Rules of War According to Gaza

Faith and Facts Israel and GazaVictor Hanson, of the Hooer Institue wrote the following article, The Gaza Rules which captures my view of the conflict in Gaza.

For several prior weeks, Hamas terrorists had been launching rockets daily into Israeli towns that border Gaza. The recent volleys of missiles had insidiously become more frequent – up to 80 a day – and the payloads larger. Iranian-backed Hezbollah terrorists were reportedly supplying their own training and expertise.

These terrorists point to the Lebanon war of 2006 as the template for provoking an Israeli counter-response that will bog down the Israeli Defense Forces in the streets of urban Gaza and ensure that Palestinian civilians are harmed on global television.

Watching both this week’s war and the world’s predictable reaction to it, we can recall the Gaza rules. Most are reflections of our postmodern age, and completely at odds with the past protocols of war.

First is the Middle East doctrine of proportionality. Legitimate military action is strangely defined by the relative strength of the combatants. World opinion more vehemently condemns Israel’s countermeasures, apparently because its rockets are far more accurate and deadly than previous Hamas barrages.

If America had accepted such rules in, say, World War II, then by late 1944 we, not the Axis, would have been the culpable party, because by then once-aggressive German, Italian and Japanese forces were increasingly on the defensive and far less lethal than the Allies.

Second, intent in this war no longer matters. Every Hamas unguided rocket is launched in hopes of hitting an Israeli home and killing men, women and children. Every guided Israeli air-launched missile is targeted at Hamas operatives, who deliberately work in the closest vicinity to women and children.

Killing Palestinian civilians is incidental to Israeli military operations and proves counterproductive to its objectives. Blowing up Israeli noncombatants is the aim of Hamas’ barrages: the more children, aged and women who die, the more it expects political concessions from Tel Aviv.

By this logic, the 1999 American bombing of Belgrade – aimed at stopping the genocide of Slobodan Milosevic – was, because of collateral damage, the moral equivalent of the carefully planned Serbian massacres of Muslim civilians at Srebrenica in 1995.

Third, culpability is irrelevant. The “truce” between Israel and Hamas was broken once Hamas got its hands on new stockpiles of longer-range mobile rockets.

Yet, according to the Gaza rules, both sides always deserve equal blame. According to such morally equivalent reasoning, World War II was only a tragedy, not a result of German aggression. Once the dead mounted, it mattered little what were the catalysts of the outbreak of fighting.

Fourth, with instantaneous streaming video from the impact sites in Gaza, context becomes meaningless. Our attention is glued to the violence of the last hour, not that of the last month that incited the war.

Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005 to great expectations that the Palestinians there would combine their new autonomy, some existing infrastructure left behind by the Israelis, Middle East oil money and American pressure for free and open elections to craft a peaceful, prosperous democracy.

The world hoped that Gaza might thrive first, and then later adjudicate its disputes with Israel through diplomacy. Instead, the withdrawal was seen not as a welcome Israeli concession, but as a sign of newfound Jewish weakness – and that the intifada tactics that had liberated Gaza could be amplified into a new war to end the Zionist entity itself.

Fifth and finally, victimization is crucial. Hamas daily sends barrages into Israel, as its hooded thugs thump their chests and brag of their radical Islamic militancy. But when the payback comes, suddenly warriors are transmogrified into weeping victims, posing teary-eyed for the news camera as they deplore “genocide” and “the Palestinian Holocaust.” At least the Japanese militarists did not cry out to the League of Nations for help once mean Marines landed on Iwo Jima.

By now, these Gaza asymmetrical rules are old hat. We know why they persist – worldwide fear of Islamic terrorism, easy anti-Westernism, the old anti-Semitism, and global strategic calculations about Middle East oil – but it still doesn’t make them right.

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18 replies
  1. ALex Great
    ALex Great says:

    Anti-Semitism Muslim radicalism are fairy tales believed by many but they don’t provide a plausible explanation for the tenacity of the conflict made possible only by incessant stoking by outside interests and their Israeli and Palestinian clients.
    My bet is that the Israeli army will withdraw before eliminating Hamas to ensure continuing foreign financial assistance for the corrupt politicians on both sides.
    That’s why Hamas miraculously doesn’t manage to kill anybody. The Israeli army takes forever to find the launchpads killing civilians senselessly in the process.
    Forgive me if that sounds cynical but that’s how it looks.

  2. Joel
    Joel says:

    Israel never gave Gaza achance. Though they withdrew, they imposed a strangling blockade that took away any human dignity left in the Palestinians. There are no rules to be followed in this issue. The only rule is to survive.

    Israel had the option of declaring Gaza an open city. This will allow all non-combatants to evacuate to a neutral host. But instead, they closed all the borders which boxed in the civilians. This is recognized by the Geneva Convention and Israel if its target is Hamas should have taken this option. Clearly israel’s goal is to annihilate the people of Gaza so they can take over the land. Israel’s policy of bringing more Jews from other parts of the world is creating a shortage of land for settlements.

    The ICC has declared all settlements illegal and has ordered Israel to hand them over to the Palestinians. This was never followed and Israel continues to expropriate land. I have yet to find a dictionary that defines what a terrorist is, have you? Remember, one man’s terrorist, is another man’s freedom fighter.

