Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Liars Trip Over Themselves

In my most recent article, I discussed bias and fake narratives in the news, and how liars tend to contradict themselves, thus betraying themselves with their very own words. I explained why this is so, seeing as they have to keep lying to keep up with an unfriendly reality, and eventually, inevitably, their statements contradict each other. In addition, their declarations tend to come from different internal sources, with different goals or desires requiring different lies, and since they all emerge from a different place, the lies are often incompatible and don't play well with each other.

In this post I will apply this technique to the anti-Israel crowd and to several of their most important claims. This is relatively an easy thing to do, given decades of lies and given that hatred tends to control their thought processes.

I've seen many debates about the Israel-Palestine conflict, and most are disappointing. They tend to throw talking points at each other instead of dismantling their opponent's claims with logic or by carefully breaking down their assumptions. An example of a weak debate would be: "Israel is targeting children", "No, Hamas is using them as shields".

Given what I said above about liars, I think a much more effective technique would be to counter-attack by using their own logic against them, whenever possible. This is not only a more effective debating technique, but also incontestable and infallible, because it makes use of the most basic logical error of contradiction ('P and not-P' can never be true).

Let's start with one example: Palestinians claim refugee status even after resettling in other countries, and even the great-grandchildren of Palestinians from 1948 demand the 'right of return' into Israeli territories after 75 years of absence. The underlying premise here is that their refugee status doesn't expire no matter what they do (a law that does not apply to any other refugee in the world), and it passes on to their great grandchildren ad infinitum. 

We could challenge this claim by arguing that it is impractical or exceptionalist, but, instead, we are going to dismantle it using a contradiction: When Jews claim the same right to return to Israel after 1900 years of refugee hell, the same Palestinians claim this is false, applying different rules and denying Jews the same right. If refugee status doesn't expire after 75 years even for descendants that moved elsewhere, why should it expire after 1900 years? If Palestinians can apply the right of return in this fashion, Jews can take over the whole of the land of Palestine using the same rule, because all of it at one point belonged to the Jews. Note that I am not claiming that this should become reality, but that this is an inevitable consequence of their claim.

What this means is that they do not care about logical premises and the moral or legal justification of their claims; they simply make exceptionalist demands without caring about logic, fairness and consistency. The inevitable conclusion is that their claim is based on religion or conceit, not morality or law, and claiming the land by law is merely a useful lie. This is why their two claims, one for themselves and one against the Jews, directly contradict each other.

Now we'll do the same for a few more of their claims:

  • Historically, if Arabs move into land that was forcibly taken from Jews (and other nations that came after them), it becomes 'Palestinian' land. But if Jews move into land that was taken from Palestinians (after being taken from Jews), they are occupying it illegally and are colonizers. Once again, note the contradictory underlying premises of two claims made by the same people. Even if you argue that Jews are conquerors, so are Palestinians. Yet the rule that conquerors cannot make the conquered land theirs is only applied to one side and not the other.

  • To this they may counter-claim that Palestinians didn't take the land away from Jews whereas Jews did take it from Palestinians. Except that Jews did not take the West Bank and Gaza from Palestinians either; they took it from Jordan and Egypt. Why, when Jews take land from an occupier, does this makes them illegal occupiers, but when Palestinians take land from occupiers, do the rules suddenly change and the land becomes legally theirs?

  • Another claim is that Jewish immigrants moving to Israel in the past two centuries are outsiders and expansionist colonizers. The Arab population of Palestine doubled in the 19th century, and then tripled again in the first half of the 20th century. And yet all of these Palestinians are seen as natives with historical roots in the region even though 80% of them (935,000 out of 1,181,00) are newcomers from the last century, and most have explicitly expressed their expansionist goals to take over the land from the river to the sea despite being newcomers.

  • The partition plan of 1947 was claimed by many as unfair due to there being a majority of Arabs in many cities compared to Jews. And yet, even though Jerusalem has had a Jewish majority since at least the 1850s by all accounts, they refuse to hand over Jerusalem to the Jews. Does a majority count when it comes to a city, or not?

  • On a related topic regarding majority rule, Palestinians make claims to the land even though they no longer have a majority in Israel, claims that they justify because they were expelled or had to escape a war. And yet the only reason there hasn't been a majority of Jews in Israel since 500 CE, is because Jews were constantly being expelled, blocked from entering Israel or massacred. So, once again, how come this rule only applies to Palestinians?

  • If some Zionist Israelis declare expansionist goals to live in all of Israel based on the fact that their ancestors lost Israel to conquerors, they are evil colonialists that want to kill or expel Arabs. But if 75% of Palestinians in polls want a Palestine from the river to the sea, want Israel to cease to exist and refuse even a one-state solution with Israel, they are merely nobly resisting Israel. Evidently, expansionist goals depend on who entertains them.

  • If Israel occupies Palestine (1967-), the PLO attacks Israel. If Egypt and Jordan occupy Palestine (1948-1967), the PLO still attacks only Israel (1964-1967) and wants to destroy only Israel.

  • If Palestinians kill Jewish babies, we must take into account 'the context' and understand that 'this didn't happen in a vacuum'. If Israelis kill Palestinian children as casualties of bombing Palestinian baby-killers, we ignore the context and make sure we focus only on the dead children.

  • If Egypt (or any other country with closed borders) closes and patrols its border with Gaza and arrests smugglers, it is due to security concerns. If Israel does the same thing, this converts Gaza into a prison and Israel into prison guards.

  • If Israel runs Gaza, it is occupying it illegally. But if Israel withdraws from Gaza and gives it independence, it is being inhumane by not running it and supplying it with power, water and jobs. Damned if you do and damned if you don't. Because it's not about what is right, but about racist hate.

  • If Netanyahu blocks aid from going into Gaza to stop Hamas from using it for war, he is a cruel dictator who wants Palestinians to suffer. But if Netanyahu allows money from Qatar to go into Gaza to help the citizens, he is supporting Hamas terrorists and keeping them strong for nefarious political purposes. There is nothing that Netanyahu can do that will be seen as moral. Because it is not about whether an act is moral, but about hate.

  • Similar to the above: If Israel bombs terrorists in Gaza and gets civilians killed, it is committing war crimes. But if Israel tries to get civilians out of the way of the war and away from the terrorists in order to save them, it is committing the war crime of displacing civilians.

Again, note that all of these observations are based on the logical foundations behind each of the above claims, and we demonstrated their blatant contradictions. This dismantles their claims using their own underlying premises. As I said: The bigger the lies, the faster and more frequently they will trip over themselves.

Sunday, January 28, 2024

Mind Tools to Offset Bias

In this article we will discuss bias in the news, personal bias, the fantasy narratives that we are constantly inventing for ourselves, fake news, facts, logic, and the general dire situation of journalism and objectivity nowadays. Then again, this is obviously too much for me to cover in one article, so I'll just touch on the points towards which I am currently biased.

When you read the news, are those facts or fabricated narratives? How can you tell? Is there any reliable, or even useful information to be had nowadays from journalists? And can you actually tell when your own personal view is getting in the way of the truth?

Separating fact from fiction is never going to be an easy task, and won't always be possible. But I'd like to argue that you don't always have to become an investigative journalist yourself in order to figure out the truth. You can work on yourself and develop discipline and mind tools, or what I call an internal truth radar, or lie detector, and then use this to detect when someone is lying, or even to derive truthful information from the false information being fed to you. Many people do this intuitively, except that some do it well and the rest do it very badly, due to their mind tools being derailed by bias. I'll get into this below, but first I want to rant a wee bit more...

Once upon a time, newspapers at least ostensibly tried to differentiate between news reports and 'opinion pieces'. The articles were marked as such. Now everything is opinion trying to pass as objective reports. Facts are carefully edited, interpreted, and packaged to fit a partisan audience's most popular or accepted narrative. That, or news channels are outright mouthpieces for governments, repeating the lines and talking points they have been fed. Or, news outlets merely copy-paste from each other instead of investigating on their own. All of which means that one thousand news sources are not necessarily better than one.

Obviously, the vast majority of people have tuned in to the fact that the mass media is lying to them, and the fact that you're not supposed to believe newspapers is a cliche by now. Absolutely nobody today would be caught dead with such naiveté. But I find that many people repeat this truism with mere lip service, ignoring the depth and consequences of the problem, gleefully absorbing the juicy news they are being fed, and repeating it without checking facts or logic. Some think that the other news channel, the one their embarrassing black-sheep relatives are watching, is the one doing the lying, but not their favorite channel. After all, if the channel agrees with what you think you know, and supports your favorite politicians, it can't be all wrong, can it?

When the newscaster confirms your viewpoint, it feels truthful. But who fed you this viewpoint in the first place? Perhaps it was the carefully selected and suggestive facts by their editorial team that put this idea in your head in the first place. Just because you get emotional over a narrative, doesn't mean it's yours.

