The art of disproportion
Op-ed: Critics of Israel’s response to rocket attacks obviously clueless about rules of war
Avi Yesawich/Y Net/April 9, 2011
Individuals who criticize Israel’s response to rocket attacks are obviously clueless about the rules of war.
Over the past several days, Israel’s southern region has been bombarded by a barrage of rockets and mortar shells from the Hamas-led Gaza Strip. It is important to understand that our southern border had not previously been privy to a period of exceptional calm and relative normalcy, but rocketed and bombed repeatedly, on a daily basis, by various terrorist groups throughout the Strip. However, these attacks have intensified over the recent days, and Israel, as she typically does, is responding with precision air strikes against Hamas terror cells and weapons compounds, attempting to inflict maximum damage on its targets while avoiding civilian casualties on the ground.
The recent escalation has prompted calls for a “serious response” from various Israeli officials, ranging from continued airstrikes throughout the weekend to a “Defensive Shield” type operation such as the one proposed by former Israeli national security advisor Giora Eiland. Whatever the ultimate size and nature of the response is, Israel will be pressured to act with restraint by the international community, including the avoidance of the use of “disproportionate force,” a term that has seemingly become synonymous with Israel and the IDF.
How shockingly ignorant this notion appears to be. Despite what anyone may believe, there hasn’t been a single instance in the history of warfare where a clear victor has emerged after inflicting “proportional force” against its enemy. One of the most basic understandings in war is that, naturally, one side must inflict superior damage on the other in order to force its surrender or capitulation. Israel, undoubtedly influenced by immense international pressure, is unable to respond in such a manner that would force Hamas militants to cease their attacks and restore quiet and calm on the border, simply because in doing so, she would be using “disproportionate” force in order to accomplish this objective.
And imagine for a moment if we did respond proportionately. Each time Hamas or Islamic Jihad indiscriminately fires a Qassam or mortar shell into Israel, threatening civilians on a daily basis, Israel returns the favor. When a Hamas terror cell deliberately fires an anti-tank missile at a clearly marked school bus full of children, Israel intentionally fires artillery shells into a kindergarten playground in Gaza City. In essence, this would be the proportionate response. Perhaps we can delude ourselves into believing the international community would accept such strategy.
Israel must respond disproportionately
If Hamas hasn’t made it clear enough to the international community about its strategy and intentions, I will try to summarize it clearly: Israel has no right to exist.
The organization deliberately attacks civilian areas, which constitutes a war crime and is a violation of international law. The Hamas charter openly calls for the violent destruction of Israel and rules out any chance of meaningful peace negotiations with the Jewish state.
As Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Zahar sees it, "Palestine is Islamic, and not an Islamic emirate, from the river to the sea, that unites the Palestinians. Jews have no right in it.” Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhum puts it even more eloquently, stating that “the Jewish faith does not wish for peace nor stability, since it is a faith that is based on murder…Israel is based only on blood and murder in order to exist, and it will disappear, with Allah's will, through blood and martyrs.”
Imagine for a moment if Israel were to respond even “proportionally” to these actions and statements.
When London was bombarded in World War II, England firebombed German towns and leveled Dresden completely. In order to end WWII, the United States dropped two atomic bombs on Japan, a non-nuclear state at the time. I doubt anyone would argue that Russia’s actions in Chechnya were “proportionate” in any sense of the word.
In response to tragic events such as 9/11 and multiple terrorist attacks around Europe, the international community has waged overt wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and now Libya (albeit for very different purposes) and clandestine wars in several others. Yet the world nonetheless becomes hysterical when Israel rises up to defend herself against the unrelenting assault on her southern communities.
As our southern towns continue to come under heavy fire, Israel must respond disproportionately until normalcy and calm are reestablished and our waning deterrence has been restored. As we watch other nations respond to domestic and international threats as they see fit, Israel need not apologize for acting to provide her citizens with the safety and security they need and rightfully deserve.
Avi Yesawich is currently studying to receive his MA in Conflict Resolution and Mediation at Tel Aviv University. He is a graduate of Cornell University and a former IDF combat soldier
Undernourished, ludicrous notion of proportianality here though there are some strong points clearly made. Proportionality in these instances doesn't mean tit for tat, bomb playground for targeting bus. It means a military response adequate to the dangers posed but framed by the rules of war, if the enemy is not so constrained. See Michael Walzer on this in his essay in The New Republic, http://www.tnr.com/article/politics/proportionality