Monday, March 23, 2009

G-d spare me from the moral preenings of my intellectual betters

I really wasn’t going to post on the whole IDF T-shirt saga as I consider it a much ado about nothing because when the IDF command gets wind of any t-shirts designed with offensive slogans, bought and paid for with by the IDF soldiers out of their own pockets, and meant to be worn in their own ‘downtime’; it has banned them outright and on multiple occasions in the past as well. This is ongoing policy of the IDF command.

In the past, the IDF command has banned such t-shirts which read “we won’t be still until we confirm the kill” or "Let every Arab mother know that her son's fate is in my hands!". What more would you demand of an IDF command? There is a policy and it is enforced when the IDF command finds material used on t-shirts which the IDF command deems offensive. Enter Ha’aretz to create a tempest in a teapot with the IDF t-shirt saga. For those of you who don’t read Israeli papers on a regular basis, Ha’aretz is Israel’s third largest daily paper. Its anti-religious, anti-IDF and anti-settler bias is well-known in Israel but not so much outside the country. Did I mention Ha’aretz’s biggest fans are so-called progressives outside of Israel?

Even the Ha’aretz article in question does emphasize that there are times when offensive slogans and pictures slip through the cracks and happen outside the awareness of IDF chain of command – this distinction has been willfully missed by those who have used the Ha’aretz article to demonize the IDF.

These t-shirts are not IDF policy nor are they paid for out of the IDF purse but an individual imitative among small groups of brothers-in-arms – and mostly snipers – if this article is to be believed. The fact that Ha’aretz found offensive t-shirts depicting Palestinian women and/or children being murdered or raped which the IDF command did not know about, and therefore, did not expressively authorized, is inferred the IDF command has no policy and moral bankruptcy is running rampant throughout not just the ranks but the command structure of the IDF as well. Now some may liken the IDF as a G-dlike institution, but unlike the creator, I recognize the IDF is fully human organization run without any kind of ‘all-knowing or all-seeing’ G-d-like powers. How I wish it were otherwise, but alas, it is not.

Enter this post by Raphael at Unambiguously Ambidextrous full of fury and signifying all manner of moral preenings which changed my mind about posting on the whole T-shirt saga.

Apparently, because I did not expressively condemn the ‘offensive’ t-shirts depicting the rape and murder of Palestinian women and children in his comments, I am guilty of some kind of moral relativism and he worries for my sense of ‘moral righteousness’ and likens the wearing of an offensive t-shirt by an IDF soldier to some kind of IDF command deficiency - much like the command inadequacies which allowed the human rights abuses perpetrated by American soldiers to foster in the Abu Ghraib prison scandal.

Fuck me. My bad.

Obviously, I am morally doomed because - never in a million years would I consider the wearing of an offensive or even a repugnant t-shirt by an IDF solider in his downtime an IDF command inadequacy or failure on par with the events which transpired under American command in Iraq’s infamous Abu Ghraib prison.

Now since I am doomed to hell anyway; does anyone know where I can get a t-shirt from the Golani’s 13th Battalion 13 showing a destroyed mosque with a caption reading “Only G-d Forgives!”

And for the record, this might not be a t-shirt, but I really wonder about the moral underpinnings of the woman who left this picture for her children to remember her by.

H/T Joe Settler


Raphael Alexander said...


I'm not aware if you are so deeply entrenched in your own biases that you cannot see them, but you really should step outside of them long enough to think about this:

I won't pretend to know what your desire is for the Jewish state, but I would imagine that you seek peace and stability there some day, by some hope not yet realized. As such, how can you dismiss the blatant racism of Jewish troops, or excuse rape jokes as being unrealistic because a Jewish soldier consider Arab women too dirty? How does this portray your people in a positive light?

You want to put all of this on the soldiers themselves, but ultimately a leadership is responsible for the attitudes in the military. Do you believe for one instant that Canadian soldiers could get away with such shirts without the approval of leadership? You cite previous IDF bans as some kind of point in your favour, not realizing it destroys your argument since the recidivism shows the IDF command ineffective in controlling their own soldiers.

As far as your characterizations of me thus far, entering into the conversation at my blog in a hostile tone, with patronizing language, and attributing words such as "fury" to my writing, doesn't really ring true to neutral observers [and I've asked more than a few people to read our exchanges to ensure it's not me that is being unreasonable here].

Yes, it's true that your absence of condemning the t-shirts constitutes a moral problem, since I know you have no difficulty condemning the Palestinians when they do such things. You didn't begin your responses by admitting the immorality of the IDF soldiers either, but rather as an afterthought you acknowledged how the optics of it might hurt the Israeli cause. If these incidents damage the perception of the IDF to a pro-Israeli blogger, how do you think anti-Israelis see it?

In the end of your post you still refuse to acknowledge the basic immorality of the t-shirts, and point to the strawman of the picture at the bottom.

Well, Kate, let me tell you something that should be obvious. Immorality is not something that is measurable in comparison to something. A rapist who rapes 100 women and a rapist who rapes 1 woman are both rapists. When something is immoral, you condemn it as being immoral. You continue to defend the IDF, and all it's done is make you appear to tacitly approve of the messages on the t-shirts, further showing a disturbing bias and naked hatred for the Palestinian people.

Kateland, aka TZH said...

For frack sake’s it’s a t-shirt – a t-shirt signifying nothing more than the innate bad taste of a few. Years ago, when I was about 20 and around the same age of the young men in question, I was given a t-shirt by Stiff Records at record company promotion party. It read ‘if it ain’t Stiff it ain’t work a F*ck’. Did the t-shirt make me promiscuous? No, it didn’t, but my bad taste in wearing such a vulgar t-shirt, certainly earned me a great deal of unwanted attention - live and learn.

