Sunday, March 02, 2008

It was only a matter of time before the UN ( and in its wake the EU, you will hear the word again and again in the next few days or weeks ) would start using the D-word to condemn Israel's response to ongoing rocket attacks against Israel from the Hamas-controled Gaza-Strip. I always wonder what those people of the UN consider proportional. Should Israel wait for 50 of its citizens to be murdered or maimed by terrorist attacks before it is allowed to kill 50 or more Palestinians? Would any other country not respond if it is attacked daily, with such attacks destroying houses, traumatizing thousands of men, women and children, ruining the economy of tens of communities, wounding and murdering scores of citizens? That relatively 'few' Israelis have been killed by Qassam rockets is not a result of a lack of evil intent or effort on the side of the terrorists and their supporters. Each and every rocket is meant to murder and mutilate, to create mayhem and panic. Last week a Qassam rocket killed Roni Yechiah z"l, a father of four, while he was trying to get an education so that he could get back to work, after he had had a kidney transplant years ago. Earlier last month Osher Tuito, an 8-year-old boy from Sderot, had part of his leg amputated after being injured in a rocket attack. I am absolutely convinced that Hamas is trying to seduce Israel into responding forcefully and eventually into invading Gaza with ground forces. Not only will Israeli casualties rise that way - two soldiers were killed already in relatively small raids this weekend - but Israel's killing of Palestinian children and other civilians ( something that is inevitable when you carry out attacks in one of the most densely populated parts of the world ) automatically boosts Palestinian, Arab, Muslim and international support and sympathy for the Hamas-regime, which has been in a difficult political and diplomatic situation for several months now. Israel should not let itself be dragged once again into the lethal mud of Gaza, but it has to react somehow. That somehow entails violence, I am afraid, and although I have slight sympathy for Mr Ban and not too much faith in people like Olmert and Barak ( whose political agendas are dictated largely by Palestinian and Israeli extremists, not by their own political vision or conviction, since they do not seem to have any such vision or conviction ), I believe that it is up to the Israeli government to decide about proportions, not to the United Nations. Three more remarks about this issue. First of all, last night I watched the news, which of course had pictures from Gaza. I saw several men with bulletproof vests with the word PRESS running around with and among masked gunmen. Were those men real journalists? If so, wouldn't Israel be condemned in every possible way and in every imaginable forum if those man happened to be shot in the course of a battle? Don't tell me, I know the answer. Last week Israel's deputy defense minister, whom I normally admire and respect for his expertise and levelheadedness, was stupid enough to once more lug the Holocaust into 'the' conflict. Why, for heaven's sake? Do you really need the word Shoah when you want to stress that something is very, very bad? Wouldn't ason ( disaster ) have been enough? Not surprisingly the words Holocaust and Shoah reappeared in several headlines after that. Here and here are only two examples. For once and for all: when discussing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict there is no justification whatsoever to use any analogy or language or to make any comparison that involves the Holocaust! Israelis and Israel-supporters should refrain more than anybody else from making such comparisons or from using Holocaust-related analogies or phrases. Readers of this blog know that I am very wary of using historical analogies and comparisons, they hardly ever make sense. I am not proud that I did the following, but since our enemies love to make unhistorical comparisons and to talk about proportions, i.e. about the numbers of victims, I used the calculator on my mobile phone to do some very rough calculations. Let's say that World War II lasted from September 1st 1939 until May 1st 1945. That is 68 months. Let's say that every month has 30 days. Thus WWII lasted 68 X 30 = 2040 days. If we take the number of Jewish victims of the Shoah, 6 million, and divide that number by the number of 2040 days, we see that on average during that war every day more than 2940 Jews were murdered. We should take into account that the systematic murder of Jews did not really start until right after the invasion of the Soviet Union, in June 1941. If you divide the total number of Jewish victims of the Nazis by 1380 ( 46 months X 30 days, July 1st 1941 - May 1st 1945 ) the average number of victims per day is almost 4350. I had a look at the statistics provided by Betselem. These statistics cover Israeli and Palestinian casualties of the conflict, from September 2000 ( the beginning of the second intifadah ) until January 31st 2008. That is 88 months, X 30 = 2640 days. If we take only the categories "Palestinians killed by Israeli security forces" ( in Israel itself and in the territories ) and "Palestinians killed by Israeli civilians" we get a total of 4528 Palestinians who were killed by Israelis in those 88 months. Let's ignore the fact that the vast majority of those Palestinians were "killed when participating in hostilities", or that in that same period 575 Palestinians were killed by Palestinians. If we divide 4528 by 2640 we get a total of 1,7 Palestinians who were killed by Israel on each day since September 2000. Every victim is one too many, and the conflict should not be about numbers, but you will have to agree with me that, given these data, using the word Holocaust, Shoah, or genocide to describe any aspect of Israel's policy towards the Palestinians is utterly "disproportionate and excessive". Finally, one short news item worried and angered me more than any other last week. I do believe that there is no military solution to the conflict, I do think that Israel should negotiate ( even with Hamas ), but with statements such as this one people like Abbas make it impossible for Israeli moderates to convince the Israeli public that there is such a thing as Palestinian moderates. Unless moderate - as opposed to extremist - is a synonym for pragmatic and more patient. It might become more worthwhile for Israel to do business with Hamas rather than with Abbas c.s. Maybe the words coming out of the mouths of Hamas-leaders are less pleasant to listen to than the phrases of Abu Mazen, but at least you know where they stand and what their words are worth, which makes it easier for Israel to decide on its own positions. As Nahum Barnea tells us, Israel has two basic options, and none of them is very attractive.

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