Saturday, June 20, 2015

10 Reasons to Vote NDP if You’re from the Middle East

I am not a partisan New Democrat although I was a member of the NDP when I was much younger.  More recently I have preferred the centrist Liberals, and I was considering voting Conservative in the coming federal election; however, under the leadership of Tom Mulcair, I think that the NDP offers the best choice for Canadians, especially if one happens to be an immigrant from the Middle East.  Here are ten reasons:

1. Support for Palestinians.  Like the two other major parties, the NDP supports a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine.  In addition, the NDP specifically opposes “Israeli occupation of Palestinian land”.  Tom Mulcair responded sympathetically to the Palestinian request for statehood status at the UN in 2012 while Prime Minister Stephen Harper vehemently opposed it.

2. Support for Israel.  Mulcair supports Israel’s right to exist and defend itself, even when a political cost must be paid.  He has successfully sidelined a small but vocal anti-Israel element within his party.  Harper is often cited as a strong ally of Israel, but I have my doubts as I explained in the Times of Israel.  I think that the mature and dignified approach of Mulcair is more valuable to Israel and to peace.

3. Balanced on the Middle East.  Mulcair’s response to the war between Israel and Hamas in 2014 showed a deep concern for Palestinian casualties but at the same time, he did not waver in his support for Israel’s right to defend itself against terrorists.  Being pro-Palestinian and pro-Israel at the same time is a significant challenge in a conflict that is very polarized, but Mulcair is in a better position than either of the two other leaders to meet that challenge.  Canada is not a major player in the Middle East, but if we can ever help mediate between the two sides, Mulcair would be more credible than Harper.

4. Cautious about military interventions.  I have argued in the past that the NDP erred in not supporting military action against Daesh (ISIS), but the NDP has supported other military actions, such as the Canadian mission in Libya under a UN mandate to protect civilians.  The NDP makes these decisions on a case-by-case basis, but it is clear that they are less keen on military interventions than Harper who had supported the disastrous U.S. intervention against Saddam Hussein in Iraq.

5. Bill C-51.  Bill C-51 has been denounced by a long list of legal experts who wrote that it “vastly expands the scope of covert state activity when that activity will be subject to poor or even non-existent democratic oversight or review”, and by the privacy commissioner of Canada who said that “measures in the bill to protect against unreasonable loss of privacy are seriously deficient”. The NDP is the only major party to oppose bill C-51.

6. Mulcair’s experience and capability.  Those who do not support Harper’s policies, particularly on the environment and on scientific research, will look for an alternative, and Tom Mulcair, who has experience in government and who is knowledgeable on many issues, is a more credible choice than Justin Trudeau.  Trudeau has never been elected to any post, not even as a school board trustee, before he was elected MP in 2008.  Since then, Trudeau has shown poor political judgement, making several gaffes that embarrassed his party, including an inappropriate sexual joke during a debate about the very serious topic of Daesh.

7. Support for manufacturing sector and small businesses.  Mulcair has pledged to support Canada’s manufacturing industry and small businesses.  These sectors provide good jobs and business opportunities to new immigrants.

8. Support for minority rights.  Mulcair took a bold stand against the “charter of values” that was proposed by the Parti Quebecois in 2013, despite the potential electoral cost to the NDP in Quebec.  He declared, “What we have today is an attempt to impose state-mandated discrimination against minorities in the Quebec civil service. That for us is an absolute non-starter.”

9. Strong social policies while fiscally conservative.  The NDP is notorious for its concern for the working class and the disadvantaged, but the NDP also has had an excellent record of fiscal conservatism during its tenures in provincial governments.  This dual approach helps new immigrants who are struggling to find jobs and make ends meet.

10. Support for immigrants and refugees.  New Democrats support immigrants and refugees, not only in theory, but also in practice.  In the case of gay Palestinian John Calvin who is seeking refugee status, I have personally contacted all three parties, but three weeks later, only the NDP MPs have taken the time to respond, ask questions, and try to help.

