Israeli Self-Defense Affirms International Order

Under unrelenting pressure from the international community to relinquish land — and strategic depth — in vain pursuit of an elusive ‘Peace Process’, Israel has been following a ‘Road Map’ that has led it along a narrow path to the military action that it began last weekend in the Gaza Strip Israel’s end-of-the-year attacks on Hamas military headquarters, training camps, and weapons arsenals in the Gaza Strip are not the end of the path, but may have marked a turning point for Israel to change its goal from international approval to national survival.

Israeli warplanes also bombed a complex of weapons smuggling tunnels under the border between Hamas-controlled Gaza and Egypt. Howls of protest erupted as if on cue across the Arab and Muslim world. In London, police were rushed to the Israeli Embassy to deal with hundreds of demonstrators who doubtless took encouragement from the craven response of UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband, who urged an ‘immediate halt to all violence’ in Gaza. The UK government did not comment on violence emanating from Gaza.

In some ways, Israel is a country like no other: it is the modern resurrection of an ethnic, national, and religious entity that traces its unique identity back some 5,000 years. Its 20th century establishment as a sovereign state in its ancestral homeland owes to an act of international will — but few in that community have shown much will to defend their decision since. Israel is literally a creation of the United Nations which has spent the years since avoiding every opportunity to defend — even verbally — its own invention.

In other ways, though, Israel is very much a state like any other small state surrounded by much bigger enemies bent on its destruction. Stubborn self-delusion about the ultimate reasonableness of those enemies, for Israel, is tantamount to suicidal conduct. The improbable, even miraculous, success of the Jewish people who founded and defended the fledgling State of Israel to this point must not be mistaken for invulnerability or even destiny. That way lies defeat and extinction.

Having been the victims for centuries of dhimmitude, pogroms, and genocide, the Jewish people understandably shrink from making victims of others. Israel’s 2005 withdrawal from Gaza, at great national cost, was intended to offer Palestinians a chance to demonstrate readiness for nationhood of their own. As the world looked on with apparent disinterest, however, Palestinian thugs quickly and methodically trashed all the valuable infrastructure Israelis had left behind and Hamas then staged a bloody coup d’etat against its ostensible Palestinian Authority partners. Hardly content with destruction of its own society, in the three years since 2005, Hamas and its Jihadist partners also have launched more than 6,300 rockets and mortars into Israel from Gaza, killing 10 civilians and injuring more than 780. Each and every one of those launches was an act of war.  

The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) counter-strike against the Hamas war-making machine in Gaza is justified national self-defense under international law. It is also an act that makes sense in the context of the perpetual state of war that has existed between Israel and its Jihadist enemies since the very day of its foundation. For the national leadership of Israel, there is an obligation to wage war against those who would obliterate the country and its Jewish inhabitants. The Genocide Convention of 1951 outlaws not only the act of national, ethical, racial, or religious extinction but also the threat and use of violence (albeit incremental) to do so. By signaling its intent to defend itself, Israel gives notice that it is not, in fact, suicidal nor so fearful of death and dismemberment that it is willing to accede to…death and dismemberment.

Israel, which is a Western-style democracy based on concepts derived from Athens and Rome as well as Jerusalem, must resist the inclination to believe that actions it perceives as rational, reasonable, and conciliatory are universally so perceived. Clearly, the civic and philosophical foundations of such thinking are not shared by Hamas, its state sponsor Iran, or any of Israel’s other Jihadist enemies. In the final analysis, it’s irrelevant what Israel (or its shrinking ranks of friends and allies) believe reasonable: it’s what its enemies perceive as the strength of Israeli national resolve to exist that matters.

If those enemies perceive Israeli unwillingness to cause victims in the exercise of self-defense as cowardice or weakness instead of moral restraint, then the primary responsibility of Israel’s leaders — to ensure national survival and security — is abrogated.  

For all these reasons, then, the Israeli attacks in Gaza are not aggression. Failure to respond to the unceasing barrage of deadly missiles raining down on Israeli homes and schools would in fact be irresponsibly dangerous for both Israeli citizens and the very concept of national sovereignty. Selective, targeted use of military force against enemy attacks on civilian populations is an obligatory affirmation of the international order. In the face of condemnation from around the world for its actions against Gaza jihadis, Israel finds itself in the incongruous position of actually defending the right of sovereign states everywhere to stand up to aggression and the Islamist Jihad’s ideology of religious supremacy. The use of military power to defeat the forces of barbarism affirms the right of all to live in civilized peace.