Mike Tyson, Toddlers, and ‘Balance’: A response to Owen Jones

Here are the first few paragraphs from a Times of Israel op-ed by Shany Mor:

There is much to learn from Owen Jones’ much retweeted Guardian post last week about the alleged “imbalance” in Israel’s favor at the BBC and, by implication, the rest of Western media and politics, but not necessarily what Jones intends.

Jones extrapolates from one solitary headline on the BBC’s website two discernible arguments. Neither argument stands up to the barest of scrutiny, but let’s start with the headline.

“Israel under renewed Hamas attack” was the “perverse” headline that the BBC ran from which Jones deduces the “macabre truth that Israeli life is deemed by the western media to be worth more than a Palestinian life.” If this were the only headline the BBC ran on the violent escalation over the past week, Jones might have a point. But it wasn’t even the only headline that day. All week, there have been from five to ten stories on the fighting. Some stories are filed from Israel and focus on the Gazan rocket attacks; some are filed from Gaza and focus on Israeli air and naval attacks; others are diplomatic stories or personal stories or focus on one particular incident which the BBC editors seem to think is interesting or noteworthy. The story Jones references was filed from Ashqelon, a city in southern Israel that absorbed a large number of rocket attacks from nearby Gaza. The day before the report, Hamas in Gaza had gone from a policy of tolerating and encouraging other militant groups in the Strip to fire rockets at Israeli civilian centers, as it had for the previous two weeks, to actively participating in these attacks itself with its much larger, more numerous, and more sophisticated rockets. Hamas had, literally, renewed its attacks on Israel after twenty months of cease-fire. This was a significant development because it meant a large Israeli military operation would inevitably follow. This is lost on Jones who picks one headline to make a sweeping and falsifiable generalization.

Two arguments can be picked out of Jones’ short post in the Guardian. The first regards what he calls the “hierarchy of death.” As far as I can tell, Jones’ postulated hierarchy is measured as a quotient of newsworthy deaths divided by the amount press coverage generated. It’s an odd claim to through around in what poses as a pro-Palestinian piece, because by any measure the Palestinians are the beneficiaries of this hierarchy of death. Let’s stipulate that we accept Jones’ claim that there is more coverage per Israeli death than per Palestinian death (though most of this is probably accountable to the much lower death toll on the Israeli side throughout the decades of conflict, something which tells us next to nothing about the moral or normative standing of either side; see below). Coverage of violence involving Palestinians far exceeds that of Iraqis, Syrians, Somalis, Congolese. Not just in the media, but throughout the western “human rights community,” the self-appointed protectors of western rectitude for whom Israeli actions that wouldn’t even count as a rounding error in the Syrian or Iraqi civil wars — or for that matter in NATO operations in Afghanistan — regularly generate hysterical cries of “war crimes” and even “slow-motion genocide.”just a stiff letter to the editor against “collective punishment.”

Read the rest of the op-ed here.

58 replies »

  1. In my opinion Owen Jones is a fine and brave commentator on domestic social issues, particularly social injustice.

    On Israel he is appalling. He nearly always misses the point but in a way that gets him plentiful applause from the following he has worked so hard to (deservedly) acquire.

    To put it in perspective: this most recent piece of his about Israel is his least bad on the topic!

  2. Hamas know that firing tockets will bering on Israel retaliation., Hamas knows his people have no protection like shelters becasue they refuse to build them shelters.
    Hamas knows Israeli causulties are few yet they are preperd to keep firing rockets which will cause killing for their people. They know quiet will be answer with quiet yet they coninue because as far as they are concerned trying to kill one Israeli is worth killing 100 of their own.