My teenage sons, one of which is very close to the age of these soldiers, continues to be attracted to t-shirts whose humour defies the boundaries of good taste. When a t-shirt comes home bearing slogans of innate bad taste, vulgarity or even offensive messages, it takes the short parental walk to the garbage can but should I worry about their recidivism? Of course, they never choose the same t-shirt twice but should I put it down to their immaturity and inexperience and the need to test parental limits or should I take it as a sign of an innate deficiency of their moral character? Should the fact that they have each brought home more than one offensive t-shirt be consider recidivism? The fact they buy these t-shirts in their down time and behind my back be evidence of my neglect as a parent or does it mean simply mean I have no g-d-like powers?

Let me explain something which should be elemental and a given. According to the article these t-shirts are chosen by the young soldiers after completing some part of their training period. It can be inferred this is the first time round for most of these young people, and frankly, there is nothing which suggests it isn’t from the article. So does the fact that each new group tests the limits of acceptable taste infer recidivism and an implied deficiency in IDF command?

I really get the feeling you have a rather romanticized airy-fairy view of soldiers which has no bearing on the reality. If you think the IDF is alone in the t-shirts with bad taste you obviously have never spent any significant amount of time around combat soldiers or snipers – including Canadian ones. Perhaps its time for you to wrangle an invite to the drinking mess of some Canadian combat soldiers - Orwell wasn’t joking about ‘rough men’ ready to do ‘violence’. And thank G-d for that.

Peace and stability are fine concepts and certainly a laudable goals, but the reality is, Israel is at war of survival against a ruthless and callous enemy which makes no pretenses of their aims or commitment to the destruction of the Jewish state. The only thing which stands between them and certain death for the Israeli state is the ability of an IDF soldiers to vanquish their enemies. Nor am I prepared to condemn the IDF command for an alleged deficiency of leadership based on the innate bad taste of young men for fracking t-shirts.

While the existence of the world’s only Jewish state is merely a philosophical matter for you it is far more than that and deeply personal for me and mine. There is no question where my biases lie and I am quite unrepentant about either choosing or taking sides.

While I do not wish bad things for the Palestinian people as a whole it is a matter entirely out of my hands, and out of the hands of most Israelis or Jews for that matter – collectively, we have no sway or quarter to influence the Palestinian leadership, and when push comes to shove, the continued survival of the Jewish homeland trumps all other concerns or matters. Ultimately, the difference between your alleged pro-Israeli position and mine is this; you are only prepared to support the state while it fights its battles according to your personal whims of what is acceptable taste or behaviour while I support any action which protects the lives of all Israelis and maintains the continued existence of the Jewish state. And I could not care less about what t-shirts a soldier in the IDF chose to wear in his downtime.

Furthermore, if a Canadian sniper in the armed forces wore a t-shirt showing a Taliban like figure in the crosshairs of a rifle scope with a caption reading ‘Bad people with good aims’, unlike you, I wouldn’t throw him to the progressive wolves or condemn him for it. You, on the other hand, are ready to nail him his butt to a cross.

As such, how can you dismiss the blatant racism of Jewish troops, or excuse rape jokes as being unrealistic because a Jewish soldier consider Arab women too dirty? How does this portray your people in a positive light?

Now you are blatantly lying and I defy you to suggest I wrote rape jokes are unrealistic because a Jewish soldier considers Arab women as too dirty? Who are you channeling? The only thing I came close to suggesting was pointing out a thesis used by a progressive leftie Israeli graduate student who suggested the rationale for the low incidence of rape committed by IDF soldiers was because of their innate racism towards Palestinian women. I used it as an example of the same kind ridiculous progressive thinking which suggests that the offensive bad taste of a few soldiers wearing offensive t-shirts is indicative of a systematic large breakdown of moral decay among the IDF command.

Raphael Alexander said...


I don't know that it's relevant whether you think it's "just a t-shirt". Other people are disturbed by it because it shows a kind of mentality that is very dangerous, and reflects poorly on the IDF.

It's also probably irrelevant what you think real soldiers act like or not. It's my belief the t-shirts are immoral, and I will condemn them as should be rightfully done by anyone with a conscience.

I understand that you have your personal biases based upon your Jewish association, so I don't expect you to feel rationally about this.

Again, your writing is more of the same tired excuse-making and downplaying.

Now you are blatantly lying and I defy you to suggest I wrote rape jokes are unrealistic because a Jewish soldier considers Arab women as too dirty?

I misinterpreted that part. Sorry.

Anyway, let's agree to disagree. I find the t-shirts offensive, you don't. Let's move on.

Kateland, aka TZH said...

Once again, you not only fail to understand my position - you deliberately misstate it. I suppose in the spirit of amity I should just blame your poor comprehension skills on my boring you with the same old tired excuse-making and downplaying.

Perhaps you can stay awake long enough to understand I never suggested the t-shirts were not offensive or even tasteless, but rather I don't believe its indicative of the moral decay of anything except taste - let alone indicative of a failure of IDF command ethos.

You believe the t-shirts are immoral and people of good conscience should condemn it. So now the t-shirts are immoral rather than the soldiers wearing them or the IDF command? The problem with you Raphael is your goal posts keep moving much like your alleged pro-Israeli positions. Wasn’t it just a year ago on Stageleft, you were arguing against me and Shlemazl, using the Electronic Infitada as your ‘source material’? Go read Joe Settler on the T-shirt’s and maybe you will learn a little perspective.