"I saw children dying with my own eyes in news videos, and concluded on my own based on this undeniable fact that the country doing the bombing is an evil aggressor committing war crimes." But what did the news outlet cunningly omit? Surely I don't have to go into how a story can be flipped upside down by simply omitting some details, do I? Except it's not just about facts and reporting, it's primarily about what we want to believe.

Many channels know their audiences and cater to their biases. It's an echo chamber. Like produces like. They will hire and interview people that think the same way in order to cater to the way you think, omit the details that would cause cognitive dissonance, and know that you will subscribe to their channel because 'they speak the truth'. This brings a whole new meaning to the concept of 'news as entertainment'.

And even if you are enlightened enough to listen to opposing news outlets and weigh multiple viewpoints against each other, how can you tell who is telling the truth, all the while avoiding your own bias?

Everyone is biased, including myself. We are biased towards the familiar content in our brains, whether we or others put it there, we are biased by the emotions we are currently feeling, by the useful simpler categories we have carefully nurtured in our heads combined with lazy thinking, by the favoritism we have towards our social environment, friends, family and country, and so on. It is impossible to be objective. The goal is not to be objective but to be aware of our biases and to develop the discipline by which we can recognize and compartmentalize our bias, and then follow the truth wherever it leads, regardless of the outcome, even if it smashes our comfortable mental structures that we nurtured for many years. This is even more difficult than it sounds.

We all know by now that humans are irrational creatures. Logic is almost always used to argue a conclusion that our biases or desires have already decided. From amongst the many annoying psychological mechanisms that make humans the wonderfully illogical beings that they are, here are a couple of examples: Many techniques for manipulating suggestibility, including the use of repetition or suggestive juxtaposition to inject false information into a person's memories. Cognitive dissonance, where the stress of seeing facts that don't conform to our worldview makes our mind contort these facts in order to make them fit. And we have a scary example of how our brains work from post-hypnotic suggestions, where hypnotized people perform actions suggested to them and then rationalize their actions as if they had used logic to perform this action of their own volition ("I switched hands because it felt more comfortable"). And we do the same thing with regular decisions: We want it, and then we justify it; not the other way around.

Welp, these are way too many problems; let's stick to the problems with news.

Mass Media News

To demonstrate how bad the situation is with popular mass news outlets, I am going to provide just one specific but extremely clear and indisputable example of widespread mass media censorship and fabricated narratives across the board:

The context is the famous 3-month battle of Mariupol in Ukraine between February and May 2022, and the long siege of the massive Azovstal steel plant in that city where over 2000 Ukrainian soldiers were holding up, along with hundreds of Ukrainian civilians. The battle was fought not only with weapons but with words, as accusations flew from both sides, each with their own narrative of what was going on in Mariupol and the Azovstal plant.

We will focus on the civilians that were trapped in Azovstal. The question is, were they trapped by the war waged by Russia while they took refuge in the plant, as the Ukrainians claimed, or were they held there by Ukrainians against their will as Russia claimed? Russia also claimed to have opened and declared a humanitarian corridor for civilians to leave Azovstal all the way back on the 21st of March, and that it had left it open for weeks. Ukraine counter-claimed that the corridor was "unilateral" and not safe. Finally, a whole month later on the 30th of April and 5th of May, civilians left via the corridors after "brokered deals". These are the facts. Now let's dig in more deeply and analyze:

The civilians that had just left Azosvtal after being holed up there for two months, were promptly interviewed. Here are three links containing unaired footage of their interviews from different angles: One, two, three.

Note carefully that two different people repeat several times very explicitly that they knew about the corridors, they tried to leave before it got worse, and they were either not allowed to leave or they were forced to turn back by Ukrainian soldiers. The also quote Azov soldiers telling them that they will die with the soldiers. For the pro-Ukrainians amongst you, this is guaranteed to cause cognitive dissonance and your brains are already dismissing this as fake Russian propaganda. 

Just to jar your cognitive dissonance even more, note that if this is true, it means that Ukraine used civilians as human shields and/or as hostages for making deals. The reason they did this is also explained in the videos, since they saw these civilians as pro-Russian. So that explains their motivation. Note also that although this is a small detail, the consequences of this truth are devastating if you are biased towards Ukraine, and it proves the Russian narrative to be true at least as far as the infamous Mariupol battle is concerned.

If you are thinking that this is fake news and that the people were actors, the Western pro-Ukrainian press confirmed they were civilians held in Azovstal by airing their interviews as well, and they were filmed together with other civilian evacuees. The big problem is, this press censored them. And every single news outlet did this across the board.

Here are two examples out of dozens that I saw: Guardian and NBC. Note that they used the same interviewee and each outlet has its own cut, they just censored the parts they didn't like. There are only two possible explanations for this, a bad one and a scary one: The bad one is that all commercial news outlets received censored footage from the same governmental source and didn't bother to investigate independently. The scarier conclusion is that all of them were complicit in the censoring, each individual outlet choosing to censor out the parts they didn't like on their own.

Note that this story told by the civilians is also backed by logic, seeing as Russia declared a humanitarian corridor a month earlier and all the Ukrainian soldiers had to do was let the civilians leave through this corridor. If they mistrusted Russians, they could have tested the safety of the corridor with a couple of volunteer civilians (I'm sure the "pro-Russian" ones would have agreed). Except that the Ukrainians didn't even deny that this corridor existed, as they called this corridor "unilateral". Which also makes no sense since all they had to do was stop firing temporarily and let the civilians leave and voila: a "bilateral" corridor. But, evidently, since they disagreed about letting them go at the time, it was "unilateral". And the reason the Ukrainian soldiers refused to let the civilians go was explained above.

Evidence for media lies, censorship and propaganda doesn't get any clearer than this. Of course, despite this, I know that if I am fighting against cognitive dissonance, I will lose every time.

Independent Journalism

Nowadays, people are moving away from mass media news, probably primarily due to the aforementioned catastrophic problems. But another possible explanation is that, nowadays, people want a more personalized outlet that agrees with their views and which feeds their anger and outrage more generously. Remember what I said above about the truth being what we desire?

One would think that, given the commercial pitfalls of news outlets, seeing as they have to answer to governments and advertisers (not to mention audiences), that independent journalists would be much more reliable. Choosing a dedicated journalist with either a thorough background in their field of expertise, or with physical and video access to current events, should, theoretically, solve all of the above problems. But this would mean you forgot everything we said about personal bias. Just because someone knows a lot, has conducted meticulous research, presents mountains of facts, and isn't affected by commercial or job pressures, doesn't mean they won't warp the facts to fit their favorite, biased narratives. In fact, in this day and age of heightened individualism and self-expression, this is much more likely to happen, especially seeing as they don't even have editors and co-workers to balance and correct their most self-indulgent fantasies. Many have also protected themselves from debates.

I'll mention a few examples which will also serve as cautionary tales. Each example is different and demonstrates a different human foible at play. Even if you are not aware of these people and what they do on their channels, I am using them as warnings of what can go wrong with independent journalism. Also note that these are not random internet crazy people but very well established channels with many years of reporting and a very large following of hundreds of thousands:

Scott Ritter, for all intents and purposes should have been the perfect independent journalist and analyst. He has a thorough military background, worked as a weapons inspector in Iraq, Israel and Russia, has fought political battles and personally faced a nasty Biden, is deeply involved in exposing the WMD (Weapons of Mass Destruction) controversy in Iraq, and has political and military connections all over the world. When he talks, he speaks with passion and authority, and typically delivers surprising insights you won't hear anywhere else. When I first discovered him after the full war broke out in Ukraine in 2022, I was deeply impressed by his pro-Russian insights.

After a few months, even Russia was contradicting the narratives that Ritter was pushing on us with utmost confidence (he invoked, amongst other things, his deep knowledge of Russian military tactics to explain a Russian withdrawal, until it turned out they withdrew due to a peace agreement), until even Ritter had to admit that he had made a big mistake. This was forgivable, but then it continued and went from bad to worse. Some of his narratives on Russia were again contradicted by actual outcomes, and he then went rabid on Yevgeny Prigozhin after his revolt, exaggerating his intentions as evil despite both quotes and actions from him that said otherwise, to the point that he flipped Prigozhin's great victory at Bakhmut into a negative point against Prigozhin. Ritter's narrative turned to emotion rather than nuance, and truth was sacrificed as a result.

I stopped believing him at this point, but the final straw was the story of Gonzalo Lira. Lira was a fellow independent journalist working from within Ukraine who made the fatal mistake of criticizing Ukraine. He was imprisoned, eventually released from jail, and tried to make a run for it until he was re-arrested at the border, and he then died in jail due to alleged 'health problems'. Ritter decided his story made no sense (I can come up with at least two narratives that make sense), and therefore Lira must be a double-agent, and so he threw Lira to the wolves while he was running for his life, telling people not to contact or help him. In this case, note that Ritter's fantasy narrative actually put a fellow journalist in mortal danger. This is where I stopped watching his videos completely and even started doubting his exposé on the WMDs in Iraq from the 90s.

