Reasonable people can argue whether the decision on the methods used to stop the ships was the correct course for the Israeli government to take. Indeed, there is a healthy debate within Israel itself over this very issue, including questions about intelligence, tactics, and whether the propaganda victory handed to pro-Palestinian activists could have been avoided while still maintaining the blockade.
Even the efficacy of the blockade itself is being discussed in Israel, as it has been since the quarantine was intensified nearly 3 years ago. For these internal critics, and those elsewhere who do not wish to see the state of Israel or its people destroyed, it is much too glib to ascribe their opposition as anti-Semitic or even anti-Israeli. But we can certainly put a reasonable question to these critics that never seems to get answered amidst the bombast and posturing from both the Jew haters and genuine “peace” seekers alike.
What is it you would have the Israeli government do to protect itself?
Indeed, what marks the critic of Israeli policy is a disconnect between the perilous reality of Israel’s exposed position vis-a-vis the Palestinians and those nations that support them. They hold a pie-in-the-sky belief that if Israel would only remove the irritants the Palestinians suffer on a daily basis, that the animosity felt by Israel’s enemies would magically disappear.
Consider what these critics have been harping on for years:
Israel justifies its blockade of Gaza under recognized treaties regarding the Laws of the Sea. This includes interdiction of ships in international waters, as anyone who has read anything about the US blockade of Cuba during the missile crisis can attest.
But let’s ignore all of that and grant Israel’s critics their wish and raise the blockade. What would be the probable outcome?
Judging by what happened on Israel’s southern border following their war with Hezbollah, it would be a military calamity and a security nightmare. Without inspecting each and every ship that docked at the Port of Gaza (and if Egypt allowed the free flow of goods and people into Rafah), the likelihood that the Palestinians would be supplied by Iran and Syria with much more sophisticated and deadly arms would be assured.
Why? Because of the spectacular failure of the United Nations International Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) whose job after the war was to prevent the resupply of Hezbollah. Their mission was to guard the border with Syria to keep Iran’s puppet Bashar Assad from moving arms into Lebanon to replace (and as it turned out, augment) Hezballah’s arsenal of 40,000 rockets. Not only were the terrorists easily resupplied, but it appears that recent additions to Hezballah’s arsenal include medium range ballistic missiles capable of hitting every major city in Israel.
Given such incompetence on the part of the UN, are Israel’s critics seriously suggesting that, 1) lifting the blockade would not result in an avalanche of sophisticated weapons pouring into Gaza; and 2) any other party would do as good a job as the Israelis themselves in keeping these weapons out?
Israel controls the Port of Gaza as a result of the Oslo accords. They have a legal right to self defense, and a legal justification for the blockade, including the right to interdict shipping in international waters – as the Americans did during the Cuban Missile Crisis. If Israel’s overwrought critics could assure the Israeli government that lifting the blockade would not result in Hamas improving their capability of murdering a lot of innocent Israeli citizens, I am sure that Prime Minister Netanyahu would be interested in hearing how they would propose doing so.
It doesn’t matter to critics what Israel is trying to keep out by building a 450 mile fence largely along what was once known as the “Green Line” that separated the West Bank from Israel. Rarely does one come across criticism of the barrier that gives the Israeli rationale for constructing it in the first place. There have been all sorts of fantastical claims about why Israel is building the Fence, ignoring the most obvious reason; it will save the lives of Israeli citizens.
Again, there appears to be a disconnect on the part of critics who can safely catalog Israeli concerns and shuffle them off to the side somewhere, while railing against the purported effects of the fence on Palestinians.
Most observers would agree that the barrier imposes burdens on the Palestinians. The way the wall is being constructed creates enclaves of Palestinians who will be isolated from their neighbors and the rest of the West Bank. But for critics, military necessity and the security of innocent Israeli citizens just never seems to make much of an impression. Otherwise intelligent, discerning analysts bewail the plight of Palestinians – and, in some cases, it is indeed tragic that families are separated, commerce affected, and property expropriated.
But we come back to the question that critics of Israeli policy refuse to even consider; what is the government supposed to do to protect their citizens from such an implacable, deadly enemy? The fence is a far less draconian and brutal solution than other governments have chosen in the past in a similar situation – namely, mass slaughter of their enemies. If that is Israel’s goal, they are doing a horrible job of achieving it.
