Mordechai Kamel: Critics apply a double standard when assessing Israel’s defense

Thursday, August 14, 2014
EASTHAMPTON — I must comment on Howard Friel’s guest column Monday, “On Israel’s asserted right of self-defense,” and will begin with a question that Amos Oz, one of the founders and leaders of the Israeli Peace Movement for the past 50 years, asked Deutsche Welle during an interview July 30. “What would you do if your neighbor across the street sits down on the balcony, puts his little boy on his lap and starts shooting machine gun fire into your nursery?”

Friel is correct in his definition of the postwar rules of war, but these rules were laid down when armies faced each other across borders. Where was Friel’s condemnation of Russia’s “use of armed force” in its invasion and annexation of Crimea, which was a direct violation of the rules of war? Where was his condemnation of Russia’s invasion of Georgia in 2008?

It is not the terrorist’s ability to invade that determines a government’s obligation to protect its population; how does a government deal with terrorist warfare, where the terrorist targets not the army, where the enemy hides in civilian clothing, fires from civilian schools and hospitals and places its command and control under civilian populations? The UN’s rules of war do not give terrorists immunity from state action because they “put [a] little boy on his lap [before he] starts shooting … into your nursery. Sadly, the death of that child is on the head of the terrorist.

I find Friel’s comparison of the Hamas terrorism with 9/11 both incorrect and offensive. As the writer pointed out, 3,000 Americans died in the 9/11 attack out of an estimated U.S. population of over 311 million. I am in fact inclined to agree with Friel’s conclusion that “9/11 was a terrorist crime and should have been investigated and prosecuted as such.”

According to Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 1,250 people have been killed as of Aug. 4 by Palestinian violence and terrorism since September 2000, not including Israeli soldiers killed on the ground in Gaza. This toll has been inflicted on an estimated population of slightly more than 8 million. Israel has suffered about 16 9/11’s since 2000.

Friel also believes that “the existence of tunnels … including those that cross into Israel’s southern border, [are not] a legal justification for Israel to invade Gaza.” However, I would counter that given Hamas’ history, the only conceivable purpose of such tunnels is the infiltration of terrorists into Israel for the commission of mass murder and kidnapping. Friel would deny Israel the right to prevent such defensive actions.

Friel would like to see Israel “end its blockade” while not bothering to mention that even with the blockade in place, the Hamas government was able to import sufficient concrete to build 2 World Trade Centers and used it not for houses, schools and mosques but for building tunnels under the Israeli border.

Friel also states that “[t]he road to peace for Israel-Palestine is … a final-status, two-state solution that is consistent with the international law rights and obligations of both parties to the conflict.” But how does a government negotiate such a status with an organization which not only refuses to recognize the existence of Israel and has vowed in its charter to exterminate Israel and to fight and kill every Jew.

There was no Israel to take note of the genocidal intentions expressed in “Mein Kampf” but now there is, and when Hamas acts in a manner consistent with its charter, Israel will take the right of self-defense, even if Friel does not grant it.

From the biographical note at the end of his essay, I see that Friel has associations with thinkers who seem to have never found fault with any country other than the U.S. or Israel. Such people do not challenge Russian invasions, as noted above, the more than 150,000 Muslims killed during the second Chechen war fought by Russia and what a 2000 article in the magazine Foreign Affairs called “[t]he innumerable deaths [caused by] the relentless bombardment of cities [during] the 1994-96 Russo-Chechen war.”

I have not seen Friel critiques of the Chinese treatment of Tibetans or Weigers, or any other country that persecutes or kills its minorities or even its Muslim extremists.

Friel and his associate Richard Falk have demonstrated on numerous occasions their belief that there is no worse human rights offender in the world than Israel, a democracy that has granted full rights to the more than 20 percent of its population that is not Jewish, and that has in its founding document freedom of religion and speech.

I make no defense of our government’s actions with respect to Iraq or Afghanistan, nor am I defending any individual action of the government of Israel. I hold both governments to a higher standard that they have not met.

I, too, would like to see an appropriately negotiated two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Friel’s use of the rules of war is a clear double standard which he only applies to Western democracies, not to autocratic states or terrorist organizations.

Mordechai Kamel lives in Easthampton.