Depths of depravity.
August 1, 2002 7:36 AM   Subscribe

Depths of depravity. No, it's not a new adults only activity or a grunge band. It's the Palestinians. Is it just me or are US spokespeople having a tougher time forming accurate and coherent sentences.
posted by shagoth (38 comments total)
The United States said on Thursday that Palestinian "terrorist murderers" had sunk to "a new depth of depravity" by bombing a Jerusalem university cafeteria, killing five Americans and two Israelis.

One of the most irritating things reporters do is attribute statements to the "United States," or some other entity which clearly doesn't make statements. Instead, say who made the statement and mention that it was an official statement on behalf of the U.S. government.

Aside from that gripe, this could be a potentially major development. Five Americans were killed, and I doubt Bush and his "don't mess with Texas" attitude are going to put up with that.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 7:41 AM on August 1, 2002

So, why do people travel to countries at war? Can anyone honestly say that this is a surprise?

Why should we go to get retribution for those that are foolish enough to visit a country plagued by random bombings?

And, why isn't the US recommending that all US citizens leave Israel?
posted by Red58 at 7:46 AM on August 1, 2002

Red58: Here are the current (12-July) warnings from the State department about traveling to Israel (don't do it) and advice to those already there:
Americans are urged to continue to review their personal security situations and to take those actions they deem appropriate to ensure their well-being, including consideration of departure from these areas. Private Americans who are in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza despite this warning should follow the precautions detailed below and remain in close communication with the American Embassy in Tel Aviv and the American Consulate General in Jerusalem for more detailed information. American citizens residing in the West Bank, Gaza, and Jerusalem should consider relocating to a safe location.

posted by PinkStainlessTail at 7:55 AM on August 1, 2002

They are issuing warnings.
People just choose to ignore them, apparently.
posted by Kellydamnit at 7:59 AM on August 1, 2002

give me a break, red, it doesn't get much lower than criticizing those killed for being naive. i'm sure their families are deeply regretting the fact that they decided to travel where and when they did, but it doesn't make it their fault, it makes it the terrorists' fault.
posted by catfood at 8:01 AM on August 1, 2002

i don't like how what i wrote came out -- basically, yes, the kids who decided to travel to a war-torn area put themselves into a risky situation, but blaming them for what happened strikes me as ridiculous. they were kids, for crying out loud! furthermore, the article clearly states that the area in which the university in question is located was relatively peaceful throughout the conflict, which may have affected these students' decision to travel where they did. but calling them foolish after the fact is just downright insensitive.
posted by catfood at 8:07 AM on August 1, 2002

I'm not sure that red's point was to call them foolish. Rather, I think, the point is to question whether the federal government can afford to be traipsing around the world after every idealistic study abroad student who gets themselves into a scrape. If these students were targeted because they were Americans, that might be one thing, but if a few Americans get killed or injured in an otherwise random bombing directed at others, the government should think long and hard about what to do. I'm just afraid that Bush might not do that.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 8:12 AM on August 1, 2002

monju_bosatsu, given that the student body of the university is international, I'm not sure the bombing was 'directed at others'. Americans may well have been among the intended targets.
posted by Slithy_Tove at 8:17 AM on August 1, 2002

While I doubt these students were targeted because they were Americans, universities are well-known for containing large numbers of international students, and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem seems to have several programs designed specifically for international students. To attack such an institution may very well be a big fat request for international problems.
posted by catfood at 8:20 AM on August 1, 2002

I agree that going into a war-torn area isn't a good idea, but there could be valid reasons for doing so:

Maybe they had started attending University there several years ago, and wanted to graduate.

Maybe they have a lot of family there, or family members they want/need to look after.

Maybe they have dual citizenship. Would they be reported as American if they had dual citizenship?

Regardless of the reasons they were there, I think this is a very sad event...
posted by Stuart_R at 8:22 AM on August 1, 2002

Five Americans were killed, and I doubt Bush and his "don't mess with Texas" attitude are going to put up with that.

Are you going to put up with that?

I think the fact that these sickos chose to bomb a university, let alone one where Arab, Jewish, and international students intermingle peacefully, is rather telling.

Of course, on Metafilter, the killing of five Americans and two Israelis, and the injury of 86 others boils down to a mere semantic quibble. Why, the nerve of the government to call the murder of Americans and Jews at a university depravity! How dare they abuse such a fine word!

