In March, a strike by the Israel Defense Forces targeted arch-terrorist Zuhair al-Qaisi as he was planning to launch another mass murder of Israelis from Sinai. Yet, as is always the case, whenever war is waged against Israel by Iranian proxies along its borders, Israel's response becomes headline news around the world. The Obama Administration calls for “both sides to exercise restraint”, the mainstream media refers to “a cycle of violence” suggesting that there’s some moral equivalency between the acts of a genocidal aggressor and those of the victim responding to that aggression, European governments attack Israel for its “disproportionate and excessive use of force”, and the websites of terrorist organizations and their NGO supporters inflate casualty figures and proffer photos and film clips (often exaggerated, forged or transferred from previous conflicts) of Palestinian women and children supposedly victimized by Israeli retaliatory strikes.
In that regard, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton was rightly condemned by Israeli political leaders recently when she equated the massacre of Jewish children in Toulouse with the imaginary massacre of Palestinian children in Gaza. Nor is she alone. US President Barack Obama engaged in similarly outrageous libels when during his speech to the Muslim world in June 2009, he compared the Holocaust with Israeli treatment of the Palestinians. And we ought not to forget that it was France 2 TV that gave us the anti-Semitic blood libel of Muhamed al-Dura’s alleged death at the hands of IDF soldiers in its October 2000 fable.
The unfortunate truth is that when the Israel Air Force targets and kills members of terrorist organizations who have committed or are in the process of committing war crimes against Israeli civilians, all hell breaks loose. As is most often the case, these terrorists have not only perpetrated attacks against Israeli civilians in the past, but they are actively planning further murders of Israeli civilians in the very near future. Yet, this fact rarely attracts media attention. Much attention, however, is drawn to the fact that these terrorists were “assassinated” by Israel (implying the killing of terrorist masterminds is unlawful, which it is not as they are enemy combatants), and that “innocent bystanders were killed.”
It should be unnecessary to note the simple truth that Israelis don't murder Palestinian children. Palestinians murder Israeli children, but when missiles are fired from Gaza and southern Lebanon and rain down on Israeli towns and cities, the international outcry consistently focuses more on Israel’s policy of targeted killings rather than on the fact that civilians in Israel’s cities and towns have to spend their days and nights terrorized in bomb shelters. Nor is it ever reported that thousands of Israeli children not only suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, but are required to race to bomb shelters when the sirens wail their 15-second missile warning.
One rarely hears that the primary aim of these missile attacks is to cause massive Israeli civilian casualties in which case, the terrorists in southern Lebanon and Gaza (areas from which Israel withdrew in return for worthless "peace" agreements) couldn’t be more pleased. As Ruthie Blum noted recently in Israel Hayom, “(Israeli) precision strikes against specific terrorists and bases should be lauded by the international community, not treated as (Israeli) war crimes.” But such is not the case.
While world leaders rightly applauded and congratulated the United States on the death of Osama bin Laden and the evil he represented, these same leaders condemned Israel when it did the same to Hamas terrorist masterminds Abdul Aziz Rantisi and Sheikh Ahmed Yassin. As Dore Gold of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs notes: “At a meeting of the U.N. Security Council in April 2004 on this question, the British representative said the practice was “unlawful.” The French spokesman said that Israel was violating “fundamental principles of international law.” The Russians said they rejected Israel’s policy. When Israel began using targeted killings more extensively to put an end to the wave of suicide attacks in the heart of Israel’s cities after the outbreak of the Second Intifada, even the U.S. Ambassador to Israel, Martin Indyk, adopted the same tough rhetoric against Israel. He appeared on Israeli television in July 2001, saying: “The United States government is very clearly on the record as against targeted assassinations.’’ He specifically added: “They are extrajudicial killings, and we do not support that.” Yet, for all intents and purposes, bin Laden, Rantissi and Yassin were one and the same persons. They represented the same hatred, evil and abhorrence for human life. Their hands were bloodied with the deaths of thousands of innocent people. Still, the reactions of world leaders and the international media to their deaths could not have been more different, despite the growing recognition that the laws of war must be applied to the war on terrorism, and that such terrorists are enemy combatants, plain and simple.
