Foreign Policy Blogs

Israel and the Right to Defend Itself

Editor’s Note

The following is a guest opinion piece by Ayesha Vahidy. Ms. Vahidy is currently working towards her Masters degree in International development at the University of British Columbia in Canada. She holds a BA in Political Science from York University in Toronto, Ontario. Ms. Vahidy works as a consultant in diversity at public and private organizations. She was previously a consultant at, IBM, the Toronto District School Board and Bell Canada, Canada’s largest telecommunication entity. She has also served on the board of Amnesty International.

* There will be a guest opinion piece as a response to arguments made by Ms. Vahidy.


Do Israelis have the right to be frightened by the experience of the Nazi Holocaust and do all they can to prevent a repetition of that nightmare? Absolutely. Do Israelis and their American friends have the right to be on high alert and take it seriously when groups like Hamas and demagogues like Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad threaten to wipe Israel off the face of the map? Of course.

Do the people of Israel have the right to be angry and protect themselves when rockets are launched against civilians in Jerusalem and elsewhere? No doubt they do. Do they have the right to fight back hard against groups that embrace murderous attacks on unarmed victims like Hamas, Hezbollah and, before that, the Palestinian Liberation Organization? Certainly. Those rights, however, do not imply an unchecked moral license, utilizing a massive technological advantage to rain murder and mayhem from the skies of Gaza.

This past week, civilian deaths from Israeli air raids in that overcrowded strip of poverty and misery have neared 100, with more than 800 wounded, including more than 200 children. Israelis can claim they are just going after the terrorists with their wide-scale bombings. But Americans made similar claims when they exterminated a village called My Lai in South Vietnam in 1968. In the weeks leading up to that slaughter, American soldiers in the region near My Lai had been killed in sneak attacks by a persistent enemy. Enraged and terrorized, those troops felt they had earned complete moral authority as they gunned down the unarmed and the helpless in that little area of hamlets. Gaza is My Lai on a much larger scale. What is going on in Gaza has morphed far beyond an assertion of self-defense. Consider for a moment these quotes:

Israel’s Deputy Prime Minister Eli Yishai: “We must blow Gaza back to the Middle Ages, destroying all the infrastructure including roads and water.”

Gilad Sharon, son of former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon: “We need to flatten entire neighborhoods in Gaza. Flatten all of Gaza. The Americans didn’t stop with Hiroshima – the Japanese weren’t surrendering fast enough, so they hit Nagasaki, too. There should be no electricity in Gaza, no gasoline or moving vehicles, nothing. Then they’d really call for a ceasefire.”

Michael Ben Ari, a member of the Israeli Knesset: “There are no innocents in Gaza, don’t let any diplomats who want to look good in the world endanger your lives; at any tiniest concern for your lives – Mow them!”

Mr. Yishai, Mr. Sharon, and Mr. Ari ignore that neighborhoods are worlds in microcosm, containing toddlers learning to walk, young couples dreaming of their lives together, parents beaming with joy as their children master the alphabet, the elderly struggling with pain, the disabled bravely grappling with ordinary movement, the mentally ill, the weak, and the sick, as well as the grab bag of terrorists and murderers Israelis say are their sole targets.

Yet, Sharon and Yishai know well that there’s not a “smart” weapon on earth that can distinguish between saints and sinners when Israeli bombs “destroy all the infrastructure “and “flatten entire neighborhoods.” Mr. Ari doesn’t even acknowledge the distinction.

I’ve heard quotes like this from other supporters of Israel, some who are Jewish and others who are gentile. This rhetoric is no longer tethered to the horrible deaths of three Israelis and the injuries of 60 others due to Hamas missile strikes. Such extremism echoes from deeper wells of hatred. The words above are fevered dreams of genocide.