  3. a vastly disproportionate number on any side would indicate either that disproportionate force is being used however
    Every war is won by using disproportionate force. The goal of every army is using it. This is the way you limit the number of your own casualties and win the war. BTW the use of disproportionate force will make the war and the suffering shorter and ultimately bring down the number of casualties.
    if Israel is unable to guarantee the safety of civilians when targeting in densely populated areas, even if it’s claims to intelligence are to be believed, then it is under international law a crime to proceed with the targeting of legitimate targets if the loss of life to civilians can not be avoided.
    Bullshit Ivan. I’m not a lawyer but can’t think of any law requiring to give preference the safety of the population of your enemy over the safety of your own. Any law whose goal to protect civilians must punish those who puts the civilians between himself and the enemy. Anyway if really there are laws forbidding to target legitimate targets if it is hidden among civilians then no normal person or country will obey it.
    I’m sure that if your government must prevent a life threatening attack against your people then it would do the same, or if not then maybe you should replace it. Anyway who I’m to tell you what to do when your and your loved ones’ lives are threatened? You are free to let yourself and them to be killed and get the applaud of the Guardian and Owen Jones.

    • @peterthehungarian:

      ‘Every war is won by using disproportionate force = No, it is not. The most skilled generals never fire a shot. I had no idea you were smarted than Sun Tzu. What a honor to meet you.

      ‘I’m not a lawyer but can’t think of any law …’ = That’s because you’re not a lawyer, you said it yourself.

      ‘Anyway if really there are laws forbidding to target legitimate …’ = WOW – finally an admission that you ‘really don’t know’, but just in case someone points out that you’re wrong, you think its ‘okay’ to ignore it. Wow, such a legal watertight force of logic.

      @For all you you: laws of war exist. It’s that simple. You don’t like it, and feel embarrassed and ashamed that Israel ignores them, but that’s only human. I’d feel ashamed too. Why not do something about it? There’s no political solution to the problem through killing women and children, is there?

      • ‘Tim O’ or ‘Steven B’ I am waiting for you to carry out your empty threats.
        Until you do I would remind you that you are a cowardly, illiterate, anti-Semitic twat with an I.Q. smaller than your shoe size.

        Bring on the lawyers you shit-stain.

        • Nothing empty about them: I’ll monitor your posts and the next one that incites hatred will go to the local police station here in Brent.

          It’s up to you if you want to chance it.

          • Good for you ‘Tim O’ or ‘Steven B’ or whatever name you want to use.
            Feel free at any time to visit any Police Station and show them copies of my past posts and any in the future.
            Do let me know whether they first laugh at you or point out to you that wasting Police time is an offence.

            Now take your empty threats and shove them up your arse!

              • You are full of piss and wind!
                Either carry out your meaningless empty threat or shut up!

                Your bluster is only matched by your ignorance and cowardice.

              • Jeff his empty threats are just bluster.
                To use a quaint old expression his/her/its words are like
                “A duck farting in Church”

                Still his nonsensical comments have provided me with amusement.

              • noamy cry-baby
                To get debate to your level it would have to be considerably lowered.

                Now off you go before you embarrass yourself again.

              • devastating riposte gerry well done, Goebbels would be so proud of you and your pay per view propaganda,its a dirty job but you and alexa and peter and jeff etc etc etc do it so well bravo!!!!

      • Exactly as you say Tim if there are laws forbidding to defend my life then I’ll ignore them without hesitating a second. But again – I don’t have anything against your letting yourself and your loved ones killed.
        And Sun-Tzu? Decide Tim are you a military historian or a lawyer? And if it is the latter have you ever heard the expression “jurisdiction”? Regarding the comments on Cifwatch the Brent police is not even a footnote.

        • “Tim are you a military historian or a lawyer?”
          peter you may remember that in the past we used to have a ‘poster’ on this site who imagined he was an expert on every subject – “dubitante” also used “avram meitner” and others.
          His name was Tim Haughton, and amusingly even Richard Silverstein banned him from his site with the expression ‘to get back to mondoweiss’
          Similar style thought he was knowledgeable but only exposed his ignorance and was very smug.

          If it is him he went to live in Ireland before they deported him and may now be living in London.

          • When even Silverstein kicks you off his site;

            “Richard Silverstein May 20, 2011, 10:41 PM
            Today, I would describe you as in terms that are unprintable. Please go back to Mondoweiss. You deserve each other.”

          • Yes I remember, he is a professional “human rights lawyer” withe the habit quoting from falsified antisemitic documents.

