Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Israel's "Disproportionate Force"

Israel has once again been condemned by most of the world for its defensive actions. This time, Israel was smart enough to videotape the events. Not that that has made one iota of difference in terms of how Israel's critics react. Those who have even a shred of integrity obviously cannot buy into the unprovoked violence story being promoted by the knife-wielding "peace activists." Instead, they fall back on the criticism of Israel for using "disproportionate force."

Frankly, the whole notion of disproportionate force never made sense to me. Who made up the rule that if you're attacked, you can't defend yourself with any weapon more powerful than the one you're attacked with? If my life is threatened, I want all the disproportionate force I can get. Furthermore, I don't think I'm going out on a limb with this view. When have you ever heard the idea of "disproportionate force" invoked for any purpose other than condemning Israel? The only possible exception would be when the attacker's force is obviously non-lethal. But a knife is just as lethal as a gun, and when you use lethal force, you invite lethal force being used in return. Where else in the world would a soldier or police officer be condemned for shooting someone who came at him or her with a knife?

Obviously, even when your life is being threatened, you shouldn't rush to use lethal force in response. If you can save yourself without it, that is certainly to be preferred. I am sure Israel will investigate the events and determine if the level of force used was appropriate. However, we should recall that it is not reasonable to demand complete rationality of thought from someone when their life is being threatened.

Some have blamed Israel for allowing this confrontation to occur by boarding the boat in the first place. But what other option did they have? They could have let the boat through, thus rendering the blockade meaningless and risk the potential smuggling of arms into Gaza. I suppose this is what most of the world would have preferred. However, when Israel is not involved, international law clearly recognizes a country's right to block arms shipments to its enemy. Once again, Israel is just not entitled to defend itself. Alternatively, Israel could have minimized the risk to its soldiers by blowing the whole damn ship out of the water. That really would have been unprovoked violence, so clearly was not a serious option. Or they could board the boat to search for weapons and hope for the best. Clearly the best did not occur.

Besides being contradicted by videotape, the other side's version of events is just patently absurd. Israel knows they cannot use force without the world condemning them. They would have no motivation to use force at all, let alone unprovoked, if they did not absolutely need to. The world's reactions reveals a massive confirmation bias. The only way you could possibly believe the other side's narrative is if you already believe Israel is a rogue, lawless, maybe even evil, state. If you believe Israel is a civilized, developed nation committed to the same ideals of justice as other civilized, developed nations, then even if the soldiers did use excessive force, you would trust the Israeli government to be able to police itself. No one calls for international investigations when someone is shot in France, because we trust the French justice system. On the other hand, if someone was shot in North Korea, there well might be calls for an international investigation, because nobody trusts the North Korean justice system. Most of the world clearly views Israel as more similar to North Korea than to France. How sad.