Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

Israel, Hamas and Moral Equivalence

Jan 6, 2009

Now that Israel has entered Gaza, the response from much of the world’s press has been totally predictable. Israel is called a nation of terrorists and mass murderers, and it is claimed that Israel is being far too disproportionate in its response. Demands for an immediate withdrawal, along with expectations that Israel grovels in remorse are becoming commonplace.

Of course all of this anti-Israeli rhetoric is built on the assumption that some sort of moral equivalence exists here. Critics of Israel might grudgingly admit that Hamas has not been exactly pure in all this, but they also claim that Israel is in fact just as bad, if not far worse.

However, a number of commentators beg to differ, and I enlist their aid in this piece. First, consider the phony charge that this is some sort of David versus Goliath situation in which Israel is some massive military power while poor Hamas is just some small guy outfit throwing stones.

Hamas is armed and supported by nations such as Iran. Both have vowed to eliminate the nation of Israel. And Israel is surrounded by nations that don’t exactly look kindly upon Israel. All in all, Israel is vastly outnumbered and outgunned, hedged in by violent opponents. Writes Greg Sheridan:

“To grasp the nature of the strategic threat Hamas poses, it is necessary to place it in the context of its ally, Hezbollah, in southern Lebanon, and their common backer and puppet master, Iran. During Israel’s 2006 war with Hezbollah, rockets continued to rain down on Israel as far as the big industrial city of Haifa. There was an acute fear within Israel, although not much spoken of, that Hezbollah rockets would hit a massive oil refinery in Haifa. The flow-on effects from this could be catastrophic. During that war, much of northern Israel was effectively paralysed, and certainly closed for normal business.”

“Despite the mistakes Israel made in that war, it got some things right. At the start of the conflict, it knocked out Hezbollah’s longest-range missiles that could reach Israel’s biggest city, Tel Aviv. And since then, the missiles have not come back from the north. Now they come from Gaza in the south. They not only terrorise the small Israeli town of Sderot, they frequently now reach Ashkelon, the industrial city that ironically provides electricity to Gaza. (There must be few occasions in history when a nation is expected to supply electricity to factories building rockets designed to blow up the electricity plant.)”

The only reason Israel has not suffered more at the hands of Hamas thus far is the lack of long-range rockets. “From Israel’s point of view, it is very clear that if it leaves Hamas alone, Hamas will gather more and better rockets, long-range and with better guidance systems. Hamas and Hezbollah together can then present two types of strategic threat to Israel, beyond merely killing its citizens. They can shut down vast swaths of Israeli society and industry with a rocket offensive. Or they can hit strategic targets, at least from Dimona to Haifa. Israel had no alternative but to act, although how it will restore a future equilibrium in Gaza remains deeply unclear.”

Complaints about civilian casualties are also routinely raised by the critics of Israel. It is always regrettable when civilians die in armed combat. But there is a huge moral difference between a nation which seeks to prevent such collateral damage as much as possible, and a terrorist organisation that thrives on such civilian carnage. As Mona Charen explains,

“It’s often pointed out that Hamas does not recognize Israel’s right to exist. It’s more than that. Hamas, with Iran’s backing, is committed to Israel’s violent destruction. Missiles have fallen on schools and homes. Hamas is explicit about desiring Israeli counterattacks, because while Hamas aims to kill Israeli civilians, they know that Israel tries very hard not to kill Palestinian civilians. But every Palestinian death at the hands of Israel is seen as a propaganda victory for Hamas — which is why they place their munitions and terrorists in mosques, hospitals, and homes crowded with children. Hamas representative Fathi Hamad stated it explicitly: ‘For the Palestinian people death became an industry, at which women excel and so do all people on this land: the elderly excel, the Jihad fighters excel, and the children excel. Accordingly (Palestinians) created a human shield of women, children, the elderly and the Jihad fighters against the Zionist bombing machine, as if they were saying to the Zionist enemy: We desire death as you desire life’.”

Melanie Phillips argues much the same: “Alas, the civilian toll will unavoidably mount, which is deeply regrettable. But what must be understood is that Hamas have deliberately situated their weapons under apartment blocks, in mosques and in hospitals. The Israelis build bomb shelters for their civilians – Hamas stores bombs underneath its civilians to manipulate world opinion. What people find so hard to grasp is that Hamas actually wants to maximise the number of Palestinians killed because, as they boast: ‘We desire death as you desire life’.”

But Israel should negotiate, and not fight, critics argue. This is not easy to do when the one you are trying to negotiate with wants only one thing of you: your destruction. As Yuval Rotem has put it, “Hamas is a problem for Israel because it doesn’t want to engage Israel in dialogue or reach a two-state solution. (Israel has said innumerable times it will deal with Hamas as soon as Hamas recognises Israel’s right to exist and renounces terrorism.)”

