But the kidnapping last week of two Israeli soldiers by Hezbollah was of course merely the excuse for which Israel has been waiting, as it seeks to ensure its very existence against an illegitimate non-state army armed to the teeth with rockets and allied with Iran, a state whose leaders deny the Holocaust and yet call for another one, for wiping Israel from the face of the earth. What, pray tell, is a "proportionate" response to people who are carrying on a fifteen-centuries old Jihad in whose name they hope to destroy Israel and turn any and all non-Muslims into either dust or Dhimmis?
While their enemy may deserve no mercy, in this nuclear age Israel cannot throw its full might at its enemy without truly becoming a pariah state. Consequently, whatever the level of Israel's response, the choice will be somewhat arbitrary and as such open to criticism for being too disproportionate, too intent on victimizing. (And alternatively, in being restrained, in departing from the traditional pre-nuclear assumption that a threatened people should do whatever they can to defend themselves, Israel also expose itself to mocking from Islamic warriors who take a less than total response as a sign of Israel's inherent weakness - they can kill a few more of us than we kill of them, but there will always be more of us than of them.)
And in an age when only visible victims really count in the media's making of "the news", when the rightness of a nation's cause is secondary to its power and ability to make its enemies, and associated civilians, suffer, Israel is open to much attack because it happens to be much more militarily effective than the cult of resentment it presently faces; even as the cult presently demonstrates some capability to kill Israelis with its rockets, its only truly great military advantage is its vast superiority in the numbers of its real or potential supporters, an advantage that only encourages its leaders to sacrifice as many of its people in the cause as needs be, as the Islamic cult of suicide bombing against Israel and other western and non-Muslim nations demonstrates.
So why the obsession among the western liberal-left with a "proportionate response"? As noted, the liberal-left is presently deeply immersed in a victimary religion, i.e. in a habit of thought that tries to understand every human relationship in terms of how it departs from an original ideal of equality and reciprocity; and, in so departing - as every actual relationship must - the utopian left is able and often keen to denounce every or any relationship for victimizing one or another of its parties. For our liberals, nothing is ever good enough; the world as it is is resented for failing to live up to some egalitarian ideal.
Now we mustn't simply dismiss the left's egalitarian ideal, for it is founded, I believe, in a somewhat correct intuition about the equalitarian origin and nature of the language and human culture we all share: membership in the community of language implies equality; no one is inherently just a speaker or just a listener... (anyone who wants to pursue this idea should check out this blog and associated links). But while there is definitely something to our moral intuition of the sacredness of each and every human life, a sacredness founded in a fundamental human equality, the freedom that language also gives us necessarily entails departure from the originary equality of all language users, so that we may differentiate people in all sorts of pragmatic ways as we liberate ourselves from the dictates of both a ritualized equality and hierarchy. Thus, to make a religion out of the defense of each and every putative "victim" of human freedom or inequality is to refuse the moral imperative of our freedom to make choices.
We must discriminate in the cause of human freedom. For anyone to do anything to advance the cause of human progress, it requires that he break, for a time, with the original rule of equality that the first human users of the first word all shared, an equality that remains memorialized in every act of language to this day.
Historically, the Jews have been leaders in going first, in breaking from ritualized orders in the name of human freedom. And they remain deeply and widely resented to this day in many quarters for their success in having done just this. It must be admitted that countless of our fellow humans, both in the west and east, are committed to a resentment that is antithetical to freedom and human progress.
Those who call for a "proportionate response" are people deeply fearful of anyone doing anything (anything at all) that may look like victimization, or inequality because it entails someone taking a lead and differentiating himself from others. For the fearful religion of victims, any evidence of inequality - as, for example, is demonstrated by Israel's military superiority - is a scandal that must be denounced. The fact that this inequality is a necessary function of human freedom does not seem to trouble them: all that matters is their memory of certain historical inequalities - e.g. the Holocaust, Hiroshima, or western imperialism - that, in some cases if not in all, were simply too scandalous for any possible justification. It is the memory of such events that has led to the present cult of "white guilt". And for followers of this cult, all that matters today is that everyone be treated "proportionately", that there be no more victims.
But this cult of proportionality is a corruption of our fundamental intuition of equality, an intuition that is as much about reciprocity and exchange as it is about some fixed, permanent state of equality. Complete symmetry between two parties is actually the denial of the possibility of, or need for, exchange. Complete symmetry is a state of being that can never actually exisxt among human beings, given our mimicing and competing desires, our contests to control desirable objects or social positions. Complete symmetry and equality is nothing but a nasty utopian dream whose pursuit, in the face of contrary human reality, brings death and destruction, as for example with the 100 million death toll of twentieth-century "communism".
