UNRWA school damaged by fighting in Gaza.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The world reaction to the Israeli ground incursion into Gaza again raises the question whether Israel is being judged by an entirely separate standard. It is difficult to imagine the United States, Britain or France not responding to terrorists firing thousands of rockets at New York, London or Paris without treated in a similar manner.
Gone and forgotten are the reasons Israel was forced to call up its military reserves and return to Gaza, the place from which it unilaterally withdrew in 2005.
Nobody remembers that Israel was on the receiving end of a barrage of rockets for weeks without returning fire. All that seems to matter to government pundits and the media around the world is the daily tote of Palestinian civilian casualties. There seems to be a dichotomy between other nations’ wars and wars fought by the State of Israel.
Israel is being accused of war crimes, of waging a war against innocent civilians because there is a double standard in the world when it comes to Israel. It is judged by a different yardstick than other nations. To hear that the UN Human Rights Council is once again preparing to charge Israel with war crimes only emphasizes this hypocritical bias toward a country whose moral and ethical conduct is exemplary.
How many countries at war with terrorists who revere death more than life make telephone calls and distribute leaflets warning all civilians to leave? Rather than just asking, “What would you do if Hamas fired thousands of rockets into your country?” let us examine what Western civilization has done.
Wars have been occurring since time immemorial. Sometimes they are a necessary last resort to put down evil regimes and tyrants that want to destroy the civilized world.
One of the pivotal moments in the history of mankind was the invasion of Normandy in June 1944, an event historian Steven Ambrose called one of the most significant events in the past 500 years. To this day, no American president turns down an invitation to be present at a significant D-Day commemoration. Yet it is indisputable that 11,000 to 19,000 civilians, mainly French men, women and children, were killed in the pre-invasion bombings of the Normandy beaches, and an additional 13,632 to 19,890 were killed when Allied soldiers set foot on the beaches.
Furthermore, Winston Churchill, who played the most decisive role in standing up to Adolf Hitler and defeating the Nazis championed the daytime bombing attacks on Germany. And he is widely regarded as perhaps the greatest leader of WWII, Churchill wrote to US Gen. Jacob Devers on October 11, 1943: “... convey... the thanks of the British War Cabinet for the magnificent achievements of the 8th Air Force in the Battle of Germany... In broad daylight, the crews of your bombers have fought their way through... the length and breadth of Germany, striking with deadly accuracy many of the most important hostile industrial installations and ports... The War Cabinet extend their congratulations...
we shall together... beat the life out of industrial Germany and thus hasten the day of final victory.”
Those daytime attacks caused hundreds of thousands of civilian casualties.
Now, look at Hamas’s attacks on Israel. Since 2005, including Operation Cast Lead in December 2008-January 2009 and the latest incursion, Operation Protective Edge, the total death toll of Palestinian civilians over nine years is 2,047.
Of course, any innocent civilian casualty is a tragedy. But my point is, when comparing this with what is happening in the Arab world or Ukraine, does Israel deserve the notoriety and anti-Semitic demonstrations being heaped upon it, or does this not prove beyond any shadow of doubt that Israel is being judged unfairly, by a different standard? Critics like to fault Binyamin Netanyahu because he represents the right-of-center Likud, but I have no doubt that had David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s founding Labor Party prime minister, been in power at this time and watched the ceasefire being violated and hundreds of rockets fired by Hamas into Israel’s population centers and dozens of terror-tunnels built to launch attacks, he would have responded exactly as did Netanyahu.
In a letter dated March 22, 1956, when Ben-Gurion was prime minister, a week after Israel withdrew from Sinai, he wrote: “There is no one more fearful than I, and I admit it, when it comes to sending the Israel Defense Forces to war.
Every nation must do this, and all the European nations have lost [wars] many times, and nothing happened to them [that is, they did not cease to exist], but for us, [each war] is a question of existence.
Therefore, our wish is for peace with all our neighbors, and the State of Israel is ready, as it was previously, to keep with complete faith all the cease-fire agreements, but this is also the obligation of the other side as well.”
Rather than rush to Jerusalem in search of a cease-fire only when Israel is defending herself from rocket attacks, had all the leaders at the UN, EU and US State Department rushed to prevent Hamas from acquiring 10,000 rockets and building 64 terror-tunnels, there would be no civilian deaths today in Gaza or Israel.
Rabbi Marvin Hier is the founder and dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center.