The Conservative government is increasingly arrogant, secretive, and unimaginative.  The Liberal party failed to rebuild itself and is instead attempting to rely on a glamourous name in order to seduce what they believe is a na├»ve electorate.  I do not expect miracles from any government, but I believe that under the pragmatic and experienced leadership of Tom Mulcair, now is finally the right time to give the New Democrats a chance.

This article was also published in New Canadian Media at

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Calling for an awakening of conscience: Palestinians are real people

Co-authored by Bassem Eid and Fred Maroun
Israel is accused by “pro-Palestinian” activists of having little care for Palestinian civilians, of dehumanizing them, but reality is quite different.  Although there is extensive dehumanizing of the Palestinians, the guilty party is not who you might think.
Israel is accused of humiliating Palestinians at security checkpoints, and she is accused of not taking enough care in attacks against Hamas to avoid civilian casualties.  Some even go as far as accusing Israel of genocide against the Palestinians.
The truth is quite different.  Although Palestinians do indeed experience humiliation in some cases at checkpoints, and although there are too many civilian casualties during Israeli attacks on terrorists (even one is too many), there is extensive evidence that Israel applies standards of care that are at least as good as any Liberal democracy would apply in similar circumstances.  And there is certainly no genocide.
The dehumanizing of the Palestinians does indeed happen among overzealous pro-Zionist activists.  Some of these activists, especially the ones who do not live in Israel, tend to think of Palestinians in abstract terms.  They use arguments such as “there is no such thing as Palestinians”, and they insensitively dismiss real Palestinian tragedies (such as the destruction caused by wars in Gaza, or the dire situation of refugees in Arab countries) as unimportant since Israel is legitimately defending itself.
The dehumanizing of the Palestinians is also widespread among Arab regimes.  They used the Palestinians as pawns from the moment Israel’s independence was declared, and they continue to do so today.  The fact that Arab regimes do not offer citizenship to the Palestinian refugees that they have hosted for decades is a neglect that would be vilified in the strongest terms if it were taking place in Europe or North America, but because the offenders are Arabs and the victims are Arabs, the world ignores the crime and even encourages it by funding it through a specially-formed UN agency (the UNRWA).
The all-time champions in dehumanizing Palestinians, however, are the inappropriately named “pro-Palestinian” activists.  While some Zionists unfairly ignore any deaths in Gaza, “pro-Palestinian” activists use Palestinian deaths for propaganda purposes and in the same breath refuse to demand an end to terrorist attacks from Gaza.  Yet stopping terrorist attacks from Gaza is the only way to prevent civilians from being caught in the crossfire of retaliations by Israel.  While some Zionists see the defense of Israel as an objective that overrides any Palestinian interests, “pro-Palestinian” activists see the destruction of Israel as an objective that can only be achieved through Palestinian deaths.
In the West Bank too, “pro-Palestinian” activists use Palestinians as pawns.  They are engaged in a campaign to de-legitimize Israeli businesses that operate in the West Bank regardless of the fact that those businesses typically provide good employment opportunities to Palestinians.  “Pro-Palestinian” activists see the loss of jobs by Palestinians as a reasonable price to pay for the greater goal of weakening Israel.
The “pro-Palestinian” activists have therefore entirely completed the switch from supposedly being pro-Palestinian to being fully anti-Palestinian.  While they claim to defend the interests of Palestinians, they in fact thrive on the deaths and unemployment of Palestinians.
Palestinians are real.  They are not abstractions, and each Palestinian life matters.  John Calvin is a Palestinian refugee in Canada who is in danger of being deported back to the Palestinian territories where his life would be at risk due to his homosexuality, his conversion to Christianity, and his support for Israel.  We have yet to see a single “pro-Palestinian” group come to the defense of Calvin.  There is no doubt that if Calvin was a supporter of Hamas and in danger of being jailed by Israel, “pro-Palestinian” groups would have sprung to his defense, but because he supports Israel, they do not see him as a Palestinian worth defending.  It is not Palestinian lives that “pro-Palestinian” activists value; it is the propaganda value of Palestinian lives and deaths that they value.
Of course for anti-Zionists, it all starts with dehumanizing Israelis.  If they realized that Israelis are real people, they would be more likely to realize that Palestinians too are real people.  Anti-Zionists, however, see Israelis as an abstract imperialist blob.  Besides the fact that Israel is not an imperialist enterprise but a native enterprise, no two Israelis are exactly the same, but to anti-Zionists, all Israelis must be denounced, boycotted, isolated, and ultimately made to disappear.
Is it important that the IDF see Palestinians as people?  Yes of course it is, but the IDF is reminded of this fact 24 hours a day, every day of the year, by hordes of people, even Israelis themselves, but in reality the IDF does a decent job of it and does not need to be reminded so often.  Those hordes of people do not however look in the mirror and see that they, more than anyone else, routinely and thoughtlessly dehumanize Palestinians.
Whenever they are told that their actions hurt the Palestinians far more than they hurt Israel, “pro-Palestinian” activists plug their ears and start shouting “la la la la, I can’t hear you, I can’t hear you”, then they go back to their mantra about the Israelis having stolen land and needing to be punished and being all-around evil people and so on.  It would be funny if it were not real.
It is appalling but somewhat expected (given over 67 years of violence against Israel) that some Zionists would dehumanize Palestinians, but it is quite a tragedy that “pro-Palestinian” activists are even worse offenders.  The compulsive and fanatical nature of anti-Zionism is the problem.  It prevents its adherents from seeing the trees while they obsess about a forest that mostly exists in their imaginations.  The hateful nature of anti-Zionism burns everything around it, and the Palestinians are its main victims.
We therefore call for an awakening of conscience among the ranks of those who call themselves pro-Palestinian.  If they truly are pro-Palestinian, and not simply anti-Israel, then we expect them to strongly condemn Hamas terrorism and Fatah corruption which are the main causes of Palestinian suffering, rather than demonize Israel while ignoring the consequences of that demonization on the lives of real Palestinians.

