Israel's "Disproportionate" Response:

Boy, am I already getting tired of hearing this. The basic claim is that since the thousands of rockets that Hamas has lobbed into southern Israel have caused relatively few death and injuries--just some deaths and injuries, along with massive panic, children living in bomb shelters, thousands of shock victims, etc.--Israel has no right to respond with overwhelming force.

What the Israeli government should do is offer anyone who thinks that having 1/4 million people living under constant fear of deadly rocket fire is acceptable, and should be accepted implicitly by the Israeli government, a plane ticket to Israel and free lodging in Sderot, the border town hardest hit by rockets from Gaza. Hell, I'll personally pay for Glenn Greewald's Sderot vacation.

UPDATE: BTW, I don't have a strong opinion on the wisdom of the Gaza operation. Despite the many strong opinions that one will see in the blogs on this issue, there are so many variables, and so much secret information that only government officials possess (including the real, as opposed to public, views of Egypt, Jordan, and the PA), that it would be rather foolish of me to express a strong viewpoint on whether the operation will achieve its objectives at a reasonable cost or not. But as with the 2006 Lebanon operation, arguing over its wisdom is a very different matter than arguing over whether Israel has the moral right to act to defend its civilian population from rocket attacks launched by terrorist entities.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. Still waiting
  2. No Free Vacation for Greenwald:
  3. Israel's "Disproportionate" Response:

No Free Vacation for Greenwald:

Glenn Greenwald, I take it, will not take me up on my offer of a free vacation to Sderot. My offer was specifically in response to his claim that Israel is engaging in a "massively disproportionate response" to the shelling of southern Israel from Gaza.

He obscures the issue by writing:

That "argument" is the same as saying to someone who objects to Hamas' suicide bombs or rockets: "I'll personally pay for your Ramallah or Gaza City vacation, so you can see what it's like to live imprisoned by walls, under a 40-year foreign occupation, with blockades that cause your children's growth to stunt and to be denied basic nutritional and medical needs."

The fact that the people of Location X are suffering doesn't mean that anything and everything their government directs to the general vicinity of those inflicting the suffering is justified.

So, now that I don't have to worry about paying for Greenwald's vacation, I can ask, rhetorically (though Greenwald is free to answer): when a terrorist entity controls territory bordering that of a sovereign nation, and indiscriminately lobs rockets into that nation's territory, terrifying the civilian population and making normal life unlivable, what is a proportionate response?

Israel has engaged in pinpoint targeting of military facilities operated by said terrorist entities, and has gone so far as to send messages in Arabic to residents of Gaza, warning them that if they allow their homes or businesses are sheltering Hamas weaponry, they will be destroyed. Even according to Palestinian sources, the overwhelming majority of victims of Israeli bombs thus far have been Hamas fighters. This is perhaps the least extreme response that any sovereign nation faced with an analogous situation has ever engaged in. Cf. Russia in Chechnya.

Greenwald's real problem, I surmise, is that he thinks that Israel's response is "disproportionate" not because its disproportionate relative to Hamas's military actions and Israel's military objectives compared to the civilian damaged inflicted (more or less the international law definition of proportionality), but because he believes that Israel is primarily to blame for the situation in Gaza, and therefore any suffering inflicted on Gaza's civilians is primarily Israel's fault. Hence his observation about Israel's blockade of Gaza, which is not at all relevant to whether Israel's response to the rocket fire is "proportionate," but rather to whether Israel is morally at fault in general.

But by putting the issue in terms of the "proportionality" of Israel's response, Greenwald (and others) are obscuring their real argument, which is that Israel is not entitled to act in self-defense because no matter how many rockets are launched into Israeli territory, Israel is ultimately the aggressor in the Gaza situation.

I find that argument hopeless naive, and, in fact, counterfactual. Let's start with the fact that the blockade was a response to Hamas's actions against Israel, not vice versa. (If Hamas had been a peace-loving entity, and Israel had nevertheless blockaded its territory, and I had attacked Hamas's military response as "wildly disproportionate", then Greenwald's counter-offer of a trip to Gaza would make sense). Now imagine for a moment that Hamas announced, sincerely, that its goal was no longer to annihilate Israel, but to establish a peaceful Islamic democracy that was willing to work with Israel and the Palestinian Authority to achieve a lasting agreement with Israel, and then acted on that announcement by ceasing all violence aimed at Israel and offering to commence negotiations immediately. Is there any doubt that the blockade would end forthwith? And, for that matter, that Israel would happily cooperate with a peaceful Hamas and the international community to return Gaza to the incredible rates of economic growth (and beyond) it achieved under the first 20 years of the "brutal occupation"? Hamas, however, is not interested in a peaceful settlement with Israel, and, while its leaders hide in underground bunkers, is perfectly willing to fight Israel to the last Palestinian civilian.

