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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

NY Times puzzled by Israelis support the war

The New York Times tries to explain to its readers why Israelis support the war in Gaza, and while they accurately describe what's going on here, they are apparently struggling to understand it (Hat Tip: Memeorandum).
To Israel’s critics abroad, the picture could not be clearer: Israel’s war in Gaza is a wildly disproportionate response to the rockets of Hamas, causing untold human suffering and bombing an already isolated and impoverished population into the Stone Age, and it must be stopped.

Yet here in Israel very few, at least among the Jewish population, see it that way.

Since Israeli warplanes opened the assault on Gaza 17 days ago, about 900 Palestinians have been reported killed, many of them civilians. Red Cross workers were denied access to scores of dead and wounded Gazans, and a civilian crowd near a United Nations school was hit, with at least 40 people killed.

But voices of dissent in this country have been rare. And while tens of thousands have poured into the streets of world capitals demonstrating against the Israeli military operation, antiwar rallies here have struggled to draw 1,000 participants. The Peace Now organization has received many messages from supporters telling it to stay out of the streets on this one.

As the editorial page of The Jerusalem Post put it on Monday, the world must be wondering, do Israelis really believe that everybody is wrong and they alone are right?

The answer is yes.

“It is very frustrating for us not to be understood,” remarked Yoel Esteron, editor of a daily business newspaper called Calcalist. “Almost 100 percent of Israelis feel that the world is hypocritical. Where was the world when our cities were rocketed for eight years and our soldier was kidnapped? Why should we care about the world’s view now?”
For those of you who are critical of the Israeli action, please come live in Sderot for a week and see how you can handle it (ironically, not now - since the action started the rocket fire has declined significantly).

It's been eight years since the rocket fire on the south started, and it's been four and a half years since our politicians promised that expelling all the Jews from Gaza would end the rockets and three and a half years since the expulsion only made matters worse. Israelis are fed up. Maybe the rest of you didn't realize how fed up we are, but we are fed up with fighting an enemy that wants a fight to the finish and treats every 'negotiation' like a trip to the souk.

The Times discusses the liquidation of Nizar Riyyan two weeks ago. It cites an Israeli expert on ethics as being critical of the IDF for killing Riyyan even though his family was with him. What else were we supposed to do? Send IDF soldiers to be sitting ducks outside his home until he decided to come out? So we could have 15 dead soldiers instead of 13 dead family members because the terrorist had a suicide complex? Forgive me, but no ethical system of which I am aware requires committing suicide to save a terrorist who surrounds himself with human shields. Jewish law - the most ethical system in the world - is quite clear about that: When someone comes to kill you, you kill him first.

You will also note that the Times uses the magic word 'proportionate' above and claims that the entire world believes our response is 'disproportionate.' Forgetting for a minute that no other country would tolerate what we have been through for the last eight years, just what is a 'proportionate' response. I cited this article in a post I did about Qana two and a half years ago, but it bears re-examination:
International law has three major prohibitions relevant to the Qana incident. One forbids deliberate attacks on civilians. Another prohibits hiding forces in civilian areas, thereby turning civilians into "human shields." A third prohibition, the proportionality restriction that Israel is accused of violating, involves a complicated and controversial balancing test.

Geneva Convention Protocol I contains one version of the proportionality test, the International Criminal Court Statute another; neither is universally accepted. As a result, the proportionality test is governed by "customary international law," an amalgam of non-universal treaty law, court decisions, and how influential nations actually behave. It does not hinge on the relative number of casualties, or the force used, however, but on the intent of the combatant. Under customary international law, proportionality prohibits attacks expected to cause incidental death or injury to civilians if this harm would, on balance, be excessive in relation to the overall legitimate military accomplishment anticipated.

At Qana, Israeli aircraft fired toward a building to stop Hezbollah from shooting rockets at its cities. The aircraft did not deliberately target civilians; but Hezbollah rockets are targeted at civilians, a clear war crime. U.N. humanitarian chief Jan Egeland last week called on Hezbollah to stop its "cowardly blending" among women and children: "I heard they were proud because they lost very few fighters and that it was the civilians bearing the brunt of this." If Hezbollah used Lebanese civilians in Qana as "human shields," then Hezbollah, not Israel, is legally responsible for their deaths.
Note how we are continually being told that most of the casualties are 'civilians,' and Hamas seems quite proud of that. We have seen evidence over and over again that Hamas uses civilians as human shields. The legitimate objective in Riyyan's case was killing a terrorist who was a major factor in Hamas' terror infrastructure in Gaza. If he chose to use his own family as human shields, what alternative does Israel have? To allow Riyyan to keep attacking us?
If Israel was mistaken and Hezbollah was not firing from or hiding amongst these civilians, the legality of its action is assessed by the proportionality test. Because the test is vague, there have been few, if any, cases since World War II in which a soldier, commander or country has been convicted of violating it. In the absence of guidance from the courts, determining whether Israel's military has failed the proportionality test depends on an assessment of what civilian casualties it expected, what its overall military goals are, the context in which the country is operating, and how the international community has in practice balanced civilian risk against military goals.
Given that it has been exhaustively proven that Hamas uses civilians as human shields, the proportionately test - about which the world is suddenly so concerned - never comes into play.

The Times worries that Israelis don't see why the IDF's response is disproportionate. But that's not the issue. In fact, we believe it ought to be disproportionate, because there is no other way to put a stop to the ever-expanding nightmare going on in our southern region. That's why we support the war. We don't want to ever go back to the type of 'disproportionality' illustrated in the newspaper at right. Maybe if the rockets were falling in Times Square, the Times would feel differently.

Read the whole thing.

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At 6:16 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

Israeli Jews - even leftist Jews - don't like being lectured to by outsiders who won't put themselves in Israel's shoes and try to see its point of view. The world doesn't for various well known reasons but let's be clear: none of them would be looking for a "diplomatic exit." They would fight a group like Hamas to the finish. And there's the universal feeling in Israel that its only Jews that are prevented from being allowed to defend themselves and if there's a position approaching one of virtual unanimity in Israel, its that Israel has that right not just in theory. If UN Secretary General Ki Ban Moon is looking for Israel to unilaterally stop Operation Cast Lead, he's in for a long wait.

At 6:29 PM, Blogger Soccer Dad said...

Yoel Esterson is a lefty who used to be affiliated with Ha'aretz, isn't he?

At 7:24 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

Soccer Dad, the UN Human Rights (now there's an oxymoron!) Council passed a resolution condemning Israel's defensive war in Gaza. The only country that voted against the inevitable anti-Israel resolution was Canada. America is not a member of that body. So it all adds up to a conviction Israel is very much alone and that has brought Jews who agree on little together, that this is a defensive war and a justified one. Israel prefers to live with the censure rather than the crocodile tears of sympathy that would follow a funeral of the Jewish State. When one is fighting a war of no choice, Israeli Jews say without hesitation: better them than us. And they don't worry whether the world approves of what Israel has to do to defend itself.


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