Asymmetric wars and moral asymmetry (conclusion)

Those who study international security and conflicts usually define asymmetric warfare as a conflict between unequal parties in terms of quantity or quality. In this struggle the weaker side will adopt strategies of guerilla attacks and even terror to compensate its deficiencies in military might. Operation Cast Lead in Gaza has demonstrated that the inequality between the parties is not just a matter of equipment, technology and training, but also a clash of moral values between civilizations.

Post modern supporters of humanitarian international law regard talks on moral gaps between parties to conflict as arrogant and view concepts such as clash of civilizations condescending. This attitude explains the lack of alarm to the United Nations treatment of human rights among many of those belonging to the networks of international law in academic and diplomatic circles. By collaborating and usually acquiescing with the corrupt and hypocritical discussions and resolutions of the United Nations Human Rights Council they are dealing a mortal blow to the lofty ideas they pretended to promote. One cannot escape the notion that this UN organ, with its member states (including the democracies) and the NGO’s who are active observers there, has become a strategic weapon in Hamas and Hezbollah asymmetric warfare.

In reinterpreting international conventions, distorting the essence of the right of self defense and introducing double standards on principles such as proportionality and targeting civilians the United Nations cannot play a role as the guardian of international humanitarian law. It is a pity that the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon acted, early in August, as an extension of the UN Human Rights Council referring to an Israeli attack on a UNRWA school as “a moral outrage and a criminal act”. This was a false, biased, hypocritical and even anti-Semitic remark.
Ban Ki-moon didn’t say a word about the abuse of UNWRA institutions in Gaza by the Hamas who were caught several times red handed when rockets were discovered in their schools and terror tunnels in their health clinics. UNWRA officials refused to show the evidence, though couldn’t but admit it, and failed again in returning back the deadly ammunition to the rocketeers of Hamas, pretending that they just gave it to “the local authorities”. Isn’t it a clear collaboration or even assistance to war crimes? What can Ban Ki-Moon tell us about video evidence, shown on TV, on launching rockets directed to Israeli civilians from UNWRA schools, under UN flag, from hospitals, mosques and from civilian residence? Why cannot the Secretary General utter the words “moral outrage and criminal acts” against Hamas when these acts are clear violations of the Geneva conventions and protocols on the laws of war?

How can the UN chief, his human rights agencies and their affiliated NGO’s ignore the repeated calls of Hamas to liquidate the Jewish State from the Middle East? Why don’t they discuss the covenant of the Hamas which includes anti-Semitic blood labels, conspiracy theories on Jews taken from the protocols of the elders of Zion, in order to justify their call for the destruction of Israel? It is in accordance with the Convention against Genocide to define incitement, threats and actions of genocide as crimes against humanity.

Are the Jews again the scapegoats of the world moral bankruptcy? How can the UN and most of the international media be blind to Christian children being beheaded in the name of Allah or to thousands Muslims being massacred in the territories of UN member states or by self-declared Islamic state. Can it justify the moral double standard of the alliance of dictators and human rights violators in the UN singling out only Israel to investigate war crimes? Why did France, Germany, Britain, Italy and other democracies choose to abstain in the vote on investigating “Israeli war crimes” in the Human Rights Council? Why did they ignore the testimony of Colonel Richard Kemp, the former commander of the British forces in NATO, who reiterated again last month that “there is no army in the world who does what Israel does to save civilians in war”.

Our previous articles illustrated the percentages of civilians killed in different asymmetric wars. Israel, indeed, stand on high moral grounds in this comparative exercise. Moreover, unlike American and other military interventions in recent decades Israel is also unique in two other dimensions: the human shield multiply factor, and the geo-political multiply factor.

It can be easily proven that no army in the world had to fight such intensive exploitation of civilians in war as Israel did in Operation Protective Edge. It can be said that almost all of the 6,000 rockets which were fired or aborted were directed indiscriminately to kill and injury civilians in Israel. Moreover, there is no war in history in which civilians and recognized humanitarian-protected targets were abused so consistently as a matter of strategic policy by the enemy.
In its victory-strategy Hamas has used every single clause in international law instruments to expose its civilians, humanitarian, educational or religious institutions as human shields to fight against Israel. It enforced its citizens, women and children included, sometimes by violent and deadly means, to surround military targets and provide the cover for its attacks or shelter against Israel. Only after the return of several foreign reporters (mainly free lancers) some found the courage to tell how the leadership of Hamas found shelter under hospitals and demonstrate vividly their firing from civilian’s residential areas and UNWRA installations.
The geo-political multiplying factor is also clear: unlike America or NATO Israel didn’t engage in a military intervention overseas. It didn’t send its troops up to thousand miles far from its borders. Its civilian population on the border in Lebanon or in Gaza, and those in the entire country, are within the range of bombs and rockets launched by terrorist organizations and regimes. These non-state actors, financed and supported by UN member states, publicly preach and incite for the destruction of the Jewish State. How can one reconcile the terminology of “proportionate response,” “military target,” and “self defense” with 40 years of rocket attacks from Lebanon and 14 years from Gaza on Israeli citizens or the infiltration of terrorists’ squads and suicide bombers?

International humanitarian law is facing now its greatest challenge ever. The asymmetric war between Israel and the Hamas is not just a military problem but it reflects asymmetry in the norms of conduct. This asymmetry cannot be divorced from the harsh realities in the Middle East where massacres and bloodshed are taking place under the banner of Jihad and in the name of Allah. Hamas television channel al-Aqsa showed on July 30 2014 Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh uttering: “We love death and our enemies love life”, and the head of the Hamas’ military wing Mohammad Deif reiterated: “You [Israelis] are fighting today the soldiers of God who love to die for Allah as you love life; and as [we] compete for martyrdom you are running away from death.” This clash of morality is the essence of today’s asymmetric warfare in the Middle East.

About the Author
Dr. Avi Beker teaches diplomacy and international law at Tel Aviv University and Ono Academic Center. He was the Secretary General of the World Jewish Congress and a Visiting Professor at Georgetown University.