An Israeli policeman examines the damage to a school classroom hit by a rocket fired by Palestinian militants from the Gaza Strip, at the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon, Monday, Nov. 19, 2012. Israeli aircraft struck crowded areas in the Gaza Strip and killed a senior militant with a missile strike on a media center Monday, driving up the Palestinian death toll to 96, as Israel broadened its targets in the 6-day-old offensive meant to quell Hamas rocket fire on Israel. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)
Updated: December 21, 2012 6:14AM
The apologists for Palestinian terror targeting innocent civilians are quick to charge — when Israel is finally forced to respond to the threat to its citizens — that the Jewish state uses “disproportionate force” in retaliating against its enemies. It’s nonsense that ignores the realities and imperatives of waging war.
Expect to hear more of the “disproportionate” argument should efforts to achieve a cease-fire in the latest outbreak of combat in the Gaza Strip fail and Israel be forced to conduct a ground incursion into densely populated Gaza to root out the terrorist infrastructure of rockets that have menaced southern Israel for months and more recently threatened population centers like Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
Disproportionate force is another way of expressing a defining concept of the Powell Doctrine, enunciated by former Secretary of State and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Colin Powell, that once a decision to go into combat is made, decisive and overwhelming force be used to achieve the stated goal quickly.
So an overpowering ground operation as well as Israel’s comprehensive air campaign embodies fundamental military concepts. A ground incursion also would inevitably involve civilian casualties. But that’s only because terrorists choose to operate and launch their atrocities from within the civilian population, even placing rocket launchers by schools and mosques and in residential neighborhoods. Using civilians as shields is a war crime that doesn’t seem to bother those shouting “disproportionate force.”
It’s also worth noting some of the civilian casualties are manufactured for propaganda purposes. A couple of photos alleging children killed and wounded in Gaza turned out to be recycled images from the Syrian civil war. Also documented are cases of Palestinian rockets misfiring or falling short inside Gaza, inflicting Palestinian casualties.
The concept of “proportionate force” is a hazy one. What would it entail in the current situation of Palestinians launching rockets, many of them crude unguided missiles costing a few hundred dollars, into Israel? Perhaps Israel should manufacture its own cheap rockets and fire one at Gaza in answer to every one launched from the strip.
That would certainly be proportionate. It also would be proportionate in responding to terror rocket attacks with terror rocket attacks. But terrorism is not in the Israelis’ DNA. They go to great lengths to limit civilian casualties. The other day, the Israeli high command called off an air strike on a Gaza rocket launching site when pilots reported civilians massing in the area. The Israelis employ precision-guided weapons. One YouTube video shows an Israeli missile exploding a rocket launcher next door to a mosque without hitting the place of worship.
Another bit of nonsense about the fighting is that it started with the targeted killing of Hamas leader Ahmed al-Jabari. The conflict was already under way — hundreds of rockets fired into southern Israel — when he was killed, and it was one directed by al-Jabari. He also was responsible for smuggling from Iran long-range rockets capable of hitting Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
His killing was justified, as was America’s assassination of Osama bin Laden and the campaign of drone strikes directed by President Barack Obama against our enemies in Afghanistan and the border area of Pakistan.
Israel is employing accepted civilized methods of war against barbarian enemies who know no limits to their war crimes.