He has repeatedly demonstrated that he becomes emotionally involved in a situation, he invents fantasy narratives that reflect wish fulfillment, and then performs research and contorts the facts to fit his narratives. Remember the rationalizing behavior after post-hypnotic suggestions that we mentioned? His narratives have been repeatedly disproved by the strongest evidence possible, by actual contradictory outcomes, death, and quotes from the very people he is trying to protect/attack. He has become a disgrace with zero credibility.

Which is why I was not surprised that when the Gaza war broke out in October 2023, I saw that he was inventing completely fictional narratives that blatantly contradict video evidence made by the perpetrators weeks before Ritter made his claims. Among other things, Ritter built a fantasy narrative where Hamas members only targeted soldiers and accidentally killed civilians despite very explicit Hamas-produced videos, and Ritter then explicitly stated his wish that Israel would lose the war badly after which he started collecting facts to prove his wish was coming true. It doesn't get more clearly biased and distorted than this.

Colonel Douglas Macgregor is another popular independent military analyst on the internet with a rich background, but he is a very different story. I call him the doomsday analyst. He consistently collects facts on bad things happening in wars, exaggerates them, and extracts from this the most extreme doomsday scenario he can. His narratives and predictions have been proven wrong numerous times by reality. He appeals to the type of crowd that think that just because he is telling harsh narratives, this makes him a truth-teller, telling truths that other people wouldn't dare say out loud.

A completely different kind of bias is demonstrated in 'The New Atlas', an internet channel that persistently and repeatedly exposes US involvement in various wars and violent uprisings in many countries around the world. While I definitely don't dispute his main contention about US involvement in violence and interference, he consistently makes the same mistake of taking his view on the US way too far into the land of crazy conspiracies, treating many countries as absolute US puppets, denying their ability to think for themselves and having their own agendas, many of which do not align with US interests. In other words, just because the US helps violent insurgents in other countries, doesn't mean all of their interests align. A basic nuance which eludes him.

Just as an example of how far he takes this, his bias against Israel has led him to the conclusion that Israel's leaders would put their own families and countrymen in fatal danger just to serve US interests, and ignores the fact that Israel has said NO and angered the US numerous times in history despite extensive evidence. And if Israel, say, tries to save Mubarak from the violent Arab Spring demonstrations in Egypt despite the US encouraging these demonstrations, that only means Israel is using this as reverse psychology and as a strategy concocted by the US, because 'everyone hates Israel' therefore by supporting Mubarak they ensure that people will hate Mubarak and help US interests. Did you follow that? This is cognitive dissonance in action, and it demonstrates how conspiracy theories work par excellence. No matter what Israel does, it proves his theory correct, therefore you cannot escape his truth.

A final example and variation is the more respectable and popular channel The Duran. As much as I respect their careful geopolitical analyses and viewpoints and as much as I agree with many of their conclusions, they are not immune in the slightest against bias. They have at least two major problems: One is that they have collected a self-contained ecology of like-minded analysts, and all their guests always agree 100% with their viewpoints. They never have debates with people that disagree with them and I have never seen one single disagreement in hundreds of videos. This should be a warning sign to viewers. Their guests feed off each other and reinforce each other's views, not providing any mechanism by which errors can be corrected or criticized. Once you realize this, it greatly deflates their impressive stable of geopolitical experts from around the world. The second problem is that they constantly project European political ways of thinking on the Middle-East, egregiously misunderstanding how Arabs and Israelis think, and the result is that their views on the Middle East are very warped due to this bias. When you combine this with the first problem, you have a self-perpetuating form of cognitive dissonance. Once again, no matter what Israel does, it fits their narrative.

(Addendum May 2024: Since I wrote the above, The Duran has rapidly deteriorated to hosting some antisemites as well as Iranian propagandists, and never anyone that challenges their views, and they themselves and their stable of guests repeat the mantra that Israel is committing genocide without once thinking about it critically or considering that it may be propaganda. They carefully take apart criticisms and propaganda articles about Russia (rightfully so), but when it comes to Israel they suddenly switch off their brains and apply different modes of thinking, clearly demonstrating their bias. The ICJ/ICC cases against Russia are politically biased, but the ICJ/ICC cases against Israel are righteous and taken at face value. Their biases have been deteriorating and worsening as they settle and entrench themselves in comfortable, lazy narratives; they cherry-pick which articles they discuss and how they interpret them, in addition to the more subtle general problems I mentioned above.)

Just so you won't think it's all bad, or that the problem is with me, if you want an example of an impressively well researched and objective channel, I refer you to HistoryLegends.

Example 2: Breaking Down an Article for Inconsistencies

In the above section about mass media news, I provided one example of how we can extract truth from this swamp of unreliable information that we call 'news'. Note the techniques that we used in that example: 1. Skepticism. 2. Looking up what the opposing narratives say no matter how we feel about each side. 3. Tracing evidence to its source as best we can. 4. Deciding on the truth based on which narrative fits the agreed-upon facts, or which scenario seems likely, regardless of our personal preference.

Except, in that example, we had to perform some investigation, scouring the internet for sources, and combining several articles with logic to try and detect the truth. But sometimes, the quest for truth can make use of easier techniques: Namely, that of detecting internal inconsistencies and contradictions. This is the lie detector method.

The thing to keep in mind is that liars, usually and eventually, trip over themselves. The more arrogant they are, the sooner this will happen. The reason for this is not only because their lies don't conform with reality and they then have to continue making up lies to cover for this, but because their lies emerge from multiple desires and goals, and could easily conflict with each other. A third, deeper and subtler reason why they trip themselves up, is because their multiple statements don't emerge from a single source of truth. But I'll leave that one as food for thought.

Sometimes, you need to collect multiple quotes from liars over time to discover their contradictions. Other times they are so arrogant, they contradict themselves within the same paragraph. I say arrogant, because they assume other people are less smart than they are, and this gives them the confidence to lie repeatedly and carelessly.

I will now demonstrate one of my favorite examples, where both the contradiction and the actual truth are revealed in a single article. I will try to break this down in detail as if I were a lie-detecting algorithm:

The context is a bombing in Ukraine in the city of Kramatorsk in June 2023. A popular restaurant was hit hard during a popular time of the day, resulting in an unusually high number of deaths and wounded.

The first thing we have to do is separate the facts from the interpretation, because the newspapers will not do it for us. "A Russian missile hit a restaurant in Kramatorsk resulting in many deaths" could be taken as facts, but the line "the deadliest attack against civilians in months" is a narrative, not a fact, because it not only interprets the event as an intentional attack against civilians, but it suggests that Russia has been doing this for months.

The question is, is this narrative true? The article, thankfully, provides the Russian narrative as well: Russians claimed they hit a military target. If we wanted to be thorough, and we should, we should look it up in a Russian newspaper to ensure we got their side of the story accurately. But, in this case, we don't even need this to prove who is lying, as I will shortly demonstrate. 

Of course, we could also question whether the above facts are true. We could question the date, the place, whether it was a Russian missile, and whether this whole thing is fake news with fake pictures. But therein lies madness. And besides, most importantly, the Russians have agreed to the facts and have not denied bombing the restaurant.

Similarly, if we didn't have the Russian statement, we would need to exercise our imagination and come up with all plausible alternate narratives in order to rule out other possibilities one by one. For example, it may have been a terrorist bombing unrelated to Russia, it may have been a Ukrainian missile that misfired, it may have been a Russian missile that was shot down by Ukrainian air defense and the target was not the restaurant. And so on. But, once again, we have the Russians negating all of these scenarios and confirming that the target was the restaurant.

We could also play with the theory that both of them are lying and something more nefarious is going on, but therein lies conspiracy madness. There is no reason to come up with wild scenarios unless there is a good reason to do so. Occam's Razor, the simplest and most plausible solution... and all that jazz.

So now, once again, we seemingly need to put our biases aside, and decide between narratives. The first thing we must do is recognize our own bias, whatever that may be, and recognize what we want to be true. And let's not forget that everyone has a bias. Then, while maintaining awareness of this bias, we must put it in a box temporarily, and look for a strong logical argument that proves or disproves either of the sides. Preferably several proofs if possible to make sure we are not favoring arguments.

Except that, in this case, we don't need even this kind of investigation, as the article itself has contradicted itself and revealed the liar very clearly. Have you found it yet? Take your time.

The article talks about Ukraine catching and arresting a Russian spy that provided information to Russia about the restaurant right before the missile hit. See, they couldn't help but boast about their success and wanted to put fear in the heart of Russian spies everywhere. Except they tripped themselves up with this additional desire.