Note: For further writings by Bassem Eid, see  For further writings by Fred Maroun, see Times of Israel and Jerusalem Post.  The parts of their writings that are most relevant to this blog are referenced within the blog.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Why Do Canadian Men Behave Like Pigs?

The ongoing Jian Ghomeshi scandal in Canada has brought the issue of violence against women to the forefront, and I find myself shaking my head and wondering why so many Canadian men behave like pigs towards women.

Jian Ghomeshi who for many years was known as a charming and talented radio host, appears now to have been physically abusing many women for many years with impunity (Ghomeshi’s staff complained about ‘culture of fear’).  It is reported that Ghomeshi’s abuse affected many women, all his staff knew about it, it was even reported within the organization, but Ghomeshi’s abuse was allowed to continue.

In September 2003, a story broke out about a chant promoting rape in main events of Frosh Week at the University Of British Columbia Sauder School Of Business.   Not having learned anything from the UBC incident, a similar chant was reported at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax the following year.  Apparently, Frosh leaders, both at St. Mary’s and at UBC said “it’s just lyrics, it’s just a chant, they had no meaning behind it” (Frosh week controversies).

In November 2014, two players from the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees hockey team were charged with sexually assaulting a young woman in a Thunder Bay hotel during a game trip seven months earlier (University of Ottawa sexual assault scandal highlights campus rape culture).  Taking no chances, the university president Allan Rock suspended the entire team, but his caution was criticized by students as “unfair”.

Radio hosts and university students are considered to be among the most educated Canadians, and such educated people are expected to understand that women are not their sexual toys.  Some people have suggested that Canadian universities have a “rape culture” (Canadian universities tackle campus rape culture).  I think that the problem extends far beyond universities.

