PoliticsMorality isn't math

time to read 8 min | 1515 words

I don't do this often, but this is an exception. My apologies to the people who just want to read about tech, I'll soon resume the regular topics.

Oh, and just to clear the records, I served for 4 years in the IDF, and I am still a reservist. I haven't been activated, and this post contain my own thoughts about the current situation. I assume that this post is going to be a hot topic. I am going to keep comments open until someone invoke Godwin's law, at which point the discuss will end.

There is a term that was a big buzzword several years ago (yes, even outside the tech world there are buzzwords). It is called low intensity conflict. Low intensity conflict is also sometimes called 4th generate warfare. And yes, I am probably making some military history buffs cringe in pain, deal with it.

It describe a situation in which regular army forces find it difficult to utilize their forces due to non military concerns. In many cases, it is political, media or humanitarian concerns that limit the ability to apply force. A common scenario is shooting at someone from a crowd. The fact that the shooter is in a crowd make the utilization of fire arms against the shooter a problem, because it is likely that other people, presumably innocent, are going to get hurt.

Israel has quite a history with such conflicts, I am sadden to say.

Low intensity conflicts are a good way to neutralize the ability of an army to respond appropriately. I think that the best way of explaining the problem in low intensity conflict is with this (extremely famous) picture.


I don't think that we need to go into the actual historical background of this picture, it doesn't really matter for the discussion at hand.

This is a very powerful picture, and it capture the sense of disparity in forces that exists.

What is doesn't capture is that a tank vs. kid is not what is going on. The tank cannot realistically do anything to this kid. Any response at all is unthinkable. As a result, we have a situation in which the kid may act with imputiny.

Now take this picture and zoom it out. Let us see what we have in southern Israel and Gaza at the last three years.

We have a densely populated area which contains about 1.4 million people. The vast majority of them, I want to remind you, are people who want to live their lives just like anyone else. They bloody well deserve to live their live in peace, freedom and prosperity.

In 2006, in democratic elections, Hamas has won the leadership of the Palestinian Authority. That caused quite a problem for a lot of people, since Hamas is a terrorist organization, and is recognized as such by the EU, US and the rest of the gang. In case you are not aware of this, let me give some of the highlights from the Hamas' charter.

Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it.

And how do they intend to "obliterate Israel" ?

There is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad. Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are all a waste of time and vain endeavors.

Notice the part about all talk being a waste of time. We can move on to the next bit of prose. Article 7 of the Hamas Covenant states the following:

The Day of Judgement will not come about until Muslems fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Muslems, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him. Only the Gharkad tree, (the Cedar tree) would not do that because it is one of the trees of the Jews.

As I said, following a democratic elections in which the Hamas won, the world had a problem.

Several months before that, Israel has unilaterally disengaged from the Gaza, moving all forces and all citizens out of Gaza. The people of Gaza had the chance they wanted, to manage their own lives. This was a highly contentious act in Israel, those who spoke against it warned that disengaging from Gaza will bring disaster, that the terrorist organizations inside will seize the chance to arm themselves and attack Israel. Those who spoke for it said that this way Israel could give the people of Gaza the freedom that they wanted, and the chance to build a place of their own.

It didn't quite work that way, I am afraid. As I mentioned, Hamas took over the PNA, and the situation, from the point of view of Israel, has gotten worse. Let me give you some idea about the numbers.

In 2006, 1121 rockets and mortars were fired at Israel.

In 2007, 2313 rockets and mortars were fired at Israel.

in 2008, 1713 rockets and mortars were fired at Israel.

From 2003 - 2008, 8827 rockets and mortars were fired at Israel.

On Jun 17th, 2008, there was an informal truce between Hamas and Israel, lasting until Dec 23th, 2008. During this period there were several violations of the truce on both sides, for reasons that don't really matter in the grand scheme of things.

On Dec 24th, 2008, 70 rockets were launched against Israel. And in the previous weeks regular barrages of rockets were fired on the southern part of Israel.

Moving on to another topic all together.  Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations states:

Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations

This is also called the Principle of Self Defense. This principle is recognized in just about any legal system.

Going back a week and a half ago. They are shooting at us. They are explicitly targeting civilian targets.

This is were low intensity conflict come into play. The usual, ineffective, response from Israel would have been within the boundaries of low intensity conflict. A raid, an air attack against rocket teams, something in this order.

Hamas was perfectly willing to continue playing by those rules. After all, it is to their advantage to keep the conflict in low intensity.

This time, however, Israel didn't respond in the usual ineffective manner. Instead, Israel has started a full scale operation with a single goal. To stop the bombardment on the citizens of Israel.

There is a lot of cry from people saying that there is no possibility of this being a moral action, and trying to point at the numbers of dead & wounded on both sides as proof of that.

There are a lot more dead and wounded in Gaza than in Israel.

The problem, however, is that morality isn't math. You don't get to play around with numbers and come up with an answer.

The situation is quite simple. Hamas had been firing rockets on Israel for years. A truce attempt has failed. Hamas has not only continue to fire rockets on Israel, but has stepped up the number and the range. Hundreds of thousands of the citizens of Israel are at risk.  Israel has chosen to act to defend its citizens.

I am sadden by the loss of civilian life in Gaza, but my people's safety is my main concern.

Any situation in which rockets are fired on Israel is not acceptable. Any attempt to equate dead count is not acceptable, because it in there is the hidden assumption that Israel should let its own people die before it is allowed to act.

There is a lot of history and motivation behind all the actions that are going on here. There have been books written about it, and I can't do it justice even if I tried. But the plain facts are quite simple.

Hamas is shooting at the people of Israel. Israel is acting to stop this shooting.

I can already predict people trying to bring justifications for why Hamas is shooting at Israel. There can be no reason, to put it plainly. I do not accept any reason that justify shooting at my people.

The current situation could have been avoided quite easily. All Hamas had to do was not to shoot at Israel, and talk. There are channels of communications and there are things to talk about. Hamas has followed its charter, of terror and destruction, and fired at Israel.

Now Israel is acting to stop this from happening again.

If you want to dispute Israel's current actions. You have to start from Dec 24th, with Hamas shooting at Israel, and any act that you make must end with no rockets fired at Israel.

I intentionally limit the discussion, because attempts to bring history or justifications to the mix are not really relevant. This is the situation that we have to deal with.

Israel cannot accept its citizens being fired upon, full stop.

More posts in "Politics" series:

  1. (22 Jun 2009) Iran
  2. (05 Jan 2009) Morality isn't math