This summer the world turned its attention once again to the clash between Hamas and Israel. And predictably, as the body count rose on the Palestinian side, the moral arbiters of acceptable political behavior began condemning Israel for its perceived abuses in executing its national self-defense.

Ignoring or forgetting that Israel’s Operation Protective Edge was necessitated by ceaseless rocket and mortar assaults on its southern towns from Hamas-controlled Gaza, international leaders and diplomats initiated their moral hectoring of Israel even as it was in the midst of trying to shield its citizens from harm.

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Britain’s deputy prime minister, Nicolas Clegg, was adamant that Israel cease its self-defense. “I really would now call on the Israeli government to stop,” he said. “They have proved their point,” and had done so, in his opinion, through a deliberately “disproportionate form of collective punishment.”

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who presides over a morally bankrupt group comprised largely of despotic, authoritarian regimes, was quick to decide that “too many” Palestinian civilians had been killed, and that he “feels a sense of responsibility for the Palestinians who, especially in the Gaza Strip, have long been denied the sense of freedom and dignity that they deserve,” presumably overlooking those same human rights being denied to Israelis who have lived under a rain of rockets since 2005.

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 was too aggressive, that the force and effect of the excursion into Gaza were beyond what is permitted under human rights law and the rules of war.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, for instance, brushed aside any talk of justifiable self-defense, asserting that “…Israel is not defending itself, it is defending settlements, its main project.”

Moreover, the deaths of Palestinian civilians were, according to Abbas, tantamount to “…genocide – the killing of entire families is genocide by Israel against our Palestinian people,” indicating both an ignorance of what that term actually signifies and a blindness to actual genocides occurring presently at the hand of his co-religionists elsewhere in the world.

The UN’s humanitarian coordinator for the occupied Palestinian territories, James Rawley, had thoughts only for the Palestinian victims of the conflict, sanctimoniously announcing that the Israeli response must be “proportionate” to the threats posed by Hamas attacks and that “Our thoughts must first be with those many [Palestinian] civilians who have already lost their lives, and the even greater number of who have suffered physical or psychological injuries.”

* * * * *

The remonstrations of its many and far-flung critics aside, Israel was not the international outlaw here, but a victim that had finally mounted a defensive countermeasure to terrorism against its citizenry.

In fact, in a 2008 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 violated international law and required a military response from Israel.

“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 had been committing with its relentless rocket assaults.

Hamas militants committed a war crime each time they lobbed a rocket or mortar into Israel from Gaza by virtue of the fact that the targets of those attacks are specifically and purposely civilian, not military, assets – a violation of the “distinction” rule. And by not wearing military uniforms and often posing as civilians, Hamas terrorists were also committing another crime, that of perfidy.

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Richard L. Cravatts, Ph.D., is president emeritus of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, and the author of “Dispatches From the Campus War Against Israel and Jews.”

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