Why would you need a spy to bomb a popular restaurant filled with civilians during dinner time? Anyone, including me, can get precise coordinates of any restaurant in the world using the internet. Anyone, including me, could get a list of popular restaurants in the center of a popular town. Anyone could guess what time would be best to bomb the restaurant. Why on earth would a spy be needed if there were only civilians there eating dinner in a popular restaurant?

Obviously, a military meeting was taking place and that is why a spy was involved. This makes the restaurant a military target. This confirms the Russian narrative, but, as I said, we could also be content with simply pointing out the liar. One Ukrainian goal got in the way of another, they came up with two statements to achieve both goals, and their arrogance made them contradict themselves within the same press release. QED.


I ranted about news and humans; I ranted about highly overrated and dangerous so-called 'independent' journalism and provided many different examples of extreme bias. But, most importantly, I hope I have demonstrated several mind tools for extracting truth from the news without going insane or disconnecting from the world entirely. I provided two examples that make use of several techniques. Many of these might seem obvious, common or intuitive, but how often do we actually make use of these mind tools even if we know they're there? All we need is discipline, a healthy amount of self-awareness through practice, a love for truth, the ability to scoff at our own biases no matter how angry or righteous they make us feel, and to recognize that lazy thinking will be our own undoing.

Monday, January 22, 2024

When Does Self-Defense Go Too Far?

This article is an attempt to answer Piers Morgan's great 'Moral Quandary' on the war in Gaza. It is also a follow-up to my previous article about genocide: Even if genocide is not being committed by Israel, is Israel going too far?

For weeks now I have watched Piers Morgan interview an extreme variety of guests to chime in on the war in Gaza, and he has repeatedly asked the same good question without receiving a good response even by pro-Israel spokespeople. He is obviously bothered by this question and rightfully so. I will quote his own precise wording for this question from an interview he conducted with Jordan Peterson:

"I asked Ben Shapiro what is the proportionate response to what happened on October 7th and he said there isn't one that there is no proportionate response and there shouldn't be... I also believe that Israel has a fundamental right not just to defend itself after what happened but has a duty to protect its people and it has to take that duty obviously very seriously. But if your mission statement, as they've made clear, is to eliminate Hamas completely, and Hamas live in Gaza surrounded by civilians, among civilians, you can only do that... you can only get rid of Hamas with massive civilian casualties. And that's where I have this moral quandary about how much is too much. Does Israel get a license to do whatever it wants to eliminate Hamas or should there be a limit, and if so, what is that limit?"

I don't agree with Ben Shapiro's response to Morgan. Although Shapiro qualified his statement about a necessary disproportionate response by saying that this did not include targeting civilians, he did not resolve Morgan's quandary. Even if Israel responds with an appropriate 'disproportionate response' towards Hamas while being careful about targeting civilians, and even if Hamas is the one putting civilians in harms way, the problem, as Morgan explained, is that possibly too many innocent civilians are paying the price of this justifiable military action. When does it become too much despite the military necessity and the 'human shield' nature of this war? To use an extreme example: would the goal of wiping out 30,000 verified Hamas members justify killing 2 million innocent civilians as casualties of war? Obviously not. So where is the limit? And once we define the limit, we can evaluate whether Israel has gone too far.

Also, by using the word 'proportionate', he added a legal aspect to this compound question by invoking a word from international law. The law, while not declaring all civilian deaths as illegal, still requires adequate justification (AKA proportionality) for any civilian casualties. I.e. proportionality does not mean the numbers on either side have to be comparable, as many wrongfully assume, but that the military goal should justify the number of civilian casualties. This is obviously a very ambiguous and complex requirement, which adds a legal quandary to this question, as presented by Morgan. 

To demonstrate how much this term is complex and ambiguous, here is an 86 page document covering only the legal issue of proportionality, containing debates and discussions by experts in Canada in 2016. Note that there are no answers, solutions or formulas provided throughout the document, and the scores of questions raised only manage to demonstrate how impossible it is to evaluate 'proportionality' with any type of precision. The document does give us some guidelines, albeit muddled ones.


I will try to respond to this question in a more in-depth and satisfying way by covering both the overlapping legal and moral aspects of the question.

I dived into some of the legal aspects in my previous article about genocide. To reiterate, expand and clarify: Legally, civilian casualties during war are allowed by law as long as the military goal justifies the deaths. To use an example I've seen mentioned several times: If an elusive and important military commander is driving in a vehicle with five civilians, and there is no other easy way to kill this commander without great sacrifice, depending on the kind of war this is, it would be legal to bomb the vehicle even though it would result in five civilian casualties and only one military kill.

In Gaza, not only have Hamas declared that they will repeat October 7 until Israel is destroyed, they are persistently firing missiles into Israel, targeting civilians, and have never stopped. Military goals do not get any clearer than this: The goal is to protect your own civilians from current military attacks as well as future ones. So the question becomes: how many civilian deaths are considered proportional by law in order to achieve this goal?

As I explained above, even international experts don't and can't provide a solid answer to this question because the law is very poorly and ambiguously defined. But we do have some guidelines and we can evaluate by ourselves what would make sense. For instance, I could safely claim that in order to protect your own civilians that are currently under attack (and to protect them from even worse future massacres the enemy has vowed to perform), and as long as you do everything within practical reach to reduce civilian casualties, multiple civilian casualties on the enemy's side would be very proportional towards the goal of protecting multiple civilians on your own side. And this applies to each and every attack launched or attempted by the enemy. This is the case even if the number of casualties is higher on the enemy's side. After all, your duty is first and foremost to your own civilians. The question is, how much higher?

Given the numbers I posted in my genocide post about the IDF averaging, at worst, 0.5 casualties for every bomb in Gaza, and given that Gaza has already fired 10,000 rockets into Israel (more if we include pre-October 7 attacks), and that Israel needs to stop these missiles in order to save lives, I would say that Israel is not only absurdly well within the range of a proportional response, but is also being too careful at the expense of its own soldiers and at the risk of extending the war. By warning Gaza about impending missiles, obviously their military successes will be reduced and the war will last longer.

Let us use a specific but realistic example: A single missile fired from Gaza could kill multiple civilians in Israel. Whether it actually does so or not and its low rate of success is not as important as the potential loss of life. When you shoot an armed and dangerous criminal, you don't tell yourself 'oh, he will probably miss so I will allow him to shoot this time'. Taking out a missile launcher planted inside a civilian building which could fire hundreds of missiles, could definitely save many dozens of lives. Therefore even if the building has a hundred Gazan civilians inside it, it is a valid and proportional military target. Except that Israel usually warns the civilians in that building before it bombs the building. Hence the average of 0.5 deaths per Israeli bomb. By warning the Gazans, Israel may still take out the missile launcher, but will lose the opportunity to kill the Hamas combatants hiding in that building. As you can see, not only is this example proportionate, it is arguably disproportionate in the enemy's favor.

So the legal answer to Piers Morgan is as follows: So far, Israel is being so proportionate that it sometimes hurts its military goals and risks being disproportionate in the enemy's favor. If it were to fire indiscriminately, or cause many more deaths, then you may have a moral quandary. But, so far, given the numbers, Israel is well within the boundaries of proportionality, given the constant and current threat to civilian lives posed by Hamas. Just remember what I said above: That it is not about comparable numbers of casualties, but about military goals and the amount and quality of imminent as well as potential threats that need to be stopped.

But What About The Humanity?

I will now add a different approach that is less cold, and which addresses and prioritizes the moral and human aspects of the question:

Let's eliminate governments, wars and states from the equation and use a simplified and more relatable example: Imagine a psychotic murderer goes on a rampage in a park shooting civilians including children. The police respond and target him with their guns, except that he has grabbed a civilian hostage and is holding the hostage close to obstruct the line of fire. The problem is, while the criminal is holding the hostage as a shield, he is also about to shoot the policemen, or other civilians. Can a policeman shoot through the hostage to take the criminal down in order to save his own life? How about shooting dangerously close to the hostage in order to save other civilians?

This is called an imminent threat and, to the best of my knowledge, a policeman is normally allowed to shoot in this case, even at risk of killing the hostage. This would make sense since not only is this an act of self-defense, but refusing to shoot can place other policemen and civilians at risk, and it is therefore arguably his duty. Giving his life for the hostage is not even an option since it's not merely his life at risk. Plus, the hostage may not survive in any case. Obviously he should try to aim at the criminal behind the hostage as precisely as he can, or at least minimize damage to the hostage, but he has no choice but to shoot in this scenario even if the hostage dies as a result. The final decision is a possible risk to the hostage, but a definite save for other civilians.

