This morning I got an email from Malgorzata, one that echoed my sentiment (see here) that there is nothing Israel can do to defend itself, or eliminate Hamas, that won’t be condemned by the world. Israel can’t bomb military targets (because some civilians may be killed), they cannot have a ground invasion targeting Hamas (ditto), and they can’t negotiate (this leaves Hamas in place and guarantees continual terrorist attacks on Israel by Hamas and other groups). This is untenable, for surely Israel does have a right to defend itself. Those who condemn the Hamas butchery and say that Israel has a right to defend itself will, at the same time, argue that no response by Israel that gets rid of Hamas is appropriate.
Malgorzata also brings up a historical precedent: the 2002 Jenin attack, in which, after a series of suicide bombings by Palestinians that killed many Israelis, Israel decided not to bomb the town where the bombers were trained and armed because it would kill too many civilians. Israel thus invaded on the ground. The result is that 23 Israeli soldiers were killed and, despite Palestinian claims that 500 people were killed (and the usual uproar from the world), the UN concluded that only 52 Palestinians were killed, half of them civilians (in World War II, the overall ratio of civilians versus soldiers killed was at least 2.5 to 1).
Fareed Zakaria, Thomas Freedman (and many others): If Israel starts a ground invasion it will be wrong, Palestinian civilians will die.
Nicholas Kristof (and many others): If Israel continues bombardment of Gaza it’s wrong. Palestinian civilians will die.
And we have a historical precedent: the Battle of Jenin in 2002. Israel refrained from bombing the “vipers nest” inside Jenin because it wanted to spare civilians and avoid condemnation by the world. They went in on the ground, killed 50 people (over half of them were terrorists), lost 23 soldiers (which for Israel is a huge number and which could have been totally avoided by bombardment from the air). The world announced that Israel committed a massacre of over 500 innocent Palestinian civilians and everybody believed it. A few months later Israel was exonerated (and the body count corrected) by a UN commission, but this blood libel is repeated until today.
Conclusion: whatever Israel does is condemned. The only thing which would not be condemned was if Israel did nothing and allowed itself to be slaughtered down to the last Jew. What beautiful monuments, museums etc. would be built for the departed state and people! How many tears would be shed over the dead Jews! The world would feel happy that they had commemorated those poor victims of human hate in such a touching and beautiful way.
So I try not to second-guess what Israelis should do. I hope they will do everything in their power to stay alive and to hell with the world opinion. But my hope that they will succeed in this is very, very slim. And I despair.
I’ll add this graph from a Harvard Caps/Harris poll:
But look at the age difference here! Up to age 35, half of Americans think the Hamas killing was justifiable by “the grievances of Palestinians”!