The Spectacle Blog

A Sense of Proportion

By on 12.31.08 | 2:42PM

There's been a lot of criticism of Israel for its "disproportionate" response to Hamas' rocket-launching provocations. Bob comments on the controversy in his latest column. Contrary to what you hear from Israel's critics, the just-war standard for proportionality never required exact parity in body count. By that standard, the authorities are behaving unjustly if they kill two members of a criminal gang they were pursuing because it attacked, raped, and murdered one woman. The standard rightly applied compares the harm inflicted with the harm the military action seeks to avoid.

That doesn't mean that it is impossible in theory for the Israeli response to be disproportionate. If, for example, the Israeli military launched an attack that killed Palestinian civilians in response to a Palestinian infraction that poses no threat to Israeli civilians, that would be disproportionate. But you don't simply tally the body counts on each side to determine who is being disproportionate and who is the aggressor. There's a good discussion of this here, though many of the comments are disproportionate.

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