Entry 6: Israel’s response to Hamas.

While Israel’s operations in Gaza were met (at first) by more understanding from global leaders than ever before, the voices of dissent are growing louder. The most common claim is that Israel’s use of force has been disproportionate, and that Israel needs to demonstrate restraint.

Let’s talk about the meaning of the word proportionate. Webster’s defines proportionate as agreeing in amount, magnitude, or degree. Let’s take the first word: amount.  Hamas has fired 4,000 rockets and thousands of other mortar shells over the course of 7 years at the people of Southern Israel.1 Perhaps Israel should have reacted “proportionally” and fired 4000 missiles at the people of Gaza, the people who elected the Hamas government. After all, Hamas has acted against the Israeli population despite the fact that the one it takes issue with is the Israeli Government. Would that not be a “proportionate response?”

So the answer to the question of whether or not Israel has acted disproportionally is yes: Israel’s response is disproportionate, but it’s not disproportionally large…it’s disproportionally small.

From a legal standpoint, Israel is well within the realm of international law. For starters, under the Geneva Conventions, the responsibility for civilian casualties lies with the party that deliberately places the civilians at risk. Hamas has created strongholds in mosques, hospitals, schools, and homes. The responsibility for the death of civilians lies, legally speaking, on Hamas. On the topic of proportionality, Israel also falls within the realm of international law. The president of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, Rosalyn Higgins, has stated that proportionality “cannot be in relation to any specific prior injury – it has to be in relation to the overall legitimate objective of ending  the aggression.”

Fortunately for the people of Gaza, proportionality does not dictate that Israel must retaliate in a proportionate manner and fire Kassams at the civilians of Gaza.  The proportionality clause is not Hammurabi’s code which dictates that one take “an eye for an eye” and “a life for a life.” A proportional response is not based on striving to avenge each Israeli dead with a Palestinian dead and each rocket fired into Israel with a rocket fired into Gaza. Alan Dershowitz wrote in 2006 that, “Proportion must be defined by reference to the threat proposed by an enemy and not by the harm it has produced.” If Israel had to wait until a Kassam landed on an Israeli school to act, Israel would be allowing, “its enemies to play Russian Roulette with its children.”

If a nation is facing aggression, then “proportionality” is judged by whether force was specifically used by that nation to bring an end to the armed attack against it. Force becomes excessive only if it is employed for another purpose, like causing unnecessary harm to civilians. Considering the fact that Israel has dropped leaflets, recorded announcements that interrupt radio broadcasts, and telephoned Gaza residents telling them to flee their homes if they were hiding weapons or militants2, and given the low number of casualties in relation to the amount of firepower used (100 tons of bombs as of December 27th)3 one can hardly claim that Israel’s aim is the death of civilians.

One of the main points used by those who argue that Israel’s response has been disproportionate is the disparity between the number of deaths on the Israeli side versus those on the Palestinian side. Many more Palestinians than Israeli’s have been killed and in a much shorter amount of time. But just because only a handful of Israeli casualties have resulted from Hamas’s rockets does not change the intent of their actions. If two people are assaulted and one walks away and the other is hospitalized, the legal term for both actions is the same: Assault. Hamas intended each of those missiles to cause civilian casualties.  Make no mistake about it…the people of Southern Israel have been lucky.  Residents in Sderot have 15 seconds to seek cover when a rocket is fired and yet 90% of the homes in Sderot are without a safe room. Missiles have hit schools, temples, and recently a kindergarten, hours, and in some cases, minutes after people had dispersed.1