I have heard too often in recent years a blood libel aimed at Arabs – that all are terrorists and anti-Semites. In conversations, I have heard Arabs called “animals” and that it is impossible to negotiate with them. Those speaking these hateful words become the funhouse mirror reflections of the Arab extremists they despise: the evil buffoons who deny Israel’s right to exist, who madly assert that the Holocaust never happened, who republish incendiary nonsense like the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” charging Jews with darkly plotting to conquer the world, and other outrageous claims against anything Jewish.
Such anti-Semitism spawned the disease represented by groups like Hamas. Bloody words precede bloody deeds. Decades of dehumanizing rhetoric aimed at African Americans wove the lyncher’s rope. Israelis need to remember this and outsiders who bear good will towards Israel and to the larger Jewish diaspora need to call witness to this fact. The words cited above do not represent the beliefs of most Israelis. And, contrary to a now widely accepted myth in the West, most Arabs are not Hamas assassins in waiting

But the extremists have gained an audience in Israel, and even a footing in the current Israeli government, just as they earlier gained a following in the Occupied Territories. When one asserts a need to obliterate entire neighborhoods, that person has claimed a right, even an obligation, to exterminate the people living there regardless of their status, their deeds, or their culpability. This is a license to kill a people, not just the terrorists living among them. At this point, a person has crossed from defending the homeland, to protecting life and property, to becoming a terrorist. And remember, terrorists always think they have good excuses.

  • leslie sacks

    In response to Ayesha Vahidy’s opinion piece. “Israel and
    the right to defend itself”

    Ms. Vahidy initially panders in a seemingly civilized manner
    to the reader’s presumed sense of fair-play by acknowledging Israel’s obvious
    right of defense, a right that has always been both morally and legally

    She then launches into a presumption of “murder” by Israel’s
    air force, operating with “unchecked moral license” from the skies of
    Gaza. It is most apt at this time to review the evidence of Colonel
    Richard Kemp, commander with the British forces, NATO, and the UN. He
    confirms therein that the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) do more to safeguard civilians than any army in the history of warfare.

    Ms. Vahidy then dives into an emotionally based assumption
    with no facts to support her: that the Vietnam My Lai debacle, where innocents
    were specifically targeted by Marines, was comparable to the deaths of “so
    called” innocents in Gaza; only Israel’s obvious crime is much larger. So
    called because the ultimate responsibility for Gaza civilian deaths must fall
    squarely on the shoulders of Hamas, who routinely use their citizenry as human
    shields. So not only is it a war crime for Hamas to target civilian areas
    in Israel with rockets (12,000 since January 2006 and 1,500 during the last 8
    day war), but it is a second war crime to intentionally place their munitions
    dumps, rocket placements and military installations in apartment buildings, on
    public roofs, next to or below schools, hospitals and mosques.

    Ms Validy quotes selectively and out of context statements
    by various parties who did not directly design or prosecute Israel’s defensive
    8 day incursion into Gaza, but whose rhetoric she claims are “fevered dreams of
    genocide”. She makes no distinction between individual and arbitrary
    opinions emanating from a broad democracy, opinions that she has seemingly
    conjured up from the “Googlesphere”, and the official policy of IDF which is
    never to target civilians as well as going to extraordinary lengths to reduce
    collateral damage.

    If Hamas conducted even barely civilized warfare, they would
    be easily defeatable in the fields of Gaza. As it is, they survive only
    in the overpopulated warren that is Gaza city, hiding behind children and women
    – their martyrs. The intention of Hamas never to fight a real war, only a
    propaganda war with a willing and sympathetic media. Israel distributes
    pamphlets from the skies, computer generated text messages and phone calls to
    Gaza’s citizenry in a valiant attempt to advise them to disconnect physically
    from any nearby Hamas military target. Unfortunately many do not believe
    the veracity of these warnings. Others are persuaded otherwise by Hamas,
    whose media and propaganda arms ghoulishly feed on tragic deaths that befall
    the children and others caught up in this never ending cauldron of war.

