The War-crimes Fiction

No civilian who was harmed during operation Cast Lead - even if because of a mistake - is weighing on the Israeli conscience. This is the truth that lets us walk with our heads high.

Anyone who has been listening to the news and reading newspapers might still really believe that Israel committed war crimes during Operation Cast Lead. Not so! This is a blood libel, quite simply, a baseless accusation. This is not to say that mistakes were not made here and there, that there was not flawed judgment, that a given unit didn't use inappropriate ammunition, and that there weren't incidents of soldiers who behaved in an improper way. Presumably such things did happen. But from here to the accusation that Israel is guilty of war crimes and that the Israel Defense Forces is guilty of immoral warfare is a very long way.

The mention of concepts like "war crime" or "crime against humanity" in the same breath as Operation Cast Lead is sheer, futile nonsense. The leaders of the Nazis were convicted of war crimes for the murder of millions in cold blood. Adolf Eichmann was convicted of a crime against humanity for having sent millions to the gas chambers. The use of these terms in connection with a belligerent act of self-defense against an armed terrorist organization acting from an area crowded with civilians is not only a distortion of the truth, even if hundreds of civilians or more are killed. It is also a moral perversion of the first order, marked by an overabundance of maliciousness and hypocrisy.

Do not believe people who say international law was violated during the Gaza operation. They are the ones using international law cynically for purposes that have nothing to do with concerns about the morality of warfare. The best academic jurists in Israel and abroad are rejecting these accusations.

Professor Alan Dershowitz of Harvard University has dissected with the honed scalpel of a great legal expert the accusations against the IDF operation, and has rejected them outright. Professor Yoram Dinstein, one of Israel's greatest experts on international law, made it clear in a lecture at the Institute for National Security Studies that the accusations against the IDF are anchored in prejudice. In Europe this is a matter of classic anti-Semitism and in Israel one of pathetic self-hatred - or ignorance and misunderstanding of the principles of international law, especially in spirit.

A strange thing has happened here. It used to be that the main question was who is the aggressor and who has implemented his right to self-defense. This is the true moral question. Today no distinction is being made between one who has risen against the state to destroy it and one who has risen to defend his life.

The only question that interests the world is whether and how many civilian casualties there have been, while totally ignoring the identity of those responsible for the war and killing, an inevitable outcome of any war and certainly a war against a cruel terrorist organization. When he was U.S. president, Harry Truman ordered the dropping of two atomic bombs on Japan to spare the lives of American soldiers; the justification for this was anchored in the fact that Japan was responsible for the war.

Of course it must be regretted that women and children were killed. Nor am I glad about the killing of Hamas people - on such things the Holy One, blessed be He, has already said: "The work of my hands is drowning in the sea and you are chanting a song before me?" But the responsibility for all the killing and suffering is solely that of the aggressor, Hamas. No civilian who was harmed - even if because of a mistake - is weighing on the Israeli conscience. This is the truth that lets us walk with our heads high. There is no need to be alarmed by people for whom hypocrisy and mendacity are lights unto their feet. Their moral level is very far from ours.

The writer is a senior research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies.