On self defence and proportionality

The world accuses Israel of a lack of proportionality in our war with the Hezbollah terrorists. This accusation is apparently based on the claim that Israel has state of the art modern weaponry, whereas Hezbollah has to make do with Katyusha rockets brought into service by the Soviet army way back in the Sixties or Seventies. Well, to this, I can say: (a) Katyusha rockets can – and do – kill; (b) Hezbollah also has, as it turns out, modern long-range missiles supplied by Iran and Syria – not to mention sophisticated night vision equipment and anti-tank missiles.
The other basis to the claim of disproportionality appears to rest on the fact that more Lebanese have died in the conflict than Israelis. To this, I have a great deal to say.
First of all, the large numbers of civilian casualties on the Lebanese side is due almost entirely to Hezbollah’s cowardly practice of deliberately siting their rocket launchers in civilian areas. So Israel is faced with the choice either of bombing civilian dwellings, and coming under international censure, or of allowing Hezbollah to continue to launch their rockets at Israeli civilians. Israeli civilians are Hezbollah’s primary targets – whereas for Israel, Lebanese civilians are collateral damage. Yes, "collateral damage" does sound like a peculiarly callous definition – but if you were facing a terrorist who was standing behind civilians holding a loaded gun (or rocket launcher) which was pointed at your family and the only way to stop him firing it was to shoot him and risk hitting his hostages, what would you do?
The mistake lies in the definition of "proportionality". The real question is not, "Is the damage inflicted by Israel disproportionate to the damage inflicted on Israel by Hezbollah?" but rather, "Is the damage inflicted by Israel disproportionate to the damage which would have been inflicted on Israeli civilians if Israel had not bombed the Hezbollah rocket bases which were deliberately concealed in civilian residential areas?"
As I like to end my postings on an upbeat note, I want to tell you a story I read in the newspaper a few days ago. A grocery store owner in the northern town of Kiryat Shemona, which has been hard hit by the Katyushas – even before the outbreak of present hostilities – was surprised by 2 religious Jews who entered his store and asked for a list of poor families who owed money at the store. (I should explain that the purchase of groceries on credit at the neighbourhood store is more or less a way of life in Israel, especially in the poorer neighbourhoods and development towns – of which Kiryat Shemona is one.) After the shopkeeper agreed to divulge to his visitors the list, they asked him which of the debtors were people from particularly poor families, the ones who would probably not be able to pay their debt at the end of the month. The shopkeeper told them and to his astonishment, the men produced a wad of cash and paid off the debts. When the astounded shopkeeper asked his visitors who they were and why they were paying off the debts of total strangers, they replied that they answered only to the-Holy-One-Blessed-Be-He and that, if the beneficiaries asked, he should tell them that two angels came from Jerusalem and discharged their debts.
A heartwarming story indeed. It’s good to know there are people who care.
Or then again – maybe they really were angels…

About Shimona from the Palace

Born in London, the UK, I came on Aliyah in my teens and now live in Jerusalem, where I practice law. I am a firm believer in the words of Albert Schweitzer: "There are two means of refuge from the sorrows of this world - Music and Cats." To that, you can add Literature. To curl up on the sofa with a good book, a cat at one's feet and another one on one's lap, with a classical symphony or concerto in the background - what more can a person ask for?
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