One point worth mentioning straight away, is that every missile launched by Hamas and Islamic Jihad into Israel, was done with the intention of killing as many civilians as possible. It’s only happen chance that they didn’t reach their mark in Israel, and many of them, one out of seven, fell into Gaza, on top of their own people.
Clearly, any rational, fair minded individual reading the facts of the situation, will conclude that Israel’s response was in fact proportional, and that Hamas bears the full brunt of the death and destruction that occurred.
NOTE: as for Arab deaths of its citizens, yeah, I view their deaths in the same light as the ones that occurred during WWII in Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. A nasty regrettable job, but sadly it has to take place for a fanatical society to be eventually tamed.
Why Israel’s action in Gaza is not “disproportionate”
Proportionality is not the same thing as symmetry. Israel must counter the developing threat from Hamas.
BY PROF ALAN JOHNSON PUBLISHED 21 NOVEMBER 2012 11:51
One of the most common complaints against Israel is that its response to rocket attacks from Hamas is ‘disproportionate’. Several MPs, including Menzies Campbell, put this charge to the Foreign Secretary, William Hague, in the House of Commons yesterday. And it is easy to understand why: in seven days of conflict there have been five Israeli casualties to over 130 Palestinian deaths. We look for things to be ‘even-steven’; they are not, and our British sense of fair play is offended.
No technology, however advanced, can remove the fog of war or the inevitability of human error. The death of a Palestinian family of ten on Sunday makes a mockery of easy talk of ‘surgical strikes’. War is always hell and when a cease-fire is agreed there will be joy on both sides.
Nonetheless, the charge of ‘disproportionality’ is fundamentally misguided for three reasons.
First, in comparison to Operation Cast Lead in 2008-9, what is striking about the current military action is precisely how limited the civilian casualties have been. As of this morning, the Israeli Defence Force has conducted over 1,500 targeted strikes against the weapons caches and the command and control facilities of armed groups; on the rocket launching sites, the tunnels through which they are smuggled, and the terrorists who fire them – all deliberately hidden in built-up civilian areas. These 1,500 strikes have caused around 130 deaths and a significant number of those are terrorists. Of course, each civilian death is appalling. But the ratio tells a story: of scrupulous intelligence gathering, of the intensive use by the IDF of early-warning by leaflet and text message, and of a willingness to abort missions that would cause civilian deaths.
Second, in international law and just war theory, proportionality is not the same thing as symmetry. Princeton’s Michael Walzer, author of the seminalJust and Unjust Wars, put it like this:
Proportionality doesn’t mean “tit for tat,” as in the family feud. The Hatfields kill three McCoys, so the McCoys must kill three Hatfields. More than three, and they are breaking the rules of the feud, where proportionality means symmetry. The use of the term is different with regard to war, because war isn’t an act of retribution; it isn’t a backward-looking activity, and the law of even-Steven doesn’t apply. Like it or not, war is always purposive in character; it has a goal, an end-in-view.
Proportionality, then, must be measured in part against the future: What is the value of the end-in-view to be achieved? What is the future threat to be avoided? Israel’s stated end-in-view has been rightful: to protect the citizens of southern Israel by stopping the rocket attacks. The developing threat to Israel from Hamas and other armed groups in the Gaza Strip must be judged by reference to both the power of the weaponry and the nature of the ideology.
As regards the weaponry, the pattern is long-established: periods of rocket fire on the citizens of southern Israel have alternated with periods of ‘quiet’ during which Hamas smuggles an ever-more powerful arsenal of weapons into Gaza via a pipeline that runs from Iran through Sudan into the Sinai. In 2008 Israel faced an arsenal of 5,000 rockets held by armed groups in Gaza. Today it is 12,000. In the past, Israel faced home-made Qassam rockets fired over the border onto the people of Sderot. Then Hamas acquired Grad rockets, then Qassams. On the eve of this conflict, Israel faced an arsenal of Iranian-supplied Fajr 5 missiles able to pound Tel Aviv. The question it faced was: what next?