According to Canada’s Department of Justice, “the highest number of police-reported sexual offences were against girls between the ages of 11 to 19, peaking at age 13 (781 per 100,000 population)” (Statistics on Sexual Assault).  Think about this for a minute: Thirteen years old girls are the favourite target of rapists.  The same document also states that “78% of sexual assaults were not reported to the police”; other reports give even higher numbers, going as high as 94% (

One could argue that 781 per 100,000 population is only 0.78% and therefore not representative of the general Canadian population.  However, since only 78% of sexual assaults are reported, the actual rate is 3.5%.  In addition, the 3.5% rate of rape is only the tip of the iceberg.  Sexual misconduct goes well beyond rape.  In June 2013, almost 300 current and former female RCMP officers joined a class-action lawsuit alleging harassment in the workplace (282 join RCMP sexual harassment class-action lawsuit).

According to the Canadian Labour Congress, “10% of women 18 to 24 years of age report having experienced sexual harassment in the workplace within the previous 12 months” (Women's Health and Safety).  At this rate, it is not hard to imagine that most women in Canada have experienced sexual harassment at least once in their lives.  In fact, the private company Canadian Labour Relations estimates that over 90% of women in Canada have been sexually harassed at least once.  This is far beyond an innocent Frosh week chant; this indicates a sense of entitlement on the part of men towards women and girls.

This is clearly not a Canadian problem only, but we pride ourselves on being better than the rest of the world.  We have a reputation for being polite, liberal, and egalitarian.  Perhaps we do not deserve it.  The reality is that the vast majority of Canadian men have behaved like pigs at one point or another in their lives, and many, like Ghomeshi, appear to feel fully entitled to do so as often as they wish.  It is not just our universities that have a twisted idea of sexual consent; this syndrome appears to be widely shared among men in our society.

I don’t know why men do this.  Perhaps we have not yet evolved beyond the caveman mentality.  Perhaps we are unable to handle modern life, and we take out our frustrations on those who cannot defend themselves; after all, sexual violence is violence, not sex.  Whatever the reason, we should be ashamed of ourselves, but most importantly we need to change.  There is no excuse.

Note: a modified version of this blog was published at

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Confronting ISIS: The NDP Has Lost its Way

It is very clear by now to anyone paying attention that the group calling itself the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is an extremely violent organization promoting a fanatical ideology and quickly expanding across the Middle East with the intention of reaching into Europe and beyond (it has already made explicit threats against Canada). ISIS is also allied with like-minded organizations from around the world, including Boko Haram in Nigeria and the Taliban in Pakistan.

The threat posed by ISIS to the world and particularly the Middle East is urgent and undeniable. ISIS is known to engage in gruesome mass killings in an effort to ethnically cleanse groups that they consider undesirables, including Christians and including Muslims who do not abide by their brand of Islam. ISIS has two important elements that make it into a world threat that must not be ignored: its drive to massacre groups that it considers undesirable, and its drive to expand its empire to the whole world.

To find an equivalent organization in scope and extremism, we need to go back to Nazi Germany at the start of World War II. The main difference between them is that Germany’s first target was Europe whereas ISIS’s first target is the Middle East, but to anyone who considers that the lives of all individuals (Arabs or Europeans, Muslims or Christians) have the same value, this difference is hardly relevant.

No reasonable person would suggest today that Canada should not have been engaged militarily in the coalition against Nazi Germany, yet both opposition parties, while acknowledging that ISIS is a dangerous and criminal organization, stood in Parliament and voted against military involvement by Canada. They voted to let other members of the coalition do the work of combatting this threat, and they voted to not have Canada offer even the small symbolic military contribution that the Conservative government of Canada has offered as part of the coalition.

Liberal leader Justin Trudeau left the door open to supporting Canada’s military involvement at a later date, presumably when it appears safe to do so without losing popular support. New Democratic Party (NDP) leader Thomas Mulcair went even further and left no door open. Mulcair made it clear that he has no interest in pursuing any military involvement against ISIS, now or in the future.

