The Head Heeb : Knocking Down 4000 Years of Icons

Musings about politics, religion, law, art and marriage - what else is there?

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Saturday, July 05, 2003
Ceasefire roundup, again

Palestinian Authority forces have exchanged fire with members of local "popular resistance committees" in a crackdown on armed factions in Gaza, and have made five more arrests in connection with the mortar attacks on Israeli positions. This - along with an apparent decrease in violent incidents - is the clearest sign yet of the PA's seriousness in enforcing the cease-fire. If this trend continues, it should help facilitate further troop withdrawals, which may be discussed at a Dahlan-Mofaz meeting tomorrow.

In the meantime, Shin Bet is scheduled to present Sharon with a list of prisoners to be freed, and Islamic Jihad has indicated some flexibility on the prisoner-release issue. This suggestion, which follows yesterday's statement by an IJ leader that the truce is purely tactical, caps a week of mixed signals from both IJ and Hamas. This may indicate an ideological struggle within both organizations; if pragmatism ultimately wins out, then the chances of the cease-fire turning into peace will be dramatically increased.

Arafat, on the other hand, isn't being helpful at all.

The fighting rabbis

Protocols links to an article about Jewish chaplains in Iraq, and raises a question:

Still, some things bother me, like the fact that the subject of the article, an Army Capt. Avrohom Horovitz, Jewish chaplain , is one of only three rabbis in the field in Iraq. That's not a lot, and I wonder whether that's due to the fact that there aren't many Jewish soldiers, many rabbis willing to become chaplains, some combination, or what.

Jewish chaplains have a long and honorable history in the United States military, as chronicled by Albert Isaac Slomovitz in The Fighting Rabbis. Nevertheless, they are somewhat thin on the ground. Statistics are hard to come by, but every Jewish chaplain I've spoken to puts the figure at fewer than fifty on active service, with about the same number in the reserves. Most of the posts I've been on for training didn't have any, and none had more than one.

The reasons for this are several. First, Jewish soldiers themselves are relatively thin on the ground, accounting for less than one percent of serving members. Second, unlike the seminaries of some Protestant denominations, Jewish seminaries do not actively encourage rabbinical students to join the military, although the Chaplains Council of the Jewish Welfare Board assists with recruitment and training.

Possibly the most important factor, however, is that military life requires compromises. Jewish chaplains will frequently be called upon to serve long hitches in places like South Korea, where there is little Yiddishkeit and necessities like kosher food can be hard to come by. A rabbi - particularly an Orthodox rabbi with children - might be forgiven for deciding that the American military is not a proper environment in which to raise a Jewish family. Moreover, since there is never more than one Jewish chaplain on a given post, military rabbis are required to minister to Jewish soldiers of all denominations and levels of observance.

It is for this reason that most American Jewish chaplains are Reform, including the first female active-duty Jewish chaplain, Rabbi Chana Timoner. Rabbi Timoner tragically died in 1998 at the age of 46, but Rabbi Bonnie Koppell of Arizona continues to hold the rank of reserve lieutenant colonel.

Some Orthodox rabbis have accepted the compromises that come with military service. At least one Jewish chaplain, in fact, is Hasidic. Rabbi Jacob Goldstein, who is a reserve colonel and the chief of the New York Army National Guard chaplain's corps, is the only serving member of the military permitted to wear a beard. Rabbi Jake is probably the closest thing the American army has to a legendary Jewish chaplain. He's been everywhere there's trouble; he parachuted into Grenada during the 1983 invasion, blew the shofar at Ground Zero the week after September 11, and has ministered to the troops in Bosnia and Afghanistan. He's also the one who named me the Head Heeb. (I've written about some of my other experiences with Jewish chaplains here.)

Jewish chaplains who are assigned to posts in areas with few Jews often become rabbis to the surrounding civilian communities, and their chapels become centers of military and civilian Jewish life for miles around. Conversely, on posts with no chaplain, Jewish soldiers are frequently seen in neighboring synagogues - if there are any. Where there is neither a chaplain nor a local synagogue, Jewish services are often conducted by a "lay leader" - essentially, an ordinary soldier or officer who volunteers to lead them.

Because lay leaders are not full-time chaplains and must perform regular military duties in addition to their religious work, this often leads to complications. One lay leader I met during my reserve duty was an enlisted soldier who had recently returned from a tour in Korea. One Friday night, he was assigned to KP, and his commanding officer - whether out of anti-Semitism or simple inflexibility - refused to allow him to switch dates. He told his story to the mess sergeant, who agreed to give him half an hour off. As each of the Jewish soldiers came through the chow line, he told them to meet him behind the kitchen at twenty hundred and to bring their siddurim. There, among the dumpsters, they welcomed Shabbat.

Friday, July 04, 2003
Happy Fourth

No blogging today.

Thursday, July 03, 2003
Chronicle time

This week's installment discusses the effect of the Great Depression on the emerging Egyptian middle class.

