The Morality of Disproportionality
On July 11, the Rabbi Meir Baal HaNess synagogue in Tel Aviv was damaged when remnants of a Hamas-fired rocket landed on it, after it was, thankfully, intercepted by an Iron Dome projectile.
You probably didn’t hear much, if anything, about that. But if you’re a New York Times reader, you most likely saw the story on page A6 with the headline “As Israel Hits Mosque and Clinic, Air Campaign’s Risk Come Home.”
Was the mosque more sacred than the synagogue? Or did the Times’ editors and reporters use some other criteria to decide which was the bigger story?
Throughout the horrific latest conflict between Israel and Hamas, the terror group sworn to destroy it, the Jewish State has faced a public relations disadvantage in its strategic and technological advantage. Having sophisticated weapons, and more of them, seems to automatically make Israel the villain to the point that it obfuscates what should be the most salient factor: who started it.
While even critics must acknowledge that since the 2005 withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza, Hamas has turned it into a rocket base ringed with human shields, Israel still falls in for criticism for its “disproportionate response.” Indeed, some pro-Palestinian or avowedly neutral commentators have posited that Israel broke the ceasefire brokered in 2012 with Hamas – by investigating the murder of three teenagers too harshly.
When suspects were rounded up around Hebron and the homes of Palestinian suspects were demolished, this was apparently justification for Hamas – just as it had entered into a new coalition with the Palestinian Authority it wants recognized by the world – to launch a new barrage of rockets targeting Israeli civilians. Unlike Israel’s military strikes on Hamas targets, which unfortunately cause collateral damage including the deaths of children, Hamas rockets are always aimed at population centers and more sophisticated rockets are rapidly increasing their range. Rockets don’t ask questions before they land, so they could just as easily hit a Palestinian village, an Israeli Arab neighborhood, or even the Al-Aqsa mosque on the Temple Mount, as likely as the hoped-for Israeli Jewish school or hospital.
And yet it is Israel, not Hamas that is condemned by critics for “disproportionate response.” Is a rocket barrage on civilians in response to home demolitions proportionate? Should Israel’s reactions be tit-for-tat, firing random rocket barrages into Gaza with its fingers crossed, rather than targeting strategic Hamas sites.
Israel also comes out looking bad (a price it’s willing to pay, I’m sure) because the body count in the conflict is so lopsided: so far more than 1,400 Palestinian fighters and bystanders, vs. about 50 IDF soldiers and one civilian. More Taliban and Al Qaeda soldiers have died in Afghanistan than Americans. Does that make the U.S. the bad guys? When we dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki to end World War II, did the carnage erase the sins of the Hirohito regime, and retroactively cleanse the Japanese of the “day of infamy” at Pearl Harbor?
It’s understandable that people of good conscience are deeply affected by the deaths of Palestinians not involved in the violence. But the White House, and many media commentators, have noted that this is precisely the outcome the sociopathic leaders of Hamas are looking for, and blaming Israel is playing right into their hands.
Hamas has grown accustomed to the ability to victimize its own people by using them as pawns and human shields, only to be politically rewarded when the survivors vote for them or make indignant statements against Israel to the media, never questioning the origin of the cycle.
As Hillary Clinton, the all-but-certain 2016 Democrat presidential frontrunner told Jon Stewart on “The Daily Show,” Palestinian civilians are “trapped by their leadership, unfortunately. It’s a two-prong trapping. They have leadership that is committed to resistance and violence and therefore their actions are mostly about, ‘How do we get new and better missiles to launch them at Israel?’ Instead of saying, ‘hey, let’s try to figure out how we are going to help make your lives better.'”
On HBO’s Real Time, host Bill Maher said Israel is subject to what he called “the soft bigotry of high expectations … I feel terrible for a Palestinian child who dies, but if it’s your father or uncle or mother who is firing those rockets, whose fault is it really? Do you really expect the Israelis not to retaliate?”
Just as they ignore or obfuscate the fact that Gaza is no longer under Israeli control, Israel’s detractors deny the reality that the Israeli body count stays low primarily because the Iron Dome defense system takes out rockets likely the cause the most damage. And as Prime Minister Netanyahu put it, Israel uses its missiles to protect civilians. Hamas uses civilians to protect its rockets.
People of good conscience must view Hamas no differently than they would a thug who hides behind a child or a senior citizen during a bank robbery and trades gunshots with the police. While the cops must take extra care to protect the innocent, the ultimate blame for the consequences lies with the person who initiated the violence
Eli Verschleiser is a financier, real estate developer, and investor in commercial real estate. In his Philanthropy, Mr. Verschleiser is the Treasurer for the American Jewish Congress, Co-Founder of Magenu.org, & President for OurPlace, a non-profit organization that provides support, shelter, and counseling for troubled Jewish youth. Mr Verschleiser is a frequent commentator on political and social services matters.