The opportunistic Liberal position does not surprise me because it is fairly consistent with traditional Liberal politics, although Bob Rae, a former New Democrat, was a temporary and far-too-short breath of fresh air. I am, however, surprised and disappointed that the party of David Lewis and Tommy Douglas refuses to stand up for the minorities who are under assault by ISIS and refuses to engage in a war that may determine the future of much of the world.

When faced with the threat of Nazi Germany, the NDP of the past (Cooperative Commonwealth Federation, CCF at the time), firmly supported Canada’s war effort. Tommy Douglas, later to be the leader of the NDP, even enlisted in the army to fight the Nazis. Douglas stated the following in Canada’s House of Commons in 1939: “If you accept the completely absolutist position of the pacifist, then you are saying that you are prepared to allow someone else who has no such scruples to destroy all the values you've built up. […] if you came to a choice between losing freedom of speech, religion, association, thought, and all the things that make life worth living, and resorting to force, you'd used force.” (Stewart, Walter (2003), Tommy: the life and politics of Tommy Douglas).

Canada’s official opposition is essentially saying today that peoples of the Middle East should fend for themselves while Canada sends only humanitarian aid and sits tight while hoping for the best. The NDP did not take that stand when the peoples in a similar danger were Europeans, but today that peoples of the Middle East are losing “freedom of speech, religion, association, thought, and all the things that make life worth living” and often their lives as well, the NDP is content to do nothing.

One could argue that this is an indication of NDP discrimination against Arabs, but I think that it simply a sign that the NDP of today is not the same principled and forthright party as the party of Tommy Douglas, David Lewis, and M.J. Coldwell. The NDP is today, as it has been for the last two or three decades, a party dominated by radical leftist ideologues with little connection to average working people. Upon the election of Mulcair as leader of the NDP, there was much hope that he would move the party back to its principled roots.

Sadly, it appears that Mulcair has no will or no ability to stand up to the party’s radicals, and he has adopted without question the “absolutist position of the pacifist” which Douglas had denounced.The NDP was once the conscience of Canada while the Liberal party was widely known as an opportunistic party that would steal NDP ideas once they became popular. Today, the NDP is no longer anybody’s conscience; and it does not have the electoral appeal of the Liberal party either.

It is a party without a purpose and without a future, a party that is captive to ivory tower activists who think that supporting Arabs and Muslims is somehow the same as promoting hatred of Israel. Whether the war with ISIS brings an end to ISIS or not is still an open question, but it seems that it has already claimed its first victim in Canada: the relevance of the New Democratic Party.

Note: This blog was first published in New Canadian Media (

Friday, September 12, 2014

Israel’s Controversial Settlements in the West Bank

During the last Israel/Hamas war, Israel was supported by Jews and other friends of Israel from around the world.  While the anti-Israel mobs had a hateful message against Israel’s right to defend itself, often in open support of Hamas, the message of the pro-Israel crowds was simple and non-violent: Israel wants peace.  This message was clear and powerful, and it had the support of every Western government, even if many had concerns about the number of civilian casualties in Gaza.  Most importantly, it was a message that unified all those who support Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state.

Since the Six-Day War of 1967, Israel has occupied the West Bank, and within a year, it slowly started building settlements there.  These settlements send a message that diverts from the simple and powerful message that “Israel wants peace”.  They send the message that Israel also wants more land.  No government in the world, not even the openly pro-Israel government of Stephen Harper in Canada, supports Israel’s settlements policy in the West Bank.  This policy pits Israel against everyone else, and it splits the pro-Israel camp as well, creating animosity and mistrust between its proponents and its opponents.

As a supporter of Palestinian self-determination, I reject Israel’s settlements policy in the West Bank because it makes the project of a Palestinian state next to Israel more difficult to achieve.  However as a friend of Israel, I have to ask why Israel would stop building settlements in Judea and Samaria (the Jewish traditional name for the West Bank) when it is Israel’s right to build them and when Arabs have refused since 1948 and still refuse today to create a Palestinian state (see my previous blog Palestine Delayed).  Palestinians can end the settlements policy any time they wish simply by agreeing to reasonable peace terms with Israel.  Unfortunately Palestinian leaders, far from taking this sensible step, have in fact used the settlements as a reason not to discuss peace with Israel, a highly foolish and self-defeating position, but a position fully consistent with Palestinian leaders’ tendency to ignore their people’s best interests.

