Tony D. Senatore
"I'm the spokesman for the OK Boomer generation

Walter E. Block’s Defense of Israel

photo credit : Tony Senatore all rights reserved.

In his New York Times opinion piece The Things We Disagree on About Gaza, Nicholas Kristof essentially asserts that Israel should not engage in war crimes to repay war crimes. It seems as if everyone has an opinion as to how Israel should have reacted to Hamas’ brutal attack on October 7. Many around the world, and especially in the United States, have been quick to condemn Benjamin Netanyahu and Israel and slow to criticize Hamas. Moreover, some of my friends, who I have wisely decided to cut ties with, believe that Hamas was justified in their actions and they should do whatever it takes to secure victory. 

A few months ago, I reviewed a book by Walter Block and Alan Futerman entitled The Classical Liberal Case for Israel, which makes a case for the legitimacy of Israel based on the historical record and seen through the lens of classical liberal values like private property rights and homesteading. Block has been attacked by his fellow libertarians like Hans-Hermann Hoppe, who felt obligated to criticize and distance himself from Mr. Block publicly. Despite it all, Block unapologetically presses on in his defense of Israel while still maintaining his commitment to libertarianism. Despite Hoppe’s protestations, my admiration for Walter E. Block grew, and I felt obligated to align myself with him. While I am sure he appreciates my support, he does not need me to defend him. He has done that himself, most formidably.

Recently, Mr. Block discussed Kristof’s New York Times article with me via email. His responses to Kristof succinctly convey that Israel is justified in their actions in response to Hamas.

Block distills Kristof’s opinion piece into six points. His responses to Kristof convey his view that Israel has responded appropriately and are laid out below:

1. “Israel was attacked by Hamas. Children were butchered. Women were raped. So why are you criticizing Israel rather than the Hamas terrorists who started this war?”

Said Kristof, in response: “But Hamas’ indifference to human life must never be an excuse for us to become indifferent. It’s too late to save those massacred on October 7, but we can still try to reduce the toll in Gaza this month and this year.”

The problems with this reaction are several. First of all, the IDF is not “indifferent” to the collateral damage they are inflicting upon innocent Gazans. They are doing everything humanly possible to reduce the incidence thereof. They drop leaflets. They urge people to move away from areas of intense conflict. Do they do this perfectly? Of course not. They are fallible human beings. They do more in this direction than any other military in world history. Hamas uses Palestinians as human shields. They place rocket launchers in hospitals, schools, and Mosques. Not even the Nazis or the Japanese in World War II engaged in such fiendish exercises.

But this is not enough for the journalist in New York City. He wants fewer collateral deaths. The problem is if the IDF follows his advice, this undermines its attempt to end Hamas. This will more likely enable that terror organization to engage on October 7, 2023, Part II. So, it is a choice between innocent Israelis and innocent Gazans. Kristof plumps on behalf of the latter. 

Whose fault, moreover, is it that Palestinian Arabs are now perishing? Are we to blame Hamas or the IDF? Kristof holds the latter responsible: stuff and nonsense. If Hamas were to surrender and release its Israeli hostages today, no more Gazans would be killed. Those deaths, against which Kristof properly inveighs, are the culpability of Hamas.

2. What do you expect Israel, or any country, to do after such a barbaric attack? It’s tragic how many Palestinian civilians have died, but what could Israel possibly do but hit back?

Kristoff’s first rejoinder is this: “I think it’s a fallacy that the Israeli military has a binary choice: either to level Gaza or to do nothing. I’d like to see Israel dial way back on what is always a continuum.”

But no one ever thought there was such a “binary choice.” Even the meanest intelligence knows there is a continuum: 1000 bombs, 1001, 1002. To say this is to avoid the issue at hand.

Kristof complains that “Israel had dropped 29,000 bombs, munitions, and shells by mid-December, while the United States dropped 3,678 munitions in Iraq between 2004 and 2010.” 