(As a side-note, Judaism is actually much more strict in this case in terms of his ability to shoot, but is more permissive in circumstances of war. According to rabbis, there is a vast difference between individual cases of life and death where you are often not allowed to kill innocents in order to save others, versus war. This is because war is defined as a fight between nations, not individuals, and it is often impossible for one side to try to guess the intentions of each and every civilian during a war. And civilians, by default, are involved in their nation that has chosen to go to war. For example, they could leave, revolt or surrender if they don't want to become involved. To be clear, Judaism still demands mercy and judicious, discriminate killing, it just doesn't ludicrously define all civilians as innocent and protected just because they didn't pick up a gun. Compare this to the massive confusion of the law of proportionality described previously where you risk people's lives trying to separate friend from foe, which is often an impossible task. But, in this article, I am restricting myself to common law and popular morality.)

At this point, Piers Morgan would probably ask, what if the park criminal has taken ten or more civilians hostage? How far do we take this scenario? Is there no limit to self-defense?

One answer is that, in this scenario, many more than ten civilians could get killed if the ten hostages are not put at risk and possibly killed as casualties. Because if the policemen put down their guns, the murderer would continue on his rampage. In fact, in our scenario, the murderer is still actively continuing on his rampage even while under fire (by firing rockets) and has declared his intention to continue killing every civilian he meets.

How far can this go? We could ask what is a proportionate response to an active threat to kill 7 million civilians by an army that has proven able and more than willing to complete the task? And in case you think this is unrealistic and just bluster on their part, since they face a superior army, just imagine what would happen if Iran supplied Gaza with weapons of mass destruction. Or if multiple Arab countries overwhelmed Israel all at once, leaving Hamas free to perform continuous massacres. Plus, the next massacre could involve 100,000 instead of 1,400. Their attacks have been growing in intensity for decades. It must be put to a stop at some point before it gets even worse.

But there is another moral argument to be made here, one that is overlooked by most people: I have misrepresented reality in all of my above examples by stating that the civilian casualties and hostages are innocent bystanders. What if they aren't?

In the above scenario in the park, imagine if there is another park pedestrian on the scene who hates the police and other civilians of a specific race so strongly that he actually cheers the murderer onward and encourages his attacks, and even helps him by warning him about policemen sneaking up on him, thus putting lives in danger. Then, in a plot twist, the criminal grabs this misanthropic, racist individual and uses him as his hostage. Would you feel bad if the policeman misses and shoots this version of the hostage unintentionally? Or would you feel that this is karma?

To be clear: Intentionally targeting this despicable hostage is still not legal according to international law since he is not a combatant. (This absurd law seriously needs to be revised). But, morally speaking, is his accidental death still a tragedy? And how far should policemen go to save his life? Should a policeman risk his own life to save this 'hostage'? Should he delay his shot and risk other civilians by doing so? And so on. The answers to such questions change radically given the background and behavior of the hostage.

What I am claiming here is that not all civilian deaths are moral quandaries. Sure, small children are always tragedies. But not all civilians in Gaza are innocent and not all of them deserve extra protection, morally speaking.

First of all remember that Hamas purposely do not wear uniforms, and many of the so-called civilians are anything but non-combatants.

But imagine if an actual non-combatant civilian does any or all of the following: He cheers whenever Hamas kills an Israeli civilian or launches a missile, votes for Hamas, supports terrorism in polls, expresses his opinion publicly that Israel must be destroyed, violently attacks or humiliates hostages brought back by Hamas, allows Hamas to use his home for storing weapons, helps Hamas digs tunnels and build weapons, broadcasts Hamas propaganda and lies on the internet, and so on. Gazan 'civilians' have been proven to do all of these things and more, often on video. International law says that these people are not military targets since they are non-combatants. And yet they are doing everything they can to help kill Israeli civilians without actually picking up a gun. And this means that they are protected and that a soldier should possibly risk his life to avoid killing them. The law doesn't get more absurd than this.

Take this gentleman as a single example. This link presents a video from an Israeli news channel posted a couple of weeks after October 7th. At the 2:35 mark, it shows a Palestinian civilian cheering Hamas as they fire rockets at Israeli civilians, and using his internet channel to spread Hamas propaganda. Two weeks later, this same gentleman is shown crying in a hospital at the horrible consequences that have been unleashed on Gaza. Is his suffering a tragedy or karma? Should soldiers bend over backwards and risk their lives to try and protect this civilian from the consequences of the war he encouraged? Note that this is a mild example. There have been videos of civilians even attacking hostages.

Finally, I will repeat what I said in a previous article about the often-used quotes from Israeli politicians and media personalities when they talk about Gazan civilians being responsible and involved: They are most definitely involved, as I argued above. That does not make them legal military targets, and it doesn't mean these politicians intend to target them directly, but it also doesn't mean we have to risk our lives or make super-human efforts to save them from the war that they themselves helped launch. There is no moral quandary when it comes to such civilians.

Closing Thoughts

Granted, this last argument is not a comprehensive one and only covers a subsection of civilians, excluding young children who are obviously innocent. But given that 90% of civilian Palestinians support terrorism and 75% want to destroy Israel consistently in many polls, this does cover an overwhelming majority, including women and teenage 'children' that are capable of making moral decisions. However, this article is a compound answer to a compound question, and one must combine everything I said here to get a satisfying response, including its legal and practical aspects.

One final note regarding the poor, suffering, innocent children in Gaza: I am reminded of the interview I saw with a Zaka worker. The job of these workers is to collect body parts and blood of the deceased and ensure they get a dignified burial. Some of them have seen atrocities and horrible accidents for decades. But October 7 broke them completely. In this interview, the despicable Channel 4 interviewer tries to raise the same old equivalent-morality argument with a man who is emotionally broken and asks him about the suffering children in Gaza. His response:

"My heart is very with them. I wish I could save them. I wish I can have those families bring them here to my house; the problem is Hamas won't let them."

When asked: "Isn't the danger that the cycle of hatred of violence of revenge is just perpetuated?" He answers: "That's war. And who started the war?"

Monday, January 15, 2024

Genocide, and How to Do It Right

Palestinian murderers committed genocide on October 7th 2023. They did this with the support of 75-90% of the civilian population who even celebrated in the streets. They chased every single Israeli civilian they could find of any age, and killed, raped, mutilated, beheaded, or took them hostage (sometimes a combination of the above). This included babies in their cribs, 85 year old people with medical problems, families and their children in their homes, party-goers at a peace party, and even foreign workers and Israeli Arabs. Every human being they encountered in their path was a target, not only shooting unarmed people in the streets, but shooting them again once they were down, and then sometimes mutilating them.

We know all this because they filmed themselves doing it and published their acts proudly, even boasting of their massacres to their own proud parents that praised their deeds. Many horrifying videos have circulated on the internet that they published themselves, including one with Palestinians taking a mutilated, naked girl back to Gaza to cheering crowds, another involving burnt babies, and one where a man takes his two small children into a shelter and a Palestinian throws a grenade into the shelter, showing two shocked children covered in their father's blood. There is even a video of a Palestinian terrorist trying to behead a Thai farm worker repeatedly with a hoe. And these are only the beginning of their atrocities, many of their gruesome acts have only witnesses without videos.

This was not a one-time act of wild, angry bloodthirstiness that went out of control; it was systematic and pre-meditated. Hamas has been blowing up Israeli children for decades in terrorist bombings since the 80s, the leadership have carefully planned this massacre, providing maps of non-military villages, and providing written instructions to their soldiers to kill everyone, and Hamas have declared their intention to kill every Jew and destroy Israel completely in their official charter since its inception and until today, and have publicly declared their intention to repeat October 7 until Israel is destroyed.

Genocide has never been more clearly defined since the Holocaust, in both self-declared, written and documented intentions, as well as in actual deeds. And, incredibly, the evidence is provided by the perpetrators themselves. This fact makes this genocide even worse than the Holocaust. The Nazis, infamously, took actions to make the massacres of Jews more 'humane' for German soldiers, not in order to reduce suffering for Jews but to relieve the stress that massacring Jews had on German soldiers. And they tried to hide their actions from the rest of the world with staged camps in order to hide what the real concentration camps were all about. Whereas Palestinians film and proudly show off their own massacres even to their own parents.

One fact is absolutely clear: If God and Israeli soldiers hadn't intervened, the Palestinians would have continued massacring Jews for months, and we would have had seven million Jews dead, not just 1200. A second Holocaust. Except, this time, it would have been shared on social media by the perpetrators.

In response, Israel launched a counter-attack and invasion of Gaza with the goal of stopping these butchers from continuing their genocidal plans. Then, in a disturbingly absurd act of blaming the victim, people around the world accused Israel, not Palestinians, of committing genocide. 

This behavior is not new. Even back in 1961, the famous Professor Toynbee accused Israel of committing atrocities against aggressive Palestinians equivalent to the Nazis in WWII, and was promptly challenged to a debate by the great Herzog who completely dismantled Toynbee's arguments with a quality of debating skill that is sorely lacking today.

Given all this, South Africa's accusations of Israeli genocide at the International Court of Justice on 11th-12th of Jan 2024 is a mere drop in a sludgy bucket of centuries of blood libels. The only difference is now that Jews are fighting back, their self-defense is included in the libels as evidence of atrocities.

