The IDF Track Record

Christopher Furlong / Getty Images

This week’s events only reinforced my arguments about Hamas’s totalitarianism, cynicism, evil and toxicity to Israelis as well as Palestinians—and I continue to reject the moral equivalence between Hamas and Israel I saw in many Open Zion posts, including Emily Hauser’s. Watch the “victory” celebrations in Gaza. Note the disconnect between the choreographed rapture on the street and the self-imposed ruins around them. Listen to the violent rhetoric pushing maximalist goals and demonizing Israel. Here you have the totalitarian mind at work, as I argued in my post—and proof that the Hamas terrorist totalitarians bear the moral burden for this conflagration, as much of the Palestinian national movement bears most but not all of the moral burden for the degeneration of the Oslo peace process into waves of terror.

I confess, I was surprised that Emily—who criticizes Israel and Israeli soldiers so broadly and vehemently, and who writes on Open Zion, which is committed to candid and critical dialogue in all directions and not just against Israel—took my criticism so personally. Our mutual friend will reassure her that my objections were intellectual, not personal.

My disappointment in her response is not personal either. Despite her sweeping claim that I indulge in a “knee-jerk rejection of fact and false accusation,” she ignored most of my points about the democratic-totalitarian clash, about the IDF’s relative care and competence—not indifference and incompetence—compared to other democratic armies fighting such wars, and about the relevance of the question of intentionality.

Her reading of the start of Yasir Arafat’s war against the peace process in 2000 contradicts the very source she cites. She claims the IDF fired “1.3 million bullets” before “the Palestinians themselves resorted to arms.” Yet the book mentions the death of the Israeli Yosef Tabeja and acknowledges other early Israeli casualties, which confirms that Palestinians were firing weapons much earlier. Moreover, according to Bill Clinton, who convened the Camp David Summit, in July 2000 (not September), Yasir Arafat made him “a failure.” Robert Malley’s account is highly biased and contradicted by Clinton and others, not just Ehud Barak’s admittedly self-serving narrative.

Overall, Emily caricatured my main argument. She continued to charge “that very few people find our enemy’s deaths as important as our own.” Her response was titled “Our Deaths Don’t Count For More.” I and many other Jews have mourned Palestinian deaths, even as I wonder how many Palestinians—and Hamasniks—mourn Jewish deaths. And there is a lot about which we agree: the rights to self-determination of both people, and the rights of both Palestinians and Israelis to enjoy what Franklin Roosevelt called the four freedoms—freedom of expression, freedom of religion, freedom from want, freedom from fear.

But that was not my point. My argument is that there is a moral calculus at work in warfare, not just a death count, and that context counts. Note the greater cries over 150 Palestinian deaths than over the estimated 800 deaths in Syria this week. The horrors of war are indeed horrible but we build our moral systems and understandings by looking at the motivations, the intentions, the political culture, the systems that cause wartime casualties, all of which are lamentable. By all those metrics, I am proud and not ashamed of Israel’s handling of impossible dilemmas—and I continue to see a disproportionate attack on Israel’s self-defense, especially among American progressives, and especially when we consider so many other bloody conflicts worldwide.

So don’t worry, Emily. I look forward to warm interactions when we meet again in Tel Aviv or elsewhere, as we have had before. And I look forward to continuing the open dialogue on Open Zion, providing a space where we can think through and argue through our disagreements passionately but civilly. Shabbat shalom to all from Jerusalem.