Another ceasefire roundup

The bad news: The third and fourth days of the truce were marked by cease-fire violations on the Palestinian side, including shooting incidents in Tulkarm and Nablus, an explosion near Qalqilya, and a mortar attack on Gush Katif in the Gaza Strip and rocket fire against Kfar Darom. Fortunately, no Israelis appear to have been killed - the only reported casualty is one of the shooters - but this is still bad news, and if any of the attacks were carried out by organized groups rather than freelancers, it could be very bad news.

In the meantime, Ha'aretz flash news quotes Hamas chief Rantisi as predicting that the truce will fail and stating that it was only signed to prevent internal Palestinian conflict. This follows on the heels of a statement by Damascus-based Islamic Jihad leader that the truce was "a tactical move and not a long-term policy." And "a faction of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades," the last Palestinian group to accept the truce, is now the first to declare it over after a member was killed while fleeing arrest.

The good news: Senior IDF officers have credited the PA's efforts to enforce the cease-fire, and those responsible for the mortar attack have reportedly been arrested by Palestinian forces. Israeli defense minister Shaul.Mofaz also noted an overall decrease in terror alerts. If this is indeed the case - and this is still a big "if" - then it is likely that the attacks on Israelis were carried out by freelancers or fringe groups, and that they will decrease as the PA completes its deployment (which is still incomplete even in Gaza).

The Bethelehem handover proceeded smoothly and without violence, and the Israeli security cabinet is likely to meet today to discuss the possibility of withdrawing from more West Bank cities. Yesterday's high-level meeting between Israeli and Palestinian officials - which, among other things, marked the first visit to the Israeli prime minister's office by a Palestinian head of government - appeared to take place in a spirit of genuine cooperation, and another in what may become a regular series of talks is scheduled for next week. Standing committees headed by high-ranking Israeli and Palestinian officials have been established to oversee security cooperation and prevention of incitement, and similar committees on commercial and legal relations will be formed.

Mixed signals: Although the list of prisoners to be released has not been finalized, 53 were freed today, including a top PA official. The release of additional administrative detainees is also likely to be on the agenda at next week's high-level meeting. Also, a provisional list of 21 prisoners, reported to exist early yesterday by Palestinian sources, allegedly included Ahmed Saadat, secretary general of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Saadat is being held in a Palestinian prison, under an agreement between Israel and the PA, in connection with the assassination of Rehavam Ze'evi.

This indicates that, notwithstanding Sharon's continued insistence that he will not release murderers, he may be willing to bend with respect to those guilty of conspiracy to murder. The proposal to release Saadat may also be a trial balloon intended for political purposes. The VOA had earlier reported that the Damascus-based PFLP would abide by the truce, but today the PFLP joined the PFLP-GC in repudiating the cease-fire. The suggestion that Saadat might be released may be an incentive to bring the PFLP on board.

The position of the other leftist factions remains in flux. The DFLP, which had earlier been reported to reject the truce, has now reportedly signed on. Nobody has heard yet from the PLF, although the arrest of its leader in El-Bireh might provide Israel with leverage.

So where does this leave things? It seems that, today, the bad news outweighs the good. The defection of al-Aqsa, or even a faction of that organization, is a major blow. Israel, for its part, has been patient - remarkably so for Sharon - in not treating every outbreak of violence as a truce-breaker. Al-Aqsa's decision to do so should have consequences. This is the time for the PA - and for the EU, whose pressure on al-Aqsa likely played a part in its decision to join the hudna in the first place - to lean on al-Aqsa hard. Al-Aqsa's declaration will also be a test of the PA's will to fight terrorism; the coming days will reveal whether the PA is ready to follow through on its promise to prevent truce violations and arrest the violators.

It is also clear that, although Rantisi's rhetoric has been balanced by some pro-two-state trial balloons, Hamas and Islamic Jihad have not entirely changed their spots. This increases the concern that the three-month truce period will provide these organizations with a chance to regroup. On the other hand, the PA will also be able to regroup, and the longer the truce holds, the more public support it will have in the event that it has to act against the rejectionists. In the meantime, however, further troop withdrawals - particularly in Tulkarm and Qalqilya, which have been flash points in the past and are strategically important due to their proximity to the Green Line - will have to be undertaken with caution. As most of you know, I support a speedy end to the occupation, but it's better to proceed slowly and surely than to move too fast and end up back on square one. This means that the troop withdrawals should take place, but they should happen one city at a time and full withdrawal should be preceded by a trial period of joint Israeli-Palestinian patrols.

In the meantime, it's important to keep the momentum going in order to maximize the chances that rejectionist groups will be carried along with the cease-fire rather than being able to sabotage it. If troop withdrawals are delayed, there are other things that Israel can do to keep up the momentum - releasing more administrative detainees, easing some travel restrictions and providing accountable economic aid. Another possible course of action would be to evacuate one or more of the Gaza settlements - a withdrawal that would involve relatively few settlers, would remove potential flashpoints in a crowded Palestinian-controlled area, and could be conducted without compromising Israeli security. This would also send a message to those Palestinians who are skeptical of whether Israel will ever remove a populated settlement.

