The audacity of Israel’s armchair critics
OpinionGuest columnist

The audacity of Israel’s armchair critics

Existential threats are called existential threats for a reason.

The International Court of Justice delivers an order on South Africa's genocide case against Israel in The Hague, Jan. 26, 2024. (Michel Porro/Getty Images)
The International Court of Justice delivers an order on South Africa's genocide case against Israel in The Hague, Jan. 26, 2024. (Michel Porro/Getty Images)

Since Oct. 7, the international community has been in a race to add new meaning to the word chutzpah.

Just days ago, Josep Borrel, the European Union’s foreign minister and a former Spanish foreign minister, said, “Israel cannot have the veto right to the self-determination of the Palestinian people.” If the U.N. recognizes that right, he claimed, “nobody can veto it.”

He says this as if Israel did not have a vested security interest in such matters, especially after Oct. 7.

Vying for the audacity award is The Washington Post, whose headline after a preliminary finding at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on the South African petition charging Israel with committing genocide, declared, “Israel ordered to limit deaths.” The Financial Times went further, leading with “Israel ordered to prevent genocide.” All this as if the Jewish state were some incorrigible felon. Of course, this is exactly what South Africa and its band of serial Israel-bashers were seeking.

A few months ago, news outlets vied with each other to micromanage Israel’s war against Hamas by running, for days on end, articles and opinion pieces about the Jewish state’s use of 2,000; 1,000; and 500-pound bombs. The Financial Times ran a detailed chart with all manner of technical details about the ordinance in question.

Every day since Israel entered Gaza, major media outlets have arrogated to themselves the job of not only incessantly criticizing Israel but also picking apart its war effort. There is also heavy coverage of calls for a ceasefire—any ceasefire—before Israel’s military objectives are achieved. Some generously add a demand for the release of hostages kidnapped by Hamas; others ignore the hostages altogether.

The New York Times and others have compared war damage in Syria, Iraq and other places to the fighting in Gaza, solemnly concluding that the damage to Gaza is the worst in post-World War II history. Ironically, the Times was caught red-handed repeating false Hamas charges of indiscriminate Israeli attacks on Gaza hospitals. Its daily efforts to hit Israel in the solar plexus are there for all to see.

But such bias is par for the course.

This bloviating seems to know no bounds. Ireland’s Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, who admitted early on that Israel has a right to defend itself, stated not long after, “What I’m seeing now at the moment isn’t just self-defense. It looks, resembles something more approaching revenge.”

Chile’s President Gabriel Boric, only weeks after Oct. 7, declared that there can be no justification for “Israel’s barbarity in Gaza” despite the Hamas attacks. Not long after, he charged Israel with “violating international humanitarian law” in Gaza. Chile signed on to South Africa’s ICJ case against Israel.

Belgium’s Prime Minister Alexander de Croo reached for pure cliché, calling Israel’s military operations “disproportionate.” Belgian Green

Party leader Petra de Sutter called them “inhumane.”

Some supporters of Israel have expressed concern that world opinion is turning against the Jewish state. The truth is that Israel enjoyed maybe two weeks of support before the tide turned, as we all knew it would.

Even before the IDF entered Gaza, admonitions about doing so “without an end game” were heard. Memories of that dreadful Saturday morning in October seemed to have drifted off into the ether.

Does it really matter what Borrel, Varadkar, Boric, de Croo and a host of others think about how Israel discovers and destroys the terrorist tunnels underneath apartment buildings, schools, mosques and hospitals in Khan Yunis? Their countries are thousands of miles from the battlefield. Ireland is surrounded by water and has no adjacent neighbors other than the U.K. There is no perceptible threat to Spain from Portugal. Chile has had border issues, but no neighbor has stated its intention to wipe it off the map. The last time I checked, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Germany had no designs on their neighbor Belgium.

Here in the U.S., calls to condition military aid to Israel on its conduct of a war in which the asymmetrical enemy cynically uses its own population as human shields and cannon fodder are similarly presumptuous.

Existential threats are called existential threats for a reason. America fought thousands of miles away in two world wars to, yes, save the world for democracy, but also to prevent our enemies in Europe and Asia from reaching these shores. It was not easy. It took four years and much sacrifice to accomplish and then, after victory, NATO had to be established to make sure similar threats would be deterred or met with a unified military force.

I know this: Kibbutz Nir Oz, where I had relatives, is less than 10 minutes from Gaza. For people perched continents away, it is the height of arrogance—one might say recklessness—to opine on matters of existential security for Israel, especially in the aftermath of the barbaric massacre Israel just suffered.

And where is the appreciation for what Israel is doing for the broader community of democracies by seeking to destroy a terrorist organization fueled by blind hatred of Jews and others? An organization that would, if able, carry out Oct. 7-style killing sprees wherever it had the opportunity?

Given all that the Jewish people have endured not only over the centuries, but especially from 1933-1945, it is pure chutzpah for non-Jews to lecture and hector Israel as if it had the right to defend itself but only up to a point: “Do this,” “don’t do that,” “don’t use bombs that are too big,” etc. And the preposterous “don’t commit genocide,” as if that were on the mind of any Israeli policymaker.

In the 1990 Gulf War, the United States organized a “coalition of the willing,” which ultimately included 49 countries, to expel Saddam Hussein from Kuwait. Israel has not asked anyone else to fight for it. This is unsurprising, perhaps, because other than vital and welcome U.S. support, no country has offered any assistance.

Yet hardly a week goes by without, as they say in Yiddish, the eytzes gebers (advice givers) telling Israel when, where and how to conduct its operations in Gaza.

It would be nice if Israel could sufficiently ingratiate itself with these hyper-critics, but that would be a fool’s errand. The hubris and presumptuousness of those who think they know better than Israel how to defend Israel are insurmountable. Sadly, little of this posturing will bring Israel and the region one day closer to the peace they deserve. PJC

Daniel S. Mariaschin is the International CEO of B’nai B’rith. This article first appeared on JNS.

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