Monday, January 05, 2009

A pacifist supports Israel

I almost never agree with Clifford May, and I can't remember ever linking to the National Review Online before. But May's op-ed about Gaza is right in many respects. If you ignore his hyperbole, and throw out the self-serving hypothetical at the end, his thesis is correct: Hamas is to blame for this war, and Israel is right to fight it.

Israel pulled out of Gaza years ago, leaving the residents there with no legitimate complaint about Israeli occupation or persecution (not that that prevented anyone from complaining about the 'persecution' of not being given charity or of not being allowed to come and go in and out of Israel). And for some months now, both Hamas and Israel have refrained from military conflict.

But that wasn't good enough for Hamas, which decided to start shelling Israel. Every democracy has the right and obligation, when attacked by military action, to respond with force.

Many critics of Israel are calling its military actions "unjustified," which prompts the question of what would be a justified response to artillery assaults. Others, including even people who should be relatively neutral in this conflict such as the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights use the word "disproportionate" because more Gazans are being hurt than Israelis. The L.A. Times reports that "[Hamas's] homemade rockets are wildly inaccurate and rarely cause serious casualties; three Israeli civilians have been killed by rocket fire" in the past two weeks. (I'm quoting the article as printed in the Contra Costa Times this morning; the online version reads differently.) The "only" that is strongly implied here is ridiculous; it suggests that, if a man starts shooting at you but is such a poor marksman that only one in ten bullets hits, you should shoot to wound him rather than to kill.

Israel is doing what it should, and the damage in Gaza—no matter how tragic and undesireable—is Hamas's fault. The Times quotes an Oxfam executive saying that "trying to fight a military campaign in the densely populated streets and alleys of the Gaza Strip will inevitably lead to civilian casualties." Well, yes. That's exactly Hamas's point and purpose. They decided it would be in their best interests to trade Gazan lives for Israeli ones. Israel is in the right to enter Gaza seeking to destroy people who would make such a calculation.

Usually I disagree with what I see as the American government's knee-jerk support of Israeli policy. And I believe that terrorism is best defeated through law-enforcement measures, not military ones. But organized military action by a governing authority is not terrorism; in this case, the U.S. government is correct to support Israel's actions and announcements.

Update: Naturally, I realized later that this post held a few invisible shorthands—things I was thinking but didn't write, such as the idea that deciding what is "proportionate" must include some component of evaluating "effective". Rather than try to back-fill them all, let me merely point out the inadequacy of this venue for actually solving; it's just a musing point, of course. Far better musing is here and also here.


At Wednesday, 07 January, 2009, Blogger herself said...

Wow, finally we agree on something political!


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