Thursday, January 15, 2009

"Schrecklichkeit." Do you know what that word means?

According to the BBC, the Israeli Defense Forces are deliberately shooting women and children in the head.
Some Palestinian civilians in Gaza say Israeli forces shot at them as they tried to leave their homes - in some cases bearing white flags.

One testimony heard by the BBC and human rights group B'tselem describes Israeli forces shooting a woman in the head after she stepped out of her house carrying a piece of white cloth, in response to an Israeli loudhailer announcement.
"The Israeli army was saying: 'This is the Israeli Defence Forces, we are asking all the people to leave their homes and go to the school. Ladies first, then men.'

"We decided to send the women first, two by two," he said.

First to step outside was the wife of his cousin, Rawhiya al-Najar, 48.

"The army was about 15 metres (50 feet) away from the house or less. They shot her in the head," he said.

The woman's daughter was shot in the thigh but crawled back inside the house, he said.
The people of Gaza are running out of places to bury their dead. Worse,
"We buried them quickly," said Iyad Samouni, 26, speaking from al-Awda hospital in Gaza City, where he was being treated for shrapnel wounds. "We were afraid we'd be shelled. My relatives were trying to open other graves to prepare for the other dead, but we didn't get time."

He said the family fled the graveyard after they came under fire from a warplane
Firing on civilians as they try to bury their dead. Keep that image in your mind. To me, it recalls the opening scene of Forbidden Games -- the Nazi warplanes firing on lines of innocent French refugees.

The IDF has rained phosphorous bombs on the UN compound, on schools -- and even on the Red Cross!

Ignore the bullshit about "rocket attacks." That's not what this attack is about. This is about a long-standing plan to make life so miserable for the Palestinians that they either die or relocate. Learn the truth about the occupation of Gaza.

Imagine if your home state were occupied by a foreign power which wanted you either dead or gone. Imagine if you were continually bullied by outsiders who coveted the land you consider home. You would probably support a counter-insurgency so hard-knuckled as to make Hamas look like a bunch of petunia-gatherers.

The Israelis have revived the Nazi practice of Schrecklichkeit.

That term that may be unfamiliar to you. It was defined for a mass audience on the day that World War II ended in Europe. On V-E day, all of the radio networks broadcast a stirring presentation by Norman Corwin called "On a Note of Triumph." You can find the script here.

I draw your attention to this passage:
(TO NAZI) Will you explain why Rotterdam was bombed--and thousands of its people killed-- after the city had surrendered?

Ja, sure. Schrecklichkeit.

What is that?

Frightfulness, it means.


Ja. That was our plan.

You mean... Schrecklichkeit is an official policy of the German High Command?

I wonder what Norman Corwin -- one of the great true liberals -- would think of the BBC report referenced above? And what, I wonder, would he make of this...?
Right in front of the stage, a man held a banner reading, “Islam Is A Death Cult.” Rally attendees described the people of Gaza to me as a “cancer,” called for Israel to “wipe them all out,” insisting, “They are forcing us to kill their children in order to defend our own children.” A young woman told me, “Those who die are suffering God’s wrath.” “They are not distinguishing between civilians and military, so why should we?”
Or how about this? Consider the obscene language of propagandist Tom Friedman, who defends the murder of innocent Lebanese:
Israel's counterstrategy was to use its Air Force to pummel Hezbollah and, while not directly targeting the Lebanese civilians with whom Hezbollah was intertwined, to inflict substantial property damage and collateral casualties on Lebanon at large. It was not pretty, but it was logical. Israel basically said that when dealing with a nonstate actor, Hezbollah, nested among civilians, the only long-term source of deterrence was to exact enough pain on the civilians - the families and employers of the militants - to restrain Hezbollah in the future.
That, friends, is Schrecklichkeit.

A word about the "nested among civilians" canard. Do you really think that all Israeli soldiers are stationed X number of yards away from civilians? If so, you are very naive. Mossad headquarters (and this was a closely guarded secret until recently) is located in a densely-populated area of Tel Aviv -- right next to a hospital!

