In the past I have been witheringly critical of the hypocrisy and moral preening of most of the the Euro press and politicians when it comes to the Arab-Israeli conflict— of which Belgium is a poster boy.
The present round is no exception, except that the Orwellian spectacle of “progressive” (and often soi-disant “anticlerical”) pols choosing the side of an ultra-reactionary theocratic dictatorship against a liberal Western democracy makes the irony ever sweeter 😉
However, I was pleasantly surprised by an op-ed on the Belgian state TV site by Mark Geleyn, the retired director-general of Belgium’s foreign ministry (and past ambassador to Germany and to Israel). The original is in Dutch, while a machine translation can be viewed here. Some highlights translated by me (as closely to the original as possible):
Israel had no other choice
Of course the Israeli conduct of war was “not proportional”. Perhaps Israel should instead have fired rockets indiscriminately [into Gaza], or build tunnels to carry out terror attacks in Gaza, or kidnap inhabitants? A defense that remains “proportional” with the aggression is not a deterrent. Only a defense that deters and drives up the price for aggression is credible.
Note that, speaking to an audience of critics, he invokes proportionality as the common person understands the concept — which is not the same as the definition in the international law of war (which defines disproportionality by the much more restrictive standard of “clearly excessive response”) But let’s continue
Last June Hamas had hit rock bottom. In Egypt the Muslim Brotherhood had been ousted and the border with Egypt was shut again. In Syria, Assad kicked the political leader of Hamas, Khaled Meshal, out of the country. The Saudis and Jordanians distanced themselves. The only remaining allies were Turkey, where president Erdogan is trying to curry favor with islamist voters, and Qatar, which is basically not a state at all but a family with a whole lot of money.
In Gaza itself Hamas lost support among the population. Under the circumstances, the Hamas leadership consented to forming a coalition with the Palestinian Authority of president Abbas. A humiliating step for Hamas, in the hopen that Abbas would at least pay the salaries of 40,000 Gazan civil servants. This did not happen.
No money, no allies, little support from the people. In the Arab world that always leaves you one more option: attack Israel. This is what Saddam Hussein did in 1991 […] and now Hamas did too, with Iranian rockets aimed at Israeli population centers.
Israel deliberately set limited objectives for its operation in response. It did not aim for the destruction of Hamas, which would entail reoccupation of Gaza, but instead for the elimination of the terriër infrastructire. That however involved destruction of residential areas from which rockets were fired and where the tunnels started through which attack squads were sent into Israel. This destruction took a toll in dead and injured. In the course of the operation became clear how extensive and complex the network of attack tunnels was, what the imported cement for ‘residential construction’ had [actually] been used for, and for which purposes the Gaza leadership applied their inventiveness and creativity.
Is there no way out of this ever-repeating cycle of murderous rockets and harsh counterattacks, which has been turning in all its ruthlessness since Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005?
Arab governments and Israel all know that a political way out only can consist of lifting the blockade, economic growth, and weakening Hamas.
There are already numerous scenarios, blueprints, and road maps in that direction. All demand that Hamas stops the rocket attacks on Israel, destroys the attack tunnels, and is disarmed. In return Israel and Egypt would phase out their blockade and gradually open border crossings. The international community would then lend its support to reconstruction. These blueprints have been making the rounds for years between Jerusalem, Washington, Cairo, the Palestinian Authority, Gaza and the EU countries.
The trouble is: Hamas does not think in terms of growth, prosperity, and political compromise. It is not an NGO, even though it does welfare work among the poor of Gaza. Hamas is a terror organization and its aim the destruction of Israel.
After rocket attacks on Tel Aviv, after the threat to air traffic over Israel and after a rocket impact near [the] Dimona [nuclear research center] all initiative for a partial withdrawal from the West Bank [can be expected to be] put in the fridge. The course of the Syrian civil war, the evolution [ahem] in Iraq, and possible upheavals in Jordan clamor for attention.
Israel will only be willing to consider very pragmatic measures, and for that it looks first to Egypt. [..]
The US Secretary of State Kerry humiliated Cairo and Israel, after Hamas refused the Egyptian ceasefire proposal, by going off to negotiate with Hamas allies Qatar and Turkey, for a new truce that Hamas would accept. With that, he made a move in the direction of recognition of Hamas and exacerbated the rupture between Cairo and Ankara, which had been avoided in 2009 and 2012.
As usual, there are demonstrations in many European cities in support of the Palestinian cause. [Demonstrating] is of course their right.
But most of these demonstrations, whether by Arab youth or by “native” intellectuals and “policy influencers”, turn out to degenerate over and over into selective manifestations against Israel, Zionism, and Jews. The same protestors didn’t make a peep during the fighting in Libya, where 30,000 people died in the past two years. Is there going to be a UN investigation about these atrocities? And where were the demonstrations against well over 100,000 dead in Syria?
Nor do I hear of demonstrations, not even of op-eds, against the maltreatment and expulsion of 10,000 Christians from Mosul in Iraq, after the takeover by the Islamist ISIS. […]
Is the “enemy image” [more freely: bête noire] Israel still necessary to arouse indignation against alleged injustice in the world?