There are few concepts more elastic and subject to exploitation than "Terrorism," the all-purpose justifying and fear-mongering term. But if it means anything, it means exactly the mindset which Goldfarb is expressing: slaughtering innocent civilians in order to "send a message," to "deter" political actors by making them fear that continuing on the same course will result in the deaths of civilians and -- best of all, from the Terrorist's perspective -- even their own children and other family members.
To the Terrorist, by definition, that innocent civilians and even children are killed isn't a regrettable cost of taking military action. It's not a cost at all. It's a benefit. It has strategic value. Goldfarb explicitly says this: "to wipe out a man's entire family, it's hard to imagine that doesn't give his colleagues at least a moment's pause."
That, of course, is the very same logic that leads Hamas to send suicide bombers to slaughter Israeli teenagers in pizza parlors and on buses and to shoot rockets into their homes. It's the logic that leads Al Qaeda to fly civilian-filled airplanes into civilian-filled office buildings. And it's the logic that leads infinitely weak and deranged people like Goldfarb and Peretz to find value in the killing of innocent Palestinians, including -- one might say, at least in Goldfarb's case: especially -- children.
. . . .
I can't express how many emails I've received in the last week from people identifying themselves as "liberals" (and, overwhelmingly, American Jews); telling me that they agree with my views in almost all areas other than Israel; and then self-righteously insisting that I imagine what it's like to live in Southern Israel with incoming rocket fire from Hamas, as though that will change my views on the Israel/Gaza war. Obviously, it's not difficult to imagine the understandable rage that Israelis feel when learning of another attack on Israeli civilians, in exactly the way that American rage over the 9/11 attacks was understandable. But just as that American anger didn't justify anything and everything that followed, the fact that there are indefensible attacks on Israeli civilians doesn't render the (far more lethal) attacks on Gaza either wise or just -- as numerous Jewish residents of Sderot themselves are courageously arguing in opposing the Israeli attack.
More to the point: for those who insist that others put themselves in the position of a resident of Sderot -- as though that will, by itself, prove the justifiability of the Israeli attack -- the idea literally never occurs to them that they ought to imagine what it's like to live under foreign occupation for 4 decades (and, despite the 2005 "withdrawal from Gaza," Israel continues to occupy and expand its settlements on Palestinian land and to control and severely restrict many key aspects of Gazan life). No thought is given to what it is like, what emotions it generates, what horrible acts start to appear justifiable, when you have a hostile foreign army control your borders and airspace and internal affairs for 40 years, one which builds walls around you, imposes the most intensely humiliating conditions on your daily life, blockades your land so that you're barred from exiting and prevented from accessing basic nutrition and medical needs for your children to the point where a substantial portion of the underage population suffers from stunted growth.
So extreme is their emotional identification with one side (Israel) that it literally never occurs to them to give any thought to any of that, to imagine what it's like to live in those circumstances. Nor does this thought occur to them:I was trained from an early age to view this group as my group, to identify with them emotionally, culturally, religiously. Maybe that -- and not an objective assessment of these events -- is why I continuously side with that group and see everything from its perspective and justify whatever it does, why I find the Dick Cheney/Weekly Standard/neoconservative worldview repellent in every situation except when it comes to Israel, when I suddenly find it wise and vigorously embrace it.
Those who defend American actions in every case, or who find justification in attacks on Israeli civilians, or who find simplistic moral clarity in a whole range of other complex and protracted disputes where all sides share infinite blame, are often guilty of the same refusal/inability to at least try to minimize this sort of ingrained tribalistic blindness.
The whole essay, with links, is here.
I am intimately familiar with the attitude of many (not all!) US Jews that Greenwald writes about: my father was one. He was very progressive, a lifelong socialist. But when it came to Israel, he was a jingoistic dittohead. And I'm quoting him there! He freely admit this blind spot, but he never examined it, and he never backed away from it.
People say, oh, it's complicated, this Jewish response to Israel. It's emotional. It's deep. It's hard to explain.
But in reality, it's not complicated. It's simplistic. The North American Jewish support of Israel's bombing of Gaza are no more complicated than a bumper sticker that says "These Colors Don't Run" and "If You Don't Stand Behind Our Troops, Then Stand In Front Of Them".
Anyway, here's Glenn Greenwald, he explains it much better than me.