This author invites us to recoil in horror from the supposed barbarity and disproportionality of the IDF. Why, their bombing was almost ten-fold that engaged in by the U.S.! But there is nearly a total dis-analogy between the two situations. Israel is fighting for its very life with an enemy on its very border, surrounded by hostile and potentially hostile populations many times the size of its own. The U.S., in sharp contrast, was engaged in hostilities against a country located 10,000 miles away with no power to overwhelm it. Nor had any Iraqis done to U.S. citizens what Hamas perpetrated upon Israelis. A better analogy would have had Canada, with the population of China, doing to the U.S. what Hamas did to Israel. Then, we would see the degree to which the U.S. would “dial back.” Kristof is confusing mountains with molehills.

Our N.Y. Times editorialist salutes Biden for having “… counseled using greater efforts to spare civilians — instead of Israel’s pattern of … ‘indiscriminate bombing.'” Indiscriminate bombing? Indiscriminate my foot. Is Biden senile? The IDF has been more considerate of enemy civilians than probably any army in the entire history of the world. Who else drops leaflets? Who else tells enemy populations to move away from targeted areas? Again, suppose Canada, with the population and power of China, used its citizens as shields. How would the U.S. act? How should the U.S. act? Would it have dialed way back? 

3. “You call for restraint — but what restraint did America show in Hiroshima or Dresden? Why do you now insist that Israel behave by very different rules?”

Kristof, in effect, admits his hypocrisy and that of all Americans who insist that Israel follow a very different military path than that employed by his government. He hides behind the fact that the horror of “Hiroshima and Dresden … helped lead to the 1949 Geneva Conventions creating rules of war to protect civilians from such mass slaughter.” He neglects the fact that the Allies conquered Germany and Japan using these admittedly heinous methods; after that, there were no more attacks emanating from either of them. In sharp contrast, Israel did indeed, in effect, follow Kristof’s semi-pacifistic advice. Israel was way more intent on reducing Gazan deaths than was the U.S. regarding those of Germany and Japan.

October 7 was by far not the only time Hamas had attacked Israel. They have done this on numerous occasions since 2005. Each time, Israel employed the Kristof strategy; it was called “mowing the lawn.” The IDF engaged in mere slaps on the wrist, Kristof-style. Instead of doing what they are now doing, the IDF limited itself to sending a few rockets in the other direction and made some desultory attacks on Gaza. They used the Iron Dome system to limit the negative impact of Hamas’ rockets (I almost but not entirely regret the existence of this system. Without it, Israel would have been forced to engage in a much more vigorous response, which might have saved it from the bestiality of October 7.)

Kristof also observes that a higher percentage of “… buildings in northern Gaza have been damaged… than … in Dresden.” Buildings schmuildings say I.

4. The killing in Gaza is unfortunate, but we can’t stop halfway. We have to eradicate Hamas and re-establish deterrence. That’s the only path to ensure security for Israel.

Kristof “pushes back” against this objection to his semi-pacifism: “Wars have a quite imperfect record of achieving their aims: Going into Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq did not enhance American security…” True enough. In retrospect, the U.S. never should have engaged in these wars. This country never waged any of them entirely. (Was Kristof advising the U.S. military?) But World War II had an excellent record of achieving the goals of the Allies: Germany, Italy, and Japan were thoroughly subdued and then successfully invited into the U.S. orbit.

I fully agree with our author when he says: “The longer this war goes on, the greater the risk of a (wider) conflagration.” But we draw the exact opposite conclusions from this major premise of the syllogism. For him, the IDF should turn tail and make peace with Hamas. For me, Israel should end this “police action” very, very quickly by doing the exact opposite of what Kristof urges: much more intense fighting. Only the complete ending of Hamas will safeguard Israel. Leaving them in power is a recipe for not one repetition of October 7 but many of them. 

Kristof fears a “wider conflagration.” If it comes to that, Israel won a “wider conflagration” in 1948, when it was far less powerful, absolutely and relatively against its enemies than it is now. It is not Israel that needs to fear any “wider conflagration” should matters come to that eventuality. Nor are its enemies sufficiently ignorant of the power of an unleashed (from Biden) IDF to risk any such eventuality.