While the claim of a “disproportionate response” is inaccurate as it is, some have taken it a step further. Syria referred to Israel’s actions as “barbaric aggression.” Some have even called it genocide. They claim that Israel has subjugated the people of Gaza and left them no choice but to support the armed resistance of Hamas.  They speak of the conditions in Gaza and claim that it is Israel that has created an environment where people will do anything to change their present condition. What these people fail to mention is that the main issue for the people of Gaza is the security fence that surrounds them which was put in place because of suicide bombings. Between the beginning of the current confrontation in September 2000 and the erection of the security fence and buffer zone in August 2003, terrorist organizations operating from Gaza carried out 73 attacks, killing 293 Israelis and wounding 1,950. Between August 2003 and the end of 2006 they carried out 12 such attacks, killing 64 Israelis and wounding 445.4 The numbers speak for themselves. Even the leaders of terrorist organizations have conceded that the fence impedes their ability to carry out operations. On November 11, 2006, Islamic Jihad leader Abdallah Ramadan Shalah said on Al-Manar Television that the terrorist organizations had every intention of continuing suicide bombing attacks, but that their timing and the possibility of implementing them from the West Bank depended on other factors. “For example,” he said, “there is the separation fence, which is an obstacle to the resistance, and if it were not there the situation would be entirely different.” While human rights are important, the right to life must come first. Israel has an obligation to protect it’s citizens at any cost. Ironically,  the UN, which passed a resolution condemning Israel’s barrier, is building its own fence to improve security around its New York headquarters.

Israel has spent years exercising restraint. But no amount of restraint will end the conflict because the truth of the matter is that Hamas does not want peace. It’s ultimate goal is to destroy the state of Israel, as evidenced by the map on top of it’s logo that excludes the state of Israel, replaced instead with a new Islamic state. Israel has taken steps towards peace. Israel completely withdrew it’s armed forces and 9000 settlers from Gaza in the hopes that it would be a major stepping stone to both peace and a two-state solution. And what was the response? Rockets. In fact, the majority of the 4000 rockets fired since 2001 were launched after Israel withdrew completely from the Strip in August 2005. In that time, from 2005 to 2006, rocket attacks increased by 500% from 179 to 946. But Israel tried again in 2008. It signed a cease-fire agreement with Hamas 6 months ago and stopped it’s targeted assassinations. And yet 216 rockets were fired at Israel in the 6 month cease fire that lead up to December 21st of this year, at which point Hamas declared the end of the cease-fire, one which they ironically had never kept in the first place.5 The time for restraint has passed. Now is the time for action. Action against terrorism. Action against those who threaten the security of the state of Israel. A cease-terror, not a cease-fire. While world leader’s criticize the actions of Israel, they forget that Hamas’s hatred is not limited to Israel…it extends to all the Western Democracies. Today the rockets reach Sderot. If we wait long enough, the rockets will reach Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. London. Madrid. New York. Appeasement is the wrong response, as Neville Chamberlain found out the hard way. The time for action is now.

1

http://www.aish.com/jewishissues/israeldiary/Life_in_Sderot.asp

2

http://www.federalnewsradio.com/?nid=82&sid=1560771

3

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article21546.htm

4

http://securityfence.mfa.gov.il/mfm/web/main/missionhome.asp?MissionID=45187&)

5

http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1230456535626&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull

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2 Responses to “Entry 6: Israel’s response to Hamas.”

  1. Tara Feldman Says:

    So well written Corey, Good job!

  2. Ioana Says:

    Hi!

    Just came across your blog after the Hamas vs. Hummus challenge made you famous :). From what I gather, this was written in 2010, but it’s shocking and sad that 4 years later the world still has the same reaction regarding the “disproportionate response”. Maybe more people should read your arguments here, although I think that if they have made up their minds about Israel being a war criminal, then no amount of arguments will make them see the other side’s point of view.

    I’ve tried sending you a message on Facebook (Suomen Korppi) but I’m not sure if you received it – it was about requesting your help to send a little letter of my thoughts & good wishes to the soldiers of the IDF. I’ve been reading that the guys really appreciate it when they get support from civilians and I’d like to give my small share of morale boost to someone, but Finland isn’t exactly on the Gaza border so I can’t just show up there with the paper in hand. Could you help me pass it on to your IDF friends?

    Have a great day and wish you all to be protected from harm and back home safely! Ioana

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