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Pure innocents

The fallen

Alan Dershowitz ((Previously in “Alan Dershowitz”: Personally.)) perceives a “close question”: ((Via Chris Bertram at Crooked Timber.))

It is a close question whether “civilians” who agree to participate in the breaking of a military blockade have become combatants. They are certainly something different from pure innocents, and perhaps they are also somewhat different from pure armed combatants.

It is instructive to observe the workings of this fine legal mind over the course of a mere two sentences, firstly prejudging his own close question by putting the word “civilians” in fastidious scare-quotes, and then segueing — almost imperceptibly! — from the legal language of civilians and combatants to the entirely non-legal, theological-moral essentialism of pure innocents.

I myself agree that the passengers on the boat were, in all likelihood, not pure innocents; but the discussion cannot stop there: in all honesty, I must stipulate that I myself am not a pure innocent. Does that mean it would be okay for the I“D”F to shoot me? Would Dershowitz himself claim to be a pure innocent, and if not, is it okay for the I“D”F to shoot him?

Of course, if one has to be a pure innocent to qualify as immune from Israeli attack, the imaginative Dershowitz has, at a single magnificent stroke of Unspeak, here provided a permanent and universal justification for Israeli soldiers killing anyone, anywhere, ever, except perhaps for newborn babies.

Are you pure innocents, readers?

  1. 1  Katherine Farmar  June 8, 2010, 1:54 pm 

    The Impure Innocents would be a good name for a band…

  2. 2  Jean-Pierre  June 8, 2010, 6:37 pm 

    Alas, not even newborns, for “In Adam’s Fall/ We finned all.”

  3. 3  democracy_grenade  June 9, 2010, 1:06 am 

    What’s a “close question”? Is it a question the “right” and “wrong” answers to which are packed unusually closed together, and thus difficult to separate? Is it like a close shave: dangerous, dicey, but necessary & relieving? (The first meaning might suggest or activate the latter, I suppose.) Or is it an imminent question, likely to stir debate in coming times, to which Dershowitz has applied himself with commendable foresight? tells me that “close” can also mean “not deviating from the subject under consideration”, which would make sense — tho’ surely anyone who has to assure his speakers that the question he intends to ask “does not deviate from the subject” is carrying a guilty conscience re: topical deviations? Or maybe AD means that his asking the muggy question will make us all very sweaty & pungent?

    Or all, or none, of the above?

  4. 4  democracy_grenade  June 9, 2010, 1:21 am 

    *”close” not “closed” in sentence 2, and “readers” not “speakers”. What can I say; it’s bedtime…

  5. 5  Louis  June 9, 2010, 4:29 am 

    They are *certainly* something different from pure innocents, and *perhaps* they are also *somewhat* different from pure armed combatants.

    When it comes to the question of whether these people are innocent, Alan is quick to stress that they are ‘certainly’ not innocent (implying they are guilty). When it comes to the question of whether these people are armed combatants, suddenly his former confidence evaporates and now ‘perhaps’ they are ‘somewhat’ different from armed combatants (implying that they are primarily similar to armed combatants), but he adds this almost as an afterthought, as if he does not consider the possibility worth considering.

  6. 6  des von bladet  June 9, 2010, 8:20 am 

    Strawberry Alice: You just kicked the shit out of an innocent man.
    Little Bill Daggett: Innocent? Innocent of what?

  7. 7  Adam  June 9, 2010, 10:40 am 

    It’s homonym corner time too – does he really mean ‘close’ as in ‘nearly’ or ‘ambiguous’ or as in ‘closed and settled’. The sophistry that caused him to say anything at all about this suggests (*understatement*) that it’s the second.

    I do like the ‘agree to participate’ – he wants to make it very clear that the people who were killed, and the others with them, made a considered decision to put themselves in danger.

    And I like some of the other assumptions in here – that the ‘military blockade’ is a given, not open to moral question, and the use of ‘armed combatants’ is suggestive of if not analogous to ‘enemy combatants’ who, of course, have no rights at all and have opened themselves to anything ‘we’ choose to throw at them.

  8. 8  John Meredith  June 9, 2010, 10:48 am 

    I think the naughtiest phrase is this one:

    “perhaps they are also somewhat different from pure armed combatants.”

    Perhaps? In what possible world would unarmed civilians not be at least ‘somewhat’ different from ‘pure armed combatants’ (and how do we tell the pure armed combatants from the impure ones? A question for the ages that one).

  9. 9  Sohail  June 19, 2010, 2:49 pm 

    There’s of course another implication to Dershowitz’s logic, namely, that Hamas and any other recalcitrant group in the region is pure evil as opposed to just plain evil like Fatah.

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