Israel vs. Hamas: How Much Violence is Enough

A law professor considers the notion of proportionality in Forbes:

The claim is that it is not permissible for the Israelis to kill many individuals, including civilians, to stop sporadic deaths from rocket fire. Sorry. As with individual aggression, proportionality has no place in dealing with deadly force, where the right rule is that all necessary force is permissible.

The Israelis are not required to slowly bleed in Sderot because Hamas is at present only capable of using primitive rockets against it. It need not wait until the attacks become ever more deadly to raise the ante.

Writing in today’s Washington Post, Charles Krauthammer thinks Israel is nearing a successful endgame:

[T]he only acceptable outcome of this war, both for Israel and for the civilized world, is … the disintegration of Hamas rule. It is already underway.

This is not about killing every last Hamas gunman. Not possible, not necessary. Regimes rule not by physically overpowering every person in their domain but by getting the majority to accept their authority. That is what sustains Hamas, and that is what is now under massive assault.

Hamas’s leadership is not only seriously degraded but openly humiliated. The great warriors urging others to martyrdom are cowering underground, almost entirely incommunicado. Demonstrably unable to protect their own people, they beg for outside help, receiving in return nothing but words from their Arab and Iranian brothers.

In the same paper on the same day, Jackson Diehl looks at the same situation and reaches the opposite conclusion:

Every day this war continues, Hamas grows politically stronger, as do its allies in other countries and its sponsor, Iran. Though Israel must defend its citizens against rockets and suicide bombings, the only means of defeating Hamas are political. Palestinians, who have no history of attraction to religious fundamentalism, have to be persuaded to choose more moderate leaders, such as the secular Fatah. In the meantime, Hamas’s existence must be tolerated, and it should be encouraged to channel its ambitions into politics rather than military activity.

So Mr. Diehl, let me get this straight. Israel must defend its citizens from violent attacks… but not through military means. It must tolerate the existence of Hamas… even though Hamas has no intention of tolerating the existence of Israel. Hamas “should be encouraged to channel its ambitions into politics rather than military activity”… even though its ambition is to drive Israel into the sea.

I sure hope Krauthammer is right, because I don’t hold out much hope for Diehl’s approach.

Israel’s Further Adventures in Social Media

Israel continues and escalates its efforts to use social media to press its case in the global court of public opinion.

Benjamin Netanyahu, the once and perhaps future Prime Minister, is pulling out all the stops to explain Israel’s position in the war with Hamas. In addition to an excellent op-ed in the Wednesday Wall Street Journal, Bibi’s Likud Party has a trilingual blog and social media site (in Hebrew, English and Russian), with an oddly cheery-looking Flash animation showing which towns in Israel are within various ranges of the Gaza Strip.

From the op-ed:

In launching precision strikes against Hamas rocket launchers, headquarters, weapons depots, smuggling tunnels and training camps, Israel is trying to minimize civilian casualties. But Hamas deliberately attacks Israeli civilians and deliberately hides behind Palestinian civilians — a double war crime. Responsible governments do their utmost to minimize civilian casualties, but they do not grant immunity to terrorists who use civilians as human shields.

The international community may occasionally condemn Hamas for putting Palestinian civilians in harm’s way, but if it ultimately holds Israel responsible for the casualties that ensue, then Hamas and other terror organizations will employ this abominable tactic again and again.

The charge that Israel is using disproportionate force is equally baseless. Does proportionality demand that Israel fire 6,000 rockets indiscriminately back at Gaza?

Hamas Deploys Children in PR Offensive

A debate is raging over civilian deaths, some of them children, at a Palestinian school.

GAZA CITY, Gaza (AP) — Israeli mortar shells exploded Tuesday near a U.N. school in Gaza that was sheltering hundreds of people displaced by Israel’s onslaught against Hamas militants, killing at least 30 Palestinians, tearing bodies apart and staining streets with blood.

Israel’s military said its shelling — the deadliest single episode since Israeli ground forces invaded Gaza Saturday — was a response to mortar fire from within the school and said Hamas militants were using civilians as cover.

The pictures tug at the heartstrings, as they are designed to do. But there are other pictures of Palestinian children that need to be seen as well.

At A Soldier’s Mother, a marvelous blog I discovered just this week, the mother of an Israeli soldier describes in searing detail the different parenting techniques of Palestinians and Israelis.