The PA, for its part, needs to accelerate its deployment in Gaza and Bethlehem and act decisively against cease-fire violators. If something blows up and the truce collapses, the people who will suffer most are Palestinians. The sooner the truce gets on firm ground, the sooner negotiations can proceed toward the establishment of a Palestinian state.

Some assembly required

IRIN discusses the progress of the African Union's proposal to form an African parliament. This project is hampered by lack of money and lukewarm support among the member nations, and is unlikely to be approved at the Maputo summit scheduled to open on July 10. Given that the AU, while modeled on the European Union to some degree, functions more like the United Nations vis-a-vis its member states, such a parliament would have relatively little power in any event.

Wednesday, July 02, 2003
Jews who prayed in Latin

Livius, a Netherlands-based site containing semi-scholarly articles on ancient history, has a section on ancient Judaism that includes an articles on Jewish pirates of Hasmonean times and the Jewish community of ancient Rome. The latter collects both ancient and modern sources on the origin of the Jewish diaspora at Rome, including some fascinating speculation about the location and membership of Roman synagogues (of which there were at least twelve) based on catacomb inscriptions:

Most of the 534 names on the inscription are Greek: 405 (76%). 123 people (23%) had a Latin name, whereas the remaining 5 inscriptions show Hebrew, Aramaean and hybrid names. This confirms that most Roman Jews were culturally Greek, not Latins [...] Actually, we would have expected less Latin names, because the Roman populace overwhelmingly spoke Greek. However, it turns out that almost all Jews with a Latin name were members of the Synagogue of Elaias. This suggests that most Roman Jews were 'ordinary' people, speaking Greek, and that the Latin- speaking minority had a synagogue of their own. We do not know what led to this arrangement.

The use of the Greek language is interesting too. It is grammatically correct, but contains remarkable spelling mistakes. For example, kai ('and') is sometimes written as ke, and Ebraios ('Hebrew') becomes Aibreos. In other words, -ai- and -e- are interchangable. This is a normal linguistic phenomenon in the first centuries CE, but an educated Roman or Greek would never make these mistakes. This suggests that most literate Jews were unable to pay for further education; it more or less corroborates the statement of Juvenal (above) that the Jews were poor.

The catacomb inscription inform us also about the officials in the Jewish community. Every synagogue had a gerousiarch, 'president', and a board of archontes, 'governors'. The possessions of the community were guarded by a phronistes. We also learn about grammateis ('scribes') and presbyteres ('elders'). A benefactor would be called 'father of the synagogue'. (One inscription mentions a benefactor who married his sister-in-law after his brother had died, a practice that had become obsolete in mainstream Judaism.) The archisynagogos was responsible for the maintenance of the synagogue; his assistant was the hyperetes. Finally, there was the archigerousiarch: he represented the Roman community as a whole. We may imagine that the above-mentioned Theudas was an archigerousiarch.

Although one inscription mentions a 'teacher of the Law' the 'new' title of rabbi or Greek/Latin equivalents are not attested in the catacomb inscriptions (nor is Theudas called 'rabbi' in the Talmud).

The fact that two of the synagogues were known as the "Synagogue of the Hebrews" and the "Vernacular Synagogue" suggest that there may also have been a distinction between the Jews who used Hebrew as a liturgical language and a more assimilated community that prayed in Latin or Greek.

Another article about the Jewish catacombs of Rome, by Professor David Noy of the University of Wales, is here - scroll down past the charts for discussion of possible patterns of assimilation and historical significance of the inscriptions.

On the nature of terrorism, part 2

It is no exaggeration to say that St. Augustine's theory of the just war is the foundation of the Western ethical conception of warfare. Although many refinements have been added to Augustine's formula over the centuries, it continues to dominate the debate over the morality of war; in many ways, the development of the international law of war represents an attempt to reduce Augustinian morality to a legal standard. One has only to look at the many Augustinian analyses of the Afghan and Iraq invasions to see how much of a hold just war theory has over modern Western thought. If terrorist campaigns by organized groups are a form of warfare, then, the starting point for assessing their moral dimensions lies with Augustine.

There have been various attempts at creating a checklist of the fundamental elements of a just war, but the first such element is always proper authority. At one time, the authority to make war was vested in monarchs, who were presumed to act with divine guidance. In recent centuries, however, the divine right of kings has fallen out of fashion, and authority is presumed to derive from the consent of the governed. Ideally, then, the only entity qualified to wage war is a democratic state.

This ideal, though, is problematic in practice. While a democratic government may have a superior claim to represent its people, citizens of non-democratic states are nevertheless entitled to defense. Moreover, the category of legal combatants has expanded during the twentieth century to include national liberation movements as states-in-being. Such movements, although they may function as provisional governments, most often lack the resources to hold elections or otherwise demonstrate public support. The question of proper authority, then, is not always clear-cut, and can encompass entities whose power is imperfectly derived from the consent of their constituents.