Instead, the fence inoculates Israel from most of the terrorist acts that would kill many of its citizens while advancing the least obnoxious alternative that places the smallest possible burden on the Palestinian people. In fact, building the Fence has resulted in far fewer terrorist attacks against innocent Israelis. The three years prior to building the fence saw 117 terrorist attacks resulting in the loss of 477 civilians while wounding thousands of others. In areas where the Fence has been completed, the number of attacks has dropped to near zero.
Critics also rarely mention that some Israeli citizens in the settlements oppose the fence because it separates them from the rest of Israel.
The “Proportionate Response” Canard
Perhaps no complaint of Israel’s critics reveals the massive disconnect between reality and sophistry as much as the idea that because the Palestinians are weak militarily, and fewer in number, that it is the responsibility of Israel to pull its punches and react “proportionately” to Palestinian provocations; or, in the case of the Gaza raid, provocations from anyone.
First, Michael Rubin writing at The Corner demolishes this nonsense:
But why should any democratic government empowered to defend its citizenry accept Europe’s idea of proportion? When attacked, why should not a stronger nation or its representatives try to both protects its own personnel at all costs and, in the wider scheme of things, defeat its adversaries?
Likewise, when terrorists seek to strike at the United States, why should we find ourselves constrained by an artificial notion of proportionality when responding to those terrorists or their state sponsors?
Ultimately, it may be time to recognize that, in the face of growing threats to Western liberalism, strength and disproportionality matter more to security and the protection of democracy than the approval of the chattering class of Europe or the U.N. secretary general.
I have never heard of “proportionality” applied to any other nations except Israel and the United States. I don’t recall such arguments when Russia invaded Georgia, destroying several towns with massive artillery bombardments, ripping up rail centers, and killing wantonly. They may have been criticized for the invasion but the words “disproportionate response” were not used, as far as I can recall, to describe their action. Even if the phrase was used, there would be no comparison with the frequency with which that criticism is directed against Israel.
Neither am I aware of anyone criticizing Pakistan for using tanks and helicopters to engage Taliban fighters armed only with AK-47’s and a few outdated mortars.
But the idea of “proportionality” in war is very important to people like Andrew Sullivan:
Kudos to Michael Rubin for conceding that the Cheney-Netanyahu approach to terrorism is exactly a question of deliberate disproportion…
Ah, yes. Why not torture, mass murder, and an abandonment of basic principles of the rules of law?
Note the towering straw men set up by Sullivan. Is he accusing Israel of doing all of that? Or is he saying that Israel is capable of doing those things? Or is he positing the notion that commando raids using much restrained force until the “peace” activists put the lives of the soldiers at risk automatically escalates into “torture, mass murder, and an abandonment of basic principles of the rules of law?”
In fact, the reason there were not hundreds killed on that ship was because Israel did, indeed, engage in a proportional response to the violence directed against them. They didn’t have to. They could have rappelled down those ropes armed with automatic rifles instead of paint guns and at the first sign of trouble, blazed away, killing dozens. I daresay that most nations would have taken that route. It is much safer for the attacker, and success is more assured, if the IDF had gone Sullivan’s “mass murder” route.
But they didn’t. They couldn’t. Israel is a civilized nation engaged with barbarians whose blood-lust against the Jews is so profoundly ingrained that many of the activists fervently sang and chanted about martyrdom prior to their little cruise. Willing to give their lives for a propaganda stunt? What is “proportional” when engaging people like that?
Did Sullivan and his ilk expect the commandos to rappel down to the deck armed with knives, steel bars, and baseball bats? Would that have been a “proportional response?” Yes, it’s as silly as that.
It really doesn’t matter to Israel’s critics. Like the blockade and the Fence, the commando raid is beside the point. What matters is finding a way to place Israel in the weakest moral position possible in the eyes of the world. In order to do this, critics will go to astonishing lengths, twisting their arguments into pretzels of logic, salted with half truths, while ignoring the entire issue of Israel’s necessary self defense against those who wish to destroy her and her people. And through all of that virulent, off-balance criticism, not one word about alternatives that they would recommend the Jewish state employ except near total surrender to their enemies.
Perhaps we shouldn’t ask what critics want Israel to do. The answer might very well horrify all of us.