I heard a [Palestinian] father mourning the death of his son. He blames the Israeli government, and I blame him. “Are you insane?” I want to ask him. “How could you allow your son to be near mortars being fired? What did you think Israel was going to do?” Why didn’t you take your son?… My son [the Israeli soldier] is stationed far from the cities. Why? Because if he is a target, we don’t want civilians nearby. We do not hide in hospitals, in schools, in homes. Why, why do the Palestinians? And if they do, why, why does the world blame Israel?

Hamas uses children — even their own children — and other civilians as human shields. Palestinian children are indoctrinated from an early age into the perverse death cult of Islamic extremism.

A Soldier’s Mother has many pictures of young Palestinian children playing with toy guns, grenades, suicide belts and more. But check for yourself, scroll to the bottom. Little Green Footballs, which has chronicled what it aptly calls “Palestinian Child Abuse” for years, has a slideshow with over 150 similar photos.

Israel will, and should, continue to do what it can to avoid civilian casualties. The Palestinians, on the other hand, breed their children for martyrdom. This deep-rooted sickness in Palestinian society, which has Islamic extremism as its foundation, is the primary barrier to peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

Photo Credit: A Soldier’s Mother

Gaza Bromide: “Tweet, Tweet” Is Better Than “War, War”

(Welcome, readers of, a.k.a. Castle Argghhh. If you’re a fan of “Jonah’s military guys,” you might be interested in my October post about that site, “In Praise of Milbloggers, and of the Iraqi Air Force”. And a warm welcome as well to Wired and Mudville Gazette readers.)

In an earlier post (“Israel Turns to Social Media in Fight against Hamas“) I described how the Israeli Consulate in New York is using Twitter in the battle for public opinion regarding the conflict that partisans on both sides seem to be calling the “War on Gaza.”

It turns out there’s some social media savvy on the Palestinian side as well. (warning: if you click around on the site you’ll see gruesome photos) launched January 1. I discovered it at about 5 a.m. January 5 (today), via a link in the tweetstream of Beshr Kayali. I have no idea who he is beyond the fact that his Twitter page says he’s in Damascus, and because I need to wrap this up quickly before a busy workday, I’m not going to research it.

The homepage features the death toll scorecard badge above, along with links to articles, blog posts, pro-Palestinian “Gaza Tweeters” and more.

(Disclosure: I’ve made clear where my own sympathies lie in this conflict. For this post, I’m setting aside my political views to focus on social media.)

If you click on the image below, I think you’ll see a much-larger version of it. (Works on my machine, anyway, but I’m still a newbie blogger and I don’t know if it will work for you. Give it a shot, then come back here to continue the text.)

By using Tweet Grid — one of the many independent sites that have sprung up to leverage Twitter’s tweetstream — I’ve collected the most recent tweets from both Kayali and from Benny Daon. I don’t know anything about him either, but he gives his location as Tel Aviv.

The large screenshot (if you can see it) shows Daon and Kayali parsing the nuances of the conflict in 140-character tweets. Here’s a text version of one exchange:

Beshrkayali: RT @ysalahi: Gaza’s 9/11: 500 dead so far out of 1.5 million in #Gaza. that’s approximately 100,000 americans out of 300 million.

Translation: Kayali is re-tweeting (“RT”) a tweet from someone else (“@ysalahi”) which compares the Gaza death toll with the 9/11 death toll, based on the respective populations of Gaza and the U.S. (If anyone cares about what I think about this argument on a substantive level, please inquire in the comments — I’m staying neutral in the body of the post.)

Daon fires back with a different take:

daonb: @Beshrkayali of the 500 dead in #gaza most are jihadists who got their wish and many others were human shields. In 9/11 just civilians

One last observation, then I’ve gotta wrap this up. Daon and Kayali both press their cases in highly partisan language. Maybe it’s wishful thinking, but I think I detect a hint of grudging respect and even camaraderie in this exchange:

daonb: @Beshrkayali watching bbc news now for smart analysis on #gaza. hoping we can have peace after this bloodbath, but very much doubt it

Beshrkayali: @daonb Yeah me too… It appears that Israel won’t stop until ALL Palestinians are dead… That’s what Olmert said… #gaza

The two sides in the Gaza War may not be negotiating, but at least they’re tweeting.

