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What a Proportionate Response Would Look Like

In a 2009 COMMENTARY article on Israeli use of force, Ruth R. Wisse wrote:

“Would the international community truly prefer a proportionate or equal response?” asked Alan Richarz, a Toyko-based writer, in the Christian Science Monitor. “If Hamas launches three crudely-fashioned rockets into Israel, should the Israeli government respond with three equally-crude rockets? If three Israeli Defense Forces are kidnapped by Hezbollah, should the IDF respond by kidnapping an equal number of Hezbollah foot-soldiers?”

Grimly, the present moment offers an even clearer elucidation of the point: If Hamas slaughters three innocent Israeli teenagers, should the IDF sharpen their knives and find three innocent Palestinian teenagers? Indeed that would be a proportionate use of force. It would also be monstrous.

As Wisse noted:

Imagine a world structured along truly “proportional” lines. In such a world, Israel would have spent 60 years denying that Arabs had any rights to any form of statehood, rather than doing what Israel has actually done, which is to give up major swaths of land to Arabs in pursuit of peace. What move on the part of Arab states has been proportionate to the Israeli actions in giving up the Sinai and its oil riches, the vast majority of the West Bank, the entirety of Gaza, and the territory in Southern Lebanon from which Israel pulled its occupying force in 2000? An Israel acting in proportionate fashion would have gone to the United Nations and its constituent agencies and done everything it could to denounce illegitimate interlopers in the region, would have sought resolutions condemning Arab nationalism as racism, and would have pursued political alliances with other blocs on the basis of common opposition to Arab or Muslim states.

The further application of proportionality in the Middle East conflict would have required that Israel foster a culture of anti-Arab, anti-Muslim hatred and intolerance reaching (according to parallel Pew Global Attitudes studies of anti-Jewish attitudes in Muslim lands) levels of 99 percent to 100 percent. Israel would be using weapons of mass communication to charge Muslims with ritual murder and spending tens of millions of dollars on anti-Arab propaganda worldwide. It would be training suicide bombers for anti-Muslim missions. Its warriors would be mutilating the bodies of Muslims they cornered and killed.

This is a good time to read the whole thing. The very suggestion that Israel respond proportionately to those Benjamin Netanyahu has rightfully labeled “human animals” is a call to barbarism.



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