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An existential evil
Israel's battle is a war for civilisation against barbarism
At some point, past experience tells us, pressure from public opinion is likely to become intense over the number of civilians who will be said to have been killed in Israel’s bombardment of Gaza.
In previous wars, Israel has been accused of flouting international law by wilfully killing civilians and committing war crimes. This has been the opposite of the truth. The IDF (Israel Defence Forces) has always gone to greater lengths than any other army in the world to protect enemy civilians as far as possible, and its ratio of civilians to combatants killed has been far lower than any other country has achieved.
This pressure, however, imposed most critically by the US, has repeatedly forced Israel to curtail its military operations against the Gaza terrorist infrastructure.
In US President Biden’s otherwise emotional and supportive speech yesterday, there was a lightly buried warning to this effect in which he said he had discussed with Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu “how democracies like Israel and the United States are stronger and more secure when we act according to the rule of law”.
Israel has made clear that it is now taking the gloves off. Whereas in previous wars it aimed to degrade the capability of Hamas, now it intends to destroy it forever so that never again can it perpetrate the mass murder of civilians it achieved in last Saturday’s pogrom — an infernal aim it continues to prosecute through its rocket and other attacks.
Israel knows only too well what Biden acknowledged — that the Hamas pogrom wasn’t just a tactical attack but a strategic move to further its stated aim of “the annihilation of the State of Israel and the murder of Jewish people”. That means overwhelming force and an inescapably larger number of Gazan casualties.
The reason why such overwhelming force is now an inescapable necessity has been spelt out here in the Telegraph by Col. Richard Kemp. It’s very important now to understand in addition a number of things.
First, the international laws of war acknowledge that war cannot be waged without civilian deaths. What is not justified is the deliberate targeting of civilians and a disproportionate number who are killed. War has to be carried out in a proportionate manner. That does not mean achieving some kind of parity between those killed on both sides. It means that the use of force has to be proportionate to the threat that needs to be removed.
In previous wars, Israel has judged — incorrectly — that merely degrading the Hamas threat was sufficient. The Simchat Torah pogrom was the result. It is now essential to destroy Hamas altogether. That inescapably requires overwhelming force to combat it, which means a higher number of unavoidable civilian casualties. Israel never sets out to kill civilians — even now, as reported by Palestinian Arab sources on social media, it has been issuing warnings that it is about to obliterate buildings or whole areas. Remember that as the false claims of war crimes begin to mount.
As for the shutdown of electricity, fuel and food supplies, this is a legitimate tactic to stop Hamas in its tracks. The likely impact on Gazan civilians — and on those hostages who are still alive — is tragic and regrettable. Gaza’s civilians are pawns and human shields and thus themselves victims of Hamas war crimes.
But this is war — a just war by Israel as the only way to destroy the engine of mass murder and the intended annihilation of the Jewish state. Those who are already complaining that this is cruel “collective punishment” have no other suggestion for stopping Hamas or this war of annihilation. It follows that those complainants care more about the lives of Gazan civilians than the lives of Israelis who continue to be targeted by murderous attack, or indeed the continued existence of the State of Israel.
The second thing that’s important to understand is the cause for which Israel is fighting this war. It’s fighting not because Israelis are victims or are out for revenge. It’s because Israel’s cause is its continued existence; and that cause is just. More than merely just: Israel’s cause is essential for the defence of civilisation.
Even some western supporters of Israel don’t realise the justice of Israel’s cause. Because they have so little knowledge of Jewish or Middle Eastern history, they don’t understand that Israel alone has a legal and historic right to the land; they don’t understand that for almost a century, the Palestinian Arabs have been offered and rejected the “two-state solution” because this “Middle East conflict” is not a fight over the division of the land. The Hamas pogrom was not, as Daniel Finkelstein suggested in his Times (£) column today,
the latest war launched by Palestinians to demonstrate their unwillingness to share the land.
It was an attempt to murder Jews because they were Jews, the genocidal aim laid out unambiguously in the Hamas Charter. As Biden correctly said of Hamas:
Its stated purpose is the annihilation of the State of Israel and the murder of Jewish people.
The president of the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) Yigal Carmon, has written of the Hamas genocidists:
The only appropriate comparison is to the Einsatzgruppen, the paramilitary death squads of the SS of the Nazi Germany, who were attached to the 4th Wehrmacht Army groups that invaded Poland and Russia in the outbreak of World War II. Their one and only mission was to murder Jews wherever they found them.
Carmon draws that analogy because the barbarism and depravity of those Hamas death squads — hunting down Jews because they were Jews in order to murder, rape, torture, publicly humiliate them and desecrate their bodies — was behaviour associated with the Nazis’ Final Solution and not inflicted upon the Jewish people on such a scale since the Holocaust.
But Hamas are also jihadis who subscribe to the Islamic fanaticism of the Muslim Brotherhood. Their brand of Islamic extremism — promoted also by Al Qaeda and ISIS — emerged during the early decades of the last century and fused Islamic theological holy war with Nazi ideology.
Their principal targets are the Jews, whom they accuse of being the cause of all the evils of the world. But they also intend to wipe out all non-Muslims — as well as not rigorous enough Muslims — including Christians.
A MEMRI video from December 2022 that has now resurfaced featured a co-founder of Hamas, Mahmoud al Zahar, who also once served as the Foreign Affairs Minister of the Palestinian National Authority, announcing:
We are not talking about liberating our land alone…The entire 510 million square kilometers of Planet Earth will come under [a system] where there is no injustice, no oppression, no Zionism, no treacherous Christianity and no killings and crimes like those being committed against the Palestinians, and against the Arabs in all the Arab countries, in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and other countries.
Finally, in order to make the case for the existence of the State of Israel as a just cause it’s extremely important to understand the history of how it came into being. Yet this is still not fully understood, even by some of its supporters. It didn’t start, as so many believe, as a response to the Holocaust. It didn’t start, as Danny Finkelstein implied (perhaps inadvertently), with the 1947 UN resolution dividing the land into two states that was accepted by the Jews and rejected by the Arabs.
The rebirth of Israel started with Britain’s 1917 Balfour Declaration and then, properly, after the First World War. That was when the world’s great powers decided that the Jews should be resettled throughout their ancient homeland — then consisting of what is now Israel, the “West Bank” and Gaza (and until 1922, what is now Jordan) — for the simple reason that the Jews were the only people who had ever ruled this as their kingdom, and had never left it even after they were exiled from it.
I discussed this history in a segment of under 20 minutes on a Triggernometry podcast. This was reposted on X (Twitter) a few days ago and has gone viral. You can watch the segment by clicking on the video below, and you can watch the whole podcast here.
Perhaps then people may understand rather better why the unambiguous defence of Israel is a defence of civilisation against barbarism.
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