The disproportionate argument

David Aaronovitch:

Let's have a pointless discussion about Gaza and begin it by talking about whether Israel's bombing is “disproportionate”.

To illustrate the meaninglessness of such a debate let us attempt to agree what “proportionate” would look like.

Would it be best if Israel were to manufacture a thousand or so wildly inaccurate missiles and then fire them off in the general direction of Gaza City? There is a chance, though, that since Gaza is more densely packed than Israel, casualties might be much the same as they are now, so although the ordnance would be proportionate, the deaths would not. Of course, if one of Gaza's rockets did manage to hit an Israeli nursery school at the wrong time (or the right time, depending upon how you look at it), then the proportionality issue would be solved in one explosion. Would you be happy then?

This is not about proportionality. Let us instead express outrage and, perhaps, illustrate it with pictures of crowds of similarly outraged protesters in Damascus, Amman or Indonesia. Let half of us concoct round-robins of suddenly active professors, Gallowegian politicians and unthinking actors, expressing hyberbolic rage at “genocide”, describing Gaza as Israel's Guernica and demanding sanctions, while the other half wonders why no petitions ever get launched against the funders and organisers of, say, the suicide bomber in Khost at the weekend, who blew up his vehicle beside a group of passing Afghan schoolchildren; or against the Taleban cleric threatening last week to kill female students in Pakistan for their un-Islamic desire to learn.

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Hamas is a product of a dysfunctional Muslim society. That is not Israel's fault. Dealing with dysfunctional people is difficult anytime. When they are profound religious bigots who want only your destruction, then negotiations are not a viable answer to dealing with them. Ultimately Hamas must be destroyed for the Palestinians to have peace.

James Robbins has more on the "excessive force" argument.

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Regarding Israel’s excessive use of force (which Gen. Sec. Ban Ki-moon, and others, have alleged), one might ask for a definition of "excessive." If the definition is "more than necessary to be effective," then Israel has actually used insufficient force, since Hamas is still launching rockets (though nowhere near the “thousands” they threatened).

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That is a good argument.

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