Thursday, October 06, 2005

Repugnance Reprieved

Besides sharing the same ethnic DNA, Arabs and Jews mushing it up in that land so laughably called holy have made a specialty of outdoing each other in repugnance. Palestinians have their barbaric suicide bombers. The Israeli army has its practice of using Palestinians as “human shields” when it goes a’knocking on Palestinian doors before casting its dragnets or setting coordinates for the non-suicide bombers to do their job from the safety of an F-16 or the turret of a tank. But here’s the salient difference between Palestinians (and Arabs in general, my own Lebanese brethren included) and Israelis: When Arabs go repugnant, they know no limits. There are no limits: No public opinion to worry about, no electorate, no laws to answer to. Syria’s Hafez el Assad razes the city of Hamas to put down an insurgency in the early 1980s, massacring some 20,000 people, and what does he do next? Opens up the city to blood tourism so potential troublemakers get a look at what happens to dissidents in Assland. “Hamas rules,” the occasionally dead-on Thomas Friedman called it back then. When Israelis go repugnant, there are limits. There’s the law. There’s the Israeli Supreme Court, whose authority — without so much as a water gun — trumps every caliber in the Israeli arsenal. Here’s a concept Arab nations, Iraq’s nascent parody of democracy included, have no clue about. The Israeli court’s decision today banning the Israeli army’s use of Palestinian human shields is an example of repugnance meeting its match in reason. “You cannot exploit the civilian population for the army’s military needs, and you cannot force them to collaborate with the army,” the Israeli chief justice wrote. (No Rehnquist reincarnation here, no state-pandering apologists.)The army, weaving cynicism out of repugnance, had claimed that it was using the shields with Palestinian individuals' consent. But there was that affidavit from a reservist in the army: “No civilian would refuse a ‘request’ presented to him at 0300 by a group of soldiers aiming their cocked rifles at him.” It’s the law of the shield: what civilian anywhere, America’s streets and highways included, will exercise his rights to exempt himself from police state tactics when faced with a shield and a gun? Voluntary compliance is the biggest crock in law enforcement. Imagine the crockery in states of siege as in Gaza and the West Bank. “In light of the inequality which exists between the apprehending force and the local resident, the civilian cannot be expected to resist the request to pass on an alert,” the chief justice wrote.

The Bush administration and its Guantanamo rules could learn a few things from the ruling. But fanatics tend to have the last word. Guantanamo rules trump the Bill of Rights in the United States because our mullahs fighting their war on terror consider these rules more important than the liberties the mullahs claim to be protecting. It’s the oldest trick in horror’s B-movies: Your alleged protectors turn out to be your worst nightmare. Israel has its mullahs, too. Here’s how a member of the National Religious Party, the Israeli version of our moderate Republicans, put it: “Supreme court judges demonstrated today that their pity for the cruel will prove cruel to the merciful and will expose [Israeli] soldiers to more danger.” Didn’t I read those lines a few thousand times every time our own mullahs bitch and moan about, say, the Miranda decision? Those mullahs who look at Hamas rules and think to themselves: If only…