Navi Pillay, U.N. high commissioner for human rights, has accused both Israel and Hamas militants of committing war crimes in the Gaza conflict. Her harshest criticism, as well as that of most nations, has been reserved for the Israeli government, charging that it has committed war crimes in direct violation of the Geneva Conventions. In the wake of the huge difference in casualties and property destruction, many in the West have accused the Israeli government of making a grossly disproportionate response to terrorist rocket attacks. A New York Times (July 23, 2014) article titled “As Much of the World Frowns on Israel, Americans Hold Out Support” says that a number of “world leaders and demonstrators pointed to the lopsided number of Palestinian casualties — more than 650, most of them civilians — versus 35 on the Israeli side, 32 of them soldiers.” By now, those numbers have tripled, but let’s think about some of the arguments being made.
First, let’s take a historical look at proportionality in response to an attack. In February 1945, in Dresden, Germany, 25,000 lives were lost in one night and the city was reduced to rubble as a result of British and U.S. bombers firebombing. In March 1945, 300 U.S. B-29 planes dropped incendiary bombs on Tokyo, killing more than 100,000 people, with millions injured and made homeless. Later, atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, leading to even greater loss of life and property destruction. Who’s willing to criticize the Allies for lack of proportionality in response to Germany’s and Japan’s attacks? Though the Allies brought about a horrible loss of life and massive destruction, one thing is very clear and indisputable: Neither country has attacked ever since.
Anti-Semitic attacks have skyrocketed in Europe in the wake of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It’s not just a criticism of Israel’s foreign policy; it’s an attack on Jews. Synagogues have faced Molotov cocktails, bomb threats and vandalism. Several European cities have seen slogans such as “Dirty Jews,” “Jews your end is near,” “Out with Zionists,” “Israel executioner” and “Save Gaza! Hitler, you were right!” According to RT, over the past month there has been a 50 percent increase in hate crimes against Jews in Britain.
The Western anti-Semitic and anti-Israel response is amazing and somewhat disconcerting. Israel is the only democratic nation in the Middle East. It has respect for relatively free markets, personal liberty and private property rights. Many Westerners give their moral support to Muslims who, as a matter of religion, practice brutal control of women that includes honor killings. Many Muslims consider homosexuality to be not only a sin but a crime under Islamic law punishable by death. What Westerners consider basic human rights are often outlawed in Islamic nations. The Quran is the religious guide of Islam, and Muslims believe it to be a revelation from God. It contains more than 100 verses that call Muslims to war with nonbelievers for the sake of Islamic rule. Westerners who condemn Israel and support the recent anti-Semitic attacks — or remain silent in the face of them — are by no means spared from Islamic condemnation as infidels.
It has to be heart-rending to any decent person to witness the suffering of the Palestinians, who’re experiencing a major tragedy both in casualties and in property destruction. Though it is Hamas firing rockets into Israel, the ordinary Palestinian is not to be held blameless. Palestinians know that Hamas is storing rockets and building tunnels in civilian areas and that if Israel tries to take out these rockets and tunnels, civilian casualties will be part of the collateral damage. Their silence and acceptance implies support for the tactics of Hamas.
Gen. William T. Sherman told the 1879 graduating class of the Michigan Military Academy, “War is hell.” There’s no nice war, and that’s why war should be a last alternative. Those Westerners who criticize Israel’s response to close to 3,000 rocket attacks might tell us what Israel should do in response — just take the rockets, surrender or leave the Middle East?
Walter E. Williams is a professor of economics at George Mason University.
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