How to define proportionality in the face of evil

Alan Dershowitz gives us some insights into the evil that is Hamas (and I use the word evil deliberately and without any artistic hyperbole), and then explains how, under international law, the concept of “proportionality” properly works in the face of that kind of evil.  Incidentally, it’s not far from my post from a couple of days ago about a party’s intentions governing the appropriate response:

In a recent incident related to me by the former head of the Israeli air force, Israeli intelligence learned that a family’s house in Gaza was being used to manufacture rockets. The Israeli military gave the residents 30 minutes to leave. Instead, the owner called Hamas, which sent mothers carrying babies to the house.

Hamas knew that Israel would never fire at a home with civilians in it. They also knew that if Israeli authorities did not learn there were civilians in the house and fired on it, Hamas would win a public relations victory by displaying the dead. Israel held its fire. The Hamas rockets that were protected by the human shields were then used against Israeli civilians.


[P]roportionality is not measured by the number of civilians actually killed, but rather by the risk posed. This is illustrated by what happened on Tuesday, when a Hamas rocket hit a kindergarten in Beer Sheva, though no students were there at the time. Under international law, Israel is not required to allow Hamas to play Russian roulette with its children’s lives.

While Israel installs warning systems and builds shelters, Hamas refuses to do so, precisely because it wants to maximize the number of Palestinian civilians inadvertently killed by Israel’s military actions. Hamas knows from experience that even a small number of innocent Palestinian civilians killed inadvertently will result in bitter condemnation of Israel by many in the international community.

Read the rest here and wonder, as I do, why Dershowitz still aligns himself with the Democratic party.  (This would be the same Democratic party whose members think Israel should still be talking and negotiating as the rockets rain down upon her.)  He’s taking an unusually long time to cross that Rubicon.

And while we’re on the subject of the moral clarity that should be attending this war (but is not), you should also read Charles Krauthammer’s article about the way good and evil play out in that benighted strip of land attached to Israel.  Krauthammer opens his piece with a snippet buried deep within an AP article:

Late Saturday, thousands of Gazans received Arabic-language cell-phone messages from the Israeli military, urging them to leave homes where militants might have stashed weapons.

It is with this factoid, widely ignored by a world bound and determined to point the finger of blame at Israel that Krauthammer, a la Dershowitz (and Bookworm), explains that the differing intent guiding Israel and Hamas must be taken into consideration to understand the evil that is Hamas and the righteousness of Israel’s actions:

Israel is so scrupulous about civilian life that, risking the element of surprise, it contacts enemy noncombatants in advance to warn them of approaching danger. Hamas, which started this conflict with unrelenting rocket and mortar attacks on unarmed Israelis — 6,464 launched from Gaza in the past three years — deliberately places its weapons in and near the homes of its own people.


For Hamas, the only thing more prized than dead Jews are dead Palestinians. The religion of Jew-murder and self-martyrdom is ubiquitous.


At war today in Gaza, one combatant is committed to causing the most civilian pain and suffering on both sides. The other combatant is committed to saving as many lives as possible — also on both sides.


That is the asymmetry of means between Hamas and Israel. But there is equal clarity regarding the asymmetry of ends. Israel has but a single objective in Gaza — peace: the calm, open, normal relations it offered Gaza when it withdrew in 2005.


There’s only one grievance [that guides Hamas’ militant actions since Israel handed over Gaza in 2005] and Hamas is open about it. Israel’s very existence.


Since its raison d’etre is the eradication of Israel, there are only two possible outcomes: the defeat of Hamas or the extinction of Israel.

As you can see from the snips, I’ve left a lot out, all of it worth reading.  These two articles are perfect bookend to the way in which all thinking people should analyze Israel’s war against the sovereign terrorist state of Gaza.