The War Against Israel – News and Commentary Pt. II

[A continuation of coverage on Israel’s struggle for survival against Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran and Syria; for previous coverage click here — CB]

  • The political cartoonist duo John Cox and Allen Forkum (popularly known as “Cox & Farkum”) published a cartoon depicting the “disporportionate response” toward Israel, including a depiction of the Pope which provokes intense discussion by Amy Welborn’s Open Book. Most Catholic bloggers happen to agree agree on the tastelessness of the cartoon (“Portraying the Holy Father using the tip of his crozier as a spear – inflicting injury on a bound, prostrate Jew is malignant”) but, as expected, disagree with each other over the justness of the Vatican — or, rather, Cardinal Sodano’s — pronouncement on the matter. Protests Christopher Fotos:

    Multiple statements of grave concern do not, with all sincerely due respect, protect Israel from terrorism. The bitter experience of Israel is that after they withdraw from contested areas, whether under international blessing as from Lebanon or unilaterally from Gaza, these areas are then used as operating areas to launch more terror attacks. I don’t expect the Catholic Church to advocate for war. I hope it is not too much to expect some kind of recognition that Israel faces an existential threat.

  • HonestReporting.com provides Israel Under Fire: “A look at some of the myths and facts following Hezbollah’s attack on Israel” July 16, 2006; MEMRI (Middle East Research Institute) has a 5-part (to date) series chronicling Iran and the Recent Escalation on Israel’s Borders: Reactions in Iran, Lebanon, and Syria
  • Map & graphics courtesy of Kathryn CramerIDF enters Lebanon: A New Buffer Zone? – Bill Roggio examines Israel’s intent in the IDF’s brief entrances into Lebanon “to target Hizbullah bases along the border in order to push the terrorist group out of rocket-firing range” (Jerusalem Post); included is a disturbing graphic by Kathryn Cramer depicting the extent to which Israel falls within the sights of Iranian built missiles possibily in Hezbollah’s arsenal.

    According to London-based, Saudi-owned newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat, “Teheran has supplied Hezbollah with approximately 11,500 missiles and projectiles” and “more than 3,000 Hezbollah members have undergone training in Iran.” In The Israeli Rocket Blitz (Winds of Change July 17, 2006), we learn that “more than 70 percent of Israel’s population and 80 percent of the country’s idustrial base within Katyusha [rocket] range from hostile borders.”

    Substantial analysis of Israel’s incursion into Lebanon by Daveed Gartenstein-Ross (with help from counterterrorism consultant Daniel Darling) is available from the CounterTerrorism Blog.

  • The Israeli blogger Kishkushim provides real-time updates from Haifa, including the following observation on the nature of civilian casualties in the present conflict:

    So many civilians are dying because this war is being conducted against an enemy who launches missiles from the safety of non-combatant population centers at Israeli cities, towns, and villages with the explicit goal of harming civilians. As much as the equivocators will try to deny this, the IDF does not aim to kill non-combatants. Even if you want to believe that the Israeli army is morally indifferent, you have to concede that civilian deaths cause tremendous harm to the reputation of the country and its ability to operate in the international arena. It is against the IDF’s own strategic interests to harm civilians.

  • Kishkushim’s point is perhaps validated by the diary of this IDF pilot participating in the raids on Lebanon:

    Major E, my formation leader walks into the briefing room, still in his jeans. He’s been called to come ASAP. What’s happening? He asks me. I update him, and we brief for our mission quickly. He is concerned about making mistakes, and bombing the wrong targets. He is experienced, and has been around long enough to see mistakes happen and innocent civilians killed. A friend of his, a helicopter pilot once mistook a letter in a target’s name, and ended up shooting at the wrong target, killing a whole family. Major E does not want the same thing to happen to us. He emphasizes that there is no rush, that we must check and recheck every coordinate we receive, make sure we understand EXACTLY what we are supposed to target.

    We land in the base, and are relieved to learn that we went for a Hizbullah post. Probably unmanned. It’s strange how the focus in these missions is not to succeed, hit the target precisely, but rather – not to make any mistakes. The message is clear all the way from the Squadron commander to the last pilot. One mistake can jeopardize the whole war, like in Kfar-Kana, in one of the last operations in Lebanon, where artillery bombarded a refugee camp, killing over 100 people, which resulted in international pressure that halted the operation. Hitting the target is expected, no misses are acceptable. There aren’t any congratulations for a well-performed mission. Only a hammer on the head if something goes wrong. Personally, I think it’s a healthy attitude; it causes the whole system to be less rash and hot on the trigger.

