Academics ‘prove’ Israel shouldn’t defend herself

Even pacifists often agree that violence is justified in cases of self-defense. One would think that most people would agree with the principle that when you are hit, you are allowed to hit back.

Apparently many disagree when those trying to defend themselves are Israelis. In almost every case, from 1948 to the Mavi Marmara, when Israel or Israelis have had to defend themselves, they’ve been accused of everything from ‘disproportionate use of force’ to murder.

But for sheer outrageousness, consider this study which argues that Israel ought not to defend itself against Palestinian terrorism:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – An unusual attempt to quantify the conflicts between Israelis and Palestinians shows that both act in retaliation for violent attacks, researchers reported on Monday.

They said their findings defy the perception that Palestinians attack randomly and demonstrate that both sides damage their own interests with acts of violence.

Writing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the researchers also said they hope to shed some light on the psychology that makes both Israelis and Palestinians feel they are the victims in the conflict.

I’m not sure that anyone thinks that “Palestinians act randomly.” Violent terrorism by Hamas and Fatah is easily seen to be calibrated to achieve political objectives, for example to create a sense of urgency that supports efforts by third parties to force Israel to make concessions in the diplomatic realm.

But the writers produce an analysis that purports to show that Arab attacks are primarily responses to Israeli violence:

“The previous evidence suggested that Israeli attacks were often responses to Palestinian aggression, whereas this did not appear to be true for Palestinian attacks,” Biletzki said in a statement.

“This implied that the conflict was one-sided, with Palestinians attacking Israel, and the Israeli army merely responding to this aggression. Our findings suggest that the situation is more balanced than that.”

They studied Qassam rocket attacks during 2000-2008, using a statistical method called vector autoregression to link the deaths of 4,874 Palestinians and 1,062 Israelis to various acts of violence, including air strikes, missiles and the destruction of homes.

“The main finding is that both sides retaliate,” Haushofer said.

They found that when Israeli forces kill five Palestinians, they increase the probability that Israelis will die from Palestinian attacks the following day by 50 percent.

The apparently sophisticated math masks the false assumption that Israeli attacks on Hamas, for example, are simply tit-for-tat retaliation, when they are in fact usually targeted at the assets used by Hamas in their attacks: weapons smuggling tunnels, rocket launching teams, rocket manufacturing facilities, etc.

And nobody would deny that Arabs often retaliate for Israeli actions, although — unlike Israel — they normally retaliate against soft targets, like civilians.

But this doesn’t imply that they would not attack these targets anyway in order to accomplish their political and psychological goals. And it ignores the fact that Hamas would have much greater capability to carry out such attacks if it were not for the suppressive effect of Israeli operations.

After all, Operation Cast Lead clearly reduced the number of rockets falling on Israel (and would have stopped them entirely if it had been allowed to continue).

This is a typical example of a technique of fallacious argument that is common among logically-challenged academics today: put forward a trivial proposition, prove it, conflate it with a significant (but false) proposition, and claim that you have proved the latter.

So this study proves the obviously true fact that Palestinian Arabs retaliate for Israeli actions, conflates it with the false proposition that terrorism would be reduced if there were no Israeli actions, and claims to have proved that!

The study completely ignores the ideological motivation of Arab terrorists. It assumes that the conflict is simply a ‘cycle of violence’ and that the cycle would end if it could be interrupted. It does not consider the possibility that Arab terrorism is a form of warfare aimed at a particular objective: the weakening and ultimate destruction of the state of Israel. And it does not consider that Israeli actions in opposition to this warfare may be to some extent successful in suppressing it.

Now you are probably asking, “who could be so ignorant and/or stupid to miss this?”

[Johannes] Haushofer [of the University of Zurich] worked with Nancy Kanwisher of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Anat Biletzki of Quinnipiac University in Connecticut, who is a member of BT’selem [sic], an Israeli human rights organization that collected Israeli military data used in the study.

Not only the logic but B’Tselem’s data about which side initiated violence is suspect. In a January 2009 article, Kanwisher discussed the end of the ceasefire which preceded the Qassam barrage immediately prior to operation Cast Lead. She wrote,

…the latest ceasefire ended when Israel first killed Palestinians, and Palestinians then fired rockets into Israel.

But in fact the Israeli operation that killed a Hamas operative was a raid to destroy a 250-meter long tunnel that Hamas was digging under the border fence, with intent to kill or kidnap Israeli soldiers like Gilad Shalit, who has been held by Hamas since 2006. In response, Hamas fired a barrage of rockets and mortars. Israeli helicopters struck the launchers, killing five more Hamas guerrillas. Should Israel have ignored the tunnel? Is preemption of violence the same as initiation of violence?

Anat Biletzki is the former chair of B’Tselem, an NGO funded primarily by US-based New Israel Fund (NIF) and the European Union. She is an anti-Zionist who supports the right of return for Arab ‘refugees’ — that is, an end to the Jewish state.

Here is a quotation from the so-called ‘Olga document‘ (written at Givat Olga in 2004) which she signed:

We are united in a critique of Zionism, based as it is on refusal to acknowledge the indigenous people of this country and on denial of their rights, on dispossession of their lands, and on adoption of separation as a fundamental principle and way of life…

We are united in the recognition that this country belongs to all its sons and daughters – citizens and residents, both present and absentees (the uprooted Palestinian citizens of Israel in ’48) – with no discrimination on personal or communal grounds, irrespective of citizenship or nationality, religion, culture, ethnicity or gender. Thus we demand the immediate annulment of all laws, regulations and practices that discriminate between Jewish and Arab citizens of Israel, and the dissolution of all institutions, organizations and authorities based on such laws, regulations and practices.

We are united in the belief that peace and reconciliation are contingent on Israel’s recognition of its responsibility for the injustices done to the indigenous people, the Palestinians, and on willingness to redress them. Recognition of the right of return follows from our principles. Redressing the continued injustice inflicted on the Palestinian refugees, generation after generation, is a necessary condition both for reconciliation with the Palestinian people, as for the spiritual healing of ourselves, Israeli Jews. Only thus shall we stop being plagued by the past’s demons and damnations and make ourselves at home in our common homeland.

It is not at all surprising that Biletzki would be opposed to Israeli self-defense, given the above.

Interestingly, Haushofer has degrees in economics and neuroscience and has written about the relationship of brain activity to moral judgments, while Kanwisher is also a neuroscientist. Perhaps they should make Biletzki subject of a neurological study to answer the really mystifying question here, which is how a person can so thoroughly identify with those who want to kill her.

Update [6 Oct 1057 PDT]: Here’s how Biletzki was quoted yesterday in Ha’aretz:

I don’t need scientific research to determine that all the behavior of the Palestinians is a reaction to the Israeli occupation. For this, common sense is enough.

Unbelievable! What world does she live in?

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