Justifying Certain Acts of Violence

Today’s New York Times editorial (11/15/12) begins:

No country should have to endure the rocket attacks that Israel has endured from militants in Gaza.

The Times has questions about the wisdom of a ground invasion in Gaza–questions that mostly involve whether it would be wise from an Israeli point of view. Such an escalation would be “especially risky,” and might not be the “most effective way of advancing” Israel’s “long-term interests.” But from the start, the message is that this violence is, on some level justified.

Fareed Zakaria (photo: Sebastian Derungs/World Economic Forum)

Fareed Zakaria (photo: Sebastian Derungs/WEF)

On CNN (11/14/12), Fareed Zakaria endorsed the Israeli attacks:

 I think there is no question it was justified. Look, the attacks, they had gone crazy in terms of the scope and intensity.

By “attacks” he presumably means rockets launched into Israel from Gaza. Those rockets spiked in the last few days in response to a series of Israeli attacks and incursions. As Alex Kane noted at Mondoweiss, the flashpoint seems to have been a November 8 Israeli attack that killed a young boy:

The escalation began when Israel killed a 12-year-old boy. The rockets and missiles fired in response were what the Gaza-based militant group Popular Resistance Committees called a “revenge invoice.”

It would be hard to imagine U.S. pundits and editorialists discussing the appropriate amount of violent acts Palestinians are entitled to carry out in response to Israeli attacks. Operation Cast Lead in late 2008 and 2009 killed hundreds of Palestinian civilians. Would someone like Zakaria endorse a Palestinian reprisals? Of course not.  Justification for violence works one way.

On January 4, 2009, Zakaria devoted his whole CNN show to the Israeli assault on Gaza. And he stated at the top:

I start from the premise that Israel had ample justification for its actions. If our cities, your cities, were subject to repeated rocket attacks, you would also believe that it was provocation enough to respond. So, it’s justifiable.

So long as media prefer this narrative–one that says every Israeli action is a response to violence and not an act of violence–they will endorse such attacks. And the violence will continue on all sides.

About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.