      • “The most skilled generals never fire a shot.”
        Tim O. expresses his admiration for Hitler’s taking of the Sudetenland.

      • Hey Tim. I AM a lawyer, and it is absolutely clear by all standards that a nation is entitled to defend its people (whether civilian or military) from attacks by other nations, organisations or entities. There is, of course, the Geneva Convention, which (in summary) calls for combatants to take reasonable steps to minimise civilian loss of life. There is simply NO law stating that unequal numbers of deaths is any sort of crime, or that accidentally killing civilians is a crime.

        The IDF takes more steps to that aim than any other military or paramilitary unit in history. Even the Palestinian envoy to the UN recognises this, and admits that Israel can not be accused of illegal acts if it strikes targets in civilian areas once it has warned of such strikes and advised civilians to evacuate those targets (as it does routinely) – see the CifWatch post on this subject for the link.

        So – laws of war DO exist. Israel clearly does NOT ignore them. Instead it takes extraordinary measures to observe them – measures which are clearly disadvantageous to its own operational objectives (if the aim is to hit a Hamas bombmaker or leader, giving a warning to civilians is likely to make the target flee too)!

        For the record, I fervently hope that NO civilian, whether Israeli, Palestinian, Somali, Iraqi, Japanese or Venutian is killed in conflict, but the only people who can truly stop Palestinians dying in Gaza are Hamas. If they simply stop firing rockets at Israeli towns and cities (which is undeniably a war crime) and stop glorifying death and encouraging their own people to martyr themselves (another war crime), then NO Gazan will die by Israeli hands.

        It’s that simple.

        • “Strikes on homes, performed as part of Israel’s military operation, are a matter of particular concern to human rights groups. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, on Friday questioned the legality of such attacks. ”

          No, it’s THIS simple.

    • Peter,
      Don’t let these guys b.s. you. They wouldn’t know a rule of war if they tripped over one.
      Firing from protected areas compromises protected status of those areas under the laws of war. It is a war crime. The mere presence of some civilians/noncombatants does not make an area ipso facto protected from targeting. Proportionality is the weighing of the number of civilians against the value of a military target. It has nothing to do with which army has or uses more firepower.

      • International humanitarian law says otherwise:

        “Parties to a conflict shall at all times distinguish between the civilian population and combatants. Attacks shall be directed solely against military objectives.”

        That’s right – a law made up by people, to limit people’s behavior in times of conflict. Your options are, and should, be limited. Not all options are available. It’s very simple.

        If your Iron Dome is so ‘shit hot’ , why do you need to bomb civilians? Why not find a political solution? Can’t find the borders you like yet? Itching for more?

        And while we’re at it – why does Israel use illegal armaments? White-Phosphorus anyone?

        You’re a friendly bunch eh….I wonder if Hitler ever used it on Jews? The irony would be heartbreaking.

        • International humanitarian law says otherwise:
          Really? International law doesn’t allow to eliminate a clear and present danger on the lives of the civilian population coming from a hostile group embedded in their own civilians? Very clever.
          That’s right – a law made up by people,…
          Exactly as you say. there were and there are many other laws made by people – the Nuremberg laws, the stoning adulterers to death, the hanging of gays, the death penalty for leaving your religion etc. I know you obey these laws happily – but don’t count on me, I’m a card carrying law-breaker regarding these rules – as you said correctly – made by people.
          If your Iron Dome is so ‘shit hot…
          No ifs here Marco – but I understand your frustration.
          …why do you need to bomb civilians?
          A good question Marco. I hope (or not) you have a very effective and strong steel helmet when your frustrated neighbor will hit your head with a ten pound hammer.
          And while we’re at it – why does Israel use illegal armaments? White-Phosphorus anyone?
          The legal expert again. Let me quote from your favorite source the Wikipedia:
          In addition to its offensive capabilities, white phosphorus is also a highly efficient smoke-producing agent, burning quickly and producing an instant blanket of smoke. As a result, smoke-producing white phosphorus munitions are very common, particularly as smoke grenades for infantry, loaded in grenade launchers on tanks and other armored vehicles, or as part of the ammunition allotment for artillery or mortars. These create smoke screens to mask movement, position or the origin of fire from the enemy.
          .I wonder if Hitler ever used it on Jews? The irony would be heartbreaking.
          Yes Marco – the irony. But thank you for showing your party member’s book. Now go and volunteer in Gaza as a human shield for a rocket launcher.

