Acting in defence
When a man like Gershon Baskin — steeped in attempts to bring peace between Israel and the Palestinians and about as far from a supporter of the Israeli PM as can be imagined — writes that “Benjamin Netanyahu did not want to escalate this war” and explains that the Israeli government had no alternative but to act, then even the most driven anti-Israel activist should take note. Not that they will. The reaction to Operation Protective Edge has not — yet — reached the poisonous levels that marked some previous IDF operations. But there is a wearyingly predictable tone to much of the coverage — that Israel is, once again, waving its mighty sword to crush the Palestinians almost for the sake of it. The facts, however, paint a very different picture. Rockets were falling on southern Israel at the rate of over 5 an hour. How is an Israeli leader — how is leader — expected to react to rocket attacks on over a million people? One million Israelis is 13 per cent of the population — the equivalent of 8.4 million people in the UK.
It is simply unimaginable that a British leader would not respond to repeated rocket attacks on 8.4 million people. And not respond with a shrug, but by throwing everything at taking out the people and infrastructure responsible. In this context, the most remarkable thing about the Israeli response is its restraint. Are Jews alone not allowed to defend themselves? It is Hamas, not Israel, that has used the innocent as pawns, with Palestinians being made into so-called human shields. At root, the problem comes down to this. Imagine if one side of the conflict was somehow disarmed. If Hamas lost all its weapons, there would be no more Israeli military action against it. If Israeli was, on the other hand, suddenly defenceless, there would be mass slaughter of Israelis. So long as that remains true, Israel will always have to defend itself against Hamas attacks on its citizens.