Nevertheless, too great an expansion of proper authority is an invitation to anarchy. If any group that styles itself a national liberation movement is entitled to wage war, then such groups could claim the casus belli of a particular constituency - and attempt to derive legitimacy from that casus belli - regardless of whether they have any valid claim to represent that constituency. In some cases, such organizations' goals would be at cross purposes with the groups, governmental or otherwise, that do represent the constituency in question. It would seem that, to claim the mantle of proper authority, a group should have a colorable claim to represent the people in whose name it fights, and that there should be no more than one such group for any given constituency.

Few terrorist groups can make this claim. Those that come closest are umbrella organizations such as the African National Congress or the pre-Oslo PLO; as coalitions of allied groups, they could claim both broad-based support and the primary right to speak for their constituents. Even these organizations, however, are not immune to legitimacy crises; the PLO leadership, for instance, lost much of its claim to represent the Palestinians when it sat out the first intifada in Tunisia. Smaller groups, which represent a smaller portion of their constituency and often hold positions and goals that diverge from the mainstream, will find it correspondingly more difficult to claim authority to wage war. Moreover, where a state or other governmental structure exists to represent a group of people and enjoys the support of that group, then a private armed organization cannot claim proper authority to fight on that group's behalf. Thus, the existence of the Basque autonomy precludes the ETA from claiming Augustinian legitimacy, although it might arguably have done so during the Franco era.

The second element, the casus belli, is also a potential obstacle to any terrorist group's claim to fight a just war. Most terrorist organizations claim to fight on behalf of an oppressed national, ethnic or religious group; oppression, if bona fide, is generally considered an adequate cause for war. Nevertheless, the requirement of a casus belli must be analyzed in the context of two closely related elements, last resort and proper intention. The first of these requires that all alternatives to war either be exhausted or deemed futile. Where a terrorist group is opposing a democratic country, this would generally preclude violence unless negotiation, litigation and other peaceful means have been attempted and fully pursued. While such alternatives might be summarily deemed futile in the face of a dictatorial opponent, violence against a lawful society cannot ordinarily be ethically carried out before the law is given a chance to work. It is possible to imagine exceptions to this rule - for instance, if a democratic country is about to carry out a genocide - but such instances will be extremely rare.

The element of proper intention, for its part, requires that the war be fought with the intent of obtaining justice rather than for evil or venal ends, and that the war aims be congruent with the casus belli. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been particularly bedeviled by issues of intention, with many Palestinian organizations simultaneously seeking to establish a Palestinian state and destroy Israel. The former goal is congruent with the casus belli of the occupation; the latter is not. Indeed, the pre-Oslo PLO is an example of an organization that foundered on the elements of last resort and proper intention. The same maximalist aims that constituted an improper intention precluded the PLO from pursuing the avenue of negotiation - Israel was obviously not going to negotiate itself out of existence, and the PLO at that time refused to accept anything less. Regardless of the existence of a legitimate casus belli, the PLO's failure to consider other options during the 1960s through 1980s rendered its struggle unjust.

The fifth Augustinian element, requiring that a war have a reasonable chance of success, may be one of the trickiest with respect to terrorism. Contrary to political rhetoric, terrorism can succeed. While it is virtually impossible for a terrorist organization to achieve its goals through direct military victory, a sustained terror campaign can render an area ungovernable or reduce the civilian population's will to continue the conflict. Where terrorism is combined with conventional military tactics, guerrilla warfare or a popular uprising, it can be particularly effective in bringing an opponent to the table or convincing it to give a territory up as a bad job. Terrorism can also, paradoxically, bring favorable outside attention to a cause; although terrorist acts are widely condemned, many people see them as acts of desperation, and they can thus function as political theater to illustrate the plight of the terrorists' constituents. Terrorism can, at least potentially, be an effective means of waging war.

The analysis of whether the chance for success is sufficient to meet the standard of a just war, however, is somewhat different for terrorist campaigns than for conventional warfare. The rationale of this element, which is a somewhat later gloss on just-war theory, is that human life should not be thrown away, and that soldiers should not be sent to die for nothing. Where terrorism is at issue, the lives at stake are not only those of the terrorists but those of innocent civilians, so the probability of success that might warrant the use of terrorism is correspondingly greater. Moreover, terrorism carries a greater risk of precisely the opposite effect - that military and police retaliation will make conditions worse rather than better for the terrorists' civilian constituents. Thus, while the chance-of-success element may be relaxed or waived under some circumstances in conventional warfare - for instance, a doomed population making a last stand against its oppressors, as in the Warsaw Ghetto - it can never be relaxed with respect to terrorism.

A similarly high threshold applies to the final Augustinian element, proportionality. The concept of proportionality requires that the harm done through warfare not exceed the harm resulting from the casus belli. Where - as with terrorism - the method of war is particularly brutal, then the grievance to be redressed must be especially great. In addition, proportionality - unlike the other just-war elements - is not merely a factor in deciding whether to begin hostilities but an obligation throughout the war. In conventional warfare, proportionality requires that the collateral damage from a particular military operation not exceed the military value of the operation - that, for instance, the civilian casualties inflicted in the course of taking a city not be greater than the strategic value of the city.

