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How Many Israelis Should Have Died For ‘Proportionality’?


No sooner had Israel launched its offensive against Hamas than the moral arbiters of acceptable behavior were condemning the Jewish state for its perceived abuses in executing its national self-defense.

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband smugly accused Israel of causing a “dangerous and dark moment” in history and voiced the preposterous judgment “that any innocent loss of life is unacceptable.” Malaysia’s deputy foreign minister obscenely suggested that Israel’s actions were crimes against humanity “tantamount to genocide,” indicating both an ignorance of what that term signifies and a blindness to actual genocides occurring presently at the hand of his co-religionists.

But the most insidious refrain, one uttered only when Israel’s enemies are killed (certainly not when Jews are murdered), is that Israel’s military response is too aggressive, that the force and effect of the excursion into Gaza are beyond appropriate boundaries.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, for instance, could not get to a microphone fast enough to decry “the disproportionate use of force” on Israel’s part. And the UN secretary-general, who presides over a morally bankrupt group comprised largely of despotic, self-righteous regimes, specifically condemned the “excessive use of force by Israel in Gaza.”

Nor did non-governmental figures refrain from chiming in with a moral scolding of Israel’s actions. The presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church in the United States personally challenged Israel “to call a halt to this wholly disproportionate escalation of violence.” And the Muslim Public Affairs Council, always reticent when confronted with terrorism unleashed in the name of Islam, was quick to determine that “Israel’s latest military assault is a disproportionate and inhumane response to Palestinian militants’ cross-border rocket attacks.”

The issue of “disproportionate” response is obviously something of an obsession with critics of Israel’s defense policy, causing one to wonder when, if ever, an Israeli military response would be deemed to be proportionate. How many Jews should have died in the thousands of rocket barrages on Sderot, Ashkelon and Netivot to make Israel’s incursion legal and morally acceptable?

Was the terror of 3,000 Kassam rockets and mortars falling into civilian neighborhoods in the last year alone not justification enough for self-defense? Should Israel have continued to wait until a school or daycare center was struck, forcing Israel to play, in the words of Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, “Russian roulette with its children?”

What harm would have to be done, in addition to the trauma and social dysfunction that daily rocket barrages have on civilian populations, for critics to decide, in their sanctimony and moral equivalency, that Israel finally had the right to defend its population? Were not the 425 attacks on Israel between 2000 and 2004 that wounded more than 2,000 and killed nearly 400 civilians adequate in their lethality and seriousness to indicate the unrelenting jihad that defines Hamas’s existence?

The remonstrations of its many and far-flung critics aside, Israel is not the international outlaw here, but a victim now involved in a defensive countermeasure to illegal terrorism. In fact, in a recent report, Justus Reid Weiner and Dr. Avi Bell, two legal scholars at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, noted that Hamas’s shelling of civilian targets within Israel’s borders clearly violates international law, even though world observers have been oddly silent on those transgressions.

“The Palestinian attacks,” they wrote, “violate one of the most basic rules of international humanitarian law, the rule of distinction, which requires combatants to aim all their attacks at legitimate targets – enemy combatants or objects that contribute to enemy military actions. Violations of the rule of distinction – attacks deliberately aimed at civilians or protected objects as such – are war crimes”– exactly what Hamas has been committing with its relentless rocket assaults.

Israel, which is promiscuously condemned for committing “genocide,” “crimes against humanity” and human rights violations, not only waited years before responding to Palestinian terrorism, but then, in one of the most populous areas on earth, scrupulously followed the rule of distinction by precisely targeting Hamas terrorists and infrastructure, with minimal, though still unfortunate, collateral damage to the Gaza civilian population – a feat made all the more difficult by Hamas’s insidious tactic of embedding rocket launchers and armament stores within residential neighborhoods.

Even so, UN observers, not partial when Israel is involved, admitted that the great majority of causalities in the first week of Israel’s military action were Hamas operatives and gunmen – demonstrating again that, unlike its enemies who target only civilians, Israel has not only effected obvious “distinction” in its targeting, but by doing so it maintains “proportionality,” the other aspect of warfare on which international law insists.

About the Author: Richard L. Cravatts, Ph.D., is president of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East and author of “Genocidal Liberalism: The University’s Jihad Against Israel & Jews.”


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