What Happened to Proportionality?

There has been much talk about whether or not Israel’s response was proportional to the actions of Hamas. According to this view, Israel was roundly condemned for its part in the recent war largely because Hamas‘ 10,000 rockets apparently didn’t cause enough damage. We might have been allowed to use our air force or tanks or artillery if, say, Hamas succeeded in obliterating a school filled with Israeli children.

But, we canceled school for nearly a month so that this wouldn’t happen. We’ve spent millions of dollars fortifying schools against rocket attacks to prevent this from happening (and where in the world is this done OTHER than Israel?). Because we took preventive action, because we protected our civilians, the world blames us that the Palestinians didn’t do the same.

In a recent interview, Professor Shalom Rosenberg of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem was asked about the proportionality whereby during the Gaza War a relatively small number of Israelis were killed as compared to hundreds of Gazans.

Professor Rosenberg’s answer was both prophetic and brilliant:

Hamas itself set this proportion. If Hamas demands to free 1000 terrorists incarcerated in Israeli jails for one Israeli soldier — Gilad Shalit — then they themselves set the “worth rate” that the life of one Israeli equals one thousand Gazans. If so, this proportionality dictates that in order to defend one Israeli soldier, we ( Israel ) have to attack terrorists despite the risk of killing hundreds of citizens.”

It is an answer worth considering on both sides. Gilad Shalit must be brought home – alive and well. The International Red Cross, despite lip service, has done largely nothing to advance this issue. The Israeli government has been inarticulate and incompetent. There is concern that agreeing to a bargain to release 1,000 terrorists for the safe return of one Israeli soldier sets a dangerous precedent that will encourage other terrorists to attempt further kidnappings.

That being the case, let Israel give fair warning. Proportionality works both ways – if Hamas sets the value of one Israeli at 1,000 Palestinians, demanding the return of 1,000 for 1, they should be prepared to pay this price if they take the life of one Israeli as well.

If for one Israeli, Hamas is entitled to 1,000 terrorists, our answer must be that if you shoot rockets at our cities and injure one of our civilians, you have set the proportionality justification scale to 1,000 of your own.

No, I don’t expect Israel to do this – I expect the world to realize the absurdity of Hamas‘ demand and their insistence that Gilad Shalit be brought home NOW.

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