The tragedy in the Mediterranean is too new for all the facts to be in, much less sifted, but for just a moment, I’m going to stomp where angels fear to tread, because Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu pushed one of the buttons that activates my Barely-Dormant Political Philosopher. That button was “self-defense,” which is how he described the Israeli soldiers’ use of lethal force against a flotilla earlier today.
It is a perversion of the term “self-defense” when soldiers attack civilians in a place the civilians have a right to assemble (i.e., international waters) and, upon the civilians’ fighting back, claim “self-defense” as a valid reason to shoot to kill. Basic ethics of war mean that it is sometimes a soldier’s duty to risk their own death rather than engage in too great a degree of violence against noncombatants. Was this too great a degree? Were the civilians actually within their rights, or had they threatened Israel with imminent violence, which would change the moral equation? A lot of information still needs to be filled in, but it remains the case that you can’t just use “self-defense” as a moral justification every time it’s a fact that a soldier was under threat of harm. Otherwise you end up justifying any number of abuses.
That’s my two cents of political philosophy. My two cents of plain old politics is that people who wish to get to the truth of the matter and de-escalate, rather than intensify, the conflict, should refrain from using inflammatory terms like “massacre.” That would be directed at you, truthout.org, who could be more helpful than President Abbas if you wanted to. (And sure, fewer people than that were killed at the Boston Massacre, and probably with greater justification–but we and the British have long since buried the hatchet about that, eh? Perhaps they can forgive us a bit of grandstanding 240 years after the incident.)
This kind of entry is going to be more fun in a couple of months when I open up comments.