Gaza and the Liberal Conscience- The Question of Parity (Part II)

By Farish A. Noor

As the death toll in Gaza mounts by the hour, there are still faint Liberal voices around us that bemoan the violence and deaths on both sides. We hear and read in the internet again and again about the violence of Hamas and the fact that there have been Israeli casualties in the fighting as well, as if the death of a dozen Israelis can be equated with the deaths of hundreds of Palestinians and the wounding and maiming of thousands. At times such as these, liberals tend to demonstrate an acute lack of understanding of mathematics and seem to have trouble counting…

The most common refrain that we get from the liberals comes in the form of the argument: “Yes, but doesn’t Hamas have weapons too and haven’t the Palestinians killed Israelis?”

Here the moral dilemma of the Liberal stems from a misunderstanding of power-relations and parity. It is based on the idea that killing is wrong (which many would find difficulty in arguing against) and the idea that no attack on civilians is ever justified. Due to the fact that Hamas and other Palestinian groups have attacked Israeli civilian settlements, the conclusion they come to is that all Palestinians are equally guilty.

Let us clear up this confusion by raising a few questions ourselves and pointing to a few facts:

Firstly, let us remember that many of the attacks on Israeli civilian settlements were also focused on illegal settlements that have been universally condemned by the UN and practically every civilised country in the world. It is a foregone conclusion that no country on the planet would welcome the intrusion of any other foreign power, and that any nation that has been deprived of its territory would retaliate. (In fact, not to do so would be unnatural and illogical.) How then can those Israelis who have settled in illegal settlements, built on stolen land, expect to be left in peace? And how can these illegal settlers continue to wonder why they are being attacked? The incredulity of these illegal settlers is astounding, and akin to a situation where a thief wonders why his victim is fighting back…

Secondly, let us look at the question of parity. The fact is that there is NO parity between the trained colonial army of Israel and the irregular forces that have been assembled by the Palestinians. One can be in a genuine moral dilemma if both the Israelis and Palestinians possess the same military might and armed power; and we would be faced by a moral dilemma if – and only if – we see Palestinian jet planes bombing hospitals and schools in Israel; Palestinian tanks attacking Tel Aviv; Palestinian helicopters strafing the suburbs of Israel and Palestinian bulldozers smashing down civilian homes in Israel.

But tell me when did you last see a Palestinian jet fighter plane, attack helicopter, tank or bulldozer? The answer is there simply aren’t any because there is simply no parity between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

The delay with which the Liberal conscience acts is therefore unpardonable under the circumstances, when we are witnessing what can only be described as a totally uneven and unequal contest between an aggressive colonial state and a colonised people fighting back. But for Liberals to assume a neutral stance in the face of a decidedly un-neutral situation beggars belief, and points to the moral hypocrisy of liberals under such circumstances.

Finally there is the question of WHY the Palestinians (Hamas, Hizbullah, Fatah and other civilian groups) have been fighting against this Israeli colonial goliath despite the fact that they have been outgunned time and again. Well, the history of anti-colonial struggles worldwide will show that all nations fighting for freedom have gone up against Empires and Imperial forces infinitely stronger than them. During the Indonesian and Vietnamese wars of Independence, as well as the anti-colonial wars of Africa, local insurgent forces fought with all they had against modern western colonial armies that were better armed.

The record of anti-colonial wars in Asia and Africa shows that it was always the local insurgents who suffered the most. For every Dutch colonial soldier killed by the Indonesian freedom-fighters, hundreds of Indonesians were killed. Yet they fought on relentlessly til they won their independence despite the human costs they were forced to bear. Today the people of Palestine are fighting a war of national liberation against a colonial Zionist state that has the tacit backing of the most powerful hegemon of the planet, the USA. Yet they do so despite the odds because they know that to lay down their arms would be to capitulate to imperialism and colonialism.

So the confused liberal who cannot decide should consider this: Had the freedom fighters of Indonesia, Vietnam, Burma as well as their comrades across Asia and Africa not fought against the odds, would the colonial powers have relented and unilaterally given them their independence? If one is naïve enough to believe that the colonial ambitions of a state like Israel can be appeased by surrendering the struggle, then one deserves to lose one’s country!

End of part II.

  1. #1 by Lee Wang Yen on Tuesday, 13 January 2009 - 11:17 am

    Those guys who flew the plane in 911 clearly did not possess anything that came close to a tiny fraction of US’s military might.

    But that does not mean that what they did was not morally wrong.

  2. #2 by Lee Wang Yen on Tuesday, 13 January 2009 - 11:19 am

    opps… ‘…in the 911 incident…’

  3. #3 by pulau_sibu on Tuesday, 13 January 2009 - 11:23 am

    >We hear and read in the internet again and again about the violence of Hamas ….

    that is true. the innocent people in gaza were used by hamas as tool. Hamas leaders are hiding some where in Syria. The leaders must be so happy to see the young, old and women got killed, and used this a tool to appeal to the international communities. People like boleh were trapped very easily because some people lack brains to think.