To Israel’s credit, there is a vocal and strong movement within Israel that opposes the settlements.  Among them Peace Now, founded in 1978 by 348 reserve officers and soldiers from Israeli army combat units, is an organization that is proudly Zionist but that eloquently advocates against the settlements (although it has lost some credibility within Israel since its earlier days).  Such organizations present the view that a two-state solution is the right solution for Israel, that Palestinians deserve the right to self-determination, and that Israel should not take actions that stand in the way of achieving these objectives.  What’s more, such organizations illustrate an important contrast between Israel and its Arab neighbours – Israel, which has always waged wars only in self-defence has a healthy number of outspoken peace groups while Arab states who truly need peace activists do not tolerate any.  This contrast has long sustained my admiration and support for Israel.

We live in a time of increasing antisemitism.  Antisemitism levels in Europe have reached heights comparable to the 1930’s.  The fuel being used most often to feed antisemitism is anti-Zionism.  By any rational measure, anti-Zionism has become synonymous to antisemitism.  The issue of settlements helps anti-Zionists because it allows them to make the superficial and erroneous claim that Israel is an imperialist power.  Freezing the settlements would give a boost to Israel’s image in the world, and reversing them would go even further in that direction.  This is what happened when Israel abandoned its settlements in Gaza.  Israelis also remember however that this boost in Israel’s image was only temporary, and that when Israel started defending itself against terrorist attacks from Gaza, the new-found support evaporated.  Antisemitism, like racism, is irrational and would not be significantly affected by goodwill gestures from Israel.

Israel is not invincible, and it should not behave as if it were.  Israel was almost lost in the 1973 Yom Kippur war due to overconfidence.  Is Israel displaying the same dangerous overconfidence in its settlements policy?  Cautious people like myself would like Israel to avoid this risk, while many others, including perhaps the majority of Israelis, consider this to be a minor risk compared to the many others facing Israel.  As in 1948, Israel is still surrounded by despotic regimes that to various degrees do not hesitate to use antisemitism to further their own goals, and the Palestinian culture of hate is stronger than ever and renders Palestinians completely incapable of living at peace with Israel (see also How Palestinian Hate Prevents Peace).  Proponents of the settlements also argue that Israel is stronger today that it has ever been, and it can therefore afford to ignore some criticisms.

While freezing or reversing the settlements would be the generous thing to do to Palestinians (most of whom are genuinely victims of circumstances beyond their control or comprehension), and while it would boost Israel’s image, at least momentarily, Israelis do not want to give them up without anything substantial in return.  Considering how little goodwill has come from Arabs towards Israel, I cannot blame them.  The West Bank is actually Judea and Samaria, part of Eretz Israel, the Biblical name of the traditional “Land of Israel”, and many of the settlers are simply returning to homes that they or their ancestors had to leave due to anti-Jewish violence during the war of independence or earlier conflicts.  The Israeli settlements are perfectly legal since the land is not legally recognized as owned by any nation (The legal case for Judea and Samaria) and since Jews have as much right to that land (particularly unused land) as non-Jews do.

Israel cannot be expected to always act against its own best interests simply to hold the higher moral ground.  In its wars with terrorist groups like Hamas and Hezbollah, due to the terrorists’ policy of using civilians as human shields, Israel always warns before attacking, thereby losing the element of surprise and letting terrorists go free in order to minimize civilian casualties.  Israel also abandons bombing missions if there appears to be civilians at the target site, again letting terrorists go free.  The world seems to have become accustomed to Israel being selfless and highly moral even though its enemies’ only objective is the destruction of Israel and the Jews.  On the issue of settlements, however, Israel is doing what it considers best for its citizens – it is allowing them to build homes on their ancestral lands, even though this policy appears to somewhat complicate the Palestinians’ project of statehood.  This is not the high moral ground, but it is a behaviour that would be accepted from any other government on earth under similar circumstances.