As has always been the case in conflicts with Palestinian terrorists, the Israeli military takes the utmost care to carry out surgical strikes so as to minimize the possibility of collateral damage. The same however cannot be said of Palestinian terrorists for whom the killing of Israeli civilians is not merely a strategic objective, but a religious obligation imposed by Islamic law. Indeed, Palestinian terrorists are supportive of their own populations being killed if their deaths are necessary to fulfill that obligation - which, in part, accounts for why they place their command centers, weapons caches, bunkers, and missile launchers in heavily populated Palestinian civilian areas, and as close to schools, hospitals and residential homes as possible. In mid-July, 2011, Israel disclosed previously classified maps and aerial photos and 3D simulations showing that Hezbollah has intentionally placed 40,000 missiles and 7,000 Iranian-trained Hezbollah militiamen in 160 small villages in southern Lebanon close to the Israeli border.
According to the photos - weapons caches, bunkers, control centers, mines and other explosive devices have been placed in and near private homes, mosques, schools and hospitals with the intention of using them as shields against any future Israeli reprisals for firing missiles indiscriminately at Israel’s civilian population centers. By publishing these photos and maps, Israel has given fair warning both to the terrorists, and to those who are prepared to act as human shields for them, that they will both share the same fate if rockets and missiles continue to be fired into Israeli population centers.
The primary targets of Israeli retaliatory strikes are calculated killers who consciously seek the murder of Israeli civilians as part of their strategic and religious thinking. If there is one thing of which they are absolutely certain, it’s how to garner sympathy and support from the international media - something they have done successfully for decades to demonize Israel’s international image. Dead Palestinians cause these terrorists no distress since their deaths have strategic value. These victims represent tremendous photo opportunities for propaganda purposes and most of the international media and NGOs are only too willing to cooperate in this travesty.
Terrorists know that bloody babies and maimed mothers make good copy for the New York Times, the Guardian, the BBC, and other sympathetic media outlets who conveniently fail to report the death, damage and destruction caused by these missiles landing in the midst of Israeli cities and towns. Yet, these same outlets that are so quick to condemn the Israelis for defending themselves by conducting targeted retaliatory strikes against these murderers are virtually silent about identical strikes conducted by CIA predator drones and laser-guided bombs against al-Qaeda terrorists in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Yemen.
If Israel is denied the right to defend itself from terrorist attacks, the only possible explanation is that those who deny them that right believe that Israel has no right to exist. This conclusion dovetails with the Palestinian rationale for perpetrating these war crimes against Israeli civilians. It’s all part and parcel of their collective effort to delegitimize and demonize the Jewish state in the eyes of the world.
What is never reported is that Israeli soldiers consider Palestinian civilian casualties to be as tragic as Israeli civilian casualties. The IDF considers all human life to be sacred, and at great personal risk, Israeli soldiers have placed their own lives in jeopardy by conducting house-to-house searches in enemy territory to reduce the possibility of Palestinian civilians being caught in the cross-fire. Why else, during Israel’s last incursion into Gaza three years ago (Operation Cast Lead) would the IDF have dropped countless flyers over Palestinian homes, sent thousands of text messages, and placed thousands of cell phone calls telling Palestinians to leave targeted areas where hundreds of rockets had been stockpiled by Hamas? There is no other army in the world that would endanger its own soldiers in order to avoid injuring the neighbors of an enemy or terrorist.*
Those who fire missiles aimed at killing, maiming and terrorizing Israeli civilians; those who seek massive, indiscriminate civilian carnage; those who place missile launchers near residential homes, schools, mosques and hospitals, and who use children as human shields (or worse, as human grenades), see human life as a tactical weapon - nothing more. They do not value life as sacred, and proclaiming "Allahhu akbar" when innocents are murdered does not make it so. Under such circumstances, precision air strikes against specific terrorists and terrorist assets should be lauded by the international community (as Blum suggests) not condemned as Israeli war crimes.
