No other land dispute attracts more attention or generates more debate than the Arab-Israeli conflict, as both sides contend for the attention and solidarity of the world. However, I am reminded what one of my professors in undergrad studies once wrote, “The most pressing truths are not in fact ‘profound’ truths, but how do we find the truth in midst of the all the narratives we are presented with?” We must rescue the straightforward and abundant facts from the ideologues. As Mitchell Bard reminds us, “Israel’s enemies have become very sophisticated at manipulating the media” (See here and here).
Palestinian casualties are often used to demonize Israel. Firstly, they are inflated. Secondly, as the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ 2008 response paper points out: “International law recognizes that civilian deaths and injuries may occur in lawful military operations. For an operation to be lawful it must be directed at a ‘legitimate military objective’ and be ‘proportionate.’ Under the Geneva Convention, as well as customary international law, if a military objective such as a missile launcher or weapons stock-pile, is placed in the heart of a civilian area, it does not cease to be a lawful military objective. The primary responsibility for civilian causalities arising from the ‘shielding’ lies with the party that deliberately placed civilians at risk.”
Dr. Amichai Cohen from Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies (BESA Center) reminds us that proportionality is often manipulated and misunderstood in modern warfare. “Especially in asymmetric conflicts, where one side is a state and the other a non-state combatant … The non-state actor, sometimes a terrorist organization, sometimes a rebel force, uses civilian populations as a shield to protect its fighters. This method of war is of course a war crime, and one of the worst ones, at that.” (See here.) Israel’s critics are quick to point out the Palestinian death toll. However, what is often ignored is the fact that Israel is protecting its citizens, which includes Jews, Arabs, Christians, and Muslims, while Hamas is using its citizens as human shields, and using civilian infrastructure as storage facilities for weapons. Let us also not overlook one inconvenient fact: many civilians participate in this willingly.
The current operation in Gaza is a fight for peace. Israel desires to live in peace. It is not the obstacle to peace. Professor Efraim Inbar and Dr. Eitan Shamir (BESA Center) remind the world:
“Israel’s goal continues to be the establishment of a reality in which Israeli residents can live in safety without constant indiscriminate terror, while striking a significant blow to Hamas’ terror infrastructure.”
It is the Palestinian leadership that is the greatest obstacle to peace. The leadership of the Palestinian people is determined to destroy the Jewish state and the Jewish people, as outlined in their Charter (i.e. Covenant), which calls for the destruction of Israel and the murder of Jews. Palestinian desires for statehood do not include peaceful co-existence with Israel: according to the late PLO representative, Faisal Husseini, “Our ultimate goal is the liberation of all historic Palestine from the River to the Sea.”, (Al-Arabi,—June 24, 2001).
The current operation in Gaza is a fight for existence. I recently watched an excellent video on the Middle East conflict by Dennis Prager, in which he plainly states: “Israel wants to exist as a Jewish state and to live in peace. Israel also recognizes the right of Palestinians to have their own state and to live in peace. The problem, however, is that most Palestinians and many other Muslims and Arabs, do not recognize the right of the Jewish state of Israel to exist.”
Still, the Israeli response, not Hamas’ continued pursuit of Israel’s destruction, remains the centerpiece of rhetoric for Israel’s critics. Where they are dead wrong is viewing the Arab-Israeli conflict as “the cycle of violence” or “tit-for-tat violence.” Drawing a false moral equivalence between terrorist attacks and Israeli military anti-terrorist actions only perpetuates a simplistic false moral equivalence. To portray the conflict as “back-and-forth violence” is not only morally lazy (to be kind), but also a fallacious characterization. It implies a degree of moral equivalency in the conflict, which simply isn’t there. Hamas began the conflict by shooting rockets at Israel. (Really, they began the conflict by their inception in 1987 as a terrorist organization dedicated to and working towards the destruction of Israel and murder of all Jews everywhere).
In the above mentioned video Dennis Prager asks, “think about these two questions: If, tomorrow, Israel laid down its arms and announced, ‘We will fight no more,’ what would happen? And if the Arab countries around Israel laid down their arms and announced ‘We will fight no more,’ what would happen?” In the former case it will bring about the end of Israel and the murder of countless Jews and other Israeli citizens. In the latter case there will be peace.