But I have now committed the same mistake made by most Israeli spokespeople: That of using emotional rhetoric to fight a carefully worded legal argument. Calling out Palestinian brutality does not adequately address the accusation of Israeli genocide, because one genocide does not justify another. The fact is that many people actually believe these accusations against Israel are true.

Therefore, in order to properly dismantle this argument, I will show how it falls apart under its own non-logic.

How Would You Commit Genocide?

Let us start with a simple but compelling argument. Ask yourself a very simple question: Imagine you were intending to commit genocide against a nation or ethnic group, and that you had many tens of thousands of hi-tech bombs and a well equipped army at your disposal. Not only that, but imagine that your target, unlike Ukraine for example, is not equipped with a strong air defense. Also, the civilians don't have bomb shelters because their leaders didn't bother investing in these before they start wars. On top of everything else, you are equipped with satellites and drones that let you know where your enemy is crowding.

I don't know about you, but if I had genocide in my mind, I would make every bomb count. I would target the most densely populated areas and buildings and try to take out hundreds of people with every single bomb. I would target hospitals and schools packed with crowds of civilians, as well as the tallest buildings with the most families and residents, not provide any warning, and take out an average of several dozens of people at minimum with each and every bomb, with some massive bombs taking out thousands in a single explosion. I wouldn't target only hospital parking lots, I would target the most densely packed areas of the hospital and carpet bomb the whole compound. (That infamous hospital had tens of thousands of easy crowded targets that could have been taken out in one go.)

Just to use a recent example, the bombing of the Suleimani memorial event in Iran on 3rd Jan 2024 killed at least 100 people with only two passive bombs left at the scene. Imagine how many deaths could be caused with massive 2000-pound precision bombs from above, and any precise location in Gaza as a possible target. It could be a smorgasbord of easy and continuous massacres. Granted, not every bomb would be such a resounding massacring success, but at the very least, each bomb could take out dozens of family members in their homes.

Now, having painted this horrifying scenario, let's study and compare actual numbers:

As of today, Israel has bombed Gaza with over 45,000 bombs (65,000 tonnes). Even if my hypothetical bloodthirsty bombing campaign was riddled with incompetence and I only managed an average of 20 people killed per bomb (one fifth of the low-tech bomb in Iran), I should have killed one million Palestinians by now. Killed, not wounded. Almost everyone else in Gaza's 2-million population would be wounded.

The actual numbers of Gazan deaths as of today? 24,000. And let's not forget this number comes from Hamas, an extremely unreliable source to say the least. Also, this number does not state how many of these 24,000 are combatants. But even if we take this number at face value, we have an average of 0.5 deaths per bomb. That's not even one death per bomb. And that's without excluding the deaths caused by ground troops versus bombs, and without excluding combatants. The actual number of civilian deaths from bombs is likely to be around 0.2 per bomb given the thousands of militants claimed killed by the IDF. That's five bombs to kill one single civilian.

Even the most incompetent army on the planet couldn't be this ineffectual at genocide if they tried, assuming they were bloodthirsty. And we have even used the enemy's casualty numbers, an enemy that uses these numbers to get world opinion on their side. Obviously, the only possible explanation for this extremely low number of casualties is that Israel is actively and constantly trying to reduce civilian deaths with careful bombing, warning campaigns, and so on. In other words, everything that Israel has been claiming to do.

Not to mention that Israel has sent troops into Gaza for a more surgical war and has already suffered 200 deaths and a couple thousand of wounded soldiers. Once again, if Israel were genocidal, what would be the point of sending soldiers to their deaths instead of simply carpet bombing the whole of Gaza until everyone is dead? Even with terrorists hiding in tunnels, all the IDF has to do is blow up the buildings covering these tunnels, and then bomb them when they poke their heads out of remaining tunnels to launch missiles. Or, use bunker-busting bombs.

This conclusion is inevitable math, even given the numbers provided by Hamas. And all the criticism thrown at Israel from various politicians, including the alleged use of indiscriminate unguided bombs, and the use of too-powerful 2000-pound bombs, only bolster this counter-argument. If the bombing campaign was so indiscriminate in such densely populated areas, how did it result in, at worst, 0.5 deaths per bomb? Ironically, the more bombs Israel uses, the stronger the argument becomes against genocide, because the casualty numbers constantly prove a non-genocidal intent.


Once you absorb this simple and incontrovertible mathematical argument and its consequences, many other arguments fall apart. It doesn't matter what Israeli politicians meant when they referred to Palestinians as animals or Amalek. The facts on the ground prove their intentions and force only one possible interpretation of their words. And genocide is all about intent. This is both a legal and logical definition. I will explain why below when I deal with South Africa.

As an example of intent and the difficulties in establishing such intent, let us take the often used example of Israeli leaders referring to Palestinians as 'Amalek': Some people think this points to intentions of genocide, given that the bible talks about killing every last Amalekian man, woman and child. First of all, there is no proof that he wasn't referring to Hamas when he said this, as opposed to civilians. And wiping out every last Hamas member, a militant and terrorist organization, is a perfectly legal wartime goal, and has no resemblance to genocide. Most of the other quotes from Israeli leaders I've seen used to prove this point are similarly referring to Hamas, not Palestinian civilians, and there is no evidence to the contrary. This includes the famous quote 'we are fighting animals'. The word 'fighting' is a clue as to who he was referring to. Civilians don't fight. The only problem here is that calling Hamas animals is an insult to animals. But there is no intent to commit genocide here, only an intent to wipe out a cruel enemy of terrorists and militants.

Secondly, Amalek has other symbolic meanings for Jews besides killing everyone. Amalek refers to an ancient sworn nemesis and enemy, and Hamas fits the bill. Invoking Amalek doesn't mean that Israel is invoking the instructions that came along with it. If this were the case, Israel would have priests anointing soldiers with oil and sending them home if they planted a vineyard recently. Invoking Amalek merely means that they are a modern day version of a sworn ancient enemy that have been attacking and torturing Israel for decades. And now that you see the actual casualty numbers of the war, there is no longer a debate of what they meant when they said these words, as their actual intentions are proven by deeds, facts and numbers.

As far as the quote from President Herzog is concerned, all he said was that "it is an entire nation out there that is responsible. It's not true this rhetoric about civilians not aware, not involved. They could have risen up, they could have fought against that evil regime which took over Gaza in a coup 'd état.". Which is a basic truth. Add to this the polls that prove that the vast majority of civilians support Hamas, which definitely makes them responsible. But, and here is the key issue: 'Responsibility' does not mean that they become valid military targets. One does not follow the other. This is obvious to everyone except the most simple-minded. And, once again, the proof is in IDF's actual actions on the ground.

This applies to other similar quotes about no uninvolved citizens in Gaza. First of all this is a true fact given many polls. Second, just because they are 'involved', that does not mean soldiers systematically want to, or have killed civilians on purpose. It only means that they are evil and immoral citizens and deserve no sympathy. Granted, this is only one step away from actually killing civilians, but this does not mean that a majority of Israelis took this step. Again, look at the numbers for proof.

An exception: Quotes from the extremists Ben Gvir, Amihai Eliyahu, and Smotrich are indefensible. But they are not in the war cabinet and even Netanyahu doesn't agree with them. He merely formed a coalition with them. So once again, these views do not reflect actions on the ground. This applies to all other quotes from Israeli extremists that do not have any effect on the army and its policies. What these quotes prove is merely that Israel has its share of extremists, just like any other country. The question is, who is in charge and what is the end result. And I answered this question already.

As far as not providing aid, water and electricity to Gaza is concerned: This is the most absurd accusation of them all. Imagine if Britain was accused of a war crime for not providing goods and fuel to Germany during WWII. In addition, Gazans had ample time, money and aid to become self sufficient, as proven by the tunnels they built. Israel providing power to Gaza is charity for a people that not only refuses to build their own civilization, but also used Israel's charity to attack Israel. Just imagine accusing a victim of committing the crime of not providing his attacker with more weapons to attack him with, and you'll have an inkling of how absurd this is.

Similarly, Israel sent numerous warnings to Gazans to move to different locations in Gaza in order to avoid bombings and save their lives, and there were several attempts to evacuate Gazans out of war-torn Gaza completely for the same reason. As usual, antisemites use a humanitarian act by Israel against Israel, accusing Israel of attempting to permanently displace or harm Gazan civilians, thus committing a war crime. Damned if you do, and damned if you don't. But the argument is saying that this evacuation may have had ulterior motives. Once again, ask yourself, what would displacement with intent to commit genocide look like, and what behavior by the army would be consistent with such intent? And what would an actual evacuation intended to save lives look like? Which scenario is more consistent with the facts and casualty figures? And which would be a more efficient way to commit genocide?

But Wait, There Are Many Ways to Commit Genocide

...including, according to South Africa, by not providing jobs and electricity to people in neighboring countries. I kid you not.