But, the critics will complain, an attack by Israel will simply provoke more Islamist aggression. Says Phillips, “Despite this fanaticism, many fear Israel’s attack will create yet more suicide bombers. There is a grain of sense in this – but only a grain. This is because every act of self-defence against Islamist aggression is used as a recruiting sergeant for the Islamic holy war. So if this dictates world responses, no one can ever defend themselves – not just in Israel but in Afghanistan or against al-Qaida anywhere.”

But the Israeli attack is so disproportionate we are told. Jonathan Mark agrees. He says that Israel’s response is disproportionate. Israel is responding nowhere near the way it should be if it carried on like Hamas has been: “I condemn Israel’s disproportionate attack on Hamas because, so far, it has only lasted four days and I would like to see a proportionate response that terrifies Hamas for seven years, the years that have filled Sderot and neighboring towns with nightmares, death, amputations and trauma coming from rockets and mortars fired from Gaza. . . . A proportionate response would so intimidate Hamas that they will grovel and, as a ‘gesture,’ send cocoa and jam into Sderot, the way Israel has groveled in response to rockets from Hamas, sending cocoa and jam into Gaza. Imagine Churchill sending cocoa and jam into Berlin as a humanitarian gesture after – during – the bombing of London.”

He continues, “A proportionate response to Hamas, one might gather from the European scolds, would be as if the United States, after Pearl Harbor, would bomb just a few Japanese fishing boats and call it a day, believing the war would have ended with that. A proportionate response will begin to remind Jews that there is no peace process like victory, just as Israel’s decade of disproportionate restraint and self-doubt has convinced young Palestinians that their victory is inevitable, like Aryan youth in 1933 singing ‘Tomorrow Belongs To Me’.”

Yes but, the critics continue, Hamas was democratically elected. Rotem deals with this objection: “Let’s not beat around the bush. Hamas is a terrorist organisation masquerading as a legitimate government. Yes, it did win the 2006 democratic election in the Palestinian Authority. But winning one election does not make an organisation democratic. Democratic organisations do not stage violent coups against their own national president, as Hamas did in June 2007. Also, democratic organisations do not have as a central and founding policy to carry out the genocide of a neighbouring country.”

“Hamas’s founding charter includes the statement: ‘Hamas has been looking forward to implementing Allah’s promise whatever time it might take. The prophet (Mohammed), prayer and peace be upon him, said the time (of resurrection) will not come until Muslims will fight the Jews,’ and, ‘peaceful solutions and the international conferences to resolve the Palestinian problem are all contrary to the beliefs of Hamas.’ In its own words – indeed, in its founding document – Hamas states it will continue fighting Israel as long as Israel exists.”

“The war Hamas is waging against Israel has nothing to do with occupation (Israel withdrew completely from Gaza in August 2005). Rather, it has everything to do with Israel’s existence. That is why Hamas – or, rather, its central policy – is a problem, aptly described by the Israeli Foreign Minister. For as long as Hamas clings to the notion that Israel can be destroyed and it wants to be the one to do so, there will be no peace. Israel has offered to deal with Hamas as long as it agrees to recognise Israel’s right to exist and renounce terrorism. Such demands are hardly taxing. In response, Hamas continued firing rockets at Israeli civilians.”

Yet we keep hearing the same old moral equivalence. Says Phillips, “What is so distressing is the desperate unfairness of so much Western reaction. Thus Israel is accused of causing a humanitarian disaster in Gaza, even though it is allowing hundreds of trucks of supplies through the crossing points. Few are aware that wounded Gazans – 65 per cent of whom voted for Hamas – are being treated in Israeli hospitals. By contrast, in a Gaza hospital, Hamas shot dead five suspected Palestinian ‘collaborators’ – and murdered another 30 elsewhere. Many in the West think that the Palestinians are the rightful inheritors not just of Gaza and the West Bank but Israel itself. But this is totally false.”

“The Jews are the only people for whom ‘Palestine’ was ever their nation state, hundreds of years before Mohammed was even born. No other country on the planet has ever been expected to make suicidal concessions to its enemies even while they continue to try to destroy it. Yet the world expects it of Israel. An immediate ceasefire would effectively mean victory for Hamas.”