  • Meanwhile, there is a report from the IDF that Hizbullah preventing civilians from leaving villages in southern Lebanon:

    Roadblocks have been set up outside some of the villages to prevent residents from leaving, while in other villages Hizbullah is preventing UN representatives from entering, who are trying to help residents leave. In two villages, exchanges of fire between residents and Hizbullah have broken out. (Hanan Greenberg)

  • It has likewise been reported that Hezbollah is deliberately targeting civilians with missiles containing ball-bearings. According to the (by no means conservative) organization Human Rights Watch:

    Hezbollah’s attacks in Israel on Sunday and Monday were at best indiscriminate attacks in civilian areas, at worst the deliberate targeting of civilians. Either way, they were serious violations of international humanitarian law and probable war crimes, Human Rights Watch said today. In addition, the warheads used suggest a desire to maximize harm to civilians. Some of the rockets launched against Haifa over the past two days contained hundreds of metal ball bearings that are of limited use against military targets but cause great harm to civilians and civilian property. The ball bearings lodge in the body and cause serious harm

    (Lebanon: Hezbollah Rocket Attacks on Haifa Designed to Kill Civilians Human Rights Watch July 18, 2006).

    Michael Kraft at Counterterrorismblog comments:

    The story was unusual in that it was one of the few that have reported that the terrorist groups attacking Israelis are not using only explosives but also pieces of metal intended to deliberately cause pain and suffering to victims who are not killed outright. The Hamas makers of the suicide bomb belts routinely pack the bombs with nuts and bolts and nails. There also have been reports that the metal fragments are sometimes dipped into a pesticide, in order to maximize the damage to the victims and make it more difficult for doctors to effectively treat their patients. However there has been little public reporting in the western media of this tactic, which causes torture to the victims who survive the original blast and additional agony for their families and friends.

  • Just War for the Sake of Argument – UCLA Law Professor and Catholic blogger Stephen Bainbridge addressese Cardinal Sodano’s criticism that “Israel’s right to self-defense “does not exempt it from respecting the norms of international law, especially as regards the protection of civilian populations,” the rebuttal of fellow blogger (and Catholic) Ed Morrisey (of the popular conservative blog Captain’s Quarters) and Israel’s strategy of targeting the Lebanese civilian instructure which supports Hezbollah:

    In fact, however, Israel clearly is targeting not just Hezbollah, but also Lebanon’s official military, and, most important for our purposes, Lebanon’s basic civilian infrastructure. The Beirut airport has been closed by Israeli attacks. Bridges, ports, roads, and power stations are all being targeted. As this column was being written, more than 100 civilian fatalities — including some citizens of neutral countries, most notably Canada — already had been reported. More surely will have occurred before this column is published.

    In short, even a just war must be waged justly. Israel is entitled to defend itself, but is not entitled to do so disproportionately or to wage war on civilians. Yet, that is precisely what Israel appears to be on the brink of doing.

    Rob Driscoll at The Remedy responds to Prof. Bainbridge on Proportionality in War:

    I’m hardly convinced that Israel’s attacks are disproportionate. When fighting an enemy that consciously blends civilians and military actors in order to disguise themselves and use civilians as human shields, the death of innocents is inevitable. How is it, asks Wretchard, that those who use indiscriminate bombing of civilian targets are considered to have the moral high ground over those who use precision strikes to minimize civilian deaths?

    Further, it is not clear to me that attacking infrastructure is per se disproportionate. Roads and fuel depots are as easily used for rocket attacks on Israeli cities as they are for legitimate civilian ends. If the infrastructure is not a legitimate target, and precision strikes aimed at terrorists who hide amongst women and children are not acceptable, just what may the Israeli military do without violating just war doctrine?

  • In Israel, Right or Wrong? Fr. Martin Fox, pastor of St. Mary and St. Boniface Parishes in Piqua, Ohio, expresses his thoughts on Lebanon’s culpability and complicity in Hezbollah’s attacks on Israel, the proportionality of Israel’s response, and the Vatican’s statement on the matter. There are no easy answers to such questions, but I certainly agree with his conclusion:

    . . . I think it’s abundantly clear Israel operates far more according to values of compassion and human dignity; and who can say that about Hamas, Hizbollah, Iran or Syria, with a straight face?

  • Finally, Judith Sudilovsky of the Catholic News Service reports that U.S. Catholic educators in Israel say rockets give them new outlook (July 18, 2006):

    Some 30 Catholic educators from the United States found themselves in the line of fire in northern Israel as the recent crisis between Israel and Lebanon began, but several said it gave them a new perspective on the Middle East. [. . .] The group was traveling in the north and was to spend the evening of July 14 in Tzfat when word came that Katyusha rockets had fallen on the city . . .

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