Israel Is Exercising Its Right of Self-Defense

Israel Is Exercising Its Right of Self-Defense

By Ed Koch - January 6, 2009

Opponents and enemies of Israel are in full hue and cry over Israel's attack on the terrorist organization Hamas and its government and military installations in Gaza. The main criticism is that the Israeli response to the rocketing of southern Israel is "disproportionate." There is little, if any, dispute that Israel's goal of ending all rocket attacks on Israel and its civilian population, is reasonable and indeed sanctioned by international law.

It seems to me that if the goal is reasonable, then the only issue is whether the force applied to achieve that goal is reasonable. In my view, the fact that seven days of continuous bombing of Gaza by the Israeli air force did not accomplish the goal demonstrates that the amount of force used by Israel has been less than needed. Hamas could have stopped its rocket attacks but chose not to. So now Israel's ground attack has begun with greater force.

Every day during the bombing of Gaza, Hamas proudly announced that it was keeping up its rocketing of Israel. Never did the number of rockets fall below 20 per day, and on some days it reached 70. On one day, one of the rockets landed in an Israeli classroom which, had it been occupied at the time, would have injured or killed dozens of Israeli children.

There is a difference between the injuries and deaths of Palestinian civilians and in particular, children in Gaza - which everyone, including the Israelis deplore -- and the deaths of Israeli civilians and children in Israel, which apparently no one in Gaza regrets. Hamas wants to deliberately kill every Israeli Jew it can, and they say so, while the Israelis regret any Palestinian civilian casualties that occur as the Israelis direct their fire at Hamas terrorists who maintain their installations in civilian occupied areas, using those civilians as human shields.

The governments of Egypt and Jordan, as well as the Palestinian Authority led by Mahmoud Abbas, all acknowledge that Hamas began the latest hostilities by declaring the existing ceasefire agreed to in June 2008 at an end in mid-December 2008. The New York Times of January 3rd reported, ".government officials including Mr. Mubarak and Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit have blamed Hamas for abandoning the cease-fire with Israel and seeming to seek Israeli retaliation." The New York Post of January 3rd reported, "The so-called moderate Arab regimes - Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, as well as the Palestinian Authority - have limited their response to what can best be called lip-service condemnations of the Israeli attack. And nothing more. 'The one responsible for the massacres is Hamas, and not the Zionist entity, which in its own view reacted to the firing of Palestinian missiles,' Nimr Hammad, an adviser to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, told the Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar. Similar remarks have been voiced in Cairo, Amman and Riyadh."

Since it declared a unilateral end to the cease-fire in December, 2008, Hamas has never stopped firing rockets at Israel, which have numbered over 1,000 just in the last six months. Since Hamas gained power in Gaza seven years ago, it has fired over 10,000 rockets. Hamas has not only been raining down rockets on Israel, it also has been steadily widening the range and accuracy of its rockets. While originally Hamas used more primitive rockets which went six miles before landing and exploding, now it launches rockets that are capable of going 24 miles before exploding, bringing 750,000 Israelis living in southern Israel within the rocket danger zone. Hamas has also smuggled into Gaza from Egypt through a vast network of tunnels tremendous quantities of weapons for use against Israel.

So what is a reasonable definition of "proportionality?" Since the rockets have never stopped and are fired at Israel every day, it is clear that the force used to date has not been adequate to achieve the goal: ending the daily rocket attacks on Israel. Logic and rationality require that Israel increase the force used to achieve its goal.

The civilian residents of Gaza are not entirely innocent. They voted to make Hamas their government in a free election, just as the Germans voted for Hitler in a democratic election. The Times reports on January 5th two different responses by citizens of Gaza. In one case, a woman whose family was decimated after Israel began its ground invasion, said, "May God exterminate Hamas." She understood who was responsible for the carnage. Another woman quoted by The Times, whose family was cowering during the invasion without electricity or water, said about Hamas, "God bless these fighters. They are throwing themselves to death to protect us." It is those fighters who send rockets into Israel to kill civilians who are responsible for the retaliation of the Israel Defense Force doing what it can to stop the rocketing.

The goal of Hamas is to expel all Jews who came to Historic Palestine, now Israel, after 1917, and then create a single, Islamic state. They have said they will not recognize the State of Israel as a sovereign state. They will not recognize as binding on them any prior agreements that the Palestinian Authority has signed with Israel. They will continue to use violence to achieve their goals.

What the world has to do, and many do already, is understand that promises by Hamas that are not verifiable are worthless. The ultimate answer is a two-state solution which both Israel and the Palestinian Authority have accepted. In Israel there is a small minority opposed to two states. They and their policies are rejected by the Israeli government. In Gaza it is the Hamas government which has rejected the two-state solution and is actively pursuing violence to achieve its genocidal goals. Those living in Gaza are now reaping the consequences.

Ed Koch is the former Mayor of New York City.

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