  4. #4 by Lee Wang Yen on Tuesday, 13 January 2009 - 11:24 am

    On 15 May 1948, a day after Isreal declared independence, Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq invaded Israel. Morocco, Sudan, Yemen and Saudi Arabia helped the invaders by sending in their troops.

  5. #5 by Lee Wang Yen on Tuesday, 13 January 2009 - 11:25 am

    oops…’… after ISRAEL declared…’

  6. #6 by Lee Wang Yen on Tuesday, 13 January 2009 - 11:38 am

    Some people conveniently leave out some inconvenient part of the history.

    A group of bullies try to push a little boy into the sea. The little boy fights back and defeat all these bullies.

    However, those sympathetic to the bullies keep emphasising how disporportionate the ‘might’ of that little boy is and how bad a bully he is.

    Of course, the little boy has not been a complete angel. But all we ask is this: if you want to recount history to support your point that Israel is such a big bully, please do not forget about things that happened in 1973 (the notorious Yom Kippur war when Arab countries shamelessly attacked Israel on the Day of Atonement), 1948 etc.

  7. #7 by k1980 on Tuesday, 13 January 2009 - 12:26 pm

    The relative indifference of the Islamic world to the plight of black
    Muslims is nothing short of breathtaking. While 300,000 Africans
    have lost their lives to Arab genocide in the past six years, the
    only Muslim protest has actually been in defense of their killers. While are there people in this country calling for the adoption of Palestinian (and earlier on, Bosnian) children but none raising a whimper for the charcoal-skinned Somalian, Darfurian, Congolese orphans? Hypocritic racism at its worst!

  8. #8 by OrangRojak on Tuesday, 13 January 2009 - 1:21 pm

    I can’t wait to finish reading this… I will read it all, if I can’t find my ideology vest. One more mention of ‘liberal’ used the way you’re using it, and I’m going to seek martyrdom at your feet. Fortunately for you, my liberal ideology vest is full of only holes, and you’ll just step over me and keep shouting ‘liberals’ at fascists who will only be flattered by it.

  9. #9 by OrangRojak on Tuesday, 13 January 2009 - 1:26 pm

    intrusion of any other foreign power, and that any nation that has been deprived of its territory would retaliate. (In fact, not to do so would be unnatural and illogical.)
    You go too far, or your principle could. This vague ‘intrusion of power’ happens daily, all over the world. Unless it’s an overt invasion by a foreign state, ‘retaliation’ remains as illegal as it is anywhere. Diplomacy and the rule of law are usually sufficient.

  10. #10 by OrangRojak on Tuesday, 13 January 2009 - 2:04 pm

    But for Liberals to assume a neutral stance in the face of a decidedly un-neutral situation beggars belief
    Hey! Your rhetoric is beggaring my belief! Who has a neutral stance? What would a neutral stance be? “Nothing to do with me”? That would be callous indifference, not liberal. “Kill whatever you like” is truly liberal, but any liberal who identifies with the rest of the human species and is not pathologically insane will take the decidedly non-neutral position of “killing is wrong”, because they themselves do not want to die. At a national level “killing is wrong” is a crime, normally treated by law, which is liberal in as much as it does not outlaw what is not wrong (in ideal circumstances). At an international level “killing is wrong” is more difficult because there is no higher body to appeal to. Liberals (as far as I can remember) have always been personally opposed to nations (their own or others) attempting to excuse killing their own or other nations’ citizens. What’s so neutral about that?

    As a person who believes they are ‘liberal’ and also rejects Farish’s label of ‘Liberal’ as some sort of modern-day, anti-social pervert, I see no neutrality in my position. Idiots from Gaza rocketing Israel is wrong. They’re a small number of people killing an even smaller number of people. I see the apologists have already pointed out that Hamas wear beards, as did the World Trade Center mass-murderers. They are so much more guilty by association than Bader Meinhoff, the IRA, ETA, Ku Klux Klan and hundreds of other small groups of idiots who killed others in the name of ‘struggle’, but didn’t all wear beards.

    I see no neutrality in my condemnation of Israel for its recent action. If I am more vocal about it than I am about the rocket-firing idiots who are not helping to solve anything, it’s a question of scale. Rocket-firing idiots have been practically a fact of life since rockets were invented. Not all states attempt a ‘solution’ that is a greater atrocity. I am a citizen of a country whose record in that respect I was proud of until the last few years.

    I am liberal and I do not have a neutral position, save for “killing is wrong”. Rockets from Gaza is wrong. Waging war against a group of idiots is wronger. Accusing those who excuse Israel on the grounds of “they didn’t start it” of being ‘liberal’ is wrongest.