Back to Friedman. Let us consider his view of the current Gaza barbarity:
In Gaza, I still can't tell if Israel is trying to eradicate Hamas or trying to "educate" Hamas, by inflicting a heavy death toll on Hamas militants and heavy pain on the Gaza population. If it is out to destroy Hamas, casualties will be horrific and the aftermath could be Somalia-like chaos. If it is out to educate Hamas, Israel may have achieved its aims.
More than six decades after V-E day, a prominent columnist advocates Schrecklichkeit.

In our newspapers.

What has happened to our nation? How did our proud "note of triumph" become a wail for our lost humanity?


Caro said...

It means "shock and awe".

Carolyn Kay

katiebird said...

I'm watching an NBC news crew that is embedded in an Israeli tank. So it's really great that we get the inside scoop.

Isn't it? (/snark)

DebC said...

Joseph...Damn good post! Again.

Anonymous said...

Let's put aside for a moment the fact that the reasons for the Rotterdam bombing aren't entirely clear and may have had to do with communication problems. Why not mention the Allied policy of bombing civilian centers during WWII ? Did you forget Air Marshall Harris ? The Israelis are doing the same. And with the same (bad) arguments. It is time to recognize that it is precisely this idealized view of WWII (the absolutely good versus the absolutely evil, no nuances allowed, thank you) which serves as the main justification for the Israeli crimes of today.

Mike J. said...

The reason Allied WW2 policies and current Israeli policies are incomparable is that US aerial bombing offensives and nuclear bombs were followed by the Marshall Plan and the full and complete reconstruction democratization of the former enemies which were then recognized as US partners, not subjects.

There is never going to be an Israeli Marshall Plan for the West Bank or the Gaza Strip. The Israeli policy does resemble the German WW2 policies (i.e, first bomb, then ghettoize and exploit--only so far Israel has not moved to the "final solution" stage, at least not yet--but if it does, I'm sure that too will be defended by commenters here...) more than the Allied policies.

And, of course, whereas the US occupation was accepted by the defeated Germany and Japan due to the promise of Marshall Plan, the Israelis are resisted as fiercely as the Nazis were, pretty much for the same reasons.

Anonymous said...

Maybe I misunderstand you, but your argument sounds a lot like "the end justifies the means"... Besides, the US occupation was accepted because there weren't any more valid men or resources to fight against the US or the USSR. All institutions had practically ceased to exist. A clever Israeli could then reply that Israel simply hasn't bombed enough to break the will of the Hamas.

Anonymous said...

For sometime now, I've thought it ironic that the Israelis have gone from persecuted to persecutor.
It's analogous to what we humans have done over the course of our evolution: we started out as prey, but when we got to the point where we could defend ourselves adequately against our predators, we didn't stop there. Instead, we turned around and became the predators. Further, we started wiping things out which never did us any harm because we saw what they had, figured it was ours by 'right'...and they were in the way.

Sergei Rostov

Mike J. said...


I think that's a major misinterpretation of what has happened in the aftermath of WW2. Overwhelming violence may cow and intimidate temporarily, but as soon as there's a sign of weakness the resistance will flare up again. This has been the history of the century-plus of Chechen resistance to Russia, for example. It is also rapidly becoming the history of the anti-Israeli resistance. Let's face it, all the Israeli violence accomplished so far is make genuine peace that much more remote, and the end of Israel as a Jewish state that much less remote. I think that's beginning to dawn on them, so now they are frantically flailing in near panic, hoping to bomb their way out of a looming political catastrophe. Well, they aren't the first...

If you want to make peace stick, excessive violence is not the way to go. Instead, you have to give a strong incentive to the other side to accept peace. Otherwise you are only talking about ceasefires. Germany and Japan after 1945 had that incentive: a strong relationship with a generous and wealthy United States that was willing to expend major resources on the reconstitution of its former enemies. That's what bought us peace, in spite (not because) of the damage wrought by indiscriminate bombing (and there were hard feelings in Germany, at least, well into the 1960s). And no amount of "schrecklichkeit" could bring peace for Germany (I don't suppose anyone's going to argue the Germans were simply not brutal enough...), and no amount of bombs dropped on Gaza will buy peace for Israel.