Real exchange and reciprocity can only occur if there is some difference or asymmetry within our fundamental human equality, i.e. if there is a first and a second and a third among equals. After all, it is our differences that we exchange, without which there can be no exchange. To speak of "proportionality" sounds, in the abstract, as if one is advocating an ideal of reciprocity. But, at present, it is really a resentful call to restrict freedom and innovation so there need be no more "victims" but only government and "international law" keeping everyone in line (an unrealistic, utopian, idea which is, of course, actually a recipe for more victims, victims of the global Big Brother). And, in the present real-world context, what "proportionate response" means is that you support a perpetual tit-for-tat in which Israelis and Arabs kidnap and kill each other, one for one, until... the relatively few Jews are all gone.
What Israel is trying to impose on Lebanon, it seems to me, is a much more realistic form of reciprocity than endless tit-for-tat. It is trying to make the Lebanese see that if they allow the presence in their midst of a party committed to the extermination of Israel, they can expect nothing but war from Israel. Yes, the idea of getting rid of Hezbollah must bring nightmares of renewed civil war to the Lebanese. But frankly, maybe the reality is simply that their choice is to risk temporary civil war or to face endless Israeli wrath (if, that is, any desire to completely destroy Israel cannot be realized). If the majority of Lebanese are smart, I think they will choose sides and take all the Israeli and American support that will come to them when they choose to face down Hezbollah and engage Israel in the kind of true reciprocity that will flow from recognition of Israel's right to exist, to be different, and to defend that difference.
Frankly, I don't want to hear about another Lebanese or Canadian Arab who considers herself just another "innocent victim" of Israel. While civilian casualties in war are no doubt some kind of victim, people living in war zones cannot avoid the responsibility of taking sides in an attempt to bring the war to a head and conclusion as quickly as possible. The fact must be faced by all Arabs that many of their brethren have long been involved in a war against the Jews. Consequently, all Arabs and all Muslims should have no choice now but to take sides. Let the world know if you choose the side of freedom, or the side of resentment against the Jewish presence in the Middle East. Are you for or against Jewish difference (and success) in your midst?
Aware to this reality, our Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, first responded to Israel's attacks on Hezbollah by throwing the jargon of "proportionate response" back in the faces of its pimps. He called Israel's response "measured", a word that the many Dhimmis in Canada (among whom, as we have shared in reporting, is the bulk of civil servants in Canada's Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade) have spent the last week protesting.
So what a proud moment it was for me to read today's Globe and Mail print edition headline: "Harper refuses to budge":
Mr. Harper said the conflict is the result of the fact that there is no Middle East peace process because "the current Palestinian government is not committed to a peace process.In other words, in the face of a war's inevitable victims, Harper, unlike the Canadian MainStreamMedia, is refusing to play the victimary game; he is refusing to bow to the victimary religion that controls so much of our public discourse and to defer to the anger of the family that has tragically lost seven of its members. This is why Prime minister Harper is my new hero.
"Secondly, there is an immediate crisis because of the actions of Hamas and the actions of Hezbollah," he said, referring to the radical Islamic movement that controls the Palestinian Authority and the Shia Muslim group that controls much of southern Lebanon.
He said the key to ending the crisis is not an immediate ceasefire, as has been advocated by some members of the Group of Eight industrialized countries at their annual summit here, but rather the safe return of three kidnapped Israeli soldiers and the end of "Hezbollah attacks on Israel."
These were Mr. Harper's first comments on the violence in the Middle East since eight Canadians, seven from a Montreal family, were killed Sunday in an Israeli air raid on Lebanon. Relatives of the Al-Akhrass family appealed to the government to act swiftly to evacuate other Canadians.
And if that isn't enough, he forthrightly questions the reason, even sanity, of those who promote the victimary religion:
The Canadian Arab Federation condemned Mr. Harper for describing Israel's actions last week as "measured."Condolences should be given, not only for the loss of sacred life, but because at least some of those in mourning are surely being exploited by a bizarre and irrational victimary ideology.
The federation issued a statement saying it held him "responsible for the death of eight Canadians in Lebanon" because of his failure to urge Israel to be restrained.
Mr. Harper dismissed the federation's characterization of his remarks as "bizarre."
Mr. Harper said neither he nor his officials have contacted Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert for an explanation of the air strike on Sunday that killed a Montreal pharmacist, his wife, their four young children and others. He offered his condolences to the victims' families at the start of his news conference.