There are plenty of perfectly good criticisms to be leveled against the State of Israel. Personally, I’m quite troubled by the so-called “demographic time bomb” theory, which posits that Israel’s increasing Arab and Palestinian birthrates ultimately doom the Jewish nation to embrace some ugly form of minority-rule. And of course we’re all well-versed in the gross spectacle of settler expansion into the West Bank, a brazen effort at colonial growth at exactly the moment the Palestinian territories are supposed to be inching towards independence.
Yet the mere existence of Israeli sin should not blind anyone to the greater evils of its enemies.
This is the sort of blunt moral judgment that’s been traditionally uncouth among fashionable western progressives, who, often feel the need to affect great open-minded exasperation at the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, bemoaning that “fault exists on both sides.” Such is the default position of those ideologically inclined to regard assertive side-taking as a symptom of an unsophisticated mind, with “blind” support of Israel in particular a worrying proxy for some other form of close-minded ignorance — Millennialist Christianity, perhaps.
Yet in the wake of the current war between the Israeli government and the Islamic Resistance Movement — better known as Hamas — that’s running the Gaza Strip, even the traditional progressive skepticism seems to be breaking down. As Israel’s Palestinian resisters become more nihilistic and radical at precisely the time the Israelis are getting more sensitive and cautious, the lopsided moral imbalance is becoming harder to ignore.
The traditional Israel-bashers are certainly looking more pathetic than usual. The buffoonish United Nations Human Rights Council drew up a monstrously biased report on the Gaza war the other day, which predictably sailed to approval on the votes of the various third world dictatorships who comprise the body’s largest bloc. Yet it was telling no nation resembling a first world democracy could be persuaded to support it. Of the 17 abstentions, almost all noted with concern that the Council’s chronology of the conflict was a bit one-sided, to put it lightly. The brusque four-page report does not include the word “Hamas” once, and instead speaks only of Israeli aggressors inflicting “widespread, systematic and gross violations of international human rights and fundamental freedoms” against the hapless peoples of “Occupied Palestine.”
Nowhere was it mentioned that the Gaza Strip actually ceased to be occupied back in 2005, as the late Ariel Sharon painfully extracted every remaining Jewish settler and soldier from the territory.
Nowhere was it mentioned that Hamas explicitly pledges to “obliterate” the state of Israel in their founding charter — “by Jihad,” in fact.
Nowhere was it mentioned that Hamas leaders have long spoken of “Jews” in the most generic as their enemy, and that their preferred military tactic in the current conflict — lobbing over 2,500 missiles into major population centres — have made urban Israelis the war’s true civilian targets.
Nowhere was it mentioned that Hamas has transported weapons in ambulances, housed missiles in schools, mosques, and hospitals, and disguised their fighters in Israeli uniforms — all clear violations of the codified laws of war.
Nowhere was it mentioned that the Israelis have so far discovered over 30 multi-million dollar “terror tunnels” spiraling out of Gaza (built in part with alleged child labor) that serve no purpose other than to turn western Palestine into a launchpad for guerrilla aggression against its neighbor.
Nowhere was it mentioned that just a few days prior, Hamas refused a comprehensive ceasefire backed by basically everyone who matters: the Egyptian government, the Arab League, the United Nations, the EU — even old man Obama, if anyone still cares about him.
Nor, for that matter, did the report mention the exceedingly cautious conduct of the Israeli forces in what they’re calling “Operation Protective Edge,” a reputation-conscious nervousness so thoroughly unprecedented in modern warfare it’s almost certainly harmed national security.
While Israeli civilians have been largely protected from Hamas rockets by the country’s awesome Iron Dome missile defense system, Palestinian civilians are protected by an Israeli shield of their own: an elaborate system of advanced warnings to residents of Gazan neighborhoods targeted for bombing. The system includes everything from text messages, personalized phone calls, noisemaking “dummy bombs” (so-called “roof knocking”), and even airdropped maps steering civilians to refugee centres. Such has been the IDF’s painstaking effort to mimimize causing casualties while attacking one of the most densely-packed places on earth, yet Hamas has ensured the Palestinian death toll has remained high anyway, glibly encouraging Gazans to dismiss Israeli warnings as “psychological warfare.”
Prime Minister Netanyahu took some flak for noticing that last bit, concluding on American television that Hamas seems to enjoy the existence of “telegenically dead Palestinians.” Yet it’s a indictment that’s difficult to avoid given how effective the conflict’s 570 Gazan victims have proven in forming a narrative of “disproportionate death” — the only argument Hamas can peddle for foreign sympathy. In any case, surely a group cynical enough to engage in talks with North Korea to replenish their depleted missile supply would hardly balk at the indignity of ratcheting up its own body count for propaganda purposes.
A dispassionate analysis of facts like these — facts which are not the result of clever cherry-picking on my end — but simple observation on the broad character of the Gaza conflict to date, cannot help but lead to a simple conclusion: Israel is better than Hamas.
To conclude this isn’t to posit that Israel, and the current Israeli government in particular, is without failing in other contexts, nor to even make a value judgment about the broader merits of Zionism, if you’re still a skeptic. It’s simply to note that what we have right now is a secular, liberal democracy fighting the aggressions of a lunatic death cult who seized power in a military coup and are actively loathed by the long-suffering captives it purports to rule. With tendentious conduct resulting.
Whether that’s an accurate summary of the Palestinian-Israel conflict in general, it’s certainly true of this one.
It demands an appropriate reception.