Home/Daniel Larison/Gaza and Self-Defense

Gaza and Self-Defense

Jonathan Chait explains why the latest Gaza military operation has made him less “pro-Israel” in certain respects:

Viewed in this context, the campaign of Israeli air strikes in Gaza becomes a horrifying indictment. It is not just that the unintended deaths of Palestinians is so disproportionate to any corresponding increase in security for the Israeli targets of Hamas’s air strikes. It is not just that Netanyahu is able to identify Hamas’s strategy — to create “telegenically dead Palestinians” — yet still proceeds to give Hamas exactly what it is after [bold mine-DL]. It is that Netanyahu and his coalition have no strategy of their own except endless counterinsurgency against the backdrop of a steadily deteriorating diplomatic position within the world and an inexorable demographic decline.

Chait is right about this. This is why I’ve found the predictable defenses of this operation to seem even more hollow and bankrupt than they seemed when they were being used to defend the use of force in 2008-09 or in 2006. The use of force isn’t just excessive. Force is being used with the knowledge that it will mostly kill civilians, whose deaths can then be perversely used to blame the entire conflict on the other side alone. At the same time, those deaths aren’t given the same weight or importance as the deaths of other innocents elsewhere, because the conventional “pro-Israel” view holds that all people in Gaza more or less deserve whatever happens to them.

The current operation grew out of the government’s deception about who was responsible for the kidnapping of the three Israelis, but even if the original claim had been entirely true it wouldn’t have warranted the massive overkill and collective punishment that have been going on for the last few weeks. Not only is the operation creating far greater evils than the ones it is supposed to remedy, but it is also difficult to identify what the purpose of the operation is. Waging war that inflicts disproportionate harm would be bad enough, but to wage a war that doesn’t seem to have any discernible strategic goal–or indeed any purpose besides raining devastation on a largely defenseless population–is inherently wrong. It’s not self-defense, and it makes a mockery of the idea of self-defense to claim otherwise.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

leave a comment

Latest Articles