Condemnation needs to be extended to the murder of innocent civilians on both sides of this conflict.
posted by evanizer at 8:22 AM on August 1, 2002

Why, the nerve of the government to call the murder of Americans and Jews at a university depravity! How dare they abuse such a fine word!

I never said it wasn't depravity. In fact, I think that's an entirely appropriate word. My point was about the proper U.S. response to these acts. I don't have the answer to that question, but I just hope Bush doesn't go off half-cocked.

Evanizer, I'm trying not to turn this into a semantic quibble, as I hope my previous comment made clear. What do you think the U.S. government should do?
posted by monju_bosatsu at 8:27 AM on August 1, 2002

Understood. Unfortunately, I don't think there is much that Mr. Bush can do about this event, except condemnation and support for Israel's programme to destroy the roots of organizations that commit these acts. But given Israel's often clumsy military actions, and their inability thusfar to curb Hamas and its ilk, I don't put much stock in their ability to do much about it either. Indeed, their actions often appear to be more about retribution than about security, an image they cannot and should not cultivate.
posted by evanizer at 8:44 AM on August 1, 2002

I keep thinking about the aftermath of the Lusitania. And it worries me.
posted by Cyrano at 9:04 AM on August 1, 2002

I just wish, as a fervent Zionist, that, for once, one side would say it wouldn't retaliate. It would even make sense in terms of world opinion. Tit-for-tat is violent in and of itself. Savagery tends to be vindicated when it's answered with equal violence; much as the death penalty undermines the condemnation of murder and goes against the fundamental "Thou shalt not kill" commandment. And thousands of learned rabbis have taught for thousands of year that "an eye for an eye" cannot be taken literally.

Despair is in order, once again - what will the retaliation for the Israeli retaliation be? And so on...
posted by MiguelCardoso at 9:09 AM on August 1, 2002

And so the cyclical events continue unabated, no sides thirst for blood unquenched. Where will it all end? with the situation as it is in the middle east possibly nuclear winter, I hate those long evenings.
posted by johnnyboy at 9:28 AM on August 1, 2002

So, why do people travel to countries at war?

My sister recently spent two weeks in Isreal meeting her new in-laws. For some reason I guess it was easier than flying them all out to Nevada to meet her in the safety of her home.
posted by plaino at 10:00 AM on August 1, 2002

Cyrano, there's no profit in our invading the West Bank. But this is just gonna be one more notch in the belt we're tightening around Arafat.

Given the actual depravity and immorality evident in such terrorism, I am having trouble forming coherent thought, let alone coherent sentences. The occupation, I have said many times, is a cancer upon Israel; but it pales in comparison to the cancer upon the Palestinian people that suicide bombings visit.
posted by dhartung at 10:18 AM on August 1, 2002

Honestly, I think the situation for the Palestinians would be better in the end if the US did go into the west bank and take out Hamas and other terror organizations. I think. I mean, US rule would probably be preferable to Israeli rule. Although, of course, I can't predict the future.

That said, I seriously doubt that Israel would allow that. They want to control the land themselves. The Palestinians (at least the ones on TV) have repeatedly asked for external peace keeping forces.
posted by delmoi at 11:08 AM on August 1, 2002


The Palestinians would no doubt prefer a US presence to an Israeli presence in the short term, but the rest of the Arab (and Muslim) world would explode. Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Iran, and Saudi Arabia really don't want us over there, regardless of how it would help the Palestinians. When you get right down to it, the Arab world really doesn't give a crap what happens to the Palestinians -- it just gives them some handy propaganda to use against the US and Israel.

The question now is whether we in the US should even try to help the Palestinians if they are not willing to oust that worthless clown Yasir Arafat. Arafat has demonstrated time and time again that he either will not or cannot stop the Palestinian terror groups. On the Israeli side, Ariel Sharon has shown that he has neither the will nor the inclination to make concessions to address some of the more pressing Palestinian concerns.

