As the U.N. gathered for its annual General Assembly meeting in New York last month, U.S. President Barack Obama welcomed Israeli Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian National Authority head Mahmoud Abbas. Obama has been pushing the two sides to restart peace talks and reach a two-state solution within the next two years.
With that backdrop, the international community has also been abuzz about Richard Goldstone’s recently issued report on Israel’s Operation Cast Lead into Gaza. The Goldstone Mission was highly critical of Israel, accusing its officials and soldiers of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity and even deliberately killing civilians. It also failed to report on Hamas’ use of human shields and civilian and humanitarian objects for military purposes.
The Mission, which was established by the UN Human Rights Committee, was a sham from the start, and its conclusions have been cheered by states, organizations, and individuals who love demonizing Israel.
After the report’s release, Daniel Levy — who refers to himself as “a friend and supporter of Israel” (aren’t they all?) — penned an op-ed in the U.K. Guardian titled, “Israel must now heal itself.” Levy wrote that “[t]he relationship of power is crucial…” and “[t]here is no military solution.” His view represents a common one, and one, unfortunately, that is shared by many Jews. However, he is profoundly wrong, and his statements reflect a misguided internationalist view about what occurred in Gaza last December and January.
Operation Cast Lead was not about the “Middle East Conflict.” It was about the War on Terror. In the War on Terror (and it is a war, not an Overseas Contingency Operation, as President Obama refers to it), power dynamics are not important in the moral sense. There is freedom and there is totalitarianism, and totalitarianism must be destroyed…completely.
Of course, that battle is not a costless one. And Operation Cast Lead, like any battle against terrorism, is not cost free. There were civilian casualties, and there will be more in the future. But to suggest — as the Goldstone Mission does — that Israel should remain shackled by restraint as Hamas orchestrates terror attacks and lobs rockets into its cities is preposterous.
Israel, as it often does, took even greater precautions than required by international law. It refrained from attacking military targets, like Hamas’ base in Shifa Hospital, due to the risk of civilian harm, and its military used extraordinary efforts to warn Gaza residents and avoid unnecessary deaths. Yet, Goldstone’s report, and others similar to it, consistently refers to Israel’s response as “disproportional.”
But morality and international law do not require a tit-for-tat response. Quite the contrary, when one is attacked — especially by organized terrorist groups — they are permitted to respond in such a way as to eliminate the attacking threat. In fact, U.N. resolutions 1368 and 1373 require states to “[e]nsure that any person who participates in the financing, planning, preparation or perpetration of terrorist acts or in supporting terrorist acts is brought to justice.” And there is no justice like a dead terrorist.
However, critics of Israel, and those who believe that terrorism is in the eyes of the beholder, often reference “power dynamics” to obfuscate these moralities and apply different standards of conduct. The Arab League’s “Independent Fact Finding Committee,” headed by Israel enemy, John Dugard, issued a report on Cast Lead that used the same approach, saying about Hamas, “there are a number of factors that reduce their moral blameworthiness,” such as the fact that “Palestinians have been denied their right to self-determination by Israel and have long been subjected to a cruel siege by Israel.” That is the same logic that post-colonial and multi-cultural liberals use to assign blame to the U.S. for September 11.
There is a place for political discussions about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. There are appropriate times and venues for discussing a possible two-state solution and for applying fairness as one of the criteria. But not in the context of the War on Terror. In that fight, there are forces of freedom and democracy and ruthless agents of terror who seek to take innocent life. That enemy must be destroyed. Successfully resolving the Middle East conflict will depend on defeating terrorism, and we do the world no favors by confusing the two.