Reuters reports: U.S. President Barack Obama said on Sunday he fully supported Israel’s right to defend itself and called for an end to the firing of missiles into Israel by militants inside Gaza in order for a peace process to go ahead.
“There’s no country on earth that would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders,” he said. “We are fully supportive of Israel’s right to defend itself.”
If the right of self-defense is not being exercised, it is recognized as a universal principle that applies to individuals and states, including Israel. But when President Obama expresses his support for Israel’s right to defend itself at this time, the principle cannot be divorced from the means through which it is being applied. Only those who choose to obscure the facts speak about Israel’s rights without questioning its methods of defense.
When ‘self-defense’ is used as a license for the use of disproportionate force, the transition has been crossed from defense to aggression and those who voice their support for Israel’s right to defend itself become accessories to Israel’s crimes.
The Institute for Middle East Understanding has put together a useful fact sheet on Israel’s use of disproportionate force which makes clear that this is a doctrine that guides Israel’s military operations — not merely the outcome of unpredictable escalation in the heat of conflict.
Since November 14, when Israel assassinated Hamas leader Ahmed Jabari, further escalating an already bloody week that began with the killing of a 12-year-old Palestinian boy during an Israeli raid on November 8, at least 52 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza, including at least 16 civilians, ten children among them. During the same period, three Israeli civilians have been killed in southern Israel.
This disparity in civilian casualties is representative of a historic pattern, with a disproportionate number of Palestinian and other Arab civilians killed and wounded in virtually every phase of the conflict since Israel’s creation in 1948.
Although Israeli officials stress that the Israeli military carries out “surgical strikes” and goes to great lengths to avoid civilian casualties, evidence documented by human rights organizations shows that Israel has repeatedly and deliberately used disproportionate force – a war crime – as a tactic to kill enemy fighters, minimize the risk of injury to Israeli soldiers during military operations, and to establish “deterrence.” In recent years, the Israeli military has formulated this as the “Dahiya Doctrine.”
To put the casualty figures of the current violence into context, the IMEU offers the following fact sheet on Israel’s use of disproportionate force and an overview of Palestinian and Israeli casualty figures since the First Intifada.
FACT SHEET: THE “DAHIYA DOCTRINE” & ISRAEL’S USE OF DISPROPORTIONATE FORCE
- A central tenet of Israeli military policy is “deterrence.” This is embodied in the so-called “Dahiya Doctrine,” which dictates the use of overwhelming and disproportionate firepower and the targeting of government and civilian infrastructure during military operations. It received its name from the Dahiya neighborhood of Beirut, a stronghold of Hezbollah, which Israel destroyed almost completely during its assault on Lebanon in the summer of 2006.
- In October 2008, Gabi Siboni, Director of the Military and Strategic Affairs Program at Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), a quasi-governmental think tank with close ties to the Israeli political and military establishments, published a policy paper entitled “Disproportionate Force: Israel’s Concept of Response in Light of the Second Lebanon War.” It stated:
‘With an outbreak of hostilities [with Hezbollah], the IDF will need to act immediately, decisively, and with force that is disproportionate to the enemy’s actions and the threat it poses. Such a response aims at inflicting damage and meting out punishment to an extent that will demand long and expensive reconstruction processes.
‘Israel’s test will be the intensity and quality of its response to incidents on the Lebanese border or terrorist attacks involving Hezbollah in the north or Hamas in the south. In such cases, Israel again will not be able to limit its response to actions whose severity is seemingly proportionate to an isolated incident. Rather, it will have to respond disproportionately in order to make it abundantly clear that the State of Israel will accept no attempt to disrupt the calm currently prevailing along its borders. Israel must be prepared for deterioration and escalation, as well as for a full-scale confrontation. Such preparedness is obligatory in order to prevent long term attrition.’
Issandr El Amrani writes: The Obama administration is asking regional powers to help restrain Hamas but they won’t restrain Israel. It claims to be for de-escalation but will not urge it. De-escalation might work if on one side the Arabs and Turkey use their influence on Hamas to end the rocket fire, and on the other the Europeans and Americans use their influence in Israel to end its missile, bomb and aircraft attacks and urge them not to carry out ground operations that would make this even more deadly.
It’s not even a question of changing their position towards Hamas. It’s a question of making it clear that a ground invasion will lead to the same catastrophic results as during Cast Lead and will further sour the regional scene the interests of all concerned.
But this ever-more-disappointing president can’t even bring himself or his advisors to say they would oppose such a development or urge Israel to forego ground operations.
Pathetic — and a signal to the Egyptians, Turks and others that there is no business to be done with this administration.