Terrorist campaigns, however, cannot be divided into discrete military operations. Any given terrorist act will not, in itself, accomplish a military goal. Instead, the terrorist campaign in the aggregate is what accomplishes the terrorists' goals - and there is no way of determining at the outset how long that campaign will last or how many terrorist acts it will require. It is impossible to design a terror campaign, in advance, in such a way as to reasonably guarantee that its violence will be proportional to its goals - and experience demonstrates that campaigns of terrorism are particularly vulnerable to spinning out of control and becoming disproportional. This is possibly the most compelling Augustinian argument against terrorism, and it requires that extreme care be taken before deeming any terrorist act an ethical form of warfare.

From this, it is apparent that terrorism will rarely if ever meet the just-war threshold. It is certainly possible to imagine situations in which terrorism might be ethical; for instance, if the Jewish resistance in the Warsaw Ghetto were to learn that the liquidation of the ghetto could be prevented by a terror attack in Berlin, few would condemn them for carrying out such an attack. The attack would be an act of murder rather than self-defense, but because it would prevent countless other murders, it could be justified by the rough moral calculus of war. Such clear-cut circumstances, however, rarely exist in real life; for one thing, it is doubtful that Nazis would actually be deterred by terrorism. The historical terror group that came closest to waging a just war is probably the ANC, and it should be noted that the ANC's goals were ultimately achieved through negotiation and outside political pressure rather than terrorism. A strong case could be made that the ANC's terrorist acts were actually harmful to its cause, and therefore unjust.

Moreover, in addition to the abstract Augustinian considerations, there are other good reasons to continue to regard terrorism as an illegal and unethical form of warfare. Those reasons will be the subject of the next article in this series.

Somaliland voice

It's tough being the foreign minister of a country nobody recognizes. IRIN, which still insists on beginning all its Somaliland stories with the dateline "Somalia," interviews Foreign Minister Edna Adan Ismail, Somaliland's first female cabinet member. She discusses her country's good relations with Ethiopia and the prospects for international recognition.

Tuesday, July 01, 2003
To my northern neighbors

Happy Canada Day - and if you're in New York, you don't have to miss out on the fun, because there are celebrations here.

Harry Potter and the War on Terror (spoiler warning)

I'll admit it - both Naomi and I are Harry Potter fans. We've seen both movies, we own all the books and we've been looking forward to the fifth novel as enthusiastically as any twelve-year-old. It should be no surprise, then, that I picked up the latest release on the way home from work on Friday and spent much of the weekend reading it. I finished it today during a very long calendar call, and I'm left with one overwhelming impression - so overwhelming, in fact, that I'm surprised none of the reviewers has noticed thus far.

It's a pro-war novel.

As fans of the series are aware, the fourth book ended with the emergence of a powerful threat to the wizarding world - Lord Voldemort's return to the world of the living. In the fifth novel, the Ministry of Magic is forced to confront this threat and, for much of the book, does so by burying its head in the sand. Harry, and the others who are organizing to fight Voldemort, must do so against the active opposition of the Ministry.

At the forefront of the Ministry's campaign of denial is Dolores Jane Umbridge. When we first meet Umbridge, she is sitting on a court that has convened to try Harry for unauthorized use of magic. Shortly afterward, she appears as Hogwarts' fifth Defense Against the Dark Arts professor in as many years. On the first day of class, Umbridge lays out the course syllabus:

1. Understanding the principles underlying defensive magic.

2. Learning to recognize situations in which defensive magic can legally be used.

3. Placing the use of defensive magic in a context for practical use.

Conspicuous by its absence, of course is any mention of the actual use of defensive magic, and it soon becomes clear that she is opposed to such use at all costs.

Umbridge, who becomes "High Inquisitor" and then headmistress through various underhanded machinations, is virtually a warblogger's caricature of the antiwar movement. She goes to incredible lengths to ignore the threat facing the wizard community even as it looms closer, and vigorously suppresses dissenting speech. In recruiting junior Death Eaters to her "Inquisitorial Squad," she unwittingly makes common cause with the very evil whose existence she denies. Her course textbook, Wilbert Slinkhard's Defensive Magical Theory, contains chapters with titles like "The Case for Non-Offensive Response to Magical Attack" and "Non-Retaliation and Negotiation." She's excessively legalistic (although willing, in the end, to bend the law in the service of a "higher" morality), implacably opposed to unilateral action and endorses the concept of moral equivalence between offensive and defensive war:

"Well, then, you should be able to tell me what Slinkhard says about counterjinxes in chapter fifteen."

"He says that coutnerjinxes are improperly named," said Hermione promptly. "He says 'counterjinx' is just a name people give their jinxes when they want to make them sound more acceptable."

Professor Umbridge raised her eyebrow, and Harry knew she was impressed against her will.

"But I disagree," Hermione continued.

