Israel: What Would You Do?
The first responsibility of every government is to keep its citizens safe from invasion, violence and terror. So why is it that when Israel defends itself, much of the world sees it as the villain? David Brog invites you to step into Israel’s shoes when confronted with a real-life attack. What would you do?
“What would you do?” That can be a very useful question. It can be both clarifying and humbling when evaluating complex situations.
To illustrate this, let’s apply it to a real-world example.
In May 2021, Israel and Hamas fought a brief war in Gaza.
Nearly everyone knows that Hamas started the conflict. Firing rockets into a neighboring country is the very definition of “aggression.”
And Israel responded as any country under attack would. Yet many blamed Israel, not Hamas, for the violence.
People are certainly entitled to criticize the Jewish state—even when it defends itself. But before you do so, ask yourself a question, the one I posed at the opening.
What would you do?
So, congratulations! You have just been made Prime Minister of Israel. And Mr. (or Madam) Prime Minister, we’ve got a problem.
Hamas is firing hundreds of rockets at our cities. Yes, our missile defense system is stopping most of these from hitting their targets. But many are getting through.
In recent days, Hamas missiles killed an Arab-Israeli citizen and his daughter as well as a five-year-old Jewish boy.
Millions of your people have been forced into bomb shelters.
The economy is shut down. Your citizens—Jews and Muslims alike—are terrified and demanding action.
What are you going to do?
You have two options:
Israel is stronger than Hamas. And, therefore, people who dislike Israel will portray you as a bully if you respond. This leads to a lot of bad press. So, to avoid a PR disaster, tell your citizens to stay in their bomb shelters and hope that Hamas will run out of missiles soon; or…
Use your powerful military to stop the missile fire so that your people can go back to their lives.
If you choose to defend yourself, then you’re doing what Israel does.
The first responsibility of every government is to keep its citizens safe from invasion, violence, and terror.
So, you’ve given the order to stop the missile fire. But wait. There’s a big problem. Hamas operates in the heart of Gaza’s densely populated cities. It stores its missiles in apartment buildings, hospitals, and schools. And it fires its missiles from residential neighborhoods.
They don’t care that using civilians as human shields like this is a war crime.
So stopping the missile fire will require you to strike Hamas in the heart of Gaza’s population centers. If you want to protect your citizens, you risk harming Palestinian civilians.
What are you going to do?
You have two options:
The terrorists have outsmarted you by using your own morality against you; you’re trapped by your own decency.
Tell your citizens to stay in their bomb shelters and hope that Hamas will run out of missiles soon; or…
Do everything possible to stop the missiles while protecting Palestinian civilians.
Before you conduct an operation, drop thousands of leaflets warning that you’re coming.
Create safe corridors for civilians to flee.
And before you strike a particular building, warn every person in that building that you’re coming. Call and text their cell phones. And then make sure they've actually left.
If you chose option two, you’re doing what Israel does.
Yes, you’re giving up the element of surprise.
Yes, the terrorists will most likely take their missiles and flee along with the civilians.
And yes, by letting the terrorists escape to fight another day you’re endangering your own people. But this is what Israel insists upon doing in order to protect Palestinians.
Unfortunately, not every country is as moral as Israel.
When countries are stronger than their adversaries, they actually have a third option.
So you could simply bomb Gaza without trying to limit civilian casualties. That would provide maximum protection to your soldiers and civilians and crush Hamas.
That’s what Russia basically did to Grozny, the capital of Chechnya, when that Muslim province sought independence in the 1990s.
That’s what Hamas tries to do when it fires thousands of missiles at Israeli cities.
But that choice is immoral.
Israel has never and will never do something like this. Nor should you, Mr. or Madam Prime Minister.
Those who make light of Hamas rockets have clearly never experienced the terror of running to bomb shelters, hearing bombs bursting around you, and then frantically calling loved ones to see if they’re okay.
All nations have not only a right but an obligation to defend their citizens from such attacks.
And the best of these nations do so while taking difficult and dangerous steps to protect innocent civilians on the other side.
This is what Israel does.
I hope you’d do the same. Because the other options–such as behaving like Hamas–are simply not acceptable.
I’m David Brog, Executive Director of the Maccabee Task Force, for Prager University.