Some thoughts on the Israeli Invasion of Gaza

There are two battles being fought in Gaza: (1) The military action and (2) world opinion. Hamas knows they will lose the first, but are betting they will win the second. Hamas will continue to hide weapons and troops in mosques, under schools and behind public buildings to force Israel to inflict maximum damage on civilians. The more Israel wins the war, the more world opinion will tip in Hamas' favor.

No one denies that Israel has a right to retaliate against Hamas/Gaza for a year of attacks with Qassam rockets. What world opinion is debating is whether Israel's response is "proportionate." Groups of people all over the world, including in places that are usually sympathetic with Israel, are repulsed by the violence of the Israeli attacks and the loss of civilian life. Unfortunately for Israel, most of world opinion is coalescing against her activities.

But what is a proportionate response? Hamas has fired hundreds of horribly inaccurate rockets at two cities in Israel. Mostly, they land harmlessly in farmland. Only three people are known to have been killed in hundreds of attacks. Some might argue that any response is disproportionate. But this would ignore the effect on human life. What is it like to live for a year with constant air raid sirens, constant running for bomb shelters, constant worry about the safety of loved ones and friends when you see explosions near their location? What happens to children who are schooled more in bomb shelters than in real schools? What is a proportionate response to that kind of terror?

Israel could fire one of its rockets into Gaza every time one is fired out of Gaza into Israel. That would seem proportionate. However, Israel's rockets are far more powerful, far more accurate and Gaza is more heavily populated. Casualties would be hugely disproportionate. So, does Israel wait for Hamas to fire 10 rockets before replying? 20? What number is proportionate? The first rocket Israel fired would almost certainly kill far more than 3 people. Does Israel wait another year to fire the next?

Or maybe Israel should call upon its religious roots and send locusts, frogs, gnats, boils, hail, etc. upon the people of Gaza. If anyone complained they could always invoke the religion card: "It is a long-standing right of the Jewish people to use plagues in self-defense. They worked for Moses, and we have no intention of abandoning them now." Heck, they could modernize the plagues as well. Maybe tear gas, sonic weapons, mad cow disease, smoke bombs, unending leaflets -- in short, anything that disrupted the lives of the Gaza citizens to try to turn them against Hamas. Naturally, this would provoke even more criticism of Israel. It's bad enough to harm the people of Gaza, but to inject humor into the equation would be way overboard.

There is no proportionate response. Israel is doing what any other nation would do if they were under constant attack and had the resources to respond. You do what you have to do to stop the attacks. Period. Calling on a proportionate response is either (1) an admission of extreme ignorance or (2) thinly disguised anti-Israeli prejudice. Not one of the proportionate response crowd has offered a reasonable course of action for Israel to stop the rocket attacks. They just want Israel to come up with one that doesn't offend their delicate sensibilities.

There is no proportionate response when your opponent is deliberately firing nuisance rockets while hiding behind civilians to make any response disproportionate. Hamas is deliberately provoking a war they know will kill large numbers of civilians. If they had more accurate rockets it is doubtful they'd use them. The goal isn't to win a military confrontation with Israel. The goal is to force Israel to do something about the constant nuisance and thereby seem to be the aggressor using disproportionate force. The strategy appears to be working.

What is still to be resolved is whether Israel can turn control of Gaza back over to Palestinian rule after driving Hamas out and then get out without losing most of its support around the world. For Hamas, to make their strategy work optimally, they need to have Israel win without losing many soldiers or equipment. This may be hard to do when Hamas' soldiers have tons of weapons and have been told they should win, not lose. Most of them don't know they are an involuntary suicide squad.

Worst case for Israel is that they win the war, turn Gaza over to Abbas and the PLO, only to have Hamas leadership come out of hiding and win control not just of Gaza but all of Palestine, meanwhile Israel loses worldwide support from their massively disproportionate response.

Strangely, in this fight, both sides have the mostly the same goals: (1) Israel is to win as easily and decisively as possible, (2) the Hamas army is to be utterly destroyed and (3) Israel is to have complete control of Gaza. Hamas has the additional goal of having Israel inflict as many casualties on Gaza civilians as possible, while Israel wants as few as possible. Israel dropped leaflets asking civilians to leave, but with refugee camps already overflowing where are they to go? Hamas will fight from behind women and children, making newsreel footage of ugly civilian casualties a certainty.

When will the world realize that forcing your own civilians to be the front-line troops in a war you plan to lose is your problem and not the enemy's? Israel needs to have the world grow up soon.

January 5, 2009