Israeli Defense Minister, Ehud Barak announced that Israel is engaged in an “all out war” with Hamas. He told reporters that the Israel Defense Forces will “deepen and widen” their assault on Hamas as needed, in order to halt the endless rocket fire to which Israel has been subjected since 2001.
For those who are counting, the total of Hamas shells which have fallen now stands at close to 11,000. But it’s Barak’s use of “all out war” that deserves attention – it is nothing less than paradigm shifting.
How often does a nation prosecute a so-called all out war while allowing humanitarian aid to cross its own borders facilitating medical care of the soldiers against whom they fight? How often does that nation place over one hundred thousand cell phone calls before it attacks, warning civilians to get out of harm’s way? And how often does a nation go to war while maintaining an ongoing commitment to avoiding civilian casualties even when doing so is likely to prolong the battle?
Not that such noble behavior automatically justifies the war. That conversation is ongoing around yesterday’s post examining both the justice and the wisdom of Israel’s actions in initiating this new level of conflict. But whatever conclusion one reaches about those questions, these are remarkable decisions for any army to make.
Israel’s definition of all out war is tellingly different from Hamas’ which called for a massive campaign of suicide bombings against any and all targets in Israel.
And this distinction in no way minimizes the suffering of Palestinians who have lost loved ones as a result of this war. Be they civilians or combatants, they were all somebody’s child. But these competing definitions do point to meaningful differences between these two governments and to what can be expected from each of them.
For years, Hamas has argued that it had no choice about its use of suicide bombers in cafes and on buses filled with civilians. They argued that such attacks were their only alternative against the the F-16’s, tanks and helicopters that Israel possessed.
But as the Israelis are now demonstrating, simply possessing a means of attacking one’s enemy, doesn’t grant immediate permission to employ that means. If it did, then there would not be 375 dead in Gaza, of whom 320 were active combatants. If it did, there would be 30,000 dead in Gaza and nobody would even care about their status.
I remain deeply troubled about this war, and still uncertain about its wisdom if not its justification, about which I have no doubts. But I am proud of any nation that defines an all out war the way Ehud Barak does and look forward to a time when all sides use that same definition. Ironically, if they did, I suspect there would be peace.