Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Israel's Disproportionate Response

After a long weekend of missiles, bombs, and rocket, moral equivalizing, standard rhetoric, and civilian casualties, nothing has fundamentally changed in the Israel-Palestinian conflict

A lot of the charges leveled against Israel are about the disproportionate military response. But no one has really tested that claim. From an Times Online article:

Let's have a pointless discussion about Gaza and begin it by talking about whether Israel's bombing is “disproportionate”.

To illustrate the meaninglessness of such a debate let us attempt to agree what “proportionate” would look like.

Would it be best if Israel were to manufacture a thousand or so wildly inaccurate missiles and then fire them off in the general direction of Gaza City? There is a chance, though, that since Gaza is more densely packed than Israel, casualties might be much the same as they are now, so although the ordnance would be proportionate, the deaths would not. Of course, if one of Gaza's rockets did manage to hit an Israeli nursery school at the wrong time (or the right time, depending upon how you look at it), then the proportionality issue would be solved in one explosion. Would you be happy then?

The article goes further into the issues of targeting militants versus targeting civilians, and moral superiority:

This is not about outrage. We could then, perhaps, from the other side, attempt to suggest Israel's moral superiority on the basis that, unlike the careless firers of Qassam rockets, any civilian casualties caused by Israel's bombs were the unintended victims of its actions, however many of them there are. Israel takes care with its targeting, they don't. But the eight students killed by a bus stop in Gaza are just as dead, their families just as bereft, and their feelings towards the originators of the bombs just as compounded of hate and regret.

So this is not about moral superiority. Perhaps we could now try to have a discussion with a point. Will the Israeli action advance or hinder any movement towards a long-term solution in the area, or have we all given up on that (in which case expressions of anything very much seem not just irrelevant, but irritating)? Will it, in the long term, relieve Israeli citizens from the threat of arbitrary extinction? I'm pretty sure it will help in the short term. I cannot easily see what it accomplishes in the longer run.

Maybe a really big fence would work?

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