  3. Dr.Bruce
    Dr.Bruce says:

    Hamas has fired over 6000 rockets into Israel in the last 3 years in hope of killing anyone, especially innocent by-standers. They hide hide the rocket launchers in homes, public buildings and schools in hopes of getting a picture of civilian casualties when Israel retaliates.

    How is that being a freedom fighter?

    On the other hand, Israel recently made hundreds of Arabic language phone calls warning soldiers and ordinary citizens of an impending attack in order to avoid civilian casualties.

    My oft repeated aphorism –

    If the Arab militants in the Middle East laid down their weapons today, there would be peace tomorrow.

    If Israel laid down here weapons today, there would be no Israel tomorrow.

  4. Larry
    Larry says:

    Very well said, Dr. Bruce. Hamas has stated in their own charter that their stated purpose of existence is to wipe out Israel. What does the rest of the world want them to do, just roll over and play dead? That’s not likely to happen.

    Joel, just to clear things up, there was a reason Israel installed such a tight blockade against Gaza. That was the only way they could keep the suicide bombers from crossing over and killing innocent Israeli citizens.

  5. Paul -
    Paul - says:

    A most excellent synopsis of a complicated situation.

    I believe your final statement, of the laying down of arms, says it all.

  6. Larry
    Larry says:

    Tom Usher,
    I would really like to know how you come about the conclusion that Israel was the one that broke the ceasefire. Hamas and Israel had been in the ceasefire since the first part of 2008 and Hamas had launched some 3,000 rockets before Israel decided enough was enough.

  7. Tom Usher
    Tom Usher says:

    Hi Bruce and All,

    Hamas didn’t break the ceasefire. Israel did.

    It’s just false propaganda you’ve been fed that Hamas broke it.

    Nevertheless, bless both Hamas and the Zionists.

    Truth is sacred. Lies come out from Satan.


    Tom Usher

  8. Mark Shrigley
    Mark Shrigley says:

    Hamas are the ones that are guilty. They fired rockets into Israel…and Israel has a right to protect herself. Ronald Reagan’s administration had an old saying – “Peace through Strength”. If Israel sits there and does nothing – they will be destroyed. I believe they need to push everyone out of the strip and retake the land that God gave them in the first place. If it means driving every Muslim into the sea – then so be it!

    Mark Shrigley

  9. Joel
    Joel says:

    Like what I always say, do not look at the recent past but go back farther. The indigenous Jews lived in harmony with the Arabs until the Zionist immigrants came. The people of Gaza the displaced people of those towns being bombarded by Hamas rockets.. They were forced into this open prison called Gaza. I cannot seem to see the reason behind the points raised here. Is this the kind of “civilized” world we live in? I will call it moral contortionism where we find a reason to call what is moral as we see fit..

  10. Rev. Fr. Jessie G. Somosierra, Jr.
    Rev. Fr. Jessie G. Somosierra, Jr. says:

    Dr. Bruce,
    Fundamentally, I agree with your reasoning on this subject matter. It is a very keen observation that many have not been able to decipher with this conflict. However, my constant search for answer is how peace could be achieved in this part of the country. Will the Hamas be able to subdue their great hate to Israelis? How?

  11. Johnny Walker Purple
    Johnny Walker Purple says:

    You don’t understand what proportionality means and besides that Israel is not just at war with Hamas, who are terrorists that should be brought to justice, they are waging war against the Palestinian civilian population. The ultra-right wing hardliners in Israel combined with Ashkenazi jews and american religious fanatics are pushing Isreal towards a “holy war” with the heathens.

    Just looked at all the territory they’ve seized from it’s rightful owners since the nations “founding”.

  12. Karthik
    Karthik says:

    Yea,you are right.People don’t think the one who started it as the culprit.They see the one which is more affected as the one innocent and sadly,the other as the cause of the war.And due to this fact,both parties trying to show themselves as more affected,and another war continues.

    It seems that there will never be an year on Earth without any war.

  13. Jamie
    Jamie says:

    I am currently writing a fiction novel, and my main character has to go over there to help oversee an oil investigation, so I have been doing a lot of research into this area of the wrold lately, and the more I look into it, the more I can’t stomach what I find. It isn’t just about the big bombs and the soldiers… it’s about the families and the people… I look at the pictures of the kids sometimes, and just cry. How can they keep doing this to themselves? Is it really worth all the hearache and lives lost? NO…. it’s not.

  14. JenniJ
    JenniJ says:

    I find it hard to believe that the deathes of innocent people are considered victories to the opposition. It’s really sad that we live in a world where not only do we bomb eachother, but the desired outcome is mass casualties.

  15. Angela Wenke
    Angela Wenke says:

    I agree with Jenni above it is so hard to turn on the nightly news anymore with all the violence so rampant in our world. And all the mass casualties of the war the innocent children who did nothing to deserve their awful fate.

    Unfornatly these wars have existed off and on for so long it makes you wonder if we will ever see a resolution in our lifetimes


  16. Allister Morris
    Allister Morris says:

    As an aside, Victor Hanson is a brilliant scholar, historian, and commentator. I started following his writing and commentary about four years ago, after watching a lengthy C-SPAN interview with him. He is not a fan of President Obama, and he pulls no punches in his commentary. Bruce, you might be interested to read his commentaries from 3/15/09 and 3/16/09 about Obama’s economic strategy.

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