Professor Umbridge's eyebrows rose a little higher and her gaze became distinctly colder.

"You disagree?" she repeated.

"Yes, I do," said Hermione, who, unlike Umbridge, was not whispering, but speaking in a clear, carrying voice that had by now attracted the rest of the class's attention. "Mr. Slinkhard doesn't like jinxes, does he? But I think they can be very useful when used defensively."

"Oh, you do, do you?" said Professor Umbridge, forgetting to whisper and straightening up. "Well, I'm afraid it is Mr. Slinkhard's opinion, and not yours, that matters within this classroom, Miss Granger."

Ultimately, of course, an overwhelming attack on the Ministry headquarters forces the magical establishment to confront the threat of Voldemort, and Umbridge is quite literally chased out of Hogwarts. By the last chapter, Umbridge's positions have been thoroughly discredited and the wizards are busily preparing for war.

Given that J.K. Rowling is a self-described left-winger and former research assistant for Amnesty International who cast some of her evil characters as stereotypical "neo- Conservatives or Thatcherites," I'm far from sure that she intended to write a pro-war polemic. Nevertheless, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix can easily be read as an allegory of the war on terror, with the hawks on the side of the angels.

UPDATE: Conrad rebuts my arguments [1, 2].

Monday, June 30, 2003
Ceasefire roundup

The good news: After getting its last licks in, the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades has apparently decided to join the cease-fire. The Israeli pullout from Gaza is on schedule, the checkpoints are down along the main Gaza road, and an agreement to withdraw from Bethlehem has been finalized for Wednesday. The Sharon-Abu Mazen meeting scheduled for tomorrow is still on despite the al-Aqsa shooting attack, and Sharon has indicated his willingness to release some Palestinian prisoners in addition to those who have been set free in recent weeks. There's some evidence that the Palestinian Authority is taking its security obligations seriously; an unnamed Israeli security official quoted in the New York Times [1, 2] stated that PA police had thwarted two attacks against Israelis since the Gaza handover.

The bad news: The Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine has repudiated the cease-fire. According to a Ha'aretz news flash, the Syria-based Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command has also rejected the truce, and Israeli intelligence received 51 terror warnings on Monday evening alone.

For the time being, it seems that the momentum is still on the side of peace despite the truce violations. In addition, there is at least anecdotal evidence that the cease-fire is taking hold at the grass roots:

There's no way around it," said Erez Amoyal, a kiosk owner in southern Tel Aviv, and a self-styled unbending supporter of the "sane but very strong Right" in Israel.

"Palestinians want to go out to work, without a Merkava (tank cannon) barrel swinging at them, and Israelis want to get on the bus to work in the morning without being blown through the roof."

Amoyal said that apart from the personal tragedy, which has now touched every home, Jewish or Arab, at this point, that neither side can continue to bear the economic blows the conflict has landed.

This morning's papers were also full of pictures of IDF soldiers embracing upon learning of the withdrawal. Contrary to the way they are often portrayed, the great majority of Israeli soldiers don't like oppressing Palestinians one bit, and they're as glad to leave as the Palestinians are to see them go.

Among the Palestinians, where pre-truce opinion polls (admittedly an inexact science) put support for the cease-fire at 80 percent, there is also anecdotal evidence of war-weariness:

The early June Aqaba summit gave new hope to work-starved Palestinians, allowing thousands to line up at the Gaza border to go out to jobs in Israel. Just as they did, however, the three groups took advantage of the concession to dress gunmen in worker's garb, sending them through the Erez crossing point to gun down IDF soldiers nearby.

The terminal was immediately shut down, and, in contrast to prior attacks in which Israel was blamed for the measure, Palestinian rage suddenly turned inward, directed at the militant commanders who had proudly announced their responsibility for the operation.

Palestinian militants have of late found it increasingly difficult to market the concept of a permanent revolution to masses who have no work and precious little to eat.

The Palestinian backlash over Erez closely followed a demonstration in which residents of northern Gaza risked retribution to protest against Hamas rocket attacks targeting western Negev towns and kibbutzim, attacks that effectively extended the IDF occupation of northern Gaza and kept the workers' crossings locked down tight.

I have some confidence that, on the Israeli side, this sentiment will create pressure for concessions assuming that no bombings occur. The Palestinian political system, however, is much less responsive to popular opinion, and the non-state signatories to the cease-fire are not responsible only in theory to the Palestinian Authority. In the long term, Palestinian public opinion will have an effect on the actions of the various factions - if nothing else, it will eventually translate into support for suppression of rejectionist groups.

In the short term, however, the views of the Palestinian public will have to be supplemented by international pressure. One news item that went relatively unnoticed today, but may have played a considerable part in al-Aqsa's decision to join the hudna, is the European Union's blacklisting of al-Aqsa Netherlands. The lesson of Abu Mazen's appointment as Palestinian prime minister - that European pressure on Palestinian organizations gets results - may be equally true today. This will have to be a hands-on cease-fire, and it will require the cooperation of the Palestinians' main international sponsors if it is to hold.

