An attempt is made to share the truth regarding issues concerning Israel and her right to exist as a Jewish nation. This blog has expanded to present information about radical Islam and its potential impact upon Israel and the West. Yes, I do mix in a bit of opinion from time to time.
Thursday, December 27, 2012
Jonathan Rosenblum Jerusalem PostDecember 12, 2012
among these new metrics is the comparison of Israeli casualties to those
of the civilian population from whose midst the enemy fights. As soon
as the casualties on the other side exceed those suffered by Israel –
usually within hours of an unprovoked attack on Israel and without any
cessation of fire from the other side -- Israel's response is labeled
military actions are consistently judged and found wanting by metrics
that are applied to no other army or conflict. Application of these
standards is designed to render Israel incapable of defending its
Patrick B. Pexson, for instance, recently dismissed the overwhelming
majority of rockets fired from Gaza as "like bee stings on the Israeli
bears behind." By which, he presumably meant that they only kill a few
But there is no
acceptable level of civilian casualties, and any Israeli government that
treated rocket attacks on its cities as tolerable would deserve to be
tossed out of office. The protection of its citizens from external
attack is the first duty of any government.
a widely read essay, "America, Israel, Gaza, the World," Walter Russell
Mead accurately describes what the reaction of American citizens would
be in a similar situation: "Certainly if some kind of terrorist
organization were to set up missile factories across the frontier in
Canada and Mexico and start attacking targets in the United States, the
American people would demand that their President use all necessary
force, without stint or limit until the resistance had been completely,
utterly and pitilessly crushed." While Americans might sorrow for
non-combatants killed, writes Mead, they would feel no moral guilt.
himself would never dream of living in a place like Sderot. Crude and
unguided Kassam rockets do not kill people every day. But people in
Sderot run for the closest cover when the warning siren shrieks,
sometimes many times in a day, and sleep in basements at night for a
reason. Kassams have killed more than a dozen people. Americans would
never subject their children to an environment in which somewhere
between 42% (according to Ambassador Michael Oren) and three-quarters of
the children suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Grad missiles and Iranian Fajr-5s are far more lethal than Kassams, and
are deliberately fired with the aim of killing many Israeli civilians.
Only by the grace of G-d and the billions of dollars invested by Israel
in civil defense and Iron Dome have heavy casualties been averted. Grads
have hit school buildings and playgrounds when school was not in
session and close to the Ashkelon oil refinery.
ratio of civilian casualties to those lost on the other side is only
mentioned with respect to Israel. But NATO bombing in the Balkans in the
1990s killed over 1,000 civilians. No NATO pilots were lost. And
obviously no American lives were lost in unmanned drone strikes in
tribal regions of Pakistan, in which hundreds of civilians have been
killed. At least 500 Panamanian civilians were killed in the 1989 U.S.
invasion to capture General Manuel Noreiga.
NATO country was under threat from Serbia. While Noreiga had harassed
American civilians and military in the Canal Zone, he was no threat to
the United States. These were wars of choice. By contrast, Israeli
civilians have repeatedly been under direct attack from Gaza.
powers rely on safe bombing from above, even at the cost of far higher
civilian casualties. Israel, however, repeatedly put its own reserve
soldiers and enlisted soldiers in mortal danger in Operation Defensive
Shield and Operation Cast Lead in order to minimize civilian casualties
on the other side.
THE MOST DISMAYING TREATMENT of the issue of proportionality during
Operation Pillar of Fire was that of Walter Russell Mead in the
above-mentioned essay, precisely because of his well-earned status as
one of America's leading foreign affairs experts.
is above suspicion of any anti-Israel bias. Indeed the main thrust of
his essay was to explain why there is so much more sympathy for Israel
in the United States than anywhere else. Nevertheless, his treatment of
the principle of "proportionality," is error-filled.
as described by Mead, mandates that even a legitimate war – e.g., one
of self-defense – must be fought by appropriate means. To illustrate:
"If the other guy comes at you with a stick, you can't pull a knife; if
he's got a knife, you can't pull a gun." Israel, he argues, "doesn't
have an unlimited right to respond to limited attacks with unlimited
force," an obvious moral principle towards which he accuses Israel of
turning a blind eye.
description of Israel as employing "unlimited means" against Gazans is
ridiculous. The United States enforced a general blockade of Germany in
World War II and the Union army of the Confederacy during the Civil War.
