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.