Israel and ‘Moral Equivalence’

The Qana massacre was the occasion for a full-court propaganda campaign by Israel’s amen corner, and one has to say they rose to the occasion like real pros. First, of course, they expressed remorse – then, naturally enough, they blamed it all on… Hezbollah.

How so? Well, you see, the Israelis bombed a building filled with children and old people because rockets fired at Israel “originated immediately next to it.” Yet the Red Cross denied there were any Hezbollah in Qana. The Israelis keep up a constant refrain claiming Lebanon uses its own civilian population as “human shields,” but the reality is quite different: Lebanese civilians flee when Hezbollah fires a fusillade, because they know the Israelis will soon be bombing the place to perdition. Aside from which, Nasrallah’s folks are a tightly knit group and security is taken seriously: a friend of mine who went into Hezbollah headquarters in southern Beirut was subjected to such a thorough search that by the time they were through with him he was bereft of his dignity as well as any desire to proceed further. Hezbollah doesn’t trust noncombatants, and for that reason keeps well away from them no matter what their religious, ethnic, or political affiliations.

Read this Ha’aretz piece and see if you can figure out how the IDF is trying to slither and slide out of this one: the building didn’t collapse immediately, there is an 8-hour gap – or maybe not – and “maybe we’ll never know what happened.” Blah blah blah – in short, the Israelis are blowing a lot of smoke.

One has to wonder, however, what it is they’re smoking if they really think anyone believes their overly elaborate obfuscations. Like a squid ejecting a cloud of ink, the Israeli propaganda machine is emitting all sorts of alternate scenarios, replete with maps, aerial photos, and video, and they dispatched their Internet army to spread the rationalizations far and wide. All to cover up a simple, irrefutable fact: it was Israeli warplanes, and not Hezbollah, that slaughtered 56 people, more than half of them young children, and the rest women and old folks.

IDF commanders and the politicians who supposedly control them don’t even have the courage of their own viciousness. After all, they have an easy out in this pronouncement of the Yesha Rabbinical Council:

“According to Jewish law, during a time of battle and war, there is no such term as ‘innocents’ of the enemy. All of the discussions on Christian morality are weakening the spirit of the army and the nation and are costing us in the blood of our soldiers and civilians.”

These aren’t fringe characters, but fairly representative of Israeli religious opinion. Pat Buchanan complains:

“If Israel is not in violation of the principle of proportionality, by which Christians are to judge the conduct of a just war, what can that term mean? There are 600 civilian dead in Lebanon, 19 in Israel, a ratio of 30-1, though Hezbollah is firing unguided rockets, while Israel is using precision-guided munitions.”

But these guys aren’t Christians – and Israel isn’t the West, as much as they’d like us to believe they are. The principle of proportionality doesn’t apply in the Middle East or North Africa – where history and culture have conspired to produce a socio-political milieu in which a disproportionately violent response to the least provocation is required. The Israelis are deliberately targeting Lebanese civilians in order, as per the Yesha Rabbinical Council, to “exterminate the enemy” – just as Hezbollah is deliberately (albeit relatively ineptly) targeting Israeli civilians in the north.

These people not only inhabit the same lands and look the same, they also think alike: if you steal their cow, they’ll blow up your barn – with your family in it. A similarly harsh justification for inflicting death and terror on a civilian population was offered by none other than Osama bin Laden in his fatwa explaining the “Islamic” rationale behind the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center:

“It is allowed for Muslims to kill protected ones among unbelievers in the event of an attack against them in which it is not possible to differentiate the protected ones from the combatants or from the strongholds. It is permissible to kill them incidentally and unintentionally according to the saying of the Prophet. When he was asked, as in al-Bukhari, about the offspring and women of unbelievers who stayed with the unbelievers and were killed, he said, ‘They are from among them.’ This indicates the permission to kill women and children because of their fathers if they can not be distinguished. In the account of Muslim he said, ‘They are from their fathers.'”

Perhaps Osama graduated from the same school of moral philosophy as Alan Dershowitz, who, in defense of the Qana slaughter, wrote at the Huffington Post:

“By hiding behind their own civilians, the Islamic radicals issue a challenge to democracies: either violate your own morality by coming after us and inevitably killing some innocent civilians, or maintain your morality and leave us with a free hand to target your innocent civilians. This challenge presents democracies such as Israel with a lose-lose option and the terrorists with a win-win option.”

Dershowitz, a well-known advocate of torture, issues a “challenge” to readers to come up with a better solution than launching a military campaign certain to involve heavy civilian casualties. The clear implication being that the IDF has no choice but to kill civilians, because Hezbollah uses its own supporters as “hostages.”

This argument does not apply to Qana, however, since, as Ha’aretz reports:

“As the Israel Air Force continues to investigate the Sunday air strike, questions have been raised over military accounts of the incident. It now appears that the military had no information on rockets launched from the site of the building, or the presence there of Hezbollah men at the time.

