The reality is Israeli excesses helped pave the way for Hamas to become a power in the first place. Israel is not alone in facing provocations from “terrorists”. But the extent of its retaliation will simply empower its enemies further as Palestinians react against the loss of life. At the end of the day, the moral arguments used by both sides to promote their excesses will not have much currency.
Israel does often over-react but it is easy to criticise imperfect reactions from the “armchair” so to speak. But when the Red Cross is concerned, we should be also:
Even the International Committee of the Red Cross says: “The Israeli military [has] failed to meet its obligation under international humanitarian law to care for and evacuate the wounded.”
That is not good.
What will matter is the consequences that result from the Gaza War. If Israel’s onslaught destabilises the Middle East further how much longer will it be able to count on the United States for unwavering support?
In this case though, there has been considerable support for Israel’s right to try and stop the rocket attacks. Russia and China have been muted – not just blaming Israel. The EU and most western states have been careful not to just blame Israel or call on them to stop unless Hamas will agree to stop also.
Even in Canada, the new Liberal (centre-left) party leader is taking a balanced view:
Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff says Israel is justified in taking military action to defend itself against attacks by Hamas from the Gaza Strip.
“Canada has to support the right of a democratic country to defend itself,” he told reporters in Halifax on Thursday after speaking to a forum of business leaders on the economy.
“Israel has been attacked from Gaza, not just last year, but for almost 10 years. They evacuated from Gaza so there is no occupation in Gaza.”
And I can only quote approvingly from Chris Trotter:
To the Israelis, however, a more persuasive precedent might well be found in their own history. After all, in ancient Judea, wasn’t it the Jews who found themselves in exactly the same position as present-day Palestinians: under the heel of a brutal army of occupation? Was not the Great Jewish Revolt of 66-73AD, and the second, far more destructive Jewish-Roman War of 132-35, the intifada of their time?
And what was the outcome of those revolts? Massive retaliation: countless deaths, towns destroyed, lands seized, and, in the wake of that final, cataclysmic defeat, the “ethnic cleansing” of Judea – the 1,900-year Jewish Diaspora.
“Impossibel!” you say. “Unthinkable!” Not really. What, after all, was the policy of the Allied Powers regarding the German speakers of Eastern Europe at the end of World War II – if not “ethnic cleansing”? The intractability of the problems caused by ethnic Germans living amongst Poles, Czechs, Hungarians and Rumanians led to the wholesale uprooting of entire communities. Families which had lived in the same towns, farmed the same land, for hundreds of years were simply put on trains and “resettled” in the West. Under the auspices of the “Big Three” – the USA, the USSR and the British Empire – Eastern Europe was ruthlessly, and very effectively, “cleansed” of its German-speaking population.The Germans, of course, had sent six million of Europe’s Jews in the opposite direction, to an altogether more permanent kind of “resettlement”.
And can anyone seriously doubt that, should Hamas “win”, their “final solution” would be any different?
The blogsphere is alive with a surfeit of outrage against the Israelis, so it seems appropriate to explain why, despite the Gaza incursions, I am pro-Israeli.Well, it’s an old chestnut, but you can’t get past the Holocaust. In living memory there was the attempted genocide of all European jews, and nearly six million of them were exterminated. This is living memory. When I was a kid in Wellington, I lived next door to a woman who had a concentration camp tattoo on her arm; she showed me it one day …
Now, Hezbollah has as one of its primary goals the elimation of the Jewish state, while Hamas states that judgement day will not come until muslims kill all the jews. (Except for those hiding behind cedar trees. I know, it’s weird, but that’s religion for you.) You can’t tell people who have been through a holocaust just to lie down and take that.
Does that mean Israeli has a right to attack its neighbours? Absolutely not. Does it mean they have to put up with attacks from Hamas, Hezbollah, or associated splinter groups? Absolutely not.
But is the Israeli response disproportionate?
It is tragic, but I don’t think it is disproportionate. They are at pains to avoid civilian casualties, and have even sacrificied Israeli soldiers to minimize these in previous ground operations. Civilian casualties were far higher in WWII in the Ruhr, or in Dresden, or even among French civlians; over 15,000 French civilians were killed in the Battle of Normandy, for example. In contrast, Israel’s opponents go out of their way to cause civilan casualties.
That is the stark reality for me. Hamas try to maximise civilian casualties, Israel does not, and tries to (imperfectly) minimise such casualties.
But here’s the kicker. Israel is a democracy with reasonable equality for women. Its opponents are typically corrupt dictatorships that opppress women as point of religious principle. So I’m going for the Israelis, thanks. If you want to count up the civilian casualties, how about counting up the honour killings, beatings, murders and internecine strife amonst its opponents? Where are the outraged photographs of the 200+ people killed in Hamas:Fatah faction fighting? Where is the outrage over the suicide bombings in Israel? Where is the outrage over the state of women in the Arab world?