Despite Israel’s controversial settlements policy in the West Bank, it is clear that the message that “Israel wants peace” is as true today as it was on the founding of the modern state of Israel in May 1948.  While many pro-Israel advocates would like the issue of settlements to go away in order to simplify their defence of Israel, Israel must still be supported now more than ever.  Enemies of Israel (which are also the enemies of Jews) have become very adept at using this issue to demonize Israel, but friends of Israel, while still needing to debate this policy, must not let it divide them.  We must not forget that this issue would not even exist had it not been for Arab antisemitism, and it will only be fully resolved when Israel’s Arab neighbours finally accept its right to exist as a Jewish state.  This is the only way forward.  This is what Palestinian supporters need to aim for.

Friday, July 25, 2014

What do Israel’s critics really want?

Israel’s operation Protective Edge is on its eighteenth day, and Israel’s critic are intensifying their demand that Israel stop its operation.  It is clear to any reasonable observer, as Canadian columnist Michael Den Tandt wrote recently (The simple question detractors can’t answer) that “Hamas has put Israel in a position where it has no choice but to defend its citizens”.  So what do Israel’s critics really want?

When pressed to give a reason, Israel’s critics say that the humanitarian situation in Gaza is not acceptable and Israeli civilians have suffered very few casualties.  The implication is clearly that Israel should simply grin and bear it.  Israel should accept daily missile attacks on its civilians with the high likelihood that a large number of victims will ensue, possibly in a missile strike on Tel Aviv or other large urban area.  Israel should accept that its main airport be threatened and that airlines suspend flights to it.  Israel should accept the impact of such a situation on the morale of its citizens and on its economy.  This is what they are really saying.  And this would not resolve the humanitarian crisis for Palestinians because sooner or later fighting would have to resume anyway.

But it doesn’t stop there.  Hamas has an extensive set of tunnels to allow it to smuggle weapons in and to allow it to infiltrate Israel’s civilian population and commit extensive acts of terror.  If Israel does not destroy the tunnels, then it should expect more than a daily shower of missiles on its cities.  It should also expect that heavily armed terrorists could attack its schools, malls, and parks at any time of the day or night.

If presented with these facts, Israel’s critics will admit that Hamas’ ethics aren’t spotless but then they retreat to the claim that, as the cowardly Palestinian Authority likes to say, the real root of the problem is Israel’s occupation.  Which occupation?  Israel left Gaza years ago and it even dismantled its settlements there, causing great pain to many of its people.

Israel’s critics will then say that even though Gaza isn’t technically occupied, it is not free to trade with the outside due to Israel’s and Egypt’s blockades, and that this is causing great hardship for the Palestinians in Gaza.  Yet, when Israel loosened its blockade of Gaza and allowed more construction materials in, Hamas did not build school and hospitals; it built tunnels for its terrorist activity.  It is blindingly obvious that Hamas uses any loosening of the blockade to arm itself better for the next confrontation with Israel.

Israel’s critics will also mention Israel’s occupation in the West Bank.  Does anyone really think that Hamas is building terror tunnels in Gaza and launching missiles against Israel in order to free the West Bank?  If that were true, Hamas would demand a two-state solution as its condition for ending the war in Gaza.  Instead its conditions are the release of convicted criminals and the lifting of the blockade so that it can build more tunnels and bring in more missiles and other long-range weapons.  In addition, after leaving Gaza, statements by various leading Israeli politicians indicate that Israel intended to follow that up with an evacuation of the West Bank, and the only reason this did not happen is because missile attacks from Gaza convinced Israelis that unilateral withdrawal was not a palatable option.

