by Michael Hawley | Hamas deserves rocket barrage.
In recent weeks, the world has witnessed yet another clash of arms between the Israeli military and Palestinian terrorists. Though some are tempted to call this engagement a “war,” it is in fact just another battle in the chronic war Israel has been fighting since inception, a war for survival and security against those who would deny it both.
Despite its success as a liberal democracy surrounded by totalitarian states bent on its destruction, Israel has never lacked for critics. The military operation into Gaza territory has followed a now-familiar script: Israel moves against a persistent terrorist threat, Palestinians are killed, and the world cries foul. Recent events have elicited the typical wailing and gnashing of teeth about “overreacting” and a “disproportionate response” from those who routinely reject Israel’s right to security. Some argue that Israel ought not exist in the first place, and thus vehemently oppose any action Israel takes in self-defense. Others cower behind the convenient position that both Hamas and Israel are equally to blame for the perpetual violence, and loudly demand that both sides show restraint. Both of these arguments are fundamentally flawed for several reasons.
First, Israel does have a right to exist. It was created in 1948 out of the British Mandate in Palestine. An Arab Palestinian state, Jordan, was created at the same time, to make sure that both Jews and Muslims in the Holy Land would have a place to call home. Upon its creation, Israel was attacked by Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq Morocco, Sudan, Yemen, and Saudi Arabia, who rejected the two-state solution set up by the British and the United Nations and preferred to simply erase Israel. Despite overwhelming odds, the state of Israel won its war for independence, coming into existence not as a conqueror, but as a successful defender against conquest. However, the surrounding Arab countries refused to recognize its right to exist and periodically launched new assaults to wipe Israel out. In some of these wars, Israel seized and held territory that would be advantageous strategically or tactically in defending against future attacks (e.g. the Golan Heights and the Gaza Strip). It is difficult to understand how one could blame Israel for taking this land, inasmuch as it was being used to stage attacks on Israeli citizens. Israel cannot be truly supposed to respect the territorial rights of those who would deny it the right of existence? For, while Hamas may cloak itself in legitimacy as a democratically elected government, it nevertheless is an internationally recognized terrorist organization whose charter calls for the obliteration of the state of Israel.
Having debunked the argument that Hamas’ ultimate goal of Israel’s destruction is legitimate, it is necessary to move on to the suggestion that Israel and Hamas’ share equal responsibility for the bloodshed. Such accusations frequently start with a formulaic condemnation of the terrorists’ attacks, before decrying in detail about disproportionate Israeli responses.
In truth, however, Israel has long shown remarkable restraint. It is estimated that in the past four years, Israel has suffered over 6 thousand rocket attacks alone from Palestinians, a number which does not include assorted mortar attacks, bombings and shootings, most with the expressed purpose of killing civilians. Israeli deaths by Palestinian terrorist attacks over the past few years number in the hundreds. Recently, Iran has been smuggling longer-range rockets to the Palestinians. No longer are just small Israeli towns within range of the rockets, but so are large cities like Ashkelon and Ashdod. Even more dangerous, the terrorists can now reach the Israeli nuclear reactor at Dimona.
In the face of such attacks, it is the obligation of a responsible government to act to protect its citizens. The Israeli offensive was directed to eliminate the infrastructure that allowed militants to attack Israel with virtual impunity. However, Israel went to great lengths to minimize civilian casualties. Despite the fact that Palestinian terrorists with the support of the Hamas government have launched attacks from residential areas and other places where Palestinian civilians formed a human shield, it is estimated that 2/3s of all Palestinian dead were militants. Moreover, the Palestinian attacks themselves are usually not targeted at Israeli military units, but rather at schools and hospitals. Thus while the Palestinians are actively seeking the destruction of Israeli civilians and using their own as shields, the Israelis are trying to protect their own civilians and trying to avoid killing innocent Palestinians. Ehud Olmert told reporters that he wept over dead Palestinian children, Hamas militants cheer at the destruction of an Israeli school bus. Nothing more is needed to dispel the myth of moral equivalency.
In the past few days, the Israeli offensive has wound down. The Defense Ministry reports that 80% of Hamas’ rocket-smuggling tunnels have been destroyed, and that many key militant leaders have been killed. Time will tell if the operation was truly successful in bringing down the numbers of rocket attacks. Nevertheless, there can be no doubt that Israeli actions were both legitimate and justified.
Mr. Hawley is a sophomore who has not yet declared a major.