In short, this situation is likely to get much worse before it gets better.
posted by mrmanley at 11:54 AM on August 1, 2002

MrManley, I beg to differ with, or rather qualify your statement. The Arab World as people cares dearly for the Palestinians, whose suffering is greater than their own but mirrors in some respects their treatment by their own autocratic regimes. As for the leaders, well in that case you are right on. They cynically take a genuine evil (occupation) and twist it as they have religion to give their people an outlet to express their frustrations while not allowing them to demand a similar brand of justice in their own countries. It's a farce, if the Arab leaders really wanted traction on the Palestinian issue they could have it, but that would of course require them to make huge changes in their own systems and thus strip the greedy slime of their ill-gotten power. I agree with you that it will get worse before it gets better. You need 90% of Israelis and 90% of Palestinians to agree to a 2-state solution with 2 real states with real borders next to each other. Right now it seems as though it's probably 50% and 50%.
posted by cell divide at 12:09 PM on August 1, 2002

Honestly, I think the situation for the Palestinians would be better in the end if the US did go into the west bank and take out Hamas and other terror organizations.

Why would the US army be more successful than the Israeli army?
posted by Summer at 12:14 PM on August 1, 2002

cell divide:

I agree with you ... provisionally. I'm still not certain that the "Arab Street" really cares much about the Palestinian situation. They've got problems of their own. They allow themselves to get whipped into a religious frenzy by stories of Israeli and American "atrocities", but I wonder how much of that frenzy is honest empathy for the Palestinians and how much is misplaced rage at the US.
posted by mrmanley at 12:30 PM on August 1, 2002

A cynical person might conclude that the Hebrew University bombing was, in fact, directed at causing American deaths, and thereby to bring active US involvement in the Middle East. A very cynical person might conclude that this was to provide them with conveniently located targets; or to act as a chess "pin" regarding any other plans we might have.
posted by dhartung at 1:57 PM on August 1, 2002

I found it interesting, dhartung, that the link Meryl provided to the disgusting reaction of those Palestinian kids itself provided a link to this JPost story: "Palestinian study finds nearly half of West Bank-Gaza children suffer malnutrition."

Worth a look as you consider the horror of what those kids are learning about life as they grow up. And while nothing excuses the monstrous cheering of innocent deaths by children, I'm left wondering how many of the people in that picture knew some of the 150 or so wounded or 11 dead babies who were innocent victims of that one-ton bomb Israel dropped on a residential Gaza Strip neighborhood just last Monday. Surely a reasonable observer would consider that as they linked to a story about Gaza Strip reaction to an obvious Hamas retaliatory strike.

Oh, but then Meryl doesn't seem primarily interested in being reasonable, does she?

Scary side note department: This wasn't a suicide bombing: "Israeli media said on Thursday the bomb was left in a bag and triggered by cellphone, but police declined to comment on the reports."
posted by mediareport at 2:57 PM on August 1, 2002

As I read these posts I am reminded of Vietnam. This problem is not likely to be fixed anytime soon, certainly not with military force. And if you recall, the US presence in Saudi Arabia is the reason that bin Laden et al give for their terrorism. Why exacerbate this issue?

I will again recommend Thomas Friedman's From Beirut to Jerusalem for a thorough, insightful, and even-handed discussion of this problem. No other Arab country will allow Palestinians in. There are some Palestinians already in some countries, primarily Jordan and Lebanon, but no new immigrants are permitted. Many Israelis think that there should be no Palestinians anywhere in the West Bank or Gaza, regardless of whether there are suicide bombers or other forms of war.

And I stick with my message about travelling to a country at war. No, I'm not blaming the victim, I'm saying traveller beware. If you travel to a country at war, you personally accept the risks inherent in that. I don't think the US should go marching in to get revenge for your death, or kidnapping etc. And I really like to travel, so I understand this from a personal perspective.
posted by Red58 at 3:05 PM on August 1, 2002

Actually, yesterday's NYT indicated that until ~2000, Palestinian children were amongst the healthiest in the Arab world. So, they should blame the terrorists, too.
posted by ParisParamus at 3:05 PM on August 1, 2002

No doubt many of their parents do, ParisParamus. The story I linked to actually compares the stats with pre-intifada data, quoting figures from a USAID report to be released next week: "nearly one-third of young Palestinian children are chronically malnourished, more than four times as many as before fighting erupted 22 months ago."

Do read before posting; it helps.
posted by mediareport at 3:11 PM on August 1, 2002

Meet the new thread, the same as the old thread...
posted by websavvy at 3:17 PM on August 1, 2002

Old news, Paris. Peace sites like have been linking to the Human Rights Watch report detailing 52 dead since May. While admitting "it does not appear there are larger numbers of missing persons from the camp," it details horrifying examples of Civilian Casualties and Unlawful Killings.