  11. #11 by Lee Wang Yen on Tuesday, 13 January 2009 - 4:13 pm

    oops… ‘… and DEFEATS…’

  12. #12 by waterfrontcoolie on Tuesday, 13 January 2009 - 4:44 pm

    Politicians like religious leaders need support which is available when emotional issues are made into bones of contention. without any emotional issues to contend with, chances are people will go about their lives gathering for their day-to-day needs. In the case of Palestine, just read the life style of their former leader, the late Arafat. he lived a life not less than a PRINCE, likewise his wife had got budget of some us$10 million a year!
    Without a on-going issue, such life-style will not be supported by the various parties! Hence, the reluctance of HAMAS even to consider a cease fire while their poors suffer the agony of the Jewish’s onslaught and the leaders’ families would be in Paris or Cairo accompanying the leaders ‘negotiating’ for peace, it seems!!
    At the end of the day, the unsophiscated and misled population are the ones who suffer the most!!
    In this madness, only education and information made available to all parties on both sides would slowly unwind the situation. This will take years if not generations!
    All those powers that be, if they have any conscience, should act in concert to stop BOTH SIDES from furthering the conflict and bombs throwing. Israel will not stop unless Hamas stop because Hamas started the fireworks first. Period.

  13. #13 by undergrad2 on Tuesday, 13 January 2009 - 7:04 pm

    “A group of bullies try to push a little boy into the sea. The little boy fights back and defeat all these bullies.” Lee Wang Yen

    I suppose you’re that little boy. Anything else little about you that we should know??

  14. #14 by OrangRojak on Tuesday, 13 January 2009 - 7:53 pm


    Obviously, or as it’s known on the other side of the pond ‘full stop’. Unless, that is, an unexpectedly heavy menstrual flow stopped you typing.

  15. #15 by undergrad2 on Wednesday, 14 January 2009 - 8:43 pm


    Those who have ‘little’ to show in the way of their anatomical appendages have this uncontrollable desire to dominate the forum evidenced by their intellectual gibberish followed by intellectual masturbation.

    That sums up all I have to say about this Cambridge upstart.

  16. #16 by Lee Wang Yen on Wednesday, 14 January 2009 - 9:10 pm

    In rational argumentation, we state our reasons and arguments. We examine assumptions, analyse objections, clarify ideas, identify inconsistencies etc.

    We don’t hurl insults, abuse a commentator, make false assertions about him, and make nasty comments about his anatomy.

  17. #17 by OrangRojak on Wednesday, 14 January 2009 - 10:32 pm

    “rational argumentation”
    Are you on the right blog?

    This blog is about politics. It has nothing to do with reason. Politics is about appealing to the people, who are completely unreasonable, in the main. If they were reasonable, we wouldn’t need politics! Before you came, undergrad2 made snide comments, helpful ones and funny ones. You’ve driven him mad. I haven’t seen anything but nasty comments from him for days.

  18. #18 by OrangRojak on Wednesday, 14 January 2009 - 10:52 pm

    We don’t hurl insults, abuse a commentator, make false assertions about him, and make nasty comments about his anatomy.
    I wanted to say something about negation and conjunction, but I decided it wouldn’t help.

    I was always worried about ‘size’. On several occasions I remember standing in a supermarket checkout queue, only to have my eye caught by a “Women’s magazine” on the unavoidable till-side shelf and a lurid headline about another 1/8″ being added to the average size, and what great news it was for hopeful women everywhere. I think I rushed home on every occasion, to check to make sure I wasn’t ‘below average’. I think the last few times it happened, I almost had a brain haemorrhage, I held my breath so long to get every last Pascal of pressure build up. Age has taken it’s toll on my breath-holding ability and reduced my narcissism to the point where it all seems rather silly now. A few dearly-recalled compliments help assuage the memory or two of disappointed expressions. You can’t please all of the people all of the time.

    Do you know? I don’t think that’s very helpful either.

  19. #19 by Lee Wang Yen on Thursday, 15 January 2009 - 5:17 am

    It’s high time that we discussed politics, and any other serious matters in life, rationally.

  20. #20 by Lee Wang Yen on Thursday, 15 January 2009 - 5:22 am

    Farish A. Noor sets out to give reasons and arguments for his contention in this article. He attempts to deal with a number of arguments put forward by those sympathetic to Israel.

    His reasons and arguments are thus subjected to the same rational scrutiny.

  21. #21 by undergrad2 on Thursday, 15 January 2009 - 8:13 am

    Good one, Rojak!! What would we do without you on this blog? It is important that we maintain a sense of humor or else we’ll go mad.

    If there’s anything I hate most it is somebody with letters after his name going on an unending ego trip. It makes me want to puke! I’m sure Rojak has more letters after his name than he cares to count!

    This is a political blog and not a blog about logic and logical thinking or philosophy. Politics is about history and law – and not about nursing one’s bruised ego as a result of anatomical deficiencies and shortcomings.

    If you find yourself short on your goings and comings, this is the wrong blog to want to air your grievances.

  22. #22 by jey on Thursday, 15 January 2009 - 12:55 pm

    From what I can see from the supposedly “intellectual” piece from Farish is that he has created a classic ‘strawman’ argumentation and attacked the ‘strawman’ by eloquent words thinking that most of the silent readers are ignorant of the actual facts. Sheeeesh!!

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