Israel did not turn off the electricity in Gaza, even in the midst of
missile attacks from Gaza, and despite having no obligation under
international law to supply Gaza with electricity. Food continued to
flow into Gaza and injured civilians to cross the border into Israel for
Richard Kemp, former High Commander of British forces in Afghanistan,
and a man with unparalleled experience in asymmetric warfare, said at
the time of Operation Cast Lead, that no army in the history ever took
more extraordinary steps to minimize civilian casualties than Israel
demonstration of Israel's care to avoid civilian casualties, despite the
deliberate Hamas strategy designed to maximize those casualties, lies
in the ratio of combatant to civilian casualties. In Operation Cast
Lead, for instance, the ratio of combatant to civilian casualties was at
least 7:4, by Hamas's own admission. No army in the world, including
the American and European armies, has ever achieved such ratios when
fighting against combatants embedded in the midst of the civilian
Mead's analogy to illustrate the principle of proportionality defies law
and logic. If someone threatens me with a lethal weapon, like a knife,
I'm entitled to shoot him. I'm under no obligation to put down my gun
and pick up a knife to make it a "fair fight."
the legal point of view, the relative efficacy and lethal power of a
gun is irrelevant, unless I can be absolutely sure of disarming my
attacker without resort to lethal force. The relevant legal questions
are: Who is the aggressor? And has the threatening behavior stopped? So
too in warfare. The relevant moral question is who initiated combat and
have they ceased from their aggression. At no time, during the eight
days of Operation Pillar of Defense did Hamas or the other jihadist
groups in Gaza cease firing missiles at Israel.
Proportionality in international law,paceMr.
Mead, has nothing to do with the relative force marshaled by the
parties. As Professor Michael Walzer, one of the leading contemporary
"just war" theorists, puts it, proportionality is not symmetry. It is
not like a feud between the Hatfields and McCoys: If the Hatfields
killed three McCoys, three Hatfields (and no more) must now perish.
writes Walzer, is goal-oriented, not retributive. Proportionality in
international law is measured in terms of the goals of a particular
military action. In general, military action passes the test if it meets
two conditions: one, it is directed at a military target; and two, it
does not wantonly target civilians. Only if the sought after military
advantage is very slight and anticipated civilian casualties very high
would proportionality become an issue – for the military action would be
akin to the deliberate targeting of civilians.
because Mead is not some hysterical MSNBC reporter, pointing at alleged
civilian corpses as irrefutable proof of Israeli war crimes and
doubtless unaware that under international law a party that fights from
among the civilian population and locates military targets in their
midst is responsible for those civilian deaths, is his confusion so
distressing. For it demonstrates how great is the burden that Israel
must overcome with respect to international public opinion.
IS HYPER-SENSITIVE to international opinion. And that hyper-sensitivity
might one day prevent it from taking the steps necessary to survive.
The IDF operates under more restrictions than any other army. Every
military battle plan contains a legal analysis of the legitimacy of
every potential target in Gaza and the circumstances under which those
targets can be attacked.
to news reports, after the recent ceasefire went into effect, Israeli
troops were told that they cannot even fire at a rocket crew preparing
to launch a rocket at Israel, without permission of a senior commander,
and that they must permit Gaza's farmers, or those posing as such, to
proceed right up to the border fence.
success of Iron Dome allowed Israel to pursue a calibrated policy in
Operation Pillar of Defense. But it is easy to imagine a scenario in
which both Hamas's and the larger and more powerful Hizbullah arsenal
were turned on Israel's major cities and high value targets, like the
Haifa oil refineries and offshore gas rigs. They could overwhelm Iron
Dome's current capacities.
such a situation, which could also involve a ground war on one or more
fronts, Israel would have no choice but to bomb with little regard to
civilian casualties in order to stop the missile fire as quickly as
possible. Worries about international opinion would have to wait to
ensure there will be a tomorrow.