But we've been over this here before many times. That horse you're beating is dead, Paris. Let it rest in peace already.
posted by mediareport at 3:28 PM on August 1, 2002

Indeed, the report indicated that there was no massacre at Jenin, where an estimated 25 civilians, 25 Palestinian militiamen, and 23 Israeli soldiers died. In Nablus, 50 civilians, 20-30 armed Palestinians, and 4 Israeli soldiers died.

A total of 497 Palestinians were killed and 1447 wounded during Israel's re-occupation of the W. Bank, along with dozens of Israeli soldiers. Also, 17,000 Palestinians were made homeless, and millions of dollars in damage done to private property, including the historic ancient market of Nablus.

However bad the damage was though, at least we know that it was all worth it because it has stopped the violence. Likewise, it is regrettable that 10 children were among the innocent 15 who were killed in order to take out a Hamas leader, however Hamas is now unable to plan murderous attacks of its own against civilians.

Furthermore, the Palestinian tactic of bombing crowded public places has endeared the Palestinian cause to millions, and convinced most ordinary Israelis that the Palestinians are kind, loving people of peace who deserve their own state.
posted by cell divide at 3:29 PM on August 1, 2002

I [heart] cell divide.
posted by mediareport at 4:55 PM on August 1, 2002

The president of Hebrew University, target of yesterday's attack, writes a moving response letter:

The victims include many members of the University community - students, teachers, employees, and visitors from all parts of the world. They are Jews and Arabs, and citizens of the US, Korea, France, Italy, and other countries. This attack is a crime not only against Israel or the Jewish people; it is a crime against the free and enlightened world. As I stood facing the destruction, the pools of blood and the wounded, I was forced to ask myself how we can continue in our research, teaching and other vibrant activity while we mourn for the victims. The answer is clear and it is expressed by the Hebrew word davka, 'despite everything'.

The entire letter can be viewed here.
posted by evanizer at 6:21 PM on August 1, 2002

That was moving, evanizer, thanks. The defiance of those who want to "kill our aspirations for peace" reminded me of the accusations that Israeli officials were fully aware that Hamas and the Fatah Tanzim planned to announce a unilateral halt to suicide bombings of civilian targets before Israeli forces committed the repulsive act of terror that killed 11 children with a one-ton bomb.

Is it too cynical to believe there's no way the Israeli Shin Bet could have missed what diplomats are calling clear signals of a major move forward towards peace? Well, at least I'm in good company. More than one Israeli commentator is writing of mounting suspicion that the timing of Israel's "targetted" assasinations (this one "put an abrupt end [once again] to three weeks of relative quiet" is evidence that Sharon's government "is not even trying to pretend that it is doing prevent the killing and risk to its citizens - as any normal government would do in a properly run country."

Talk about killing our aspirations for peace.
posted by mediareport at 7:08 PM on August 1, 2002

Is the definition of "holy land" something like "land covered in the spilled blood of the innocent and murderous alike"?

I cannot for the life of me figure out why anyone with a choice would remain there. Going out of your house every day seems like Russian roulette (as does staying in).

No land on this earth is *that* holy to me that I'd risk my life (and my child's life) staying there. How high does the daily risk of death (or of having someone else's flying bloody body parts splattered all over you) have to get before people start realizing that it's not worth it?

Or will it always be worth it, to them? Or do they tell themselves that they'll be lucky, because God loves them, and hates their enemies?

I just don't get it.
posted by beth at 8:12 PM on August 1, 2002

Oop. That "mounting suspicion" link should be this Ha'aretz daily column:

the evidence that should spark suspicion is mounting constantly and is being thrown in our faces: "smart bombs" that may miss physically but are precise in their timing - always on the eve of feelers to achieve a truce, always after a period of relative quiet; the hounding of Sari Nusseibeh and every other peace-seeking Palestinian; the contemptuous "rejection" of every rumor of a truce; the "targeted interdiction," which adds fuel to the fire of terrorist attacks whenever they seem about to be extinguished...
posted by mediareport at 8:26 PM on August 1, 2002

I cannot for the life of me figure out why anyone with a choice would remain there.

I don't think they have much choice.
posted by Summer at 12:04 AM on August 2, 2002

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