The Phony Debate on “Proportionality”

by Lorna Salzman

Israel's response to Hamas rocket fire in the Gaza war caused over one thousand deaths according to Palestinian sources. However, it is not known how many of these supposedly civilian deaths were actually Hamas soldiers. In any case, fewer Israelis were killed in the invasion than Palestinians. As a result, Israel has been accused of using unjustifiable excess force in its response, "disproportionate" to the losses it suffered.

This argument does not hold water for many reasons, least of all because it is well established (even by the tainted Amnesty International report) that Hamas operated out of civilian buildings and communities and stored weapons in these buildings. It is equally well established that Israel gave at least two notices to civilians before they attacked or bombed buildings, to allow real civilians to escape. Nor was it possible to know in advance how many Israeli casualties there would be.

But the issue of "disproportionality" is simply a flimsy after-the-fact accusation that would not have been possible had Israel in fact suffered a thousand casualties. What is at issue is the right of a country to not only defend itself against attack but to dismantle the actual sources of the attack. The notion that Hamas had a right to send rockets into Israel at will and that Israel had no right to respond is totally absurd. Furthermore, it is doubly absurd to assert that Israel had no right to try and destroy THE WEAPONS THEMSELVES AND WHERE THEY AND THEIR AMMUNITION were stored, to prevent future attacks.

Here is why this accusation is absurd. Nearly three thousand innocent Americans were killed on 9/11. Does this mean that if we locate and detain three thousand members of Al Qaeda we should be legally required to stop looking for or deterring others? Another example used recently was the bombing of Pearl Harbor, in which a number of American ships and several thousand American military were killed. Should the American response have been to simply destroy an equal number of Japanese ships? No, not at all. The American responsibility was to retaliate by declaring all out war. Anything less would have been irresponsible, even treasonous.

Similarly with Israel, a failure to carry out a disproportionate attack would not only have been seen as a sign of weakness or lack of military preparedness but would have been a betrayal of Israeli citizens by its military. Once Hamas attacked, Israel's responsibility was to try and prevent additional attacks.

Too many European countries have bought into the Hamas propaganda, forgetting that Hamas is a terrorist group, no less determined than Nazi Germany was, determined to wipe out Jews and the state of Israel. What we have seen with the corrupt flawed Goldstone report and the Hamas propaganda machine is a capitulation by western Europeans to the acknowledged perpetrators of genocide and terrorism.

The notion that a sovereign state under repeated attack by terrorists should hold its fire until a "sufficient" number of its citizens have been killed, or that it should not respond at all because it might risk killing "too many" of the enemy has got to be the reductio ad absurdem argument of criminals and scoundrels.

The neo-fascist left is now attempting to claim "universal jurisdiction" against Israel's acts of self defense. Let us recall their refusal to call for this jurisdiction in the case of Milosevic, one of their favorite fascist heroes. Nor have they supported, much less clamored for, the justifiable indictment of Bashir, president of Sudan, for his sponsorship of the Darfur genocide, a genocide that the radical left still denies occurred. Nor have they called for "universal jurisdiction" against all the Muslim states in the middle east that have deprived women of their civil liberties as a matter of state/mosque policy. Nor have they called for this jurisdiction against child marriages or "honor" killings, which are rife throughout the Muslim world.

If universal jurisdiction is to have any meaning whatsoever, it needs to be consonant with established and accepted norms of human rights and women's rights, recognizing state sovereignty and the right of self defense, and with no selective enforcement or double moral standard. The fact that it is being applied by terrorist groups and their neo-fascist supporters to suppress freedom of speech and undermine a nation's responsibility to protect its citizens is sufficient proof that these norms are of no interest to them whatsoever. One then must ask just what these leftist groups and their liberal Jewish supporters really stand for. It certainly isn't for human rights or equal justice.

© 2002 Lorna Salzman. All rights reserved. Material may be quoted with permission.