It is extremely clear that Israel cannot choose to stop the operation until Hamas is disabled at least temporarily, and yet Israel’s critic are demanding Israel’s unconditional surrender.  As demonstrated here, we know that those critics are not asking Israel’s surrender for the sake of Palestinians or for the sake of peace, so the only alternative left is that they agree with Hamas’ objective of destroying Israel.  They agree with Hamas’ objective of killing all the Jews in Israel and establishing an Islamist dictatorship in its place.  Israel’s critics are in fact in a way worse than Hamas; Hamas at least has the courage to state what it really wants.

Note:  This blog won first place in the category "Non-Council" at the site on the week of August 1, 2014.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

"Proportionality" in the Israel/Gaza War

One question that often comes up in the ongoing (and third) war between Israel and Hamas is the issue of proportionality.  As of this writing, 318 Palestinians and one Israeli have been reported killed.  So why the discrepancy?

I will answer this question in two ways: first to simply explain why the discrepancy, and second to explain why the question is misleading and largely irrelevant.

The discrepancy in counts is due to a number of factors:
  • Israel has built an anti-rocket system called Iron Dome that is very effective at intercepting rockets and destroying them before they can reach populated areas.
  • Israel has built shelters for its civilian population and has trained its citizens on using them when they hear sirens announcing the arrival of rockets.
  • Hamas did not build any way to protect its civilians; they have instead used their resources to build shelters for Hamas terrorists and for rockets and to build tunnels to smuggle weapons.
  • Hamas knows that it cannot win militarily.  Its strategy is to ensure that as many civilians die as possible to increase external pressures on Israel to accept Hamas terms, i.e., the release of criminals and the end of Israel’s blockade on weapons to Gaza.  Therefore, Hamas uses civilians as human shields and coaxes them into going near likely targets.
  • Despite the high number of Palestinian casualties and Hamas’ best efforts at increasing civilian casualties, a large number, if not most Palestinians dead are Hamas terrorists (accurate estimates are not available at this time).
  • The number of reported casualties on the Israeli side does not account for Israelis who have died or have had serious medical problems as a result of panic during rocket attacks.

Despite all of the above, I question the validity of the question in the first place.  Israel is attacking Hamas in order to stop rocket attacks into Israel, and Israel has the right and even the duty to defend its citizens.  Despite the use of Iron Dome, the rockets still terrorize Israeli citizens and cause damage to the Israeli economy.  No sovereign nation on earth would accept that its citizens be terrorized without attempting to stop the attacks.  The fact that Palestinians have far more casualties than Israel isn’t really relevant because Israel does not target civilians, and each and every civilian death is Hamas’ fault.

The low number of Israeli casualties is not due to lack of trying on Hamas’ part.  If Hamas rockets were not intercepted by the Iron Dome, the number of Israeli casualties would be far higher than Palestinian casualties.  Let’s look at it this way: if a Hamas rocket managed to reach a large building in Tel Aviv and killed thousands of Israeli civilians, would that mean that by virtue of proportionality Israel would now be justified in killing thousands of Palestinian civilians?  Of course not.

The war in Gaza is not a football game.  When Germany beat Brazil 7-1 at the 2014 FIFA World Cup, near the end of the game many German fans felt sorry for Brazil because they did not want to humiliate Brazilians.  In that case, speaking of proportionality made sense – there is no need for Germany to win by a huge margin in order to win the cup.  The war in Gaza, however, is not a game.  It is an attempt by Israel to stop terrorist attacks on its citizens.  If Israel stopped its operation without reaching its objective and simply because of the need to maintain some misplaced proportionality, would that be desirable?  Certainly it wouldn’t be desirable because Israelis would continue to be terrorized by Hamas rockets and sooner or later Israel would have to go after Hamas again anyway.

The one and only way to end repeated wars in Gaza is to stop Hamas and its allies from attacking Israel.  This can be done in two ways, either by Israel putting so much control over Gaza that terrorists can no longer re-arm, or it can be done by having the Palestinians choose a Gaza leadership that is willing to recognize that violence is not the answer.  The latter is of course the preferred outcome, but lacking that, no reasonable person can blame Israel for attempting to achieve the former, and each and every casualty along the way is Hamas’ doing.