Stories from Harare

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has released a report on the economic crisis in Zimbabwe, along with the views of five Harare residents concerning the country's rising urban poverty.

Malawi fallout

Amnesty comments on the irregular rendition of five suspected al-Qaeda members from Malawi.

Peace dividend?

Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf has raised the possibility that his country might recognize Israel if the peace process remains on track:

"What is our dispute (with Israel)? We should think," he said.

"I have been saying. 'Should we be more Catholic than the pope or more pious than the pope or more Palestinian than the Palestinians themselves?"' Musharraf said. "Is this the right attitude or should there be some change in it? There should be national consensus on it."

Any move by the Pakistani government to recognize Israel will face major domestic opposition, and it is likely that full diplomatic relations are a long way off. Nevertheless, Musharraf's speech, combined with the recent statement by the Crown Prince of Bahrain that his kingdom is "ready to forge ties with Israel once it reached peace with its Arab neighbours," suggests that the slow acceptance of Israel that began after Oslo but has been dormant during the second intifada may be reigniting.

In the years immediately after Oslo, a number of Muslim countries with no direct stake in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict improved their relations with Israel. Mauretania and Jordan were the only ones to establish full diplomatic relations, but Israel was allowed to establish trade missions in Qatar and Oman and to exchange liaison officers with Morocco and Tunisia. These offices have been closed since late 2000, but Tunisia and Morocco have continued to encourage Israeli tourism, and if the cease-fire continues on track, they may soon reopen.

This is, I think, at least as encouraging a development as the cease-fire itself. As Yossi Klein Halevi wrote last year in The Wall, Israel's greatest excesses have come at times when it felt most besieged and diplomatically isolated. Conversely, Israel has proven willing to make concessions when it felt enough diplomatic safety and support to make them. The more the world - and particularly the Muslim world - signals its acceptance of Israel, the more Israel will feel able to withdraw from the occupied territories and establish a Palestinian state.

I know I have some Pakistani readers; I'd be interested in knowing what they think of all this.

UPDATE: Zack Ajmal has an excellent analysis on his blog.

Sunday, June 29, 2003
On the nature of terrorism, part 1

Nearly any discussion of terrorism, whether legal or academic, is likely to founder on definitions. If the post-September 11 era has proven anything, it is that there is no consensus about what terrorism is and where it belongs in the framework of armed conflict.

In the first and fourth installments of my series on the language of the Israeli-Arab conflict, I discussed various academic and legal definitions of terrorism in an attempt to distinguish it from other forms of political violence. Conrad of Panchayat (entry of June 21) now approaches the issue from a different direction, taking the functional definition of terrorism as a given and trying to find its place in the conflict spectrum. His article is essentially a discussion of two issues: is terrorism war, and can it ever be a just war?

Conrad's post is entitled "Part 1" and, at least with respect to ethical issues, raises as many questions than as it answers. On the classification issue, however, he comes down firmly on the side of describing terrorism as warfare:

The problem is that terrorist activity is an aspect of warfare, or at a subset within the greater definition of Warfare. It fulfils all the conditions that define War. There are two large-scale alignments: not necessarily large-scale in the case of both alignments, but certainly one would need to be preponderant in relative numerical/physical terms. A terrorist organisation may have no more than a few members. In principle a terrorist act may also be perpetuated by individual and still be regarded as terrorist insofar as it is perpetuated for political ends. Terrorist acts perpetuated by a numerically small group would nevertheless be regarded as large-scale because their target group invariably is: the undermining of an existing social organisation, the defiance of a political state and its machinery, inspiring the feeling of insecurity amongst a populace or a section of a populace. Any terrorist activity is an act of force (however crude/sophisticated it may be) with a view to asserting a political position of some sort (just or unjust) – intentionally seeking the downfall of an oppositional entity/alignment that espouses a different position (irrespective of the chances of success).

This is, in some respects, a radical statement, although less so than it might have been twenty years ago. The historical conception of war is limited to violence committed by states or at least states-in-being, and terrorist acts have traditionally been treated as civil crimes rather than acts of war. Nor has this view entirely changed.

The idea of terrorism as warfare began to gain political currency in the 1980s, most famously by then-Secretary of State George Shultz's statement to the New York Times in 1984. At roughly the same time, academic treatments of terrorism began to blur the lines between terror acts and other forms of revolutionary violence. Bard O'Neill (1990) defined terrorism as a "form of warfare in which violence is directed primarily against noncombatants (usually unarmed civilians), rather than operational military and police forces or economic assets (public or private)." A 1991 military analysis likewise stated that terrorism "is a form of warfare and needs to berecognized as such."

The equation of terrorism with warfare has become almost a commonplace in political and academic circles since September 11, 2001. Nevertheless, with the exception of a few Israeli court decisions, this equation has not translated into the law. The "short legal definition" proposed by Professor Alex P. Schmid to the United Nations - defining terrorism as the "peacetime equivalent of war crime[s]," bespeaks reluctance to classify terrorism as something that, in itself, breaks the peace. General Assembly Resolution 51/210 of 1996, which remains the most comprehensive United Nations document on international terrorism, likewise avoids terms like "war" and "combat" in favor of describing terrorist acts as "criminal and unjustifiable."

