Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Is The "Disproportionate Response" Argument Disproportionate To The Truth?

At the Volokh Conspiracy, David Bernstein--who offered to pay for Glenn Glennwald's free vacation to Sderot to see what conditions are like--addresses what he sees as the logic behind the argument that Israel's response to Hamas is 'disproportionate':
Greenwald's real problem, I surmise, is that he thinks that Israel's response is "disproportionate" not because its disproportionate relative to Hamas's military actions and Israel's military objectives compared to the civilian damaged inflicted (more or less the international law definition of proportionality), but because he believes that Israel is primarily to blame for the situation in Gaza, and therefore any suffering inflicted on Gaza's civilians is primarily Israel's fault. Hence his observation about Israel's blockade of Gaza, which is not at all relevant to whether Israel's response to the rocket fire is "proportionate," but rather to whether Israel is morally at fault in general.

But by putting the issue in terms of the "proportionality" of Israel's response, Greenwald (and others) are obscuring their real argument, which is that Israel is not entitled to act in self-defense because no matter how many rockets are launched into Israeli territory, Israel is ultimately the aggressor in the Gaza situation.
Glenwald of course is far from alone in putting forth the "proportionality argument," but it does seem that of all the people who are up in arms over Israel's response to the over 4,000 rockets and thousands of mortar shells fired by Hamas, none of them have offered an alternative.

Instead they offer homegrown, convenient and just plain wrong definitions of what constitutes International Law and its applications to various aspects of the current situation--see the paper by Justus Reid Weiner and Avi Bell: International Law and the Fighting in Gaza.

Of course, some suggest that Israel should be dedicating herself to diplomatic negotiations with Hamas.

Jeffrey Goldberg indirectly addresses that option when he writes:
No country in the world could afford to ignore such attacks. And no country would. An elected government, such as Israel's, has a basic, overriding responsibility -- to protect its citizens from the organized violence of their enemies. Of course, it can do this in part by negotiating with its enemies (assuming its enemies recognize Israel's right to life) but its immediate mission must be to stop the violence, which is what Israel is now trying to do. [emphasis added]
It's time for these critics to realize that their halfhearted approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is disproportionate to the seriousness of the situation and its implications for Western Democracies.

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Anonymous said...

And yet again the world needs to be reminded that Israel is not the sole blockader, that Egypt also keeps its crossing to Gaza locked tight. Egypt, as a matter of fact, shot live ammunition at Gazans trying to break down the fence between Egypt and Gaza and escape.

The world also needs to be reminded that Gaza was part of Egypt until the Six Day War, and Israel has been trying to give it back ever since. Last summer, with the massive breakdown of the Egypt-Gaza fence, the Israelis almost rid themselves of the Gazan albatross. But when the Egyptians got wind of that idea, they hurriedly push the Gazans back into their cage and locked the door.

Daled Amos said...

The media is not going to remind them--they are too busy pushing their own agenda...only in the interests of evenhandedness, of course.

Daniel said...

Hamas and other organizations in Gaza have been purposely sending rockets across the border with Israel intended to harm civilians. This is a violation of morality and international law.
A proportionate response would be one which put a stop to this outrageous behavior.
So far Israel's response has been disproportionate in the sense that it seems less than what is required to do so. In that same sense Greenwald is correct.