5. Hamas still holds more than 100 hostages, and they may be suffering unimaginable abuse. The war must continue until we get them back.

Here is his short response, so I will quote it entirely: “Negotiation and exchanges have done a much better job liberating hostages than bombardment. So far, Israeli troops have killed more hostages than they have freed (one, at the beginning of the war).”

Yes, tragically, the IDF has indeed killed several Israeli hostages kidnapped by Hamas. War is hell; no one can deny this. But a realistic assessment of “negotiation and exchanges” between the two sides has seen, oh, 1000 Palestinian Arab terrorists released from Israel in return for a handful of innocent citizens of the Jewish State. Most recently, Yahya Sinwar is a case in point, a vicious murderer previously and foolishly released from an Israeli prison, who became one of the masterminds of October 7.

6. If Hamas had organized an attack on America comparable to the one on October 7, Americans wouldn’t be preaching restraint. The United States would be invading Gaza.

Kristof lashes out at Israel since it “… appears to have killed far more Gazan women and children in three months than were killed in the entire first year of the (U.S.) war in Iraq. “Appears” is the correct word since these statistics ultimately emanate from Hamas. Since when did their reports become reliable?

Is our journalist aware of the fact that Hamas uses Gazans as shields, while the Iraqi army did no such thing with its civilians? He shows no evidence of being aware of this primordial fact.

Kristof thinks America’s response to September 11 did not hit the bullseye. Here, he is correct. The U.S. should have followed Ron Paul’s advice regarding letters of marque. But what in the bloody blue blazes does this have to do with the Israeli response to October 7? The disanalogies, apart from the fact that Arabs were responsible for both instances of mass murder of innocents, are legion. To mention just one: Gaza is a lot closer, geographically to Israel than Afghanistan is to America. 

This journalist maintains that fear made the Israelis lose their bearings. I notice no “fear” on the part of the IDF. He counsels the Israelis not to “despise and demonize” Hamas. Say what!? The citizens of this country are not justified in responding precisely in that manner to the savagery from which they suffered. What kind of a non-human world is this man living in?

Kristof concedes that “Some Gazans tortured, raped, and murdered Israeli citizens on October 7.” However, he avers that the IDF “did not reciprocate.” But this logically implies that members of the Israeli military have indeed already “tortured” Gazans. Not even Hamas makes any such claim. This logically means that members of the Israeli military have indeed already “raped” Gazans. Not even Hamas makes any such claim. No, the Jews do not rape anyone. They leave that practice to their enemies. This logically implies that members of the Israeli military have indeed already “murdered” Gazans. Again, not so, not so. 

Murder is the deliberate and unjustified killing of innocents. What the IDF has done, in very sharp contrast indeed, has been to kill Gazans who were used as shields by Hamas justifiably. They were collateral damage, not murder victims, a distinction that seems to have escaped the notice of this writer. And whose fault were these deaths? Who is to blame for them? Why, Hamas, of course. Had they immediately surrendered and released their kidnap victims, none of these people would have perished. If they did so today, these killings would stop forthwith.

Kristof, supposedly a wordsmith, should be more careful with his poor use of language. Thank God he is not an Israeli general. If he were, I would genuinely fear for the continued existence of the only civilized nation in the Middle East.

 In summary, I, Tony D. Senatore, believe that slavishly committing oneself to an ideology without deviation takes little courage. On the other hand, standing up for one’s beliefs, even if your career suffers or strays from the ideas you are usually associated with, is not easy. In the space where ideology and ivory tower abstractions fall apart in the complex world in which we live, and in these times of moral relativism, Walter Block is a genuine hero, a paragon of virtue, and a man of great moral courage. Whether Israel stands or falls, neither the people of Israel nor I will ever forget his efforts.

About the Author
I was a sociology major at Columbia University, where i received my B.A in 2017, at age 55. My opinion pieces have appeared in the Columbia Spectator, the Tab at Columbia University, and Merion West.
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