        • International humanitarian law doesn`t exist.
          Invented people, invented land, invented laws, never since the Nazis was so many officially accepted fakes part of the antisemitic policy of media and states.
          That´s the trouble when semi or less educated people regard themselves as fit for politics, as typical example we can take Gallloway – the result is conspiracy thinking and, evidently, antisemitism.

        • “Parties to a conflict shall at all times distinguish between the civilian population and combatants. Attacks shall be directed solely against military objectives.

          So you agree that Hamas is to blame for a war crime

      • Except the cruel truth is that there are two ‘they’s’ here – one Hamas, and one innocent non-combatants. Israel pretends there is no distinction between the two and targets them ‘together’ – that is a war crime.

        Let’s not pretend this is ‘new though – Israel has a long history irrefutable and documented history of endorsing terrorist tactics (bombing hotels) and ignoring the laws of war (forced transfer, collective punishment etc). For a STATE to do this, and pretend it’s a democracy, is nothing that has been seen in a civilized western nation for many many years. Israel is a pariah , and the international community sees it as such.

        It’s a sick collection of individuals that make policy, but make it they do…..

        Keep the boycotts rolling, and let everyone you know know. I know we will.

        Protest this Saturday 19th , London.

        • ‘Marco P’ or ‘Tim O’ or ‘Steven B’
          “Except the cruel truth is that there are two ‘they’s’ here – one Hamas, and one innocent non-combatants. Israel pretends there is no distinction between the two and targets them ‘together’ – that is a war crime.”

          Why do you ignore the fact that Hamas is deliberately mingling with civilians?
          Why do you ignore the fact that to use civilians as ‘human shields’ is also a war crime?

          Both of these facts are well documented.

          • @Gerald.

            I have never denied, nor been in a position to deny, the motives for Hamas firing weapons next to civilian populations. But this does not ‘exempt’ Israel from the war crimes it commits by subsequently targeting them. If the Iron Dome system is so good, then technically speaking, targeting them is unnecessary. Just let them launch, destroy them, and then discuss a political solution with those who are not firing weapons. It’s very easy.

            (While we’re on the topic – the mere fact that Hamas can only fire from within Gaza, which is by definition the most densely populated area on earth, would leave them with 2 options 1) not fire anything ever, as they’re ‘near’ civilian populations at all times so proximity is unavoidable or 2) utilize their legitimate legal right to defend Palestinian Territory from Israeli aggression and occupation, a UN established right of peoples and nations. in EITHER scenario, Israel has no quid-pro-quo right to break Humanitarian law – so why pretend it does every time? )

            • ‘Marco P’
              So in your first sentence you admit, reluctantly, that Hamas are committing war crimes.
              Then you attempt to deflect attention back onto Israel.
              And then in a clumsy, and morally repugnant, attempt you try to justify Hamas’s tactics.
              Ahh I love the smell of Bullshit and hypocrisy in the morning, which is what I expect from the likes of you ‘Marco P’ or ‘Tim O’ or ‘Steven B’ or is it ‘dubitante’ raised from the dead like a zombie?

              • ‘Marco P’ in case you can’t find the clause, or more likely want to overlook it, here it is:
                “The presence or movements of the civilian population or individual civilians shall not be used to render certain points or areas immune from military operations, in particular in attempts to shield military objectives from attacks or to shield, favor or impede military operations. The Parties to the conflict shall not direct the movement of the civilian population or individual civilians in order to attempt to shield military objectives from attacks or to shield military operations”

              • ‘Marco P’ in answer to your predictable response, this is what IHL says;
                “take all feasible precautions in the choice of means and methods of attack with a view to avoiding, and in any event to minimizing, incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians and damage to civilian objects;”

                Now take your twisted interpretation of IHL and shove it up the same place along with your threats from yesterday.