To be fair, the South African accusation against Israel is much more subtle than just 'Israel is attempting to kill everyone with bombs'. And I will go into their accusations in more detail forthwith. But my above argument is nevertheless a solid base with which to argue against many claims, since it proves actual intent through actions, as well as demonstrates an army that is following moral guidelines. Again, all you have to do is imagine what the behavior of a genocidal army is supposed to look like, and then compare this to the actual picture on the ground. If you intend to enable genocide of a people by other means such as starvation, for example, would you then risk the lives of thousands of soldiers with a ground invasion? If you wanted them all dead, would you warn them to leave the building before a bombing? And would you provide aid to their hospitals and bakeries beyond what was demanded by the UN?

Before we get into the claims, an important preamble should put them all in their proper context and emphasize what kind of proof we are looking for: 'Genocide' is much more than just a mass of people dying and suffering from war. A war of self defense is legal, and civilian casualties suffered during such a war does not even constitute a war crime, let alone genocide. To prove that even a war crime has occurred, proof of civilian deaths is not enough. One would have to go into intent and proportionality. And 'proportionality' is not what most people think at all. It is not a matter of comparable numbers; It is a highly complex and ambiguous term that depends on the quality of intended military goals versus the amount of damage and deaths that a military action inevitably causes. Each case would have to be carefully studied to evaluate this issue of intent/goals versus damage. And all this is for proving a war crime. To prove genocide goes even further than this, and one would have to prove intent against an ethnic group as a whole, or at least towards most of this group.

Given this, even many thousands of civilian deaths may not necessarily constitute a war crime, let alone genocide. Just because one nation is killing members of another nation, including civilians, that doesn't qualify as genocide. If that were the case, every non-civil-war that has ever taken place in history, would be classified as genocide. This absurdity was somehow overlooked by Professor Toynbee in 1961 in the aforementioned debate, and he conceded this point. So even if one shows mountains of evidence of tragic civilian deaths, this doesn't even begin to qualify as a legal case worth discussing, because civilians deaths are not necessarily illegal

Some additional notes about this court case:

  • Normally, Israel ignores the UN and its court's accusations and decisions as being inherently biased and refuses to accept their jurisdiction or patently warped interpretations of international law and the Geneva Convention. By international law, the international court only has jurisdiction over countries that are signed parties to such laws and courts. So for example, Israel has not signed the Rome Statute. Therefore, normally, any deliberations by the UN about war crimes would not have any effect on Israel except in political terms, since the ICC has no legal jurisdiction. But, in this case, the law invoked is the Genocide Convention, a treaty that Israel has adopted. Which is probably why Israel has made an exception and built a defense.

  • That said, using legalese, Mr Shaw has argued that even this case shouldn't fall under the jurisdiction of the ICJ, but we won't go into that.

  • The Israelis did a pretty good job as far as I can see, but only if one filters out the rhetoric, the less critical side-issues, legalese, and less effective arguments. There are still strong arguments to be found regarding the core accusations, especially if one ties everything together as a cohesive structure of many parts. But if one focuses only on the weaker arguments and points and ignores the critical arguments, it may not seem like they did a good job. So here's hoping the judges pay attention. For example, many of the arguments deal with Israel's right to defend itself (arguing that the court cannot abrogate this right in the many ways demanded by South Africa). Which is an important point to make so that the judges take this into account when deliberating, but this does not address the accusations themselves. Many arguments deal with the context of the war and Hamas's brutality and war tactics, thus explaining away some of the alleged atrocities and tactics seen in the war. For example, the fact that Hamas uses civilians as human shields is correct and does explain many of the civilian deaths, but this still does not eliminate the possibility of genocide on Israel's part despite this fact. But amidst all this material, there are good arguments, some similar to the ones I make here. And there are also pages of valuable evidence concerning Israel's many acts of aid to Gazan civilians even during the war. But what I am trying to do here is present other arguments they didn't use that deal with the internal logic of such accusations, as well to strengthen and emphasize the important throwaway arguments they made, without the legalese.

Links: The index of transcripts. The 84-page initial written document ("Application Instituting Proceedings") summarizing evidence and accusations by South Africa. First oral arguments by South Africa. First oral counter-arguments by Israel.

The South African team has made several important claims and accusations, most of them summarized in the introductory sections, including:

  • Defining Israel's acts as: "genocidal in character because they are intended to bring about the destruction of a substantial part of the Palestinian national, racial and ethnic group, that being the part of the Palestinian group in the Gaza Strip"
  • Committing genocide both by: "failing to prevent genocide, and by committing genocide." Failing to prevent genocide includes: "failing to prevent or punish the direct and public incitement to genocide by senior Israeli officials and others."
  • More subtly, genocide is not committed blatantly by bombings but by: "deliberately inflicting on them conditions of life calculated to bring about their physical destruction as a group". (My emphasis on words of intent). This includes "starvation of civilians as a method of warfare". And "failure to provide or ensure essential food, water, medicine, fuel, shelter and other humanitarian assistance for the besieged and blockaded Palestinian people, which has pushed them to the brink of famine." Etc.
  • Included in the above is: "Forcing the evacuation of 1.9 million people or 85% of the population of Gaza from their homes and herding them into ever smaller areas, without adequate shelter, in which they continue to be attacked, killed and harmed "
  • Also this is placed in a broader context of historical intent to commit genocide: "South Africa is also aware that acts of genocide inevitably form part of a continuum ... For this reason it is important to place the acts of genocide in the broader context of Israel’s conduct towards Palestinians during its 75-year-long apartheid, its 56-year-long belligerent occupation of Palestinian territory and its 16-year-long blockade of Gaza, including the serious and ongoing violations of international law associated therewith, including grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention."
  • They even accuse Israel of regular war crimes by: "intentionally directing attacks against the civilian population", somehow claiming to know their intent when said civilians were killed.
  • To back all this up, they list numerous facts, quotes and figures of death, suffering and destruction, and also include quotes from various Israelis leaders that they interpret as genocidal (I responded to this in the previous section), as well as precedent decisions by the UN on previous wars between Israel and Palestinians.

As you can see, this well thought out argument avoids accusations of genocide through direct killings and claims the indirect but deliberate causation of genocide through various acts or omissions by Israel, backed by words that convey the intent to commit genocide. Which is smart, except it also makes its own job much harder, because it has to prove genocidal intent through indirect actions, or through intentionally malicious neglect to stop genocide. And it can only do this, as explained, by showing that actions of the Israeli leadership and army are dissimilar to a regular army in any regular non-genocidal war, actions of war that lack justified military goals, causing unjustified death and destruction to most of the population, thus possibly falling under the extreme category of genocide. Does it achieve this? Let's look at their evidence:

  • They provide many statistics about the extreme bombing campaign in Gaza. Except that a heavy bombing campaign with an extreme amount of bombs, although unusual, does not necessarily denote a war crime, as explained above. Not only that, but it resulted in an extremely and unusually low amount of deaths. So the numbers prove the exact opposite of what they are trying to claim.

  • And if one were to argue that Israel shouldn't have dropped so many bombs in the first place, notwithstanding the relatively low level of casualties, the fact is that Gaza fired over 10,000 missiles into Israel. A clear case of proportional self-defense. Just imagine every time they launch missiles, Israel targets the buildings the weapons were stored in and/or the buildings they were launched from. In addition, bombs are used by Israel to protect the soldiers going into Gaza and to stop Hamas fighters. Either way there is not even a shred of evidence here for genocidal intent.

  • There is a lot of evidence given of the dire situation in Gaza. Many of the quotes used as evidence are highly questionable. Just because a Hamas member working for the UN declares a humanitarian crisis in Gaza, that does not make it true. For example, there were numerous claims of a severe fuel shortage in hospitals causing deaths, even though we saw video evidence of fuel depots in Gaza hoarded by Hamas and not shared with hospitals. But even if all the evidence is true, most wars involving civilian cities result in emptied and destroyed cities, millions of displaced civilians, overrun hospitals, humanitarian crises, terribly wounded civilians, psychological traumas, and refugees that suffer in crowded and bad conditions. (Even in this war, half a million Jews on the Israeli side have been displaced thanks to Hamas and Hezbollah bombings.) So what exactly makes this war different that defines it as genocide? If a war is waged from homes, and these are used for launching missiles, then said homes are valid military targets. Even schools and hospitals become legal military targets according to international law if they are used for attacks or for military purposes. None of these facts prove a war crime or genocide. In order to prove war crimes, it is not enough to demonstrate that homes, schools and hospitals have been bombed and that civilians are suffering; One has to prove that they weren't a valid military target or that the counter-attack was disproportionate. And just because all civilians in Gaza are suffering, that does not point to a war crime on Israel's part. It only proves that this is a tragic war similar to all other tragic but legal wars with countless cases of civilian suffering.
  • Similarly, presenting large numbers of instances of civilian deaths and destruction does not change the equation. If a militant fires a rocket from a hospital, and the IDF is forced to attack this hospital in self defense, and this scenario repeats itself a thousand times with a thousand variations, then no war crime has been committed even though it has happened a thousand times. A hundred apples do not add up to a bushel of oranges.