So, to sum up, let's rephrase Greenwald's position: "I think that Israel is not entitled to cause any casualties, civilian or otherwise, in Gaza, because Israel bears the primary, indeed, almost the entire, responsibility for the conflict it is facing with Hamas. Therefore, Israeli civilians living in the range of Hamas rockets must simply bear with it until their government adopts more enlightened policies that will magically lead Hamas to prefer to live in peace with Israel.

Finally, I find it rather amusing that Greenwald refers to me as an "Israel-obsessive." I blog a fair amount about Israel, not least because I'm there twice a year and my wife is Israeli. Greenwald, meanwhile, blogs far more about Israel, without similar ties. What does that make him?

UPDATE: From the ridiculous to the sublime: Greenwald is now citing Philip Weiss, the right-wing Nazi fringe's favorite Jew (and who, last I looked, had openly anti-Semitic bloggers on his small blogroll), as an authority on the conflict.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. Still waiting
  2. No Free Vacation for Greenwald:
  3. Israel's "Disproportionate" Response:

Still waiting

for Glenn Greenwald to tell us what would be a "proportionate" Israeli response to the launching of hundreds of missiles at its civilian population from Hamas-controlled Gaza, as opposed to what he calls Israel's current "massively disproportionate response."

In other Greenwald news, just to keep track of who is engaging in what Greenwald calls "juvenile and emotionally manipulative means of argumentation," Greenwald implicitly acknowledges, as I noted yesterday, that he blogs far more about Israel than I do. But according to Greenwald, when he blogs constantly about Israel, it's because he's a clear-eyed realist about the implications of Israeli actions for American foreign policy; when I do it less often, it's because I'm an "Israel-obsessive." Glad that's cleared up. (UPDATE: To clarify, I don't think that Greenwald is an "Israel-obsessive," but do find it odd that he called me one, based on his own frequent posting on Israel-related matters, and his admission in the comments that he rarely reads my blog posts.)

Meanwhile, I actually agree with Greenwald on one point: "none of these intractable disputes between Israel and its various neighbors should be a focal point of American policy."

UPDATE: You can read Greenwald's response, and my response to his response, in the comments below. To save you the suspense, he STILL doesn't tell us what he thinks a proportionate response by Israel to the launching of hundreds of missiles at its civilian population from Hamas-controlled Gaza would be, nor does he admit the obvious, that he simply believes that since Israel has brought the Gaza situation on itself through its bad actions, Israel has no right to defend itself from the missiles.

UPDATE 2: Greenwald purports to answer:

I've answered this repeatedly. Do you know of anyone who actually believes that at the end of this Israeli attack, there will be no more Hamas, or no more rockets?

The only military solution to the rocket attacks is total annihilation of the residents of Gaza and a complete flattening of their cities. If Israel were to do that, what possible objections would those here be able to make who are arguing that "proportionality" has no role to play in restricting the means used to fight justifiable wars?

Terrorism ends when the causes of it are addressed, typically via diplomatic means. That's what history proves. I know that's not as spectacular or exciting or blood-pumping as watching people you hate and their children get incinerated by bombs dropped from on high, but it's still how it is.

According to Hamas itself, the "cause" of Hamas's terrorism is the very existence of Israel. Hamas spokesmen will occasionally raise the possibility of a long-term "hudna," but then they are usually contradicted by others in Hamas, and in any event they acknowledge that the hudna would only be a temporary step toward the ultimate "liberation of all of Palestine." So, there is really only one pure "diplomatic" solution to the problem of Hamas terrorism, and that is for Israel to capitulate. So if you were wondering why Israelis from across the political spectrum, from Meretz to Yisrael Beitanu, aren't exactly flocking to take Greenwald's advice, there you have it. And military action, done right, is hardly completely useless--how many terrorist atrocities have emanated from Jenin or Bethlehem lately?