Fourteen days into the Israeli offensive in Gaza, opinion writers and op-ed columnists have spent no deficient number of inches weighing in on the conflict—what Israel/Hamas/the U.S./peacemakers should do, how history should inform the present, why the offensive won’t work, why the offensive will work, what we can learn from the re-eruption of violence, why the cease-fire is the only option, why continued war is the only option, what 2006 has to do with it, what 1993 has to do with it, and what Israel’s upcoming February elections have to do with it. And, of course, there’s more. Here are just a few responses we’ve seen coming from the editorial and opinion pages in the past week.
Calling for a cease-fire
The New York Times’s Nicholas Kristof took the middle ground (“When it is shelled by its neighbor, Israel has to do something… But Israel’s right to do something doesn’t mean it has the right to do anything”) and called on Obama to speak out more forcefully:
As the ground invasion costs more lives, [Obama] needs to join European leaders in calling for a new cease-fire on all sides — and after he assumes the presidency, he must provide real leadership that the world craves.
Former President Jimmy Carter revisited the six-month cease-fire, writing in The Washington Post:
The hope is that when further hostilities are no longer productive, Israel, Hamas and the United States will accept another cease-fire, at which time the rockets will again stop and an adequate level of humanitarian supplies will be permitted to the surviving Palestinians, with the publicized agreement monitored by the international community.
The Economist’s Gideon Lichfield wrote in the NYT that Israel needs to abandon the military concept of deterrence in favor of a “more pragmatic political” plan:
What Israel should do now is work for a cease-fire on terms that allow both sides to save some face. It should then do something it has done far too little of in the past: improve Gazans’ living conditions significantly. The aim should be to construct a long-lived state of calm in which Hamas has more to lose by breaching the cease-fire than by sticking to it.
An editorial in The Boston Globe called the bloodshed “needless”:
In the long run, popular anger at the suffering of Gazans will play into the hands of extremists. That anger will also make it harder for the 22 states of the Arab League to keep the pledge of their Arab Peace Initiative: to establish normalized relations with Israel once it reaches a two-state peace agreement with the Palestinians. Israelis and Palestinians desperately need a new truce in Gaza.
On numbers and proportionality in war
Bret Stephens, in his “Global View” column at the The Wall Street Journal, made a case for proportionality:
Israel will also have to practice a more consistent policy of deterrence than it has so far done. One option: For every single rocket that falls randomly on Israeli soil, an Israeli missile will hit a carefully selected target in Gaza. Focusing the minds of Hamas on this type of ‘proportionality’ is just the endgame that Israel needs.
But author Etgar Keret, writing in the Los Angeles Times (translated from the Hebrew), wryly expressed his frustration at the media for perpetuating arguments of proportionality in war coverage:
There is something soothing in the proportionality debate because it takes unquantifiable parameters such as anxiety, pain and even human life and seeks to introduce them into a seemingly objective equation. Similar to Newton’s laws or the second law of thermodynamics, this is an a priori law of nature: an equation that contains the suffering and victims of Israel’s southern settlements on one side and produces a reasonable number of corpses on the Gazan side. Something like 23.5 (the half could, perhaps, stand for a particularly serious injury or the death of an elderly person or an infant).
Reacting to the anti-Israel rallies
Writing about anti-Israel demonstrators in Fort Lauderdale and in Copenhagen and Amsterdam, The Boston Globe’s Jeff Jacoby said that we should call it what it is—anti-Semitism:
Let’s say it for the thousand-and-first time: Every negative comment about Israel is not an expression of bigotry. Israel is no more immune to criticism than any other country. But it takes willful blindness not to see that anti-Zionism today - opposition to the existence of Israel, rejection of the idea that the Jewish people are entitled to a state - is merely the old wine of anti-Semitism in its newest bottle.
Letting the war play out