    Nowhere does Ms. Vahidy clarify that but for the thousands
    of rockets and terror attacks, Israel would not have responded – no war would
    have eventuated. It is the senders of these indiscriminate rockets that
    are ultimately responsible for these civilian deaths, not the defenders in

    Ms. Vahidy continues her emotional tirade, presuming that
    the only fully fledged democracy in the Middle East, Israel, is run by a few
    genocidal terrorists (albeit in words only), yet at the same time she somehow
    excuses the decades of terrorism and war coming from Gaza because of the
    innocents imbedded within that society. So in her upside-down
    perspective, those with distasteful words in Israel are more responsible for
    this mayhem than those in Gaza who actually run and control the society
    and who send rockets towards Israeli schools and hospitals, hospitals
    that ironically treat Gazans who are unable to get needed medical attention in
    their own State. Furthermore whilst rockets were flying Israel continued
    on a daily basis to supply Gaza with gas, medical supplies, electricity and
    water – strange behavior for this supposedly rapacious and genocidal

    So the issue of disproportionality is suggested, that Israel
    is somehow the warmonger. I do beg to differ:

    Gaza, during the recent 8 day war, fired approximately 1,500
    rockets towards civilian areas in Israel with the express intention of
    maximizing civilian casualties – no confusion there. It is not reported
    that up to 100 of the Hamas rockets misfired and fell back into civilian areas
    in Gaza. Furthermore, for Hamas to focus on confronting the Israeli
    military directly would be far too risky for these brave militants intent on
    safeguarding their supremacist vision of a victorious Islamic Caliphate.

    In contrast, the IDF conducted a similar amount of targeted
    responses to roughly 1,500 terror sites including 980 underground rocket launchers,
    140 smuggling tunnels, 30 senior Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists, 61 Hamas
    operation and command centers. It is indeed remarkable that considering
    the air forces’ significant power and sophistication, and the huge number of
    sorties, that the death toll in Gaza was not higher.

    Unlike Israel, Gaza intentionally has no bomb shelters or
    air raid sirens for its population. Much money from international donors
    and concrete have rather been almost exclusively used for Hamas bunkers, rocket
    launchers, command centers and tunnels. That is why far less Israeli
    civilians died. However, if Israel copied Hamas exactly and
    proportionally and sent 1,500 rockets indiscriminately into civilian areas,
    then 5,000 or 10,000 casualties would easily have eventuated, not 100 including
    avowed terrorists. Remember by comparison that there were roughly 25,000
    casualties from a single night of the Allies bombing Dresden during World War

    When one writes such an article as Ms. Vahidy has done, with
    clear animus towards the Israelis, based on an ever present, negative agenda,
    then one ends up with a rant that has no reasonable basis in reality. If
    Israel wanted to carpet bomb Gaza, Gaza would cease to exist. If civilian
    casualties were on their radar, then Gaza would be a wasteland with 1.5 million
    refugees on their way to Cairo. Truth be told, the genocidal maniacs are
    really all in Gaza, plotting with Hezbollah and Ahmadinejad on how to destroy
    Israel; whilst the Israelis with all the military might in the world, conducts
    the most selective and restrained targeted responses the world has ever known,
    hoping to live in peace whilst praying for quiet; wishing to be left alone for
    another few months, so their children can have a full night’s sleep, without
    nightmares, without bomb shelters.

    Leslie Sacks

    Sacks Fine Art

    San Vicente Boulevard

    Angeles, CA 90049



    [email protected]


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    • Visionary

      Wow. seem to call out Ms. V opinion emotional tirade and unbalanced statements of out of context understood ideas… and Sacks you seem to travel to Israel and Gaza to base your arguments on first hand facts rather then mere TV propoganda…
      Do ask people who visited Imposed Israel in the heart of Palestine that went as supporters of Israel and returned disgusted by what it is today. ..


Reza Akhlaghi
Reza Akhlaghi

Reza Akhlaghi is an Editor and Senior Blogger at the FPA Blogs. Reza launched 'Candid Discussions'; interviews with influential policy makers, writers, and media personalities in the field of foreign policy and international security. He is also a contributing writer to a number of publications, writing on international affairs.

Reza is fluent in Persian, Turkish, and English, and has working knowledge of Korean. He tweets from @RezaAkhlaghi

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