The Higher Standard

By: Pete Zubof

Over the course of the latest military campaign in Gaza, American Jews have increasingly attacked both individuals and media sources who dare criticize the actions of the Israeli government.  These actions are, in my opinion, misguided.  They are misguided because, just like with the government of the United States, we expect a shining democracy such as Israel to hold itself to a higher standard.  Recent commentary among media and other sources suggest that the world believes that such a standard is not being upheld by the Israeli government in its campaign in Gaza.

The latest casualty figures coming out of Gaza show that, regardless of which side started the latest conflict, the Palestinians are disproportionately taking the brunt of the violence.  The Washington Post reported recently that 64 Israeli soldiers have been killed in the last few weeks of fighting, along with 3 Israeli civilians.  Sad numbers to be sure, yet they pale in comparison to the over 1200 Palestinian casualties, less than 200 of which have been identified as being combatants.  While it’s easy to claim media bias, and even if the figures are off by a significant margin, the disproportionality remains.

It is not my goal to argue the righteousness of the overall Israeli military campaign.  Rocket attacks by militants from Gaza into Israel are clearly unacceptable and must be dealt with.  As a military officer, however, I also understand that modern, capable militaries, such as that of the IDF, have a responsibility to respond to threats with a proportional use of force and protect civilians if at all possible.  While we have certainly had our share of conflict with the Palestinian people, they are still human beings, and many of them have taken up no arms against Israel.

The IDF has a responsibility, one that Jews around the world should demand, to hold itself to a standard immeasurably higher than that of the Hamas fighters.  With reports of hospitals and schools being shelled and bombed by Israeli forces, Jews around the world should demand an explanation that goes beyond the suggestion that Hamas is hiding behind human shields.  It is in the nature of an irregular militant force to utilize immoral and often illegal military tactics, yet we should still expect our Jewish soldiers to take the higher ground, even at the potential threat to their own safety.   It is on such lofty ideals that heroes are forged.

This iteration of the Israeli Palestinian conflict is different than in the past.  It takes place in a very different world, where transparency is expected and explanations are required.  As Americans, we understand this well.  Our government must constantly explain itself.  Benghazi, NSA snooping, drone strikes – we live in a world that requires explanation for actions and not just a summary of results.  For that reason, there is much more at stake for Israel than just their immediate security concerns in Gaza.  Globally, the days of “the ends justify the means” military campaigns have ended.  How Israel conducts itself in combat matters just as much as the security objectives themselves.  Its actions, and explanations for those actions, will affect how the world views and supports the Israeli state in the future.

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