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Response Appropriate and Warranted

Israel’s Response to Terrorist Kidnappings is Rationally Disproportionate

Contrary to the seething condemnation of its detractors, Israel’s targeted bombing of Hamas sites in the Gaza Strip and Hezbollah infrastructure in southern Lebanon is entirely appropriate.

Critics have argued that Israel’s response–a reaction to the kidnapping of three Israeli soldiers– has not been “proportionate.” Much like beauty, proportionality is the eye of the beholder. While countries like France and Great Britain scoff at the intensity of Israel’s retaliation, these European democracies have survived the threat of German fascism and Soviet aggression. Israel–on the other hand–is still in its infancy, and surrounded on all sides by state-sanctioned Islamic fundamentalism.

Due to its Judaic majority, Israel is a cultural product of historic anti-Semitic bigotry, persecution and systematic extermination. Venomous anti-Jewish rhetoric is normal political discourse in neighboring countries like Syria and Iran. Much of the Arab Middle East refuses to recognize the state of Israel or its “right to exist.” Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad recently called for Israel to be “wiped from the map.” When threats like this are issued from a regional enemy bent on acquiring nuclear weapons, Israel is apt to pay attention.

Imagine that an Al-Qaeda contingency occupied a position just across the U.S. border. In addition to conventional weapons–machine guns, grenades and other explosives–it possesses up to 14,000 Iranian-made missiles capable of decimating several major U.S. cities.

A squad of these Al-Qaeda terrorists invaded the northern U.S. to engage our military troops. During the fight, eight of our soldiers were. Two servicemen were kidnapped and taken back across the border to be used as ransom.

How would the U.S. respond to the above situation? With overwhelming force, much as our Cold War policy of “Massive Retaliation” addressed–and may have prevented–Soviet missile aggression. While strategies of disproportionate response are designed to deter hostilities before they occur, devastating reactions to aggression are no less appropriate. This is especially true with respect to Israel, whose enemies have been emboldened by past demonstrations of Israeli “weakness”–real or perceived–and apparent lack of will.

Partly to silence its critics, Israel withdrew the majority of its troops–save for a small contingency in Lebanon’s Shebba Farms region–from southern Lebanon in 2000. In early 2005, Israeli forces withdrew from the Gaza Strip. Rather than view these actions as the first step toward regional stability, members of Hamas and Hezbollah perceived them as vindication of terrorist tactics. Suicide bombings and other aggression had “chased” the Israelis off Palestinian and Lebanese land.

The spark that ignited the current hostilities–the kidnapping of three Israeli soldiers–is also rooted in historic Israeli concessions. At several points over the past two decades, Israelis have been kidnapped by Islamic extremists and traded for Palestinian, Lebanese or Syrian prisoners. Such prisoner exchanges–it seems–have further bolstered the current hostage takers.

Hamas states that it kidnapped Israeli soldiers to bargain for the release of “women and children” being held by Israel. In this context, I can only assume Hamas professes the innocence of these “wrongly held” prisoners. Unfortunately, women can also build explosives, act as suicide bombers or administer terrorist safe-houses. Fifteen year-old “children” can also undergo terrorist training, just as they can perpetrate extreme violence in the U.S. and other countries through violent street or white supremacist gangs. These “children” were not scooped out of the kiddy pool at the local park. These women weren’t snatched while doing a bit of shopping at the local market. Terrorism, hatred and violence manifests in people with little regard to age, sex or skin color.

Like Hamas, Hezbollah also desires a prisoner exchange. It also demands maps outlining Israeli landmine emplacements–leftover from the Lebanese war in the 1980s–and a withdrawal of the remaining Israeli troops in Shebba Farms. With historic Arab aggression, violence and anti-Jewish rhetoric, it already made strategic sense for Israel to continue its “status quo” response to land mine and “occupation” questions. If an end to Israel’s military stance on Lebanon was the goal, Hezbollah’s kidnapping of Israeli troops was the ultimate debacle. Rather than de-escalating tensions, Hezbollah’s actions have reinforced Israeli nationalism and anti-Lebanese sentiment and unleashed the scorching military rebuke we’re witnessing across southern Lebanon.

Contrary to Israel, Hams and Hezbollah do not avoid civilian casualties. Rather, they aim specifically to inflict collateral damage. Unlike Israel, Hamas and Hezbollah make no distinction between military targets and innocent bystanders. Nearly 1,500 Iranian Katyusha rockets have been fired from southern Lebanon into Israel cities. Hezbollah is considering the use of long-range Iranian missiles that can reach Tel Aviv. Hamas fires its rockets into civilian Israeli settlements outside the Gaza Strip and West Bank.

Israel’s response–though massive–has been undertaken with a continued avoidance of “collateral damage” and civilian casualties. The offices and homes of Hezbollah members are being bombed, as is infrastructure in Lebanon–power plants, road systems, communication towers–that would facility reinforcement, troop deployment or counter-attacks. Similar targets are being engaged in the Gaza Strip. Israel has not targeted the homes of law-abiding Lebanese or Palestinian civilians.

If a slight tickle was the only consequence to laying a finger across a sizzling frying pan, we might feel encouraged to thrust our entire hand in the flames. Yes, Israel’s response to the recent kidnappings of its military troops is entirely disproportionate. Surrounded by enemies and threatened with continued violence, it is also its only rational option.

Michael is an undergraduate student and Political Science minor at the University of Pittsburgh. After completing his English Writing BA in spring 2007, he plans to pursue a dual Masters Degree in Public Policy/Business Administration.

Technorati Tags: Hamas, Hezbollah, Israel

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Posted by Scott Bannon on July 19, 2006.

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2 Responses

  1. Two comments:

    First, if AQ were amassed at the northern border of the US and were attacking or threatening to attack, the democrats would still want to “Talk it out” instead of respond with force. We were attacked and they want to “get in touch with bin laden’s inner child” so we can understand why he really hates us and how it is all our fault.

    Second, there is a difference between Israel and Hamas/Hezbollah. Israel is a country, the other two are terrorist organizations. With that in mind, how can there be a disproportionate response to terrorism? For the UN, liberals in our country, and the Euro-weenies to give terrorist organizations the same political clout as an actual nation is irresponsible, not to mention a major reason why we can’t end these organizations.

    Reply to this specific comment

    by Mike on Jun 22, 2008 at 1:07 am

  2. I need to post a correction in my prior comment… in the first sentence, “democrats” should say “liberals” because there is a huge difference between the two. Sorry for the confusion.

    Reply to this specific comment

    by Mike on Jun 22, 2008 at 1:07 am

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