Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Exquisite Irrelevance of Proportionality

French President Nicolas Sarkozy and assorted other world leaders have roundly condemned Israel’s ‘disproportionate’ use of force in Gaza. Pandering to those who elevate Hamas’ unprovoked civilian targeting to a higher moral plane than Israel’s defensive response, blaming Israel seems (once again) to be the politics du jour on the Continent.

Since Hamas took power in January 2006, more than 5,000 rockets (as well as mortars) have been fired at exclusively civilian areas in southern Israel, home to more than 800,000 people. This bombardment followed Israel’s 2005 unilateral withdrawal of Israeli soldiers and settlers from all of the territory.

Should Israel thus be justified in sending the equivalent of 5,000 rockets into Gaza’s civilian areas? If so, should Israel be condemned if its reciprocity happens to be more accurate and lethal? Surely far more casualties would have resulted from such a reciprocal approach than from Israel’s pinpoint and selective strikes against overwhelmingly military targets. Is it in anyway rational or objective to blame Israel for Hamas’ perverse penchant for locating its ammunition dumps, rocket factories and military installations in mosques, schools, hospitals and apartment buildings?

By Algerian estimates, up to 700,000 civilians were killed during the eight year French-Algerian War, a war fought over exclusively North African land (18,000 French are also believed to have died). Russia decimated Chechnya during that republic’s attempt to break away from Mother Russia, resulting in between 100,000 to 200,000 civilian fatalities in three years (Russian casualties were reported to be 5,500). In the early 1950’s the British Army put down the Mau Mau rebellion in Kenya – over 10,000 were killed, with few British casualties.

During the Second World War, Germany hit Britain with a barrage of rockets (similar, as Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu has recently pointed out, to the “blind” and erratic rockets of Hamas). In response, the British bombed the baroque city of Dresden to smithereens; the ensuing firestorm caused between 25,000 to 45,000 (mostly civilian) casualties in two nights. Was this more ‘proportional’ than Israel’s response? Is Hamas any less intent on destroying Israel than Hitler was England?

Our history books are replete with contemporary examples of extravagant disproportionality in response to terrorism and acts of war. When it is not Israel that is doing the responding, the latitude granted is comparatively unlimited.

Certainly, Israel firing a proportional 5,000 rockets into Gaza’s urban areas could result in tens of thousands of civilian deaths (a far cry from the current few-hundred, mainly military casualties). Alternatively, in exchange for fewer casualties, perhaps Israel’s critics would prefer the air force to drop 5,000 bombs on power plants, waterworks, bridges, factories and offices? Gaza would in that event descend into chaos and barbaric destruction. Is it so reprehensible for Israel to concentrate – and to do so successfully – on military installations, arms caches, smuggling tunnels and terrorist operatives and rocketeers? Does not the reprehensibility lie with Hamas, who cynically ensures and exploits civilian casualties to further their own eliminationist ends?

What’s more – as Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz has recently pointed out – Israel’s actions (unlike those of the French, the Russians, and the British above) do not even violate the ‘proportionality’ standard trumpeted by Israel’s critics. According to Dershowitz:

“First, there is no legal equivalence between the deliberate killing of innocent civilians and the deliberate killings of Hamas combatants. Under the laws of war, any number of combatants can be killed to prevent the killing of even one innocent civilian. Second, proportionality is not measured by the number of civilians actually killed, but rather by the risk of civilian death and the intentions of those targeting civilians…”

Imagine Paris, London, or Moscow being bombarded with hundreds of missiles, and their leaders taking over six months to respond. If anything, by historical standards, Israel’s leaders have been tardy, negligent and far too dependent on the soft power of negotiation. If anything, Israel is too proportionate in its application of its vastly superior fire-power.

Where were the concerned world’s calls for proportionality during the bombardment of southern Israel with 5,000 Gazan rockets? I don’t recall demonstrations in conscience-stricken European capitals demanding a quid pro quo. Where are the protests condemning the seemingly endless Muslim-on-Muslim violence we have witnessed on nearly every continent? If the charter of Hamas – who rules by both fear and, perhaps more sadly, admiration – explicitly calls for the elimination of Israel, is it expedient to validate those goals by playing politics, ala Jimmy Carter? When Hamas ignores all criticism and all calls for moderation, sympathetic expressions from the international press seem not to be in any way muted.

Perhaps the current barrage of calls to “stop the war” is a little too late, a little too selective. Perhaps the callers should have been (even minimally) active over the last three years, during the 5,000 rocket attacks. Clearly, they were otherwise occupied.

There is an infinitely simplistic solution to this conflict. Hamas must permanently ensure no rocket attacks on or suicide bombings in Israel; release the kidnapped Gilad Shalit; and destroy all Gaza’s smuggling tunnels. In return, Israel must open the territory’s borders to all and everything except armaments and known terrorists, monitored jointly by Israel and impartial international parties. Then, both countries can go about the peaceful business of enhancing the lives of their respective citizens, rather than the destruction of the others’.

Of course, this solution is far too obvious, transparent and peaceful for Hamas, committed as it is to the ongoing Jihadist destruction of Israel above all else. It is far too pragmatic and balanced for Israel’s agenda-driven detractors in Europe. And it is far too risky and modern for current Middle Eastern governments, schooled as they are in propaganda and scape-goating.

As a result, we have war. As I understand it, no war ends until one side convincingly wins or loses. Until Hamas is unambiguously persuaded that its holding of Gaza hostage is counterproductive, that its choice of war rather than civil advancement is going to be its death knell, no cease fire, no calls for proportionality, are going to accomplish anything. Except, of course, satisfying the insatiable hypocrisy of the zealots of ‘proportionality.’

Disproportionate Israeli Humanitarian Aid to Gaza (Andy McCarthy)

Israel’s Policy is Perfectly ‘Proportionate’ (Alan M. Dershowitz)

The Three-State Option (John R. Bolton)

Gaza Solution is in the hands of Palestinians (Tawfik Hamid)

What Hamas Wants (Clifford D. May)



"War is Hell."1

Let Hamas terrorists who choose the path of war bear full responsibility for the hell that follows.

"No legal right shall spring from a wrong."2

"We can forgive the Arabs for killing our children. We cannot forgive them for forcing us to kill their children... We will only have peace with the Arabs when they love their children more than they hate us."3

1General Sherman, June 19, 1879.
Judge Schwebel, former president of the International Court of Justice, "Justice in International Law," 1994.
Golda Meir, former Israeli Prime Minister, 1972.

Posted on The Absurd Report

Posted on SlantRight.com

Posted on Know Thyself

Now, About That "Proportionality" by Ruth R. Wisse


Muslims Against Sharia said...

Let us pray for the safety of Palestinian civilians who held hostages by Hamas and the safety of Israeli soldiers. May this campaign end swiftly and may Hamas be annihilated. May moderate Muslims emerge victorious in the struggle for Gaza!


Joseph C. Smith said...

Best Said By Anyone Leslie!

Just yesterday I wrote Jarrow:

"...I would like to strangle the reporter who came up with the term "proportionality" of casualties! Does this mean it just isn't fair for Israel to WIN?"

So well done...again.

Joe/Columbus, Portland