On January 7, The Christian Science Monitor published a toxic Op-Ed entitled, “Israel’s ‘self-defense’ argument against Hamas holds no water,” which is replete with factual errors. Worse, author Jerome Slater’s central thesis is that Israel has no right to defend its citizens from terrorist attacks because its very existence provokes these attacks.
In fact, the first duty of the nation-state is to protect its citizens. Article 51 of the United Nations charter specifically codifies the “inherent right” of self-defense against armed attack. No other nation would tolerate incessant terrorist attacks from neighboring territories. Israelis, like all people around the world, have the right to go about their daily lives in peace and security without the fear that at any moment death will rain down on them and their families.
Additional egregious elements of this poisonous commentary include:
• To accuse Israel of “war crimes” Slater cites the Goldstone Commission Report, but he neglects to mention that Judge Richard Goldstone discounted his own report writing “If I had known then what I know now, the Goldstone Report would have been a different document.” As for war crimes, Hamas and Islamic Jihad commit them. They hide behind their own civilians and fire poorly-guided rockets and mortars, weapons of terror meant to land in civilian areas. When they are guided, these weapons specifically aim for civilians, as in the case of the targeting of a school bus with a missile in 2011. Using human shields and targeting civilians – not accidentally causing civilian casualties while aiming for legitimate military targets – are indeed war crimes.
• Slater writes that Israel’s strikes in the Gaza Strip during Operation Cast Lead, 2008-2009, were “indiscriminate” and “against the Gazan population.” This is, of course, wholly untrue. Colonel Richard Kemp, former commander of the British forces in Afghanistan who served with NATO and the U.N. among other commands, has testified to the U.N. Human Rights Council, “Based on my knowledge and experience, I can say this: During Operation Cast Lead, the Israeli Defence Forces did more to safeguard the rights of civilians in a combat zone than any other army in the history of warfare.”
• The author dismisses Israel’s complete withdrawal from the Strip in 2005, claiming Israel maintains “indirect occupation of the strip – especially through its land and naval embargo….” Though he spares no words to describe Palestinian Arab suffering in the Strip, Slater can’t seem to find the space to mention that the U.N.’s Palmer Report affirmed the legality of Israel’s blockade. Neither does he note that Hamas leaders admit that Gaza is not occupied.
• The author argues that terrorist attacks from Gaza are natural, even “if” Israel has withdrawn from the territory, because Israel “has not ended its direct occupation over East Jerusalem and much of the West Bank.” He ignores the fact that terrorism against Israel, including from Gaza, took place well before Israel won the defensive 1967 Six-Day War, acquiring control of the disputed territories including the Strip, East Jerusalem and the West Bank. Since there was terrorism before the “occupation,” the “occupation” cannot be its cause.
It must also be noted that the Gaza Strip, East Jerusalem and the West Bank were never sovereign “Palestinian territories” but rather unallocated portions of the former British Mandatory Palestine, to which Jews as well as Arabs have legitimate claims and whose status remains to be resolved through negotiations according to U.N. Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338. In addition, Hamas and Fatah – to judge by Palestinian Authority television broadcasts, curricula and public statements by its leaders – consider all of Israel to be “occupied.” Therefore, nothing short of Israel’s elimination will satisfy them and, seemingly, Slater.
• Slater asserts that “since 2009 there has been substantial evidence that [Hamas] is ready to go beyond ceasefires and join with the more moderate Palestinian Authority in the West Bank in supporting a two-state political settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” Naturally, he cites not a shred of evidence, since none exists. All evidence points to the contrary. Not only does the Hamas charter explicitly and repeatedly call for the destruction of Israel (and the death of all Jews), but only recently Hamas leader Khaled Meshal stated the terrorist group’s intentions:“Palestine, from the river to the sea, from north to south, is our land. Not an inch of it can be conceded.”
“We cannot recognize the legitimacy of Israel’s occupation of Palestine. There is no legitimacy to occupation, and therefore no legitimacy for Israel, no matter how long it will take.”
“Liberating Palestine, all of Palestine, is a duty, a right and a goal.”
“We will liberate [Jerusalem] inch by inch, stone by stone, Islamic and Christian holy places. Israel has no right in Jerusalem.”
“Liberation first, then the state. The real state is the product of liberation, not the product of negotiations.”
“Holy war and armed resistance are the real and right path to liberation and recovery of rights.”Slater says, “Hamas’s position has been ambiguous and sometimes contradictory.” It is doubtful that Meshal would agree. He seems quite clear on the intentions of Hamas.
One might argue Slater could have been unaware of these comments, but he cited at least the first one on his blog, dismissing it, not as a threat, but as mere “buffoonery.”
As it happens, Slater writes a blog devoted to criticizing Israel and apologizing for its enemies. In addition to minimizing the threat of Hamas, he incorrectly accuses Israel of war crimes, stating flatly, “Attacks on civilian targets are the Israeli way of war.” He writes favorably of discredited Israel-critic Stephen Walt and reposts articles from radically anti-Israel Web site Mondoweiss. The very best that can be said of the blog is that it cannot be taken seriously. In one post, Slater even suggests that Haim Saban, the well-known media entrepreneur, does not exist and that the Obama endorsement he published in The New York Times was a satire written by someone using the pseudonym “Haim Saban.”
This mendacious commentary, riddled with errors and echoing anti-Israel propaganda, discredits The Christian Science Monitor. It promotes a circular argument that, because Israel tries to limit the weaponry brought into Gaza to be used against Israeli civilians, the use of that weaponry against Israeli civilians is justified. In essence, Slater is saying Israel should not defend its citizens despite the fact that such defense is the first duty – and absolute right – of any nation state.