Some terrorist groups have sought to legitimize themselves via the First Additional Protocol to the Geneva Conventions, with its extension of the law of war to "armed conflicts in which peoples are fighting against colonial domination and alien occupation and against racist regimes in the exercise of their right of self-determination." Nothing in the Additional Protocol, however, exempts such non-state actors from the laws of war, including the prohibition against targeting civilians. Moreover, Article 4 of the Second Additional Protocol, promulgated on the same day, specifically prohibits "acts of terrorism" against "persons who do not take a direct part or who have ceased to take part in hostilities." Article 13(2) likewise forbids "[a]cts or threats of violence the primary purpose of which is to spread terror among the civilian population." There is no reasonable interpretation of the First Additional Protocol that would legalize terrorism, but terrorist groups have nevertheless claimed that it legitimates their activities at least insofar as they attack military targets.

Both governments and terrorists have taken advantage of the ambiguous status of terrorism. Terrorist groups argue that they are legitimate resistance fighters rather than criminals, but nevertheless claim the mantle of civilian status when faced with military retaliation. Governments, for their part, treat terrorists as de facto soldiers when it is convenient to kill them and as civilian criminals when it is convenient to capture them.

The recent increase in the profile of terrorist activity, as well as the only half-rhetorical "war on terror" being fought by the world's major military power, seem to call for the regularization of terrorists' legal status. The law determines both the bounds of terrorist activity and the means by which governments may legally fight terrorism, and as such can have a far greater practical effect than academic scholarship or political rhetoric. But should it be regularized as a form of war?

Classifying terrorism as warfare is both intuitive and counterintuitive. Intuitive, because terrorism is organized violence intended to bring about political change. Counterintuitive, because it is conducted by non-state actors and because most definitions of terrorism are broad enough to encompass isolated acts by single persons. At its lower levels, terrorism shades into more ordinary political crime; is a single bombing, for instance, any more an act of war than the assassination of a politician or police officer?

Part of the problem of classifying terrorism lies in the fact that war itself is not clearly defined in international law. As Conrad points out, "most theorists don't arrive at a clear understanding of what is War and what is not; this is assumed to be already understood." The Geneva Conventions, for instance, purport to be the law of armed conflict, but do not define the characteristics that separate armed conflict from other forms of armed violence. Academia is equally unhelpful in that many of its definitions of war are circular; for instance, Professor Ingrid Detter, author of a textbook on the law of war, begins by characterizing it as "essentially a relationship governed by armed force between individuals, subjected in varying degrees to the Law of War." In other words, the law of war applies to warfare, and warfare is conduct to which the law of war applies.

Later in her book, however, Professor Detter suggests a more functional definition of warfare:

a sustained struggle by armed force of a certain intensity between groups of a certain size, consisting of individuals who are armed, who wear distinctive insignia and who are subjected to military discipline under responsible command

This definition can be reduced fairly easily into a legal standard. Moreover, if one is willing to forgo the requirement of "distinctive insignia," this definition can encompass certain forms of terrorism. Hamas, for instance, is an internally disciplined group of considerable size that is carrying on a sustained campaign of violence with definite political goal. In other words, some terrorism is warfare - a single terrorist act is not necessarily an act of war, but a sustained campaign by an organized terrorist group is.

None of this, of course, alters the remainder of the law of war, including the prohibition against targeting civilians. Thus, if terrorism is recognized as a form of war, it will be an illegal form. Such a designation would, on balance, be greatly in favor of national governments, who would be able to conduct legal military reprisals against terrorists but nevertheless prosecute their attacks on civilians as war crimes. Governments' freedom of action would be restricted in only one respect - they would no longer be able to prosecute terrorists for attacks on soldiers - and this restriction would be more than outweighed by the full legalization of military counterterrorist tactics.

Nevertheless, I doubt that this legal development will happen anytime in the near future. Despite the advantage that such a measure would give to national governments, it would break the taboo against recognizing non-state violence even more severely than the First Additional Protocol. While the Protocol legalized violence by non-state actors to a certain extent, it limited such recognition to national liberation movements that were at least states-in-being. Granting terrorist groups the legal status of military formations would greatly broaden the permissible amount of non-state violence and, in some cases, permit organized groups to carry out anti-state violence from within another state in contravention of that state's foreign policy. It is likely that, for the time being, states will continue to regard terrorists as legal civilians but ignore that status whenever convenient, and that only relatively powerless states will be brought to book for doing so.

The question of whether terrorism can ever be ethically justified, of course, is an entirely different one that does not depend on the practical considerations of lawmaking. My short answer to that question is that, while it is theoretically possible to imagine situations where terrorist acts would be ethical, this will rarely if ever be true in realistic terms. The next post in this series will be my long answer.

Next: An Augustinian view of terrorism.