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According to the Guardian newspaper of 18 July 2014 – the death toll of Palestinians as Israel’s ground offensive continues has increased to 296.
And, according to various sources available on the Web, the death toll following the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, stands at 298.
I am a life-long Pacifist, and that means that I cannot accept any attempt to justify War or premeditated violence. So whilst I obviously do not and cannot support the actions of the U.S. or Israeli Government, nor can I support the actions of Hamas, the Ukrainian Separatist factions, or indeed, the overt and covert military actions of the Russian Government.
Therefore, I am not bound to provide any knee-jerk rhetorical or material support, to one side or another in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Nor am I obliged – much less expected by those who know me – to provide factional support to one side or the other in the current conflict in Ukraine.
That so many of the people I know do seem compelled at every turn of events in these conflicts to reiterate and reaffirm their support for one violent faction or the other, is a constant source of bafflement to me. But fair enough, not everyone shares my belief in Pacifism.
During conversations with my non-Pacifist friends and associates, I am informed that they have (apparently) weighed up all the facts relating to these conflicts, and have objectively determined which government/group/faction is in the “Right”, and which is in the “Wrong”. And obviously, their support for these groups is based on these objective assessments.
It looks as though the most probable cause of the recent downing of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17, is that a heavy-duty and sophisticated Surface-to-Air Missile (SAM) was fired by members of a Ukrainian Separatist faction. This missile was either deliberately targeted at the civilian airliner, in the mistaken belief that it was an Ukrainian Government military air transport; or the missile inadvertently locked onto Flight MH17, due to inexpert use of the SAM weaponry.
Of course, if it were proven that it was a deliberate and intentional act to destroy an aircraft known to be a civilian airplane: then that is a criminal act of terrorism, on the part of whichever group of people authorised and carried out that act.
But for now, it seems most likely that it was the tragic consequence of a civilian airline allowing one of its passenger aircraft to fly over a conflict zone where SAM weapons were known to be in use.
However, the declarations of politicians in the U.S. and U.K., and the information being relayed through the Western Media, are declaring that:
Because the Russian Government (probably) supplied the Ukrainian Separatists with the heavy-duty SAM launching system, it is President Putin and the Russian Government who are ultimately responsible for this “outrageous act” that “cannot be allowed to stand”.
Therefore, my non-Pacifist and partisan friends are asked to reinforce their support for the newly-established Ukraine Government, in its struggle against the Russian Government’s attempts to destabilise Eastern Ukraine; and to support the American and British Governments’ attempts to further sanction the Russian Government.
Meanwhile, in the Gaza Strip…
The actions of the Israeli Government over the last week or so have caused the deaths of almost exactly the same number of Palestinians, as the number of civilians who died when Flight MH17 was shot down.
However, even though the Israeli Government obviously knew that its actions definitely would lead to the deaths of innocent Palestinian men, women and children, it was (and continues to be) compelled to carry out these actions in order to limit or destroy Hamas’ ability to fire its rocket weaponry at targets in Israel.
The U.S. Government has supplied the Israeli Government with the weapons that the latter now uses against Hamas in the Occupied Territories. However, neither the U.S. nor Israeli Governments are responsible for the deaths of these Palestinian civilians. These deaths, though fully anticipated, are “unavoidable” and are really the consequence of Hamas’ continuing to use civilian areas (as opposed to designated Palestinian Military areas in the Gaza Strip?) as launch sites for its attacks against Israel.
Therefore, my non-Pacifist and partisan friends are asked to reinforce their support for the Israeli Government and Population, in their on-going struggle to defend themselves from rocket attacks launched from the Occupied Territories.
Now, I do not consider myself a stupid person (though others often tell me that my declared Pacifism is a sign that I obviously am), but even if I were to set aside my Pacifism and look at these situations objectively, I would still struggle to understand where the consistency is in my friends’ attitudes to these two conflict situations.
I am informed that because Palestinian civilians democratically elected Hamas as the Government of Gaza, then those civilians must bear responsibility for the actions of the government they elected. But there, I have to ask the question: if Hamas is recognised as the democratically elected Government of Gaza, how can it continue to be designated a Terrorist Organisation?
Or: if Hamas is a Terrorist Organisation, how can Palestinian civilians be held responsible for the actions of that organisation?
In Ukraine, as far as I can tell, a democratically elected government was displaced in a coup d’etat. It was replaced by an interim government that was immediately recognised by the United States and its Western European allies. The coup immediately precipitated a move by Russian-Ukrainians living in the Crimean Peninsula, to secede from Ukraine and apply to join the Russian Federation. This was followed by the emergence of other separatist factions in Eastern Ukraine, who wished to follow suit: in essence, to do no more than the population of Scotland are considering doing in September.
Subsequent to this, the U.S. Government has provided full diplomatic support for the Ukrainian Government in its efforts to suppress the Separatist Movement in the east of Ukraine. There is also evidence that the U.S. Government has provided Intelligence and Military support to the new Ukrainian Government.
So again, I am asked to support a “Government” that (at least initially) took power in a coup d’etat, and to oppose a Separatist movement that has the democratically legitimate support of a majority of the people in the area.
In summary then – and to be completely honest – even if I wasn’t a Pacifist because of my basic feelings of Shared Humanity, I am pretty sure I would still need to maintain my non-partisan position.
Because trying to force my mind to honestly and intellectually accept the contorted “Double-speak” that seems to pass for the Partisan Position, would almost certainly drive me insane.
And I’m not that stupid.
Stephen Winspear is a father and a Pacifist living in London. He can be reached at: Stephen@1person.com