• $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • other
  • use Paypal

CALLING ALL COUNTERPUNCHERS! CounterPunch’s website is one of the last common spaces on the Internet. We are supported almost entirely by the subscribers to the print edition of our magazine and by one-out-of-every-1000 readers of the site. We aren’t on the receiving end of six-figure grants from big foundations. George Soros doesn’t have us on retainer. We don’t sell tickets on cruise liners to the “new” Cuba. We don’t clog our site with deceptive corporate ads or click bait. Unlike many other indy media sites, we don’t shake you down for money every month … or even every quarter. We ask only once a year. But when we ask, we mean it. So over the next few weeks we are requesting your financial support. Keep CounterPunch free, fierce and independent by donating today by credit card through our secure online server, via PayPal or by calling 1(800) 840-3683.


The Moral Agonies of Asymmetrical Diplomacy


At a birthday dinner with friends last night, the Israeli assault on Gaza came up. One friend said having to helplessly watch the violence infuriated him and made him ill. Another said it made him want to cry.

I said there was something in this kind of asymmetrical bloodshed that our mainstream media and most Americans willfully avoid thinking about. That’s the humanity of the suicide bomber. Our TV correspondents are so jaded by violence they report X number of human beings were blown to pieces by a suicide bomber. The term has come to represent an inhuman archetype of pure evil. The human being is lost.

I said to my friends, at least we should appreciate — I added the word “respect” — a man or woman willing to sacrifice his or her life for a cause. Even if we oppose that cause. We honor men who jump on grenades to save their buddies and people who pursue an action beneficial to comrades that any sane, rational person would see as suicidal. In traditional Japanese culture, suicide was an honorable act to atone for shame; kamikaze pilots were treated like royalty before they set off on their final missions. Of course, the men on the US destroyers and cruisers they sank did not share the same cause and, thus, did not share in that honoring. Israelis honor the suicide pact of 960 rebels under assault by a Roman legion atop the mesa known as Masada over 2000 years ago.

At this point, another friend spoke up in a disturbed tone. She said she knew someone killed by a suicide bomber. “And I don’t appreciate what you just said.” I may have made things worse by replying: “You don’t understand my point. Actually, I’d be fine with shooting suicide bombers. But, of course, they’re already dead.”

So let’s get this straight: As a military veteran peace activist for over 30 years, I condemn the delivery of bombs to kill people and destroy things by F16s, drones and suicide bombers. This is in the spirit of the famous scene from the film The Battle of Algiers in which a guerrilla leader has been captured by the French military and is presented to the French press for questioning. (This, of course, would never happen under today’s rigid regimes of secrecy.) A reporter asks him how he can justify satchel charges detonated in public cafes attended by French civilians. He smiles and says, “We’ll gladly trade our satchel charges for your jet bombers any day.”

War is the abandonment of morality to expediency. And whether or not Americans know it, they are morally up to their necks in the atrocity going on in Gaza.

Those of us on the left are frustrated, angry and overwhelmed with a sense of impotence in the face of the violence in Gaza. Those who defend the grotesquely asymmetrical assault seem callous and close-minded around the idea that military might makes right. The UN says 75 to 80 percent of the 1600 dead Gazans are civilians, many of them children. Israelis say it is only 50 percent. There have been 59 Israelis killed, the majority of them IDF soldiers.

Gazan forces reportedly captured a 22-year-old IDF lieutenant, Hadar Goldin. A New York Times writer described such captives as the Gazan’s “most powerful weapon.” In fact, captured Israelis are so politically potent the official IDF policy permits shooting at a fleeing vehicle that contains a captured Israeli. Again, in pursuit of their cause, better a dead IDF soldier than a captive one. (Late note: The Israeli military says Goldin is dead and buried. A Hamas element told the Times Goldin may have been killed by Israeli forces firing on Goldin’s captors.)

Meanwhile, Vietnam combat veteran John Kerry and the rest of official Washington employ what my wife calls “asymmetrical diplomacy.” That is, diplomacy that refuses to treat all human beings involved in the catastrophe equally. Israelis are elevated to the status of exceptional westerners and Palestinians are reduced to abject and desperate peasants seeking something they don’t deserve — and doing it in an unacceptable fashion with primitive rockets and suicide bombers. Given such asymmetrical diplomacy, one might reduce the disaster to a symbolic stand-off between handsome, well-fed young IDF soldiers like Goldin and the archetypal suicide bomber.

As westerners with a long history of colonial and imperial intervention around the world, Americans appreciate and admire the young IDF soldiers with their tough, middle-class upbringings as part of Israel’s succeeding generations following the early Zionist settlers. We honor the young IDF soldiers’ education, their military athleticism, their training and the resultant competence and skills as part of a well-oiled military machine. Meanwhile, we regard the Palestinians as historic losers, people who allowed themselves to be imprisoned by the cruel fate of history. Palestinians lack modern, western sophistication, and, their worst crime, they refuse to kowtow to Israel and the west for this shortcoming. Palestinians simply will not align themselves with the great western myth, since for Palestinians to do so would mean throwing away their dignity and becoming the losers western arrogance insists they are.

Everything Israelis and the United States has done for 66 years has reduced the Gazan citizen to a human being with nothing to offer but his or her miserable life. In this sense, the suicide bomber is a natural outcome of history in Palestine.

Maybe the most apt historical analogy to Israeli rule over what was once known as Palestine is the Manifest Destiny of the United States and its pacification, imprisonment and ultimate destruction of Native American culture. It’s obvious that the United States could not today get away with the things it did in the 18th and 19th centuries. Likewise, vis-à-vis the native people of Palestine, Israelis could afford to be more ruthless and genocidal if they were somehow transported to the 19th century when there was no modern media, no computers and no Facebook or Twitter to cope with.

