he wanted.

That argument is a significant part of what made the U. S. the most powerful rogue nation in the world under the Bush administration. Now that the Israelis are coming under criticism for their human rights abuses in attacking the Gaza flotilla, they also need someone like Yoo to tell the world that Israel can do anything it wants as well.

Paging John Yoo.

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