How the human rights community keeps getting it wrong
Sayyid Imam al-Sharif - known as Dr. Fadl - was an early "spiritual" leader of al-Qaida and inspiration of Egypt's Islamic Jihad, which assassinated Anwar Sadat. In the wake of 9/11, he was arrested in Yemen. Today, sitting in an Egyptian prison and having experienced an epiphany, he spends his days writing on Islamic jurisprudence.
As Israel Television's Arab affairs analyst Oded Granot reported, Dr. Fadl recently launched a religious attack on the way Hamas conducted the recent Gaza war. The prophet Muhammad, he declared, would not have authorized the battle; and Allah will hold Hamas leaders accountable for every drop of Muslim blood spilled.
Granot's report came just as the preliminary results of the IDF's probe of civilian casualties in Operation Cast Lead were released. Five military investigative teams reviewed how our armed forces conducted themselves in the recent fighting. They examined incidents involving UN or international facilities fired upon; medical buildings, ambulances and crews shot at; numbers of civilians harmed; use of weaponry containing phosphorous; and, finally, damage caused to infrastructure and buildings.
WHEN Israel withdrew from Gaza in summer 2005, the Palestinian leadership wasted no time in turning the Strip into the prototype of the "Palestine" they hope to create, firing thousands of rockets and mortars at our civilian population. The people of Sderot and the surrounding Negev communities were traumatized; homes, schools, synagogues and parks were damaged. Life became close to intolerable. In December 2008, after Hamas refused to renew a de-facto cease-fire arranged under Egyptian auspices, Israel finally struck back.
To warn civilians away from areas about to come under bombardment, the IDF dropped 2,250,000 warning leaflets. It commandeered enemy radio frequencies, and made 165,000 automated telephone calls alerting individual Gazans. It used costly but highly accurate munitions. And it authorized humanitarian convoys to enter Gaza - indeed, it halted offensive activities for several hours a day to allow Palestinian civilians to obtain basic necessities.
While our army was attempting to minimize civilian casualties, the enemy's forces operated largely under cover of those civilians. Violating the elementary rules of war, Palestinian gunmen utilized residential dwellings, hospitals, mosques, schools and UN and other international agency buildings. Ismail Haniyeh chose Shifa Hospital as his headquarters, his gunmen camouflaging themselves as doctors and nurses. Red Crescent Society ambulances were used to smuggle fighters and weapons.
And still, according to these preliminary results, the IDF managed to operate in accordance with international law. Grossly irresponsible accusations recently aired by several Hebrew media outlets claiming that soldiers intentionally or recklessly targeted Palestinian civilians were, according to the probe, baseless.
SADLY, wars claim the lives of innocents: 150,000-200,000 in current intra-Muslim fighting in Algeria; 25,000-50,000 in Muslim-Russian fighting in Chechnya; and, since the US ousted Saddam Hussein, 600,000-1.2 million in Iraq, to cite just a few examples.
In the course of the Gaza fighting, the IDF killed 709 enemy combatants and 295 civilians (the identities of 162 other male dead have not been established). There is not an iota of proof that Israeli forces willfully killed a single civilian. And yet - because Hamas embedded itself among its own population - innocents died. To cite one ghastly blunder, 21 members of the Daya family were killed on January 6 because Israeli forces hit their home instead of the weapons depot just next door.
Some 600 structures were destroyed, either when gunmen shot from inside them, or because they served as armories; or to provide our troops with safe passage around booby-trapped buildings.
Will the IDF's probe lead media outlets to retract their assertion that "1,300 Palestinians, mostly women and children, were killed"? Probably not.
Will it make Israel's human rights community, or the foreign governments and foundations who bankroll them, stop claiming that the army is lying, or even inject greater caution into their critiques? Unlikely.
At root, the army's critics are frustrated by the link between the IDF's determination to minimize its own casualties (disparaged as "zero-risk" doctrine) and the number of enemy non-combatants killed. They see Israel's refusal to play into Hamas's human shields strategy as unethical.
For them, too few of our sons came home in body bags.
Which tells us that Dr. Fadl now has a better grip on right and wrong than certain morally obtuse human rights advocates.
Friday, April 24, 2009
Dr. Fadl and the muddled moralists
WELCOME TO MY BLOG - I am a Jerusalem-based journalist and political scientist and a senior editor at The Jerusalem Report focusing on the Jewish World. I’m a former editorial page editor at The Jerusalem Post and was founding managing editor of Jewish Ideas Daily. Over the years I’ve written for Newsmax, Israel My Glory and a range of other outlets. I was also editorial director for www.balfour100.com and recently completed a book on the Balfour Declaration (now being edited at the publisher’s). Before making aliya in 1997, I worked in NYC government and as an adjunct assistant professor of political science. My memoir about growing up on the Lower East Side (well, it is more than about that) The Pater: My Father, My Judaism, My Childlessness is available via online booksellers, Amazon kindle, and (select) in brick and mortar bookshops. I enjoy the chance to brief individuals and groups visiting Israel on the conflict and Jewish civilizational issues. Write to: firstname.lastname@example.org
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