US and western diplomats seem unable or unwilling to stop the daily horrors of the Israeli assault on Gaza. Why? Because their mindset is rooted in the consistent and tragic decision to unilaterally support Israel no matter how arrogant it becomes and how far it strays from the once respected moral position of Jews in the world. Every tyrant in the world bases his cruel reign on some distant outrage that continuously threatens to re-occur if he’s not strong. Israel is no exception.

Clearly the US and the western world owe Palestinians — and now Gazans, especially — a huge debt. A majority of Israelis may be self-centered and hard-headed enough never to accept this. But that does not go for citizens of the United States, who have expended lots of their hard-earned tax dollars for military weaponry used in the current assault on Gaza. If Israel chooses an apocalyptic future, US citizens are not obligated to go along for the ride. A good case can be made for putting the financial squeeze on Israel.

In the meantime, we must hope Israelis become morally weary enough of the current asymmetrical violence to put a stop to it. But there seems little evidence this is forthcoming. Even if Hamas is broken and all the tunnels are sealed, the degree of hatred for Israel will increase among Palestinians. (The killing of Pablo Escobar by US drug warriors was touted as a coup, but it famously only spread the menace wider and made things more intractable and violent.) People I know who have traveled the world widely say the worst poverty they’ve seen was in Gaza. The current assault will only exacerbate this poverty.

Looking to the future, the government of the United States and other western governments and private institutions would be smart to initiate the equivalent of a Marshall Plan to improve human living conditions in Gaza. The aid should not be delivered through Israel. If Israel balks, it’s time to use the vast muscle of the United States of America to make them change their point of view — for their own good, but more important, for our good.

Where does it say harsh, painful sanctions cannot be applied to the state of Israel?

JOHN GRANT is a member of ThisCantBeHappening!, the new independent three-time Project Censored Award-winning online alternative newspaper. His work, and that of colleagues DAVE LINDORFF, GARY LINDORFF, ALFREDO LOPEZ, LORI SPENCER, LINN WASHINGTON, JR. and CHARLES M. YOUNG, can be found at www.thiscantbehappening.net

JOHN GRANT is a member of ThisCantBeHappening!, the new independent, uncompromised, five-time Project Censored Award-winning online alternative newspaper. 

October 13, 2015
Steve Martinot
The Politics of Prisons and Prisoners
Heidi Morrison
A Portrait of an Immigrant Named Millie, Drawn From Her Funeral
Andre Vltchek
Horrid Carcass of Indonesia – 50 Years After the Coup
Jeremy Malcolm
All Rights Reserved: Now We Know the Final TTP is Everything We Feared
Paul Craig Roberts
Recognizing Neocon Failure: Has Obama Finally Come to His Senses?
Theodoros Papadopoulos
The EU Has Lost the Plot in Ukraine
Roger Annis
Ukraine Threatened by Government Negligence Over Polio
Matthew Stanton
The Vapid Vote
Louisa Willcox
Tracking the Grizzly’s Number One Killer
Binoy Kampmark
Assange and the Village Gossipers
Robert Koehler
Why Bombing a Hospital Is a War Crime
Jon Flanders
Railroad Workers Fight Proposed Job Consolidation
Mel Gurtov
Manipulating Reality: Facebook Is Listening to You
Mark Hand
Passion and Pain: Photographer Trains Human Trafficking Survivors
October 12, 2015
Ralph Nader
Imperial Failure: Lessons From Afghanistan and Iraq
Ishmael Reed
Want a Renewal? Rid Your City of Blacks
Thomas S. Harrington
US Caught Faking It in Syria
Victor Grossman
Scenes From a Wonderful Parade Against the TPP
Luciana Bohne
Where Are You When We Need You, Jean-Paul Sartre?
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
The US Way of War: From Columbus to Kunduz
Paul Craig Roberts
A Decisive Shift in the Balance of Power
Justus Links
Turkey’s Tiananmen in Context
Ray McGovern
Faux Neutrality: How CNN Shapes Political Debate
William Manson
Things R Us: How Venture Capitalists Feed the Fetishism of Technology
Norman Pollack
The “Apologies”: A Note On Usage
Steve Horn
Cops Called on Reporter Who Asked About Climate at Oil & Gas Convention
Javan Briggs
The Browning of California: the Water is Ours!
Dave Randle
The BBC and the Licence Fee
Andrew Stewart
Elvis Has Left the Building: a Reply to Slavoj Žižek
Nicolás Cabrera
Resisting Columbus: the Movement to Change October 12th Holiday is Rooted in History
Weekend Edition
October 9-11, 2015
David Price – Roberto J. González
The Use and Abuse of Culture (and Children): The Human Terrain System’s Rationalization of Pedophilia in Afghanistan
Mike Whitney
Putin’s “Endgame” in Syria
Jason Hribal
The Tilikum Effect and the Downfall of SeaWorld
Gary Leupp
The Six Most Disastrous Interventions of the 21st Century
Andrew Levine
In Syria, Obama is Playing a Losing Game
Louis Proyect
The End of Academic Freedom in America: the Case of Steven Salaita
Rob Urie
Democrats, Neoliberalism and the TPP
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
The Bully Recalibrates: U.S. Signals Policy Shift in Syria
Brian Cloughley
Hospital Slaughter and the US/NATO Propaganda Machine
Paul Street
Hope in Abandonment: Cuba, Detroit, and Earth-Scientific Socialism
John Walsh
For Vietnam: Artemisinin From China, Agent Orange From America
Hadi Kobaysi
How The US Uses (Takfiri) Extremists
John Wight
No Moral High Ground for the West on Syria
Robert Fantina
Canadian Universities vs. Israeli Apartheid
Conn Hallinan
Portugal: Europe’s Left Batting 1000