A little over a month ago three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped in the West Bank as they were hitchhiking home. The Israeli Defense Forces were sent in search of the teenagers and the Israeli government issued a statement saying that Hamas was behind the kidnappings. The terrorist organization which has governed the Gaza Strip for about seven years now denied the charges. On June 30th the bodies of the teenagers were found in a field near Hebron.
In the course of investigating the kidnapping, the IDF arrested about five hundred people and confiscated cash, electronics, and other goods from homes and businesses in the West Bank. A small number of Palestinian teenagers and young men were killed in the course of the investigation. In some cases they were shot by Israeli soldiers after they threw homemade bombs at them. There was at least one case of a revenge kidnapping/murder of a Palestinian youth, in which the Israeli police arrested the perpetrators shortly after.
Meanwhile, Hamas resumed their familiar tactic of launching rockets into civilian neighbourhoods in Israel from Gaza. Early in July, Israel responded to these rocket attacks by launching a series of air strikes against Hamas in Gaza and Israel remained on the offensive from the air until agreeing to a cease-fire proposed by Egypt earlier this week. Hamas rejected the ceasefire and issued a series of demands which Israel in turn rejected, and now appears to have begun a ground invasion of Gaza. Over two hundred Palestinians have been killed and close to two thousand injured. Israel has not suffered comparable losses and injuries due to the efficiency of her Iron Dome anti-rocket defense system and the incompetence of the terrorists.
All of this is merely the latest chapter in what has become for most of us, a very old story indeed, the perpetual Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Even more tiresome than the conflict itself is the fuzzyheadedness of the debate over which side in the conflict is in the right. It is not a simple matter of who fired the first shot.
Those who would make a case for the Palestinians against Israel on humanitarian grounds, emphasize the disparity between the number of casualties and injuries on the two sides and the strength of the one versus the weakness of the other. It does not at all follow from this that Israel is in the wrong, however. It is bad ethics to assert that “might makes right” but it is just as bad if not worse to assert the exact opposite, which is the fundamental truth to be refined from the dross in Nietzsche’s On the Genealogy of Morality. An established, civilized, country like Israel, with the resources and competent military necessary to protect its people and society from those who attack it, does not thereby lose the right to use that force against a weaker enemy.
If Israel’s strength and military efficiency as an advanced, civilized nation do not negate her right to use force against a weak enemy, they do invalidate the picture that Israel’s supporters and defenders frequently try to portray of Israel as a little David surrounded by big Goliaths. Israel, which in terms of her own region is a superpower, is by no means locked in a perpetual struggle for her own existence. The will for her destruction is certainly present among her Arab and Islamic neighbours, but these have never possessed the means to translate that will into reality and they have no realistic prospect of gaining those means anytime in the near future. They were defeated when they attacked her as a newly born nation having just gained her independence and she is far stronger and better prepared to repel their attacks today. The only real threat to her survival is the long-term demographic threat which Patrick Buchanan warned her about in The Death of the West and which Jean Raspail illustrated decades earlier in his novel The Camp of the Saints. Israel is hardly unique in this, for this is a threat hanging like Damocles’ sword over the heads of every civilized, First World, Western nation.
Indeed, the strongest weapon Israel’s enemies possess is the weapon of international public relations, a weapon armed with the ammunition of the stupidity of Israel’s own political leaders. Being justified in the use of force is not the same thing as being wise in using force. As Peter Hitchens pointed out in the Daily Mail five years ago, and recently reminded us on his blog, by using this kind of force in Gaza, Israel has done exactly what Hamas wants them to do. Hamas, like all similar organizations, is a parasite that feeds off of the suffering of the people in whose name it acts. It exploits that suffering to gain for itself the zeal and obedience of its followers and the sympathy of international opinion.
This is the truly decisive factor in the debate. Israel is a legitimate state, the political expression of an established, civilized, society, that genuinely seeks the well-being, security, and interests of the people and society it governs and represents. Hamas is an organization that preys on the people of whom it has appointed itself the representative, hiding behind them as human shields, and throwing them against its hated enemies as human ammunition. If we must pick sides, clearly the only sane choice is to pick Israel’s side.
That having been said, Israel is by no means an innocent party in this conflict. Months before the kidnappings, the most recent round of peace negotiations broke down, largely due to the Netanyahu government’s insistence upon building large Jewish settlements on the West Bank. With regards to the kidnapping, Israeli authorities knew from very early on that the teenagers had been shot, just as they knew that the kidnappers, while members of Hamas, were renegades estranged from the organization’s leadership. It does not take a genius to figure out that the motivation for withholding this information was to garner popular and international support for a crackdown on Hamas in the West Bank, conducted under the guise of an investigation. While one can hardly blame Israel for wanting to crackdown on the terrorist group all of this subterfuge raises the question of what role the Likud’s historic dream of territorial expansion, the “Greater Israel” concept, plays in all of this. It is difficult to imagine a reason for Netanyahu’s settlement policy in the West Bank that does not arise out of this concept, as the policy otherwise threatens the prospects of peace and Israel’s own security.
If Israel, as the legitimate state representing an established, civil society is the sane side to support in her conflict with terrorist organizations that target her civilian population while hiding behind their own the support must be heavily qualified. Just as a humane sympathy for the dispossessed and displaced Palestinian Arabs, Christian and Muslim, a noble sentiment in itself, becomes disgraceful when it is translated into justification for the terrorist actions of groups like the PLO or Hamas so support for Israel as a civilized, functional, society and state goes too far when it becomes unconditional support for all of her actions. Israel certainly is justified in taking action against the terrorists who launch rockets into her civilian neighbourhoods. The fact that those rockets have done little to no real harm due to the effectiveness of her anti-missile system does not lessen this justification. She would be wiser to exercise restraint, however, if for no other reason than to avoid giving her enemies the international sympathy they are looking for. Her friends and supporters would do well to advise her that while they support her taking the actions necessary to secure her society this does not mean that she has a blank cheque to pursue whatever other goals she wishes at other peoples’ expense.
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