(July 23, 2006) — The Democrat and Chronicle editorial "Israel overreacted" (July 14) denounced Israel for an "overwrought military response" — but failed to criticize Palestinian terrorists for the bombings, shootings and kidnappings of Israelis that precipitated the confrontation.
Some context is in order. In 2000, Israel unilaterally withdrew from territory along its northern border, relying on United Nations assurances that it would protect Israel from further Hezbollah attacks. (It has not.)
In 2005, Israel again unilaterally withdrew, this time from the Gaza Strip. However, instead of leaving Israel alone after getting what they purportedly wanted, the terrorist factions running Gaza and southern Lebanon were emboldened to fight on to destroy the Jewish state.
And it was precisely the European Union and the United Nations, cited approvingly in this paper's editorial for their anti-Israel condemnations, that pressed Israel the hardest to withdraw. And now it is the European Union and United Nations that refuse to take any responsibility for Hamas' and Hezbollah's increased blood-thirst, and that would prevent Israel from protecting itself in a manner marked by more restraint than any other democracy facing comparable threats would ever be asked to muster.
More importantly, it is attitudes like the Democrat and Chronicle's that make it almost impossible for Israel to withdraw further from the occupied territories. Israel will only risk withdrawal if it is confident that, should it leave Palestinians to create their own state, Israel will be able to adequately defend itself against its new, hostile neighbor.
How, then, should Israel behave when the Palestinian government fires rockets into Israeli population centers? Though this paper calls Israel's response "overwrought," it never suggests an alternative. Must Israel withdraw even further, on the principle that terrorists only attack land to which they claim entitlement? Of course not.
The Wall Street Journal is less timid in advancing concrete scenarios so as to pinpoint the absurdity inherent in the "proportionality" critique. Its July 14 editorial asks: "Since hostage-taking is universally regarded as an act of war, what 'proportionate' action do they (the U.N.) propose for Israel?"
It continued: "In the case of Hamas, perhaps Israel could rain indiscriminate artillery fire on Gaza City, surely a proportionate response to the 800 rockets Hamas has fired at Israeli towns in the last year alone. In the case of Hezbollah, it might mean carpet bombing a section of south Beirut, another equally proportionate response to Hezbollah's attacks on civilian Jewish and Israeli targets in Buenos Aires in the early 1990s."
The point of raising those extreme possibilities is to make clear that Israel would never stoop to the level of its enemies. Israel has never acted with even proportional harshness, let alone excessive force, toward Palestinian terrorists or their military backers in Damascus and Tehran.
Indeed, many believe that Israel's failure to respond to terrorist atrocities with anything but intermittent and relatively mild retaliatory operations only encourages Hamas and Hezbollah to continue their terror campaigns.
The double standard — denouncing Israel for doing what every other nation does as a matter of course, and far more heavy-handedly — is alive and well at the E.U. and United Nations. In a world full of North Koreas and Irans, Sudans and Chinas, these international bodies are only interested in condemning the single real democracy in the Middle East.
Their antipathy toward Israel bears no relation to what Israel does — as evidenced by the fact that their antipathy only increases when Israel makes its greatest concessions. Rather, its real criticism is directed at what Israel is.
They will never abide the Jewish state. It would be unfortunate if the Democrat and Chronicle signs on to their agenda. "
Dershowitz is an attorney, author and professor of law at Harvard University. Webber, of Pittsford, is his student and research assistant. "