Gaza: A Time for War, a Time for Peace

At Pajamas Media, Middle East commentator Eli Bernstein examines Israel’s war against Hamas in the context of the ancient doctrine of a “just war.” He concludes, of course, that Israel has the right to use military force to protect its people. Further, he argues that Israel now has a moral obligation to continue its operation until Hamas’s ability to wage terrorist attacks is crippled:

An ethical exit strategy must be in place with a peace settlement that ensures the violated rights are enforced (Rights vindication). For the war not to be fought in vain, Israel must ensure the original just cause is rectified through a sustainable cessation of violence. Israel must therefore not agree to the unilateral ceasefire, proposed by the Europeans.

Bernstein’s closing paragraphs are particularly strong in describing the stark differences in the motivations of the combatants (emphasis added):

Israel as a democracy surrounded by rogue regimes has to balance its inherent abhorrence of violence with the violent zeal of the rogue regimes it is surrounded by. Israel cannot be expected to act like Sweden when its neighbours are neither Norway nor Finland.

As nations around the world increasingly confront the menace of terrorism and rogue regimes, the Western world will have to learn the unpleasant truth that there is a time for peace and a time for war. Bill Clinton’s pacifist stance on Rwanda caused more deaths than any act of war America has ever engaged in. The pacifist does not necessarily have the shorter sword than the warrior.

It is time the world stops the double speak of moral equivalence. Every Palestinian innocent life lost is a tragic undesired outcome for the Israeli side, whereas the loss of Israeli civilian life is the aim rather than an incidental outcome for Hamas. In the conflict between Israel and Hamas, there simply is no moral equivalence. It is time the world recognised this truth and spoke in one voice.

12 thoughts on “Gaza: A Time for War, a Time for Peace

  1. “Every Palestinian innocent life lost is a tragic undesired outcome for the Israeli side”


    Is there actually any upper limit after which you would consider this “undesired outcome” to be murder? So we are well onto a 1000 people. How about 2000? 5000? But these are just numbers to you I guess.

    The world is not going to excuse oppression as an answer for crude terrorist control. This is not a video game – a kid who thinks Hamas is cool may be deluded, but shouldn’t be target practice.

    Israel is doing the world no favours by extending the influence of Iran. If Israel wants to blunder into Lebanon and look stupid, ok. But showing impatience, violence and geopolitical adolesence with American weapons in Gaza, just advertises the extremist position.

    You are not being a Conservative – probably the complete opposite.

  2. “Rogue” regimes? Excuse me, but hasn’t Israel consistently violated the Geneva conventions by destroying Palestinian houses, taught torture and intimidation to U.S. interrogators in Guantanamo, Bagram, and Abu Ghraib, and defied UN resolutions again and again? Aren’t the 1967 borders the only ones recognized in international law, and yet doesn’t Israel continue to sponsor settlements by religious extremists with genocidal dreams of wiping Palestinians off (if not the face of the earth) the face of their ancestral homeland?

    Now tell me again, all those other countries are rouge states? Talk about pots and kettles.


  3. What bugs me is all the conservative bloggers who are jumping up and down celebrating. The Israelis know this is a desperate last resort, going in to get the rocket launchers, which will cost them both in the short and the long run.

  4. Vicky,

    Thanks for stopping by, although it doesn’t look like we’re going to agree on this. I’m not interested in the opinions of the thugocracy-infested United Nations. As for Israel, I don’t accept all of your characterizations of their conduct, but I’ll concede that no nation is without flaw.

    For me it always comes back to this: If the Palestinians (and the foreign jihadists who pretend to care about Palestinians) were to lay down their weapons, there would be peace between Israel and its neighbors. If Israel were to lay down its weapons, Israelis would be slaughtered to the last man, woman and child. For that reason, I’ll give Israel every possible benefit of the doubt.

    A question for all the commenters: How SHOULD Israel have responded to the thousands of rockets that have been fired from Gaza toward civilian targets in Israel?

  5. Kirk,

    What should they do about the rockets? First, Israel needs to recognize that it is in an untenable situation. Its survival depends on facing that reality. The US-subsidized military solution won’t work forever, friendly dictators like Mubarak won’t be in power forever, and demographics are going to change everything within three generations. Besides, sooner or later its enemies will get a nuke, guaranteed. What is Israel’s long-term plan? I don’t have any magical solutions, but for sure what Israel is doing now is laying the groundwork of justification for their enemies.

    Besides, the seige, and the occupation, are just the logical outcomes of a policy of racial exclusivity. In the modern world, theocracies are not acceptable. And when I say that I definitely include muslim theocracies like Iran and Saudi Arabia.

    What bothers me is the assumption that because Israel is considered to be somehow More Like Us, *their* theocratic and racist attitudes are somehow More Acceptable.

    The attitudes toward Islam you endorse on this blog are, I’m afraid, hateful. I say hateful because the standards Islamists are judged by are not applied to Israel. A state which gives rights only to those who believe as you do? Why is that horrible in Islamists, but just fine in Israel?

    The only answer I can see is that you hated Islam in the first place, so the standards you are judging them by never really mattered; they are justifications for your prejudice.

  6. Vicky, I don’t think it’s any more helpful for you to speculate about the roots of my attitudes toward Islam than it would be for me to speculate about the roots of your attitude toward Israel.

