WASHINGTON, August 6, 2014 – About 2,000 civilians have been killed in Gaza. There have been relatively few deaths in Israel as a result of Hamas missile strikes. This isn’t because Hamas is careful to spare civilians – it would happily fill the Dead Sea with civilian Jewish corpses if it could.
It is because, like the United States, Israel engages its enemies with superior technology.
The response of the U.N. and western liberals suggests that Israel is reprehensible for protecting its civilians with its “iron dome” missile defense system, and for not turning that system over to Hamas so that it can protect itself from Israel.
But that response is somewhat disingenuous.
Over 2,400 civilians have been killed by American drone strikes ordered by the Obama Administration. In that same time, no American civilians have been killed in retaliatory strikes.
Americans killed civilians in Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam, Korea, Germany, Japan, and in every American war since the Civil War. We don’t judge the morality of those wars on relative civilian casualties.
That judgment comes from elsewhere.
The killing of civilians by American drones may be reprehensible, but it isn’t because Americans aren’t dying in equal numbers. It is reprehensible only if there is a way to avoid it without impairing our policy goals, and if our policy goals themselves are reprehensible.
The criticism of Israel over the civilian body count in Gaza relative to the body count in Israel is morally repugnant, as repugnant as the body count calculations used in Vietnam to quantify success and failure in that war.
Israel’s critics, who have so far been much less distraught over the butchery in Syria or the savagery of IS (the Islamic State, which now punishes with lashes anyone who uses the name “ISIS”), once again shows themselves to have the moral seriousness of a blueberry scone.
The Israeli goal of national survival is reasonable and fair. The goal of preventing rocket attacks on its civilians is praiseworthy. If Hamas is an existential threat to Israel, the goal of destroying Hamas is in no way reprehensible; it is absolutely correct.
Israel withdrew from Gaza on Tuesday as part of a 72-hour cease-fire. A day later, the ceasefire continues to hold. The newsworthiness of that fact is indicative of the low expectations for peace in Gaza. Israel withdrew its troops and its settlers from Gaza in 2005, and the result was continued conflict: Israel fought Hamas in 2006, 2008-9, and 2012.
Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and the West Bank won’t bring peace, because Hamas isn’t interested in peace.
Hamas is, according to its charter, the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood. Its goal is not peaceful coexistence with Israel under a two-state solution.
It rejects the Oslo accords and the continued existence of Israel. Its long-term goal is the destruction of Israel.
Its short-term goal may have been to provoke an intifada on the West Bank. So far, it’s failed.
Hamas is the elected representative of Gaza’s Palestinians.
As a part of the Muslim Brotherhood, it is an enemy of the Egyptian government, which is trying to obliterate the Brotherhood in Egypt and has sealed its border with Gaza, leaving the 1.6 million people there trapped in a strip of land four miles wide and 20 miles long.
The political divide between Hamas and Fatah, the organization formerly headed by Yasser Arafat which controls the Palestinian Authority on the West Bank, has isolated Gaza from the West Bank. Iran, so far Hamas’s biggest supplier of missiles, is at odds with Hamas over Syria.
Hamas has few friends in the Middle East. There is a great deal of public posturing over Israel’s attack on Hamas in Gaza and a great deal of handwringing over dead civilians, but Hamas’s most vocal support in the Middle East comes from Turkey. The rest of the region would happily see Israel crush it.
Despite the rhetoric of the left, Israel is not sufficiently ruthless to destroy Hamas. Despite its ill repute in the region, Hamas has provided basic services in Gaza where the corrupt Palestinian Authority has failed, and it remains the democratically elected representative of Gaza.
The cost in lives of rooting it out entirely would be unacceptable to Israel or the West.
Golda Meir once said that peace would come to the Middle East when Arabs love their children more than they hate Israel. There is no doubt that Arab parents love their children, but it is clear that Hamas hates Israel more than its leaders love anyone’s children but their own.
Peace will not come any time soon to the Middle East, not because Israel is racist, brutal and immoral, but because it is too moral to do what it must to destroy groups like Hamas, and because Hamas knows it. If Israel were able to destroy Hamas, the resulting peace would be a peace not worth having, and it would only sow the seeds of future hatred.
Peace will come when the Palestinians themselves are ready to destroy Hamas and reject its ideology. The world is looking to the wrong places when it looks to Jerusalem and Washington to fix the horrors of Gaza.
It’s time to look to Gaza.