The hardly unexpected reactions to Operation Protective Edge, from those who rarely react when Israel is attacked, may be regarded as a preview of comments to come.
At first hearing, some Israelis took heart from the fact that players such as UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton at all denounced the missile barrages from the Gaza Strip.
But the devil is in the details. It is instructive to pay heed to the entirety of their messages.
Thus Ban, according to a statement released by his spokesman in New York, “condemns the recent multiple rocket attacks on Israel from Gaza. These indiscriminate attacks on civilian areas must stop.” But then comes the clincher: “The secretary-general is extremely concerned at the dangerous escalation of violence, which has already resulted in multiple Palestinian deaths and injuries as a result of Israeli operations against Gaza.”
Ban mentioned only Islamic Jihad as the wrongdoer and not Hamas, which has gallingly gained respectability from the unity pact struck with Fatah’s Mahmoud Abbas.
The same focus on Islamic Jihad is evident in Ashton’s statement. Ashton, who was remarkably unperturbed by persistent rocket fire on Israel’s South, woke up only after Israel was forced to respond.
She “strongly condemned” the Gazan rocketing of Israel “for which the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which is listed by the EU as a terrorist organization, has claimed responsibility.” Hamas is not in the picture and its seeming absence appears to absolve it of culpability.
She continued: “The EU deplores the growing number of civilian casualties, reportedly among them children, caused by Israeli retaliatory fire. The safety and security of all civilians must be of paramount importance.”
Ban and Ashton – and others – have conveniently lost sight of cause and effect.
They express distaste for the Gazan barrages, but it is lip service that allows them to draw a false equivalence between the Israeli response and the rain of rockets from Gaza that triggered the crisis. This is the nuance abundant in comments from a plethora of foreign leaders who last month rushed to cheer the Hamas-Fatah coalition.
The subtext is clear. As Israel continues to defend its civilians, it will be increasingly taken to task for civilian losses among those who attacked it without provocation – while Israel continues to supply them with food, medication and, most meaningfully, electricity from the very Ashkelon power plant they unremittingly rocket.
Herein lies the vital distinction between Israel and its foes. Our enemies seek to kill as many civilians and to wreak as much destruction as they can. There was public celebration in Ramallah and Jenin as rockets were fired into central Israel.
Israel seeks to make its strikes as pinpointed as possible.
What military sends out warnings by SMS, phone and leaflets to civilians to evacuate targets? This reduces the effectiveness of the air force’s strikes, yet Israel still takes huge risks to spare enemy civilians.
That said, in many cases Hamas counters these warnings by assembling civilians on roofs of buildings Israel is about to hit. The idea is to deter Israel with human shields, and to increase civilian casualties in Gaza.
Our enemies recognize Israeli soft-heartedness and count on our humanity to spare their civilians, in an effort to gain a free hand to fire rockets at our civilians and to send infiltrators to massacre Israelis.
Anyone who ignores this turns a blind eye to malevolence.
When terrorist kingpins hide behind human shields, it boils down to them or us. If the human shields are granted immunity, it will cost Israeli lives. There is no getting around this reality of Hamas’s dirty war.
When the Arab world and the biased choir of international pontificators disregard this, they signal that they care less about Israelis than they do about those who deliberately and repeatedly attack Israeli civilians.
Disingenuous demands for artificial proportionality are nothing less than clamoring for Israel to cease protecting its citizens.