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

Masked Filipino activists hold slogans as they call for a stop to the bombings in Gaza which have killed hundreds of Palestinians during a rally outside the U.S. Embassy in Manila, Philippines on Thursday Aug. 14, 2014. The group also protested the alleged U.S. government's support for Israel. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

Masked Filipino activists hold slogans as they call for a stop to the bombings in Gaza which have killed hundreds of Palestinians during a rally outside the U.S. Embassy in Manila, Philippines on Thursday Aug. 14, 2014. The group also protested the alleged U.S. government's support for Israel. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

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.

Legacy Comments1

Israel is (and has been) practicing apartheid for many years. The former US President Jimmy Carter was probably the first US president to openly state that Israel is an apartheid state. Israeli Muslims do not have the same rights and freedom of speech is not acceptable in Israel. The state even censors their own media. One Israeli TV station taped the killing of a Palestinian woman at the door to her house back in 2009 (IDF refused to allow medical help to reach her and then destroyed their house in front of her husband and 2 small children). Two soldiers were interviewed afterward with one saying "I don't know why we are here - it is dirty, but we are here to exterminate". The Israeli government censored this tape and the media was told not to air it. The Israeli media aired it anyway. Exterminate equals genocide and that is what is happening now. An Arab Christian has a several 100 acre farm in the West Bank that has been in his family for close to 100 years. In May, the IDF came in and bulldozed hundreds of fruit trees. This farm, named "The Tent of Nations" is open to all and holds workshops for peace and understanding. Christians, Jews, Muslims and others are visit the farm in the sake of tolerance and peace. The Israeli government is fighting this family stating that the land is not his, even though he has all the papers to prove it - they will not allow him to register the land - Israel wants it to build more illegal settlement housing. Does that sound like an ethical, just government? Starvation and living in an open air prison without work or any future unfortunately will breed violence. Gaza and Palestine are not all victims in this struggle, however, neither is Israel.

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