Zbigniew Zblows Smoke at Joe Scarborough

I got a little carried away commenting on another blog, so to justify the research time I’m repurposing the comment here. 🙂

At Politics After 50 (having been born in 1958 I think this is a great blog title), the author had this to say about the video clip embedded below:

I know this is old news, and I only just now watched this video to get the pleasure of seeing Joe Scarborough put in his fluffy, airhead, GOP-talking-point-parrot place by Zbigniew Brzezinski. But when I finally watched it, I learned something about the problems between Israel and Palestine from Brzezinski, so I thought I’d post this for anyone who hasn’t had a chance to watch it yet.

We may be about the same age, but clearly the anonymous blogger approaches politics from the opposite side. But I always want to have my assumptions challenged, and he had piqued my interest. So I watched the clip, which is embedded below.

If you’re interested but don’t care to spend 9 minutes watching, jump ahead to about 6:30. Or, just read the comment I posted on his blog:

Funny, after watching the clip it looks to me like Zbigniew Brzezinski was put in his failed-advisor-to-a-dithering-President-Carter place by Joe Scarborough.

The part of the clip where Zbig lowers the tone of the discussion by saying Joe’s understanding is “stunningly superficial” begins at about 6:30 into the interview. The statement by Joe that triggers Zbig’s childish outburst was this: “Let’s go back to 2000, Dr. Brzezinski. You and I both know Bill Clinton gave Arafat and the Palestinians everything…”

I wonder, would Zbig say Clinton’s understanding was “stunningly superficial”? Because here’s how Clinton described it:

[Bill Clinton said:] “The true story of Camp David was that for the first time in the history of the conflict the American president put on the table a proposal, based on UN Security Council resolutions 242 and 338, very close to the Palestinian demands, and Arafat refused even to accept it as a basis for negotiations, walked out of the room, and deliberately turned to terrorism.”

Here’s another Clinton assessment:

President Clinton, and others who participated, put the blame for the failure of hte talks squarely on Arafat and the Palestinian negotiators. In 2001, Clinton told guests at a party at the Manhattan apartment of former UN ambassador Richard Holbrooke that Arafat called to bid him farewell three days before he left office. “You are a great man,” Arafat said. “The hell I am,” Clinton said he responded. “I’m a colossal failure, and you made me one.”

Sounds to me like Joe Scarborough had it exactly right.

Moral Clarity on Hamas and Gaza, from Krauthammer

Time and again, after reading a Charles Krauthammer column, I find myself thinking, “why couldn’t I have written that?” It’s a combination of my admiration for the man’s craft and my nearly complete agreement, more often than not, with what he has to say.

Today’s column is headlined “Moral Clarity in Gaza.” It’s hard to decide which snippet to quote. But here’s the sentence that resonates most clearly for me, the day after Hamas thug Nizar Rayan died along with the family he used as his human shields:

For Hamas, the only thing more prized than dead Jews are dead Palestinians.

To coin a phrase, you should read the whole thing.

Slain Hamas Leader Was Raising Next Generation of Terrorists

My satisfaction at the news yesterday that Israel had taken out a top Hamas leader was tempered somewhat by the fact that his family died with him — today’s stories put the toll at four of his wives and 10 of his children. On the face of it, that sounds like a lot of “collateral damage,” no matter how important the primary target.

But you’ll hear no criticism of Israel from me over this incident. Not only did Nizar Rayan consciously use his family as human shields, they also refused to leave the house even after Israel warned them that it would be destroyed.

Still, as a parent, it pains me to think of a small child being killed because the grown-ups can’t get along. However, small children grow up — and even before yesterday, Rayan already sacrificed one of his sons to “martyrdom”:

Rayan, 49, ranked among Hamas’ top five decision-makers. A professor of Islamic law, he was known for his close ties to the group’s military wing and was respected in Gaza for donning combat fatigues and personally participating in clashes against Israeli forces. He sent one of his sons on an October 2001 suicide mission that killed two Israeli settlers in Gaza.

Israel’s military said the homes of Hamas leaders are being used to store missiles and other weapons, and the hit on Rayan’s house triggered secondary explosions from the stockpile there.

Israeli defense officials said the military had called Rayan’s home and fired a warning missile before destroying the building. That was impossible to confirm. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss military tactics.