  • As they wrote in their accusations, there has to be a calculated strategy to inflict this on civilians, and deliberate intent to destroy the population. But where is the proof of such intent? In order to prove genocide, for example, one has to show that several of these military acts were not self defense and therefore had other goals in mind, and this has to be proven systematically taking into account exceptions due to mistakes or rogue soldiers. Barring this, there is nothing here except self-defense. This whole mountain of evidence is useless because it doesn't prove the legal claim of intent. It only proves that it's a horrible war.

  • Logically, one can even go as far as saying that ongoing acts of self-defense do not prove intent of genocide, even if the whole population is destroyed as a result. Think about it: If your enemy keeps coming after you one after another until they have been 100% destroyed, there has been no crime of genocide even though a whole nation has been destroyed. There was no intent to commit genocide, therefore there was no crime. Multiple acts of self defense do not add up to a criminal intent to commit genocide, regardless of the outcome.

These counter-arguments take care of all the damage and destruction in Gaza, as well as the military actions performed by Israel, and its intent. Thus the one type of evidence needed to prove intent of genocide, is completely lacking in the whole 84-page document. The primary problem is that they have omitted evidence that would re-categorize all of the violence as anything other than self-defense.

But now comes the other side of the coin which they include in their arguments, the sins of omission: One can argue that it is the obligation of this self-defense army to protect non-combatants on the other side as much as possible despite any acts of self defense. But the key phrase here is 'as much as possible'. To prove a war crime, one has to prove that more could have been done to protect civilians without paying too high a price. This is where the claims start that Israel has not allowed enough aid into Gaza, or not performed enough humanitarian pauses, or has blocked water and fuel, and so on, thus allegedly demonstrating that Israel is interested in an outcome where most of Gaza has been wiped out in one way or another.

  • First, you can read the Israeli response with pages of examples of aid and humanitarian support provided by and enabled by Israel before and during the war. Israel even has a military branch called COGAT that deals with humanitarian issues in Gaza, a unit that was attacked in October 7 and continues to provide aid to Gaza even after an attack on COGAT by Gaza. Oh, the irony.

  • Even if one would try to claim that this aid wasn't enough, or that it was implemented in a problematic way by Israel, what this long list proves is that Israel is not genocidal. Not providing enough aid despite best efforts, or doing so incompetently, is not indicative of genocidal intent. Again, the key is intent and effort, not the actual results and suffering in Gaza. Without intent there is no crime of genocide.

  • Logically, the accusations fail completely because they only bring evidence of the dire situation in Gaza as proof that Israel intends to commit genocide. Except that one does not follow the other. If a doctor loses ten patients in one day, this doesn't prove that the doctor intended to kill them. You have to actually prove that the doctor didn't do enough by providing concrete examples of what else the doctor could have done, and then discussing whether this was within practical reach of the doctor. Once again, the core requirements of demonstrating intent of genocide are missing. This is not even a justifiable court case.

Another outrageous claim was made that : "Notwithstanding its ‘disengagement’, Israel continues to exercise control over the airspace, territorial waters, land crossings, water, electricity, electromagnetic sphere and civilian infrastructure in Gaza, as well as over key governmental functions, such as the management of the Palestinian population registry for Gaza. Given that continuing effective control by Israel over the territory, Gaza is still considered by the international community to be under belligerent occupation by Israel."  Let's go over this canard as well:

  • Airspace and territorial waters were both used to massacre Jews on October 7 (using gliders and boats). So evidently, there was not enough control by Israel. Given that Gaza continues to attack Israel ever since the 2006 disengagement, not only is controlling their airspace a legal act of self-defense, it is the absolute minimum under the circumstances. In fact, occupying Gaza completely would have been legal as well. Even the West Bank occupation in 1967 is seen as legal by the UN given Palestinian aggression, in the same way that the Allies occupying Germany after WWII was legal. The question of illegality only arose later due to a continuing occupation. But the 1967 occupation was legal at the time even by UN standards. Look it up and keep in mind this distinction of initial vs. ongoing occupation. My point here concerning Gaza, however, is that even a full occupation would have been legal by international law under the circumstances of constant Gazan attacks and missiles. It's just that Israel doesn't want the headache. So minimal airspace control is not only legal, it is humanitarian restraint under these circumstances. To claim that it is genocidal is absurd.

  • Land crossings: So now closed borders between countries are illegal? How many countries does this turn into genocidal criminals based on their closed borders? Also, what about Gaza's border with Egypt? Is Egypt genocidal too?

  • Water and electricity: Since when does one country owe another country water and electricity? Especially when they use it to attack your country. Same goes for jobs. Gazans used their jobs in Israel for information to better attack Israel. The Gazans could have built their own power plants and water desalination plants, more efficient farms, and so on. Instead they bought hundreds of thousands of weapons, and built hundreds of kilometers of tunnels with air-conditioning and amenities. They even converted water pipes into missiles.

  • "Management of the Palestinian population registry for Gaza". Since when does keeping track of belligerent civilians in a neighboring country classify as occupation? It's not as if Hamas didn't and couldn't keep their own population registry. Tracking does not equate with control.

  • Restricted imports into Gaza: The only restrictions imposed by Israel were on goods that could be used as weapons. (Obviously, it wasn't restrictive enough). Once again, this is minimal and legal considering the circumstances. But it doesn't even qualify as a full blown occupation, let alone genocide.

  • In short, Gaza had its own laws, its own elections, its own government, billions in aid from countries around the world, lucrative neighborhoods and shopping malls, and the freedom to do whatever they want in Gaza, except wage war with Israel. They could even leave Gaza for Egypt and Europe, assuming these entities accepted them. Israel owes them nothing, and yet still helps them out. The only restrictions on Gaza were on their ability to wage war, and these restrictions are legal under the laws of war. So what this claim is actually saying is that Gaza did not have the freedom to kill Jews, and therefore was under occupation.

Other points:

  • The many quotes they bring from biased UN deliberations, or by antisemitic or misguided politicians, obviously don't qualify as evidence. They even bring mountains of 'evidence' on the extreme situation in Gaza by Hamas officials and UNRWA workers (an organization proven to be overrun with Hamas members) as if this constitutes evidence. Since when is propaganda evidence?

  • There are many more accusations of past crimes by Israel in Gaza and the West Bank which we will not go into, since they repeat the same fallacies and lack of proof for genocide that I described above.

  • Individual cases of soldiers allegedly committing war crimes, are at worst, assuming the accusations are true, individual cases of war crimes. This happens in every war and every army. What it doesn't prove is systematic intent of genocide. I have no problem believing that some extreme Israeli soldiers with an immoral sense of violent justice or warped Zionistic ideology did bad things in Gaza. But this still does not prove intent of genocide by Israel as a country and as an army. It means some soldiers should be prosecuted. Just the same as any army in any war.

  • Repeated displacements of civilians to different locations and changing safe zones are not war crimes. All wars change, expand and evolve, and as they do, different zones become safe or unsafe as a matter of course. To evacuate civilians from changing war zones is not only not a war crime, it is the opposite of a war crime, and a moral duty.

  • The one argument in the whole document that has some merit involves the numerous quotes from several Israelis in the public eye that blatantly talked about extreme actions against civilians in Gaza. As explained above, these extremists do not affect government or army policy, therefore they do not indicate genocide on the part of Israel as a country. Though it is not illegal to have an extreme opinion as Israel is a democratic country, there may be valid arguments regarding incitement and demands for actions to suppress such incitement. But, once again, if actions on the ground do not reflect genocide, then this alleged incitement obviously has had no effect. Either way, this by itself does not prove Israel's intent to commit genocide.


Closing Thoughts

I'll reiterate a theme repeated throughout most of this article: If you take any war that is waged in a city populated with mostly civilians, and then you collect every death, every tragedy, all traumas, horrible wounds and damages, every act by every war-crazed soldier, mistaken shooting or bombing, civilian casualty, and so on, you will get a document of horrors that is guaranteed to be even longer than 84 pages and will seemingly portray one or both sides as monstrous. But the question here is not whether war is horrible, but whether more is taking place than just war. All these accusations have failed to prove that this is more than horrible war.

Are there extremists in Israel with a mindset that includes war crimes? Undoubtedly. But the key question is whether the extremists are in charge. I have provided numbers that prove who is in charge.

Genocide is a scary, powerful word, and no one knows this word better than the Jews. I suggest that people imagine and realize what genocide actually looks like before throwing this word around carelessly. In this case, all you need to reach a decision on who is actually committing genocide and who isn't, involves simple math, and mountains of evidence provided by the Palestinians themselves.