So the Israelis and the Palestinians are at it again. Here it is, a nice sunny summer, and they’ve got nothing better to do than try (none too successfully, in the case of the Palestinians) to kill one another. Somethings never change. Another thing that never changes is the chorus of critics of Israel lamenting it “disproportionate” attacks on Palestinians. Anytime Israel goes to war with its neighbours, it’s accused of inflicting “disproportionate” casualties on their civilian populations or, and it amounts to the same thing, of a “disproportionate” response, most notably by the British Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg. Continue reading “A Question for Israel’s Critics – What Number of Dead Palestinians is Proportionate?”
Walter Russell Mead has an interesting (if wrong) piece on the attitudes of the American public vis-a-vis the Gaza war. The gist of his argument is that Americans do not object to Israeli actions in Gaza, because they reject the concept of proportionality in war:
In any case, when Israel brings the big guns and fast planes against Gaza’s popguns and low tech missiles, a great many Americans see nothing but common sense at work. These Americans aren’t mad about ‘disproportionate’ Israeli violence in Gaza because they don’t really accept the concept of proportionality in war. They think that if you have jus ad bellum, and rocket strikes from Gaza are definitely that, you get something close to a blank check when it comes to jus in bello.
Nice theory, as far as it goes. Mind you, there’s an alternative, and I would suggest, more plausible, explanation. It isn’t that Americans reject the notional of proportionality, it’s that they don’t believe (quite reasonably, in my view) that Israel’s actions in Gaza are disproportionate to the military goals that it seeks to achieve. Continue reading “Notes on the Gaza War Part III – Walter Russell Mead and Proportionality in War”
What was most striking about this morning’s bombing of a bus in Tel Aviv was not the fact that Hamas, whose military wing reportedly claimed credit for the attack, was resorting to a tactic of targeting Israeli civilians. That is, unfortunately for all concerned, an established practice on the part of Hamas, and part of the reason its leadership (to say nothing of ordinary Gazans) has spent the last week living in fear of Israeli air strikes.
No, what was particularly striking was the immediate reaction of ordinary Palestinians to the attack: Cheering.
This morning’s bomb attack on a bus in Tel Aviv – for which Hamas’ military branch has claimed credit – drives home the fundamental moral distinction between Israel and Hamas in their ongoing war in Gaza.
For many of Israel’s critics, the death (or wounding) of civilians in Gaza is prima facie evidence of Israel’s evil and a war crime. Mind you, those critics were notably quiet in response to repeated Palestinian rocket attacks on Israel over the past 4 years or, to the extent they do condemn such attacks, their condemnations are sotto voce and rather late in the day. But today’s events underscore the false equivalence between Israel and Hamas.