Rockets, Borders, and 'Proportionality'

During January, terrorists ambushed a train, kidnapping 18 innocent civilians, and ruthlessly murdering them in cold blood. Several weeks later 1500 terrorists again breached the border and staged another brutal attack, sacking a city and leaving another 19 dead in the street.

The government, having put up with multiple onslaughts, finally responded by sending 6000 troops back across the border to kill or arrest as many terrorists as possible, particularly the barbaric leader of the group.

As familiar as this scenario sounds, the events actually occurred during January 1916. The leader in what today would be called a terrorist was not Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas but Pancho Villa. The government was the United States of America, the massacre took place in Columbus, New Mexico. And the contingent of 6000 troops commanded by General John Pershing was sent into Mexico at the behest of President Woodrow Wilson. Mistaken in the belief that the Americans would be welcomed by the Mexican people for helping rid them of corrupt dictator Venustiano Carranza, Wilson to his dismay was instead vilified and Pershing’s troops, under constant attack, were forced to retreat back into the United States after failing to catch Villa.

Yet from an American security standpoint the mission to secure the border was accomplished. Although he lived long enough to get assassinated in 1923, Villa never again violated U.S. territory.

European opinion was scathing: “For the first time the veil is torn away from the pretense behind which the designs of American Imperialism have been hiding.” So wrote the Paris Journal....”Its conquest of Mexico has begun.”

This week’s ground incursion into Gaza by Israel is also a response to incessant incursions, terrorist attacks, and rocket fire by a far more determined enemy than the Mexicans were. Like Wilson, Prime Minister Netanyahu is being skewered for invading Gaza to quell the unrelenting terror his citizens have faced since abandoning that enclave nine years ago.

Unlike Wilson, Netanyahu is facing a messianic enemy which unless incapacitated will continue unabated attacks upon his country. As they did to Wilson, the French and others will scream and protest, as will the U.N., but Netanyahu, recognizing the feckless leadership in both Washington and Europe, has taken the unilateral steps he deems necessary to guarantee the long-term tranquility of his citizens.

What the political landscape will look like after the guns go quiet is too early to tell, but by accepting two ceasefires soon broken by Hamas, Netanyahu brilliantly bought the political cover he needed to continue his goals with comparatively minimal blowback from the world body.

In time, some people may look back and affix blame for this latest conflict on the kidnapping and murder of the three Jewish teenagers. That would be incorrect. Not counting perpetual rocket fire and kidnapping attempts subsequent to the 2012 ceasefire, during 2014 alone, Hamas has unleashed 180 rockets upon Israel. This does not include the hundreds fired since the beginning of full-scale hostilities earlier this month. While certainly a catalyst, the murders of Eyal Yifrah, Gilad Shaar, and Naftali Frenkel were not the cause of this war. 

In retrospect, Israel's detractors will likely pay scant attention to the abominable use of human shields by Hamas to save its cowardly leaders and infrastructure, but will focus instead on calls for the IDF to use “proportionality,” although no one can define exactly what that means. 

Like all wars, this conflict will yield casualties. But the uproar from France and the usual suspects is disproportionate to their voice over the daily mass killings in Syria and Iraq, as well as Wednesday’s downing of Malaysian Airlines, flight MH17 and the death of 298 people. There just seems to be something about Israel defending herself that throws the world body into fits.

On Friday, at the behest of Jordan and new terrorist champion Prime Minister Recep Erdogan of Turkey, the Security Council was called into session, not to condemn the unabated rocket attacks by Hamas, nor its depraved use of human shields, nor to censure Iran for supplying Hamas with rockets capable of hitting all of Israel. It was gathered to protest the ferocity of Israel’s response to the merciless shelling and the attempts of terrorists to tunnel into Israel to massacre kibbutzim as happened this week. With no mention of any of this, UN undersecretary Jeffrey Feltman issued the following tweet: “The solution for Gaza is ending arms smuggling, opening the crossings and bringing back Gaza under PA control.” 

Unfortunately, Feltman failed to mention how he would stop the arms smuggling if the crossings were opened and that the PA has already unceremoniously been thrown out of Gaza once before.

For his part, and true to his habit of quivering and qualifying, President Obama defended Israel’s right to self-defense but equivocated  that “escalating the offensive with Israeli ground troops could deepen the death toll and undermine any hope of a peace process with the Palestinians.” Wait a second, this sounds very familiar.

Here’s what he had to say on November 18, 2012 during a visit to Thailand amidst that year's conflagration between Hamas and Israel.  “Israel has “every right” to defend itself against missile attacks by militants inside Gaza” but also cautioned, escalating the offensive with Israeli ground troops could undermine any hope of a peace process with the Palestinians. He must have kept a copy of this old speech.

In light of the failure of the 2012 ceasefire, another man might have backed off the same policy the second time around. But not Obama. Like his counterparts in Europe, he’s doubled down, seeking the same ceasefire Hamas has consistently broken, leading to this more intense conflict. His State Department concurred.

In cautioning both sides, Jen Psaki of the State Department discovered an equivalence between Israel and Hamas that doesn’t exist. “We continue to urge all parties to do all they can to protect civilians,” As if there is a moral equivalence between terrorists pursuing the barbaric practice of firing rockets from private residences, storing weapons in hospitals and mosques, and forcing people to rooftops as human shields is comparable with Israel warning Gazans in advance of an attack.

“We continue to urge all parties to do all they can to protect civilians,” she told reporters. “We have been heartbroken by the high civilian death toll in Gaza.” Surely this is a backhanded swipe at Israel. A reporter would do well to question if she knew of another army ever dropping leaflets, making phone calls, and rendering medical help to save enemy civilians. 

Quoting a conversation between her increasingly frustrated boss John Kerry and Prime Minister Netanyahu, Psaki admonished: “there’s more that can be done by Israel to avoid civilian casualties and that it must redouble its efforts.” What Israel in the fog of war could do against an enemy integrated amongst the civilian population neither she, nor Kerry or Obama ventured.

This same message was parroted Friday by the increasingly irrelevant 28-member EU. They too paid lip service to Hamas firing rockets into Israel but called for an investigation into the deaths of 307 civilians as of Friday: “We condemn the continued firing of rockets from Gaza into Israel by Hamas and other militant groups and the indiscriminate targeting of civilians." Hamas since 2005 has done nothing but indiscriminate targeting of civilians but the EU is investigating Israel.

They concluded: “Both sides must de-escalate the situation, and end the violence and suffering of their populations.” As if this whole mess couldn’t have come to an abrupt end the moment terrorist rockets stopped falling onto Israel.

Like President Wilson in 1916, Prime Minister Netanyahu has an obligation to secure his borders and provide security for the people he was elected to protect.  In doing so, the fall of Hamas may be a byproduct through which the people of Gaza may also finally find some peace.