The true war criminals are those who fire missiles indiscriminately into Israeli cities specifically to kill civilians; who vilify Israel, and who justify the murder of Israeli civilians as a “religious obligation”; who are so preoccupied with their hatred of Jews and a Jewish state in their midst that they are prepared to sacrifice their youth and their future for the restoration of an Islamic Caliphate that will march their followers back to the ways of Islam as it was thousands of years ago. For them, it is more important to create a new Islamic state in place of Israel and to force the Jews of Israel into d’himmitude than it is to educate, train and prepare their illiterate populations for a better future. When all is said and done, their actions represent the greatest war crime of all.
*Contrast this against the U.S. Marine operation in Fallujah, Iraq, in late 2004. During that operation, about 6,000 Iraqis including 1,200-2,000 insurgents were killed. Of the city's 50,000 buildings, some 10,000 were destroyed, including 60 mosques. Someone should remind these people that “disproportionate force” was rarely used during World War II when the Americans bombed Tokyo, dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, firebombed Dresden, and flattened Germany killing 670,000 people. Not much proportionality there. Comparing IDF activities to those of the military forces of Western democracies is an essential element in refuting baseless war crimes allegations against the Israelis.
Mark Silverberg is a former member of the Canadian Justice Department, a past Director of the Canadian Jewish Congress (Western Office) based in Vancouver, and served as a Consultant to the Secretary General of the Jewish Agency in Jerusalem during the first Palestinian intifada.
Why have former U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Lawrence Korb (who served under Caspar Weinberger), former U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Dennis DeConcini, Ronald Reagan's National Security Advisor Robert McFarlane, former CIA Director James Woolsey, former Attorney General Michael Mukasey, former Deputy Attorney-General Philip Heymann, former Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and George Schultz, 39 U.S. Congressmen, 18 U.S. ex-Senators and even the European Parliament (on September 16th, 1993) repeatedly called for Pollard’s sentence to be commuted. The answer, quite simply, is because Pollard’s punishment did not fit his crime.
When Samuel Huntington wrote his 1996 book The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, many in the Western political arena considered it unnecessarily provocative - that is, until a beautiful Tuesday morning in New York City on September 11, 2001. The tragedy of 9/11 should have mandated a fundamental re-assessment of Western policies towards the Arab world. Instead, we continue to base our policies on delusions of our own making rather than on the dangerous evolving realities that confront us in that region.
While fear of reprisal is both psychologically understandable and perhaps even morally defensible, Europe's turning the other cheek on Hezbollah will not deter this terrorist organization from conducting future terrorist attacks on its soil. So long as it remains blind to Hezbollah's conducting business as usual throughout the continent, it is guilty not just of hypocrisy, but of passive complicity in it's attacks on innocent civilians. Inaction on the part of the EU will transform Europe into a free-fire zone, and Europeans will not be exempt from the slaughters that will ensue regardless of how long they continue to bury their heads in the sand.
Abbas may have opened Pandora's Box by claiming a pyrrhic victory on “statehood” without understanding the consequences of his actions. Should Hamas (and its Iranian benefactor) seize control of the PA on the West Bank and begin arming itself with missiles as occurred in Gaza, the result will be war. Israel will never permit the establishment of a genocidal Islamic regime entrenched a mere eight miles from its major population centers. Given the existential nature of this threat, the issue will no longer be the extension of Israeli sovereignty over the cities and towns of Area C, but the formal abrogation of the Oslo Accords, a massive IDF invasion of the West Bank, the overthrow of the Hamas-led PA regime, and the return of the West Bank to pre-Oslo Israeli military control.