As a fourth Gaza war looms on the horizon, we should be aware of the hypocrisy and demagoguery of past Gaza wars: because we are likely to see more of the same.
U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, a candidate in the Democratic primaries for president, claimed that Israel's response in the 2014 Gaza war was "disproportionate," and Haaretz columnist Asher Schechter agreed. Yet neither Sanders nor Haaretz provided evidence to back that claim.
Schechter made one point worth mentioning: the claim of "extremely permissive rules of engagement during the operation that aimed to protect the lives of IDF soldiers even if the cost was a greater loss of civilian lives." If true, it simply means that IDF soldiers, as all soldiers, have to make split-second decisions, and when they do so in a situation when confronted with Palestinians who appear to be terrorists, they err on the side of assuming they are terrorists in order to protect their own lives. That is not unexpected, and Israel has no obligation to do otherwise.
Israel has repeatedly demonstrated how much it values the civilian lives of the people it is fighting. No other military force drops leaflets, telephones its adversaries and "knocks on the roof" to warn them of an imminent attack, so that civilians will have time to evacuate. Israel values the lives of Palestinian civilians, but naturally, it values the lives of its own soldiers more. Israel has repeatedly demonstrated how much it values its soldiers, for example when it freed more than one thousand Palestinian criminals. Why would anyone expect Israel to suddenly to value its soldiers less when forced to fight terrorism in Gaza?
What is disgraceful is not that Israel cares about its soldiers, most of whom have families at home -- in many cases dependent on them for their livelihood. What would morale in any military be if soldiers felt they were merely regarded as cannon-fodder, not cared about?
What is disgraceful is that the Palestinian government in Gaza cares less about the lives of its own civilians, who themselves have families, than about killing Jews. This is why the terrorists exploit those civilians as part of their "dead baby strategy," described by American human rights lawyer Alan Dershowitz.
As Dershowitz has also written, Hamas has a "calculated strategy designed to point the emotional finger of moral blame at the IDF for doing what every democracy would do: namely, defend its civilians from rocket attacks by targeting those who are firing the rockets, even if they are firing them from civilian areas."
No Credible Evidence
There has been no evidence from an unbiased and credible source that Israel's actions in Gaza were disproportionate -- in the laws of war, not meaning that the number of dead on both sides of a conflict have to be the same (which would be nonsense) -- but that the amount of military force to be applied to accomplish a particular military operation may not exceed the amount of force required to accomplish the goal of that military operation: "Loss of life and damage to property incidental to attacks must not be excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage ..."
This is not a simple concept, especially for a public not versed in military matters.
Among the biased sources that have weighed in is Amnesty International (AI), which made that accusation in July 2015. The Israeli government explained why AI's conclusion was not valid, but AI's thoroughly documented record of anti-Israel bias already tainted its report.
AI's bias against Israel has also been documented by several analysts, in addition to NGO Monitor: Dr. Yvette Alt Miller and Alan Dershowitz himself. AI's national office denied Alan Dershowitz the right to speak after AI's Columbia chapter had invited him. AI even co-sponsored the speaking tour of a Palestinian activist who promotes violence and who openly exploits his own children to provoke Israeli soldiers.
In addition to the lack of credibility of the accusations, non-Israeli and non-Jewish sources have also reached the conclusion that Israel committed no crimes of disproportionality. During the 2014 Gaza war, Colonel Richard Kemp, former commander of British forces in Afghanistan, said, "No other army in the world has ever done more than Israel is doing now to save the lives of innocent civilians in a combat zone". In April 2016, he reiterated that assessment.
Haaretz's Schechter admits that "Hamas, of course, launched rocket attacks against schools, hospitals and houses. It did so deliberately, with the intent of inflicting death and suffering." Everyone who is not an outright terrorist supporter, including Sanders and Haaretz, agrees that Israel has the right to defend itself against terrorist attacks from Gaza. It is, of course, the duty of Israel to use only the force required to stop the attackers and not much more, but how does one determine if Israel went "too far"?
To the naïve observer, it seems that because far more Palestinians died than Israelis, Israel must be using disproportionate force. This conclusion, however, does not take into account that Israel goes to great lengths to protect its civilians while Hamas encourages civilian casualties in order to gain sympathy, as Dershowitz explains. It also does not take into account the actual meaning of proportionality.
A Betrayal of both Israelis and Palestinians
By making an accusation of disproportionality without defining the meaning of the term, Sanders and Haaretz betrayed not only the Palestinians and the Israelis, but also their professions. They made false and unsubstantiated accusations while ignoring the thousands more Palestinian deaths that the Palestinians are inflicting on their own people -- by training toddlers and children for war, using their own people as human shields and failing to provide shelters for them, as the Israelis do for their citizens.
In addition to helping Sanders attract the naïve and anti-Israel vote, and helping Haaretz attract anti-Semitic readers, unsubstantiated claims of disproportionality divert attention from the fact that preventing more wars requires replacing Gaza's Iranian-backed terrorist regime with a regime that is interested in the well-being of the Palestinians. Sanders and Schechter propose nothing to achieve this. They prefer falsely to accuse Israel of anything that might possibly sound damning, and hope that no one will dig for some truth or ask any questions.
To naïve people, Sanders and Schechter appear thoughtful, compassionate individuals who care about the Palestinians; in fact, they merely are either ignorant themselves or duplicitous. If betraying Israelis and Palestinians equally is what Sanders means by "a more balanced position," all that is disproportionate is their unjustified hostility towards Israel that is also unhelpful to the Palestinians.
Fred Maroun, a left-leaning Arab based in Canada, has authored op-eds for New Canadian Media, among other outlets. From 1961-1984, he lived in Lebanon.