Max, Sweden

June 19, 2012

I am a 20 year old Swede currently studying Peace and Conflict studies at Lund University. Aspires to become an officer in the Swedish Armed Forces. My hobbies are to name a few: history, politics, training, video/computer games.

Do you think that the Arab spring is a good thing for Israel short-term/long-term?

What is your perception of Sweden? Do you or those around you feel that we as a state and/or a people have a problem with Israel?

Is there any case when it is justified to use violence directed intentionaly towards civilians in a conflict? Note, I mean justified as in moral not legal.

Hello Max,

Whether or not Arab spring is specifically good for Israel is very hard to say, and the real answers will only come in the next few years, as the Arab countries that have been effected are still many of them mired in turmoil and confusion. So what will come of it remains to be seen. The general opinion of the Israeli media was that it will be a good thing, because it will hopefully lead to more moderate governments which is better for Israel for obvious reasons. Me personally, Im not convinced one way or the other. I know this is a bit of a cheap answer, but I think time will tell and we will need to wait and see.

My perception of Sweden politically is that it is neutral. I think in general perception of Europe as a whole is negative. I don’t feel that there is a lot of support for Israel in Europe, especially considering the increasing Arab populations in European countries. I just saw a really interesting video about the Ukraine and Poland to investigate fans of hate before the countries host the European soccer cup next week. What I saw was appalling, whole sections of stadiums doing Nazi and Fascist salutes. I understand that the majority of fans or citizens dont support this, but the lack of action against these fans was alarming. The term ‘Jew’ was used as an insult slung between opposing fans. Sweden I obviously separate from Eastern Europe, but Id actually be interested to hear how you feel Sweden as a country feels towards Israel.

Your last question is complicated. In general is violence against civilians acceptable? No. But lets say civilians are armed and/or violent, then measured forced to defend or quell larger scale violence is not only acceptable but necessary. A lot of times Israel is given very bad publicity for its handling of civilian protests and violence, but unless you have actually been on the streets where a mob is forming, its hard to appreciate how difficult the situation for israeli soldiers really is. What may be seen as over reaction is often the product of soldiers or police who are watching a scene in which things are getting out of hand, and are themselves trying to determine just what amount of force is necessary. Hindsight and cameras let spectators judge, but being there in person and responsible for the security and safety of everyone is a different story entirely. That said, if civilians are protesting or marching in peace and without any show of violence, then any use of force against them is entirely unacceptable. As long as they remain peaceful, all people in this world have the right to express their opinions and beliefs free of fear of persecution.

Thank you for your questions!

Ami

Hello Ami,

First of I must say that FaS is a wonderful idea, and one more countries could use.

To answer your question regarding how I perceive Swedens feelings towards Israel, the short answer is that I would consider Sweden very much pro-palestinian. The longer and more complicated answer is that our political parties tend to be more pro-palestinian if they are on the left. The right is perhaps not pro-Israel but clerly less pro-palestinian compared to the left. This however is only general, we have for example a FM from the right who I think most would classify as pro-palestinian and we have had a PM from the left who one can say was very pro-Israel(I am not very comfortable with classifying people as pro-Israel or pro-palestinian, but to simplify I use it now).The media is mostly supportive of the palestinians in my mind. Usually this takes shape not in the reporting from the the conflict, but from the framing of it by opinion-makers and pundits at home.

I can not with good conscience give the swedish people a lable as pro-palestinian or pro-Israel, but I can name a few things there is more or less consensus on. Almost no one supports HAMAS, the settlements and the wall on the West Bank are illegal, the IDF is not proportionate in its use of force and the two-state solution is the right way to solve the conflict. Apart from the conflict I think many Swedes considers Israel to be a business-friendly and technologically developed country.

My 3rd question was actually not about the use of force against violent protestors, I should have made myself more clear. But just to comment on the use of force against protestors, I would say that every major police departement in the world does sometimes have to deal with those problem. I was actually trying to see if you could help me with some problems I have with when to justify the use of violence directed at civilians in armed conflict. Most people, myself included, would say that it is not justified to killing enemy civilians to terrorise the opposing nation into submission and by that way enforce your political will. Here is the problem, I would consider HAMAS use of rockets as unjustified but I feel that the use of nuclear wepons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki was justified. But they are more or less the same thing, except that one of them is on a much larger scale. I feel like my view is inconsistent and hypocritical. Do you have any solution/explination to that how I can justify one but not the other?

/Max

Max,

Your question is certainly confusing and Im sorry to say there is no simple answer. I suppose one of the biggest factors is the reasoning behind the violence. To use your examples, an argument could be made that the nuclear bombs in Japan while disastrous, prevented much more further violence. Many experts say that the bombs ended the war in the Pacific, and therefore saved more lives than were killed. Oppositely, it is an easy argument to make that the rockets fired from Hamas have no real effect, than to instigate further violence and response from the Israeli army. Does this make sense?

Violence against unarmed civilians is always terrible and hard to stomach, whether or not it is justified will never have one answer. Again to use your examples, I am positive there are many people who feel the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs were entirely not necessary, and there are plenty of people who would argue that the Hamas rockets are justified attacks on ‘the occupiers.’ You can’t have it both ways. My advice to you, is in every situation to do your best to sort out the facts (the media is often inaccurate and has some sort of agenda), and find out if you personally feel a certain action was justified based on your own convictions.

In Israel’s case, I dont know specifically which cases you are concerned about, but my personal experience in the army as a combat soldier, was that the Israeli army truly does its very best to minimize collateral damage while not surrendering her right to defend herself against terrorists who often fight behind human shields.

I hope this has shed some light of clarity on the issue, Im sorry I cant give you a more definite answer!

All the best,

Ami

Thank you!

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