Meanwhile, Hamas itself has admitted that Rayan was the person who pioneered the human shield concept that claimed his family. From the valuable website of the Israeli Consulate in New York:

Hamas has released an official statement declaring that Dr. Nizar al-Rayyan who was killed in a pinpointed attack earlier today is the father of the “Human Shields” method:

“It was Dr. Rayyan, who took the initiative, two years ago, to protect homes against Israeli occupation air strikes by forming human shields which succeeded in stopping this practice by the Israeli occupation, where they used to phone the occupier of the home and warn him to evacuate it in ten minutes because the home is going to be bombed.”
[bold not in source]

I’m sorry the children were killed. But Rayan killed them. I stand with Israel.

Israel Turns to Social Media in Fight against Hamas

Nick O’Neill has a good post at Social Media Today describing Israel’s use of social media in the current conflict in Gaza. Among other things, the Israeli Consulate in New York is engaging with supporters and critics alike, on Twitter. It’s reminiscent of Scott Monty’s efforts on behalf of Ford.

Update: Also see this, at Pajamas Media — it describes how Israel’s social media efforts represent an end-run around the mainstream media, much of which is bizarrely anti-Israel. “Now Israel can go directly to bloggers and other social media users to make their case without the biased filtering that takes place in all but a few outlets in the mainstream media.”

Updated Update: The IDF has a YouTube channel with a selection of precision bombing videos. In the one below, Israel strikes a Hamas truck as it is being loaded with Grad rockets. It’s a powerful answer to the charges that Israel is bombing indiscriminately. (Hat tip: Meryl Yourish)

Precision Strike Kills a Top Hamas Goon in Gaza

“A senior Hamas leader, Nizar Rayan, was killed today with his four wives and two of his children in an Israeli air strike in Gaza, medics said,” according to an account in The National, an Abu Dhabi-based, English-language paper. (Photo: AFP/Getty, via CNN)

The deaths of the wives and children are unfortunate, but Rayan knew he was a target and chose to endanger his family by using them as human shields. Whenever Israel has an opportunity to kill a senior terrorist, it would be irresponsible not to pull the trigger. Hamas can stop the conflict at any time by ceasing its rocket attacks against Israel, which have continued today.

In an earlier post I defended Israel’s use of “disproportionate” force. I later found a post by TigerHawk explaining why a disproportionate response to Hamas rocket attacks is not just defensible, but also necessary:

Massive, militarily disproportionate retaliation is the cornerstone of deterrence, and without it there would be more war, not less. …

The requirement that retaliation be proportional rather than “massive” destroys the credibility of the threat to retaliate and therefore the effectiveness of the deterrance. Why? Because it allows the attacker to determine the price he will pay for launching the attack. If the attacker knows that he can absorb a blow equal to the one he delivers, then he will not be concerned that the defender has the capability to retaliate massively.

This is like limiting the penalty for property crimes to restitution. Why not rob the bank? If you’re caught, you only have to give the money back.

Unfortunately I can’t find the link where I read the following idea, so I’ll just paraphrase: If Hamas and all the world’s jihadists were to lay down their weapons, there would be peace between Israel and Palestine. If Israel were to lay down its weapons, Israelis would be slaughtered to the last man, woman or child.

Can anyone offer any evidence that the above statement might not be true? This is a serious question, please leave a comment if you can make a substantive argument. And if the statement is true, I find it hard to understand why anyone would not root for the Israelis.

Good to See: Arab Leaders Criticize Hamas

Via Taranto (third item) comes the welcome word that some Arab leaders understand the cause of the Gaza conflict better than the Episcopal Presiding Bishop does:

Nimr Hammad, an adviser to [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud] Abbas, told a Lebanese paper, “The one responsible for the massacres is Hamas, and not the Zionist entity, which in its own view reacted to the firing of Palestinian missiles. Hamas needs to stop treating the blood of Palestinians lightly. They should not give the Israelis a pretext.” Hammad also urged Hamas to cease “operations which reflect recklessness, such as the firing of missiles.”

The quote isn’t exactly cheerleading for the “Zionist entity,” and Taranto points out that the PA and Hamas are rivals for Palestinian leadership. Still, it’s the most pro-Israel statement I can ever remember seeing from a Palestinian leader in the context of hostilities. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak also is said to be “very angry with Hamas.”