“The Israeli Defense Forces had said after the deadly air-strike that many rockets had been launched from Qana. However, it changed its version on Monday.The site was included in an IAF plan to strike at several buildings in proximity to a previous launching site. Similar strikes were practiced in the past. But there were no rocket launches from Qana on the day of the strike.”

Let’s assume, for the moment, that Ha’aretz is wrong, and Hezbollah did launch rockets in the vicinity of Qana. Dershowitz’s argument still makes no moral sense – at least, to the Western mindset – because the Israeli response is so grotesquely disproportionate. Remember, all this death and devastation is occurring in response to a minor border incident involving a few Israeli soldiers and some trigger-happy Hezbollah fighters: similar dust-ups have occurred on our border with Mexico, and I don’t see Washington ordering air strikes on Mexico City.

The Middle Eastern “morality” that allows the Israelis to target the Beirut airport, where tourists ducked and covered, and permits Hezbollah to lob Katyusha rockets into Haifa, is given its dark voice by bin Laden:

“It is allowed for Muslims to kill protected ones among unbelievers on the condition that the protected ones have assisted in combat, whether in deed, word, mind, or any other form of assistance, according to the prophetic command. This is what happened at the time of Abu Dawud and others who were involved in the murder of Duraid Ibn al-Samma. When he was 120 years old he went out with the Hawazin tribe to advise them. They consulted him on battle procedure and he went from being a protected one to being a target because of his advice regarding the war against Islam.

“It is allowed for Muslims to kill protected ones among unbelievers in the event of a need to burn the strongholds or fields of the enemy so as to weaken its strength in order to conquer the stronghold or topple the state. It is permissible even if protected ones are among the victims, as the Prophet did among the Bani Nadir.”

Substitute “Jews” for “Muslims,” and you have something the Yesha Rabbinical Council can get behind. This thinking is exemplified by Israeli “Justice” Minister Haim Ramon, who recently opined:

“All those now in south Lebanon are terrorists who are related in some way to Hezbollah.”

Therefore, according to the Yesha-bin Laden doctrine, it’s okay to slaughter them: after all, there’s no such thing as an innocent civilian. They are merely “the enemy,” period, and thus subject to extermination.

Israel’s amen corner in the U.S. is constantly screaming about “moral equivalence,” supposedly the prime sin of the antiwar crowd. How, they ask, can you equate the Israelis, who are always careful to avoid civilian casualties, with the “terrorist” Palestinians-Lebanese-and-Arabs-in-general, who don’t give a fig whom they kill as long as the victim is Jewish?

That is utter hogwash. The Israelis, as we have seen from the first days of this bloody war, are no different than Hezbollah in their tactics or their intentions: they’re both bloody murderers, the only difference being that the Israelis are better-armed – and receive much more aid from their Western allies than Hezbollah could ever dream of getting from Syria or Iran.

Another myth exploded by Israel’s summertime slaughter: the idea that this is the only democracy in the region, and therefore must be supported by the West. As Nehemia Shtrasler, a columnist for Ha’aretz, put it:

“The Olmert-Peretz plan was to shell and demolish south Lebanon and south Beirut until the Lebanese public demanded that its government vomit Hezbollah out from its midst.”

The goal of the invasion: regime change – in a country once touted by the president of the United States as a beacon of liberty and proof that his “global democratic revolution” is succeeding. Another myth blown to pieces by Israeli bombs: the neocon notion that democracies don’t make war on each other. The democratically elected government of Lebanon is being systematically destroyed by the Israeli blitz – and that, it turns out, is the whole point of this exercise in death and destruction.

The IDF is openly committing war crimes, with the full knowledge and sanction of the Americans and the Brits – and, as the rest of the world looks on in horror, it doesn’t seem to me as if they’ll stop in Lebanon. The War Party is on the warpath, and there is no political opposition at home – at least, not in the U.S. – to act as a brake on their killer instincts. If I were Syrian, I’d hightail it out of Damascus, or start building a bomb shelter. And in Tehran, they must be holding their collective breath, straining to hear the drone of American (or Israeli) fighter jets as they glide in over the horizon…

The silence of the “liberals” empowers the neocons – and virtually ensures that this Israeli-spawned war will spread far and wide. George W. Bush and his Democratic “opponents” have teamed up, in this instance, and I seriously doubt if either Brent Scowcroft or Henry Kissinger can motivate our policymakers to reconsider and think about how – and where – this will all end.

Author: Justin Raimondo

Justin Raimondo passed away on June 27, 2019. He was the co-founder and editorial director of, and was a senior fellow at the Randolph Bourne Institute. He was a contributing editor at The American Conservative, and wrote a monthly column for Chronicles. He was the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement [Center for Libertarian Studies, 1993; Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2000], and An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard [Prometheus Books, 2000].