There can be no victory without justice

Israeli action in Gaza, however justified at the outset, has crossed the line and is proving intolerable to the international community.

Aug 07, 2014

Israeli action in Gaza, however justified at the outset, has crossed the line and is proving intolerable to the international community. The death toll of innocent lives, many of them children, cannot be explained or excused. The fact that Hamas’ conduct – firing rockets towards Israeli towns and infiltrating individual terrorists into Israeli territory through tunnels – while outrageous, immoral and appalling, cannot justify Israel acting likewise. Nor can international criticism of Israeli action be dismissed as motivated by ill will towards Israel, which undoubtedly exists and undoubtedly sometimes verges on anti-Semitism. Anti-Semitic outbreaks of hatred and violence in Britain and elsewhere in Europe, France especially, must be utterly deplored and condemned, and it is irrelevant to this whether the Jews who are being targeted are, or are not, supporters of Israeli military policy.

Just war criteria are applicable to the armed conflict between Hamas and the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) particularly in respect of the criteria of proportionality - jus in bello. It needs to be said that the IDF is fully aware of its responsibilities under international law, and is more scrupulous than most – certainly, more than other combatants engaged in conflict in the Middle East. Hamas laughs in the face of international law: there is no moral equivalence between it and the IDF. But something seems to have slipped inside the IDF’s collective conscience.

The fact that members and leaders of Hamas live among civilians, often with their families and sometimes close to schools, clinics and hospitals, means that they cannot be eliminated by air strikes or long-range artillery without a substantial risk of killing numerous innocent people. That such Hamas members and leaders know this and use it for all it is worth does not mean the IDF can be allowed to proceed. It means it must find some other more precise method of targeting its enemies, as well as eliminating rocket sites and stocks and dynamiting the tunnels. That may require an invasion of parts of Gaza by infantry, with a substantially increased risk of Israeli casualties. If so, it is a necessary price.

Israel cannot ignore the propaganda war. Indeed, to do so would risk losing many of the advantages that current Middle East developments have put its way. Hamas has never been more isolated. The Egyptian Government under President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi despises it as first cousin to the hated Muslim Brotherhood. Hamas has aligned itself on the Sunni jihadist side of the growing rift between Sunni and Shia, which means it has lost the backing of Iran and of the Assad regime in Syria. It has also alienated Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states, apart from Qatar. Its leadership is divided and it has no coherent policy.

But nor has Israel, at present. Military action involving incidental casualties can only ever be justified if the cause is just, and the only just cause available to Israel lies in the direction of the two-state solution. Without that, the prospect is for an indefinite spiral of violence, accompanied by increasing international isolation and eventually to pariah status.

Source: The Tablet

Total Comments:0