It is unbearable what Israel has been forced to endure. No other nation would acquiesce to such treatment. There is no moral equivalence taking place here. Hamas is a terrorist organisation which cares nothing about human life. A Hamas official today called for the killing of Jewish children around the world. Such amoral terrorists are not on a par with civilised nations. Nor should they be treated as such.,25197,24877778-5013460,00.html,25197,24876450-7583,00.html,21985,24876150-5000117,00.html

[1798 words]

12 Responses to Israel, Hamas and Moral Equivalence

  • Here is the real problem: Hamas has brainwashed our young generation to hate and kill. Watch for yourself in this video and please help our kids from Hamas.
    Children of Hamas
    Mahmud Huaom

  • I just found this site. I like the content here. It goes very well with the conservertive reconstruction project and shows there like minded people who still have a voice.
    C. Rich, USA

  • Bill
    I agree with both the tone and the contents of your article regarding Israel v Hamas. Also, I often wonder what sort of waves wash through the brains of so many citizens in many Western countries, who hate America, hate Israel and are apologists for Islamo fascists, no matter what they do. If these people were honest and called themselves Bolsheviks, their opinions would not differ much from the current nonsense they espouse.
    I have taken an interest in American politics, since I was about 14 years of age (that’s a while ago). Consequently, I currently subscribe to about 15 conservative on-line commantaries from the USA daily.
    One of the best commentators in the US is Dick Morris, who was adviser to the Billary Clintons for 30 years, had enough of them years ago and now considers himself to be a conservative.
    He came up with an interesting observation in an e-mail I received in the early hours of this morning. As a point of interest, he is Jewish himself.
    He explains that the reason the current government of Israel, lead by Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, Foreign Minister Tziri Livni and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, tolerated this reign of terror from Hamas for so long, is that they are essentially “doves”.
    With the looming Israel election and the strong possibility of the election of the no-nonsense “hawk” Bibi Netanyahu, they belatedly took action against Hamas, to limit Netanyahu’s chances of becoming Prime Minister.
    Dick Morris believes that if Netanyahu were Prime Minister, the so-called world “opinion” would be even more enraged with Israel. He believes the whole purpose of this war in to get Livni elected.
    He said “It is no coincidence, that after years of receiving 8,000 rockets from Gaza, they chose 6 weeks before the February 10th election, to swing into action. He said these weak politicians, will keep an eye on world opinion, and after the election will pull their punches on hitting Hamas, will close the border to supplies and then cave in to demands to suspend the ground war.
    Personally, I believe that Obama, who will prove to be the worst President America has ever had (worse than Jimmy Carter) will not want Netanyahu to win, in case he sends aircraft to take out Iran’s nuclear factories. That will give Obama headacres he doesn’t want.
    Frank Bellet, Petrie Qld

  • And the latest news is that a Lebanon front has opened:,27574,24888276-401,00.html
    3 rockets, and 5 shells in reply (from New York Times breaking news).

    Already the news article comments have begun to talk about “disproportionate response”. One “Barney from Sydney” compares ” a slap in the face”, from the Lebanese side, to “deadly force” from Israel.

    John Angelico

  • Thank you Bill for this excellent article. I receive e-news from the Jerusalem Prayer Team and today it stated that Hamas have proposed an addition to the Shariah criminal code…the legalisation of crucifixion. This announcement was made during the Christian feast of Christmas and for the Jews – Hanukkah.
    As was stated, “this is a barbaric method of dispatching one’s enemies”.
    Madge Fahy

  • Israel’s Policy Is Perfectly ‘Proportionate’
    Hamas are the real war criminals in this conflict
    Alan Dershowitz
    Wall Street Journal
    2 Jan 09

    Israel’s actions in Gaza are justified under international law, and Israel should be commended for its self-defense against terrorism. Article 51 of the United Nations Charter reserves to every nation the right to engage in self-defense against armed attacks. The only limitation international law places on a democracy is that its actions must satisfy the principle of proportionality.

    Since Israel ended its occupation of Gaza, Hamas has fired thousands of rockets designed to kill civilians into southern Israel. The residents of Sderot — which have borne the brunt of the attacks — have approximately 15 seconds from launch time to run into a shelter. Although deliberately targeting civilians is a war crime, terrorists firing at Sderot are so proud of their actions that they sign their weapons.

    In a recent incident related to me by the former head of the Israeli air force, Israeli intelligence learned that a family’s house in Gaza was being used to manufacture rockets. The Israeli military gave the residents 30 minutes to leave. Instead, the owner called Hamas, which sent mothers carrying babies to the house.

    Hamas knew that Israel would never fire at a home with civilians in it. They also knew that if Israeli authorities did not learn there were civilians in the house and fired on it, Hamas would win a public relations victory by displaying the dead. Israel held its fire. The Hamas rockets that were protected by the human shields were then used against Israeli civilians.