    The moral equivalence you assert between the state of Israel and the Islamists is based on a false premise. It’s simply not true that Israel is a theocracy, or that non-Jews have no rights there.

    Fully 10% of the current members of the Israeli Knesset are Arabs. Recent polls show that the Palestinians who know Israel best — those who are Israeli citizens — overwhelmingly prefer Israeli citizenship to citizenship in a Palestinian state.

    I’d like to go back to the question about what Israel should do about the rockets, because you haven’t offered any specific ideas. To me the answer is self-evident: they should attempt to defeat the attackers. That means destroying terrorist infrastructure and killing as many terrorists as possible. This unfortunately will result in the deaths of some of the non-combatants that Hamas uses as human shields, despite Israel’s efforts to limit such deaths. But it was Hamas that put those civilians in harm’s way.

  7. I do apologize for attributing attitudes to you. However, the idea that Hamas is to blame for Israel’s huge military capability (and willing to use it, including white phosphorous, in a heavily occupied area) is sadly amusing to me. It’s the same justification that wife-beaters use: “She shouldn’t have mouthed off!”

    Israel has a choice, just as Hamas has a choice. I wish that Hamas were not so powerful, I wish that they were not so violent. I wish that Israel were not so powerful, I wish that they are were not so violent. And if wishes were horses, beggars would ride. It’s choices that matter, both by Hamas AND by Israel.

    Hamas certainly does not have the right solution to the injustices of colonialism that so many Arabs carry burning in their hearts, and Israel should not pay the sole price for that rage, either. But the way Israel is behaving, using U.S. weapons so intensively in Gaza, only firms up the perception of Israel as just another colonial power to be “driven from the face of the earth.” Is that smart?

    Should India invade Pakistan? Would that be smart? Justification is not enough, either for Hamas or for Israel.

    For the present, stupidity and violence reign. Congratulations to the leaders! It’s disgusting.

  8. Apology accepted … emotions run a bit high, then we remember that we’re friends. Reminds me of 2D days. 🙂

    Back to the argument: Your wife-beating analogy doesn’t work. The problem isn’t that Hamas “mouthed off” — it’s that it repeatedly launched military strikes at southern Israel.

    You say “Israel’s huge military capability” like that’s a bad thing … I feel the opposite way. In a previous post I link to the IDF YouTube channel that displays the precision targeting Israel is using to try to limit casualties among non-combatants.

    I agree that “Israel has a choice, just like Hamas has a choice.” I think the choice they have made (attempting to pacify Gaza by force) is the least-bad alternative available to them. You obviously disagree, which is fine… but again I ask: what SHOULD Israel do about the rocket attacks from Gaza?

  9. Some of the basis of my answer is pointed out in here:

    But in summary:

    1. Stop pretending that Hamas threatens teh existence of Israel, it does not.

    2. Stop telling yourself everyone else in the world would kill 1000 (and counting) people to stop bottle rocket attack. Most would not.

    2. Stop running the prison / shanty town. Open borders and let Palestinians choose where to live. Hamas will deflate if Palestinians abandon them.

    3. Ignore the extremist language of the few Hamas hotheads, and just deal with the majority who want fairness but not servility.

    4. Accept that Israel needs to transform into a nation from an experiment.

  10. DE, Hamas is less dangerous now than it was a month ago, thanks to the good work of the Israeli air force and army. But the perverted ideology of Islamic fascism extends far beyond Hamas, and that ideology most certainly DOES threaten the existence of Israel.

    In any event, that’s the wrong standard by which to judge Israel’s actions. The Hamas “bottle rockets” that you sneer at (actually Qassams and Grads) endanger 700,000 Israelis. An enemy attack doesn’t have to be an existential threat to the state itself in order to justify using force to eliminate the threat.

    And the notion that the problem is limited to “a few hotheads” is belied by the fact that Hamas, which has no agenda other than the destruction of Israel, won a majority of the seats in the Palestinian parliament.

  11. That there exists a potential danger from Islamic fundamentalism does not imply that Hamas is a material threat to Israel.

    In your mind, Hamas exists only to destroy Israel. In reality they are just another political party that panders to a specific belief that will never come to pass. The majority of Palestinians probably decided that the corrupt Fatah was worse than untried Hamas. No other options were available. We would probably agree that their decision was a poor one.

    However, the majority of Palestinians are clearly not involved in any form of terrorism whatsoever. And all so called terrorist/freedom fighters negotiaite eventually, I think without exception.

    Fortunately for the next generation of Israelis, the UN will probably intercede to stop the World War Israel is attempting to ignite. If a real modern World War starts, it will be too late to ponder on the relative dangers of home made rockets.

  12. Terrorists agree to negotiations when they realize they have been defeated. Fatah knows it has been defeated. The path to peace for Palestinians involves finding leadership that is neither corrupt nor terroristic.

    Hamas’s charter states: “Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it.” We will know that Hamas is ready to negotiate when it renounces its charter. Until then, it is NOT just another political party, and Israel would be foolish to negotiate with it.

    The UN is a cesspool of anti-Semitism, Israel will not buckle under to the UN as long as Israel has American support. Based on what Obama has said and on the people he has appointed, I’m reasonably confident that American support will continue.

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