            • Marco,
              And your still repeating the “Gaza is the most densely populated area on earth” lie.
              Most Israel haters have already dropped that one from the repertoire.

              • It seems to me that a lot the discussions on here comprise of 3 types.

                1) Supporters of Israel all patting each other on the back for proving how the whole world is unfairly against them.

                2) Critics of Israel saying that everything is Israel’s fault, and perhaps rightly are put down. However unfortunately those arguing with them often resort to extremes and accusations of anti-semitism.

                3) Others suggesting that while Hamas commits actions that could be classed as war crimes, the number of deaths caused by Israel ‘defensive’ actions is in practice far greater and includes many unnecessary civilian deaths. These too are always shouted down with aggressive and often offensive comments.

                None of these discussions seem to enlighten the debate much.

                While anti-semitism is a real issue in the world to conflate all criticism of Israel or Israeli policy as anti-Semitic is erroneous. In fact part of why Israel is judged more than Palestine is that much of the world has higher expectations of it.

                Why is this? Well I’m sure that some part of it is a sense that the persecuted have become the persecutor (whether this is true or not), but I believe it is more because people see a society closer to their own, one in which there is generally rule of law, democracy and freedom of movement, along of course with good standards of living and a professional, well equipped army. Essentially a mature, formed modern society, rather than the barely half formed proto society of Palestine,which is seemingly bereft of opportunity, and where the ruling powers have limited control over its armed factions.

                My limited understanding is that the current violence is an attempt by Hamas to regain some power and consolidate popular support in Palestine after recently having to make some significant concessions to Fatah. The question for me is does Israel’s response to the rocket attacks make it more likely that people will support the less cooperative and more violent Hamas, making a more permanent solution further away, or will the death and disruption encourage Palestinians to swing back towards a more moderate position?

                Nathan Thrall at NYR books argues on the other hand that without violence emanating from Palestine there is little or no motivation for Israel to work towards a more permanent solution…..


        • Another piece of s… which defends the war crimes and crimes against humankind by Arab terrorists, Hamas, PLO,and so on which they commit since the forties without pause and end.
          The twisting around of this formerly well known truth into the opposite indicates the influence of the internet nerds and their conspiracy reality, the downfall of education in the west, and a forming of a totalittarian consensus which needs big lies.

        • “Except the cruel truth is that there are two ‘they’s’ here – one Hamas, and one innocent non-combatants. Israel pretends there is no distinction between the two and targets them ‘together’”
          For a country that “pretends there is no distinction” they sure spend a lot of time distinguishing between the two, and seem to have the best record of any military in this regard. In other words your comment is nothing but a cheap, malicious slander.

          • @Jeff,

            Targeting densely populated areas to kill civilians is not building future partners for peace,is it?

            Jeff, it’s simple- what you want,you can’t have: 4.5million Palestinians are there now. What’s your solution?

            • You terrorist defend the Hamas and the PLO who constantly commit war crimes and crimes against humanity. Terror, that is your solution.

  4. I´m quite sure that you post yur comments on the sites of the Muslm Brotherhood aand PLO where you condemn the war crimes of Hamas and PLO.
    Please link it.

  5. Oh no, look like the you’re doing really well now on the Public Relations front too!

    “The American satarist Jon Stewart asked where Gazans were supposed to go when they recieve warnings to flee.

    In his show on Monday he asked: “Evacuate to where? Have you fucking seen Gaza? Israel blocked this border, Egypt blocked this border. What are you supposed to swim for it?”

    Stewart also highlighted the asymmetric nature of the conflict by contrasting Israel’s Iron Dome and smart phone apps to protect Israelis from Gaza rockets, with the warning bombings or “amuse booms” sent to Gazans. ”

    It’s a great point – where are 100,000 Palestinians supposed to go to?! Forgot that you’ve trapped them under occupation?

    How forgetful…..

    • The troll now not only changes its screen name – it also changes sex!

      And we’re supposed to take this deceptive creature, and an American “satirist” seriously?

    • “The American satarist (sic)..”
      ‘Sarah J’ have you had lessons in English from noamy cry-baby?

      Your English is as appalling as your veracity.

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