    These despicable tactics — targeting Israeli civilians while hiding behind Palestinian civilians — can only work against moral democracies that care deeply about minimizing civilian casualties. They never work against amoral nations such as Russia, whose military has few inhibitions against killing civilians among whom enemy combatants are hiding.

    Until the world recognizes that Hamas is committing three war crimes — targeting Israeli civilians, using Palestinian civilians as human shields, and seeking the destruction of a member state of the United Nations — and that Israel is acting in self-defense and out of military necessity, the conflict will continue.

    Jonathan Sarfati, Brisbane

  • Excellent article! It seems to me that in order to find out the truth about the current Middle East crisis, people need to read the blogs rather than the far left propaganda media here in America and elsewhere in the world.

    Please see my latest blogpost at Talk Wisdom on this issue. I share information about an organization called FLAME – Facts and Logic About the Middle East. Are you familiar with this group, Bill? What are your thoughts about them?

    Christine Watson, USA

  • Thanks Christine

    Yes I have seen the FLAME ads before, and they seem to offer a much needed corrective to the MSM anti –Israel bias.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • The latest from Britain:
    David Skinner, UK

  • Jonathan Schanzer of The Weekly Standard has more on the civil war in Gaza in 2007 and the blood thirstiness of Hamas;

    After the first week of fighting in Gaza, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights estimated that the death toll stood at 161, including 41 civilians. That figure included 7 children and 11 women. After another week of fighting, Amnesty International upped the death toll to 350 and estimated that 2,000 people were injured.

    Journalists were barred from the areas of conflict, so the particulars were hazy. But as reports trickled in, the world learned that Palestinians were being shot point-blank in the legs and arms to ensure permanent disabilities. Others were pushed from tall buildings to a horrifying death.

    Indeed, just a few days ago, the Jerusalem Post reported that 35 innocents were executed and another around 75 were shot in the legs. Still others had their hands broken or were placed under house arrest.

    Readers may be surprised to learn that the violence I describe above is not the Palestinian-Israeli conflict that has dominated the headlines in recent days. Rather, these are chillingly accurate reports from an internecine conflict between two Palestinian factions: Hamas and Fatah.

    The Palestinian civil war erupted in June 2007. Hamas launched a bloody coup that ousted its political rival from the Gaza Strip, and has ruled the territory by fear ever since. In fact, it is for this reason that Israel is only engaged in hostilities in the Gaza Strip right now, and not the West Bank.

    Damien Spillane

  • The MMM (Mendacious Mainstream Media) are now going on about the number of “Palestinian” casualties, but consider:

    • America inflicted far more casualties on Germany and Japan in WW2, yet there is no doubt that Germany and Japan were the bad guys.

    • Israelis have foiled hundreds of attempted Palestinian terrorist attacks that would have killed tens of thousands. Attempted atttacks are as morally culpable as successful ones.

    • Israeli medical skills save many lives of terrorist victims. More Palestinians would have been saved if they had accepted Israeli medical help instead of incompetent Palestinian doctors. Remember the case when they refused donations of Jewish blood?

    • Palestinian casualty reports often count the suicide bombers, armed fighters, terrorist leaders, terrorists shot in self-defence while planting or throwing bombs, bomb-makers (and their neighbours) killed when the bombs they were making blew up, “collaborators” killed by other Palestinians (Hamas murdered Fatah supporters), those killed by the absurdly dangerous Palestinian practice of shooting live ammo at funerals and protests, and innocent people caught in the crossfire even when there is no evidence that Israelis fired the fatal shot.

    • Israeli female fatalities outnumbered Palestinian female fatalities 3 or 4 to 1. Israeli females were 40% of Israeli non-combatants killed by Palestinians, while Palestinian deaths were 95% male. So the Palestinians deliberately target females, as well as other unarmed civilians and children, while Israelis killed armed male soldiers.

    • According to the Boston Globe, April 2003, of the 800 Israeli deaths in the Intifada, 567 were innocent civilians including women, children and the elderly. But in Israel’s legitimate actions of self-defence, only 18% of the 2000 Palestinians killed were civilians. And the moral culpability of these accidental casualties of war is far less than the culpability of deliberately targeting civilians as the Palestians have done since the days of Hitler’s Grand Mufti al-Husseini, whom Arafat called “our hero”.

    Jonathan Sarfati, Brisbane

  • Bill a quick note from work (you may judge if it is sufficiently on topic to publish, otherwise it’s for you to ponder in other contexts such as abortion/euthanasia)

    I was reading Isaiah 28:24 in my morning devotions, and browsing around the context of the passage, I found vv14-19, which I think speak to a lot of the ‘death-wish’ type of thinking of leftism, on both political and social issues.

    John Angelico

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