Wednesday, September 17, 2014

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Not Enough Jews Died

A friend of mine wrote the following letter to the editor in a New Jersey Jewish publication…

Proportionality - September 4, 2014

It may seem difficult advocating for Israel with the left-wing media storm giving cover to anti-Semitism/ anti-Zionism. There are too many facts on the Jewish side of the argument and few opponents will give us the time to make the arguments.

However, we can chip away at their weapons if we focus our argument. The bulk of anti-Israel invective is founded on the idea of “proportionality.” The assumption that proportionality  involves a rough equality of losses — or is violated when harm is caused to civilians — is superficial, and it has no foundation in international law.

The principle of proportionality represents a noble aspiration inscribed in the international laws of war to balance the claims of military necessity and humanitarian responsibility. At the same time, proportionality is, as Emory University law professor Laurie Blanc emphasizes, “a legal term with a specific legal meaning.” It “forbids attacks in which the expected civilian casualties from the attack will be excessive in relation to the anticipated military advantage gained.” Accordingly, “widely different numbers of civilian casualties between two sides in a  conflict says nothing about the proportionality of particular attacks on specific targets.”

Each Israeli counterattack may have hurt civilians, but in the overwhelming number of cases even those roughly equate to the intended harm the military targets posed to Israel.  Hence, even here, anecdotal “proportionalism” actually exists, despite its dubious legal application. What the media is focused on is the totality of the casualties in relation to Jewish casualties. By that standard, every bombing mission in World War II by the United States and its allies would be a war crime. Or those critics would be happy with large scale Jewish  casualties (reflecting a certain nostalgia for the Holocaust model of appreciating Jews as victims). It is a testament to Hashem’s love of His people that He mercifully kept this to a minimum.

Focus on the targeting policy, which can be proved legitimate, and undercut people’s ignorance around “proportionality.”

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