Wednesday, January 14, 2009

My unpublished response to Equal rights for enemies?

January 12, 2009


3338 Gilman Terrace
Baltimore, MD 21211

Letters to the Editor


Dear friend:

I am astonished that “Equal rights for enemies?” was reprinted in the baltimore sun [1.12.2009].  The op-ed by Allan Richarz uses slip-shod logic to promote the killing of Palestinians.  He claims Israel is acting in self-defense, and ignores the hundreds of deaths and thousands of injuries suffered by the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. His essay fails to mention the rules of war. 

One purpose of these rules is to protect civilian populations.  The closure of the borders of the Gaza Strip by Egypt and Israel was an act of war, as collective punishment is illegal.

No one should question that the Israeli military is killing civilians.  Even the Israeli government cannot deny this fact, as it has refused to allow the international media to enter the war zone with the hope that the utter brutality of the onslaught is unreported.


It was so disappointing to see that the author stooped so low to suggest a motive of “anti-Semitism” for those of us who are condemning the slaughter in the Gaza Strip.  Progressive thinkers condemn any country or group involved in war crimes.  Sending missiles, guided or primitive, into civilian areas, for example, is a war crime.  Yet the author even justified the atomic destruction of Hiroshima, an invidious war crime on a populated city.


It baffles me that anyone would support this disastrous attack in the Gaza Strip on some of the poorest and most-disadvantaged people on the planet.  I can only assume that emotional overload causes someone not to be outraged.  Yet there is no rationale that can justify a political objective which includes the killing of even one child.

In peace,

Max Obuszewski

Equal rights for enemies?

Israel has every right to exploit its military advantage against Hamas — victory requires it

January 12, 2009

KANNAMACHI, Japan - It seems that whenever Israel responds to violent overtures from groups such as Hezbollah and Hamas, leaders of the international community are quick to assign equal condemnation to Israelis and Palestinians regardless of whether one is legitimately acting in self-defense.

Whether it is the result of latent anti-Semitism, the desire to avoid inflaming fundamentalist Arab passions or simply an unrealistic belief in equality, world leaders are focusing too much on buzzwords.

In the case of Israel, the buzzwords are the "disproportionate" and "excessive" use of force - terms used in the 2006 Lebanon war and most recently spoken by French President Nicolas Sarkozy and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon in response to Israel's Gaza offensive.

This is a particularly puzzling criticism. Would the international community truly prefer a proportionate or equal response? If Hamas launches three crudely fashioned rockets into Israel, should the Israeli government respond with three equally crude rockets? If three Israel Defense Forces troops are kidnapped by Hezbollah, should the IDF respond by kidnapping an equal number of Hezbollah foot soldiers?

The notion of "proportional" response lacks both merit and logic. In war, there are winners and losers, and the only palatable means of victory come from a disproportionate use of force. Victors are inherently more skilled in combat, tactics and the effective deployment of (generally superior) technology.

It does not make sense to demand a technologically or militarily superior belligerent to refrain from fighting to its full potential simply because it is able to enact "disproportionate" damage on a weaker foe.

Should the United States have refrained from using the atomic bomb because Japan did not yet possess one? Would it have been better to extend lend-lease to Nazi Germany as well as Britain, so that neither side would gain the advantage? A militarily superior force should not limit itself because of the international community's desire to root for the underdog.

The notion of "proportional" responses is further baffling in that such occurrences actually prolong conflicts.

One need only look to the warfare in World War I. Equally manned belligerents, using the same tactics, the same weapons and the same defenses, resulted in both sides being bogged down in interminable trench warfare. No side could gain the upper hand, and thus the conflict continued in an endless back-and-forth.

To be sure, discretion is the better part of valor. The use of retaliatory military force must not be reflexive. If peaceful solutions fail, however, the use of force is a viable option that may have to be employed.

Certainly, an indiscriminate carpet-bombing or use of nuclear weapons on Gaza would be an unacceptable and excessive use of force, but if care is taken to minimize the loss of civilian life, states should be able to respond as they see fit.

In the 2006 Lebanon war as well as the current Gaza offensive, this proportionality argument has no place. In both cases, Israel's actions came as a response to provocations from groups bent on its destruction.

Israel's superior military power comes with responsibility, however. In the wake of the Gaza offensive, Israel should be active in supplying humanitarian aid to affected civilians, and to help moderates such as Mahmoud Abbas regain influence in the area.

Hamas is owed nothing, of course. But in order to further peace negotiations, civilians and moderates must be given any support necessary from Israel.

World leaders must condemn Hamas for abandoning its truce with Israel and recklessly endangering Palestinian citizens, while supporting Israel's right to defend itself - not offering platitudes condemning a "disproportionate" or "excessive" use of force.

Allan Richarz is a writer and teacher working near Tokyo. This article originally appeared in The Christian Science Monitor.

Copyright © 2009, The Baltimore Sun


Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218.  Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at]


"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs


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