By Ralph Peters, July 24, 2002
Earlier this week, Israel succeeded in killing Salah Shehada,
a savage Hamas mastermind, and one of his top aides. A dozen
Palestinian civilians died in the attack, including members of
The civilian deaths may be lamentable, but
they also were justifiable. A terrorist leader used his
relatives and neighbors as shields, and they died with him.
Their deaths were Shehada’s fault, not Israel’s.
Once again, much of the world has applied a double standard,
accusing Israel of barbarity for inflicting civilian
casualties as part of a legitimate military operation, while
overlooking the hundreds of Israeli civilians killed
intentionally by Shehada and his subordinates. For Europeans,
especially, Jewish lives count no more today than they did in 1944.
Why are Palestinian terrorists allowed to target civilians
without exciting an international outcry, while every
accidental civilian death inflicted by Israel is a crime
Europe’s reflexive anti-Semitism doesn’t really matter much,
since today’s Europeans lack the power, will and courage to
act upon their bigotry.
But the Bush administration needs to
stop pandering to corrupt Arab regimes and to recognize that
Israel is fighting for its life; that Israel is fighting with
great restraint; and that Israel’s pursuit of terrorists is
every bit as legitimate as our own. Instead of criticizing
Israeli policy, we should be studying it.
Recently, our own forces were demonized for causing civilian
deaths in Afghanistan. Some Afghan factions, with their
intricate agendas, claimed we had attacked an innocent wedding party.
Of course, the global media were only too willing to
deplore American evil (despite the fact that we overthrew a
monstrous regime and conquered an “unconquerable” country
while causing, at most, a few hundred civilian casualties).
Though combat videos proved that our aircraft was fired upon
first, we nonetheless stumbled through witless apologies and
promised to impose greater safeguards in the future.
As with the Israelis, our military response was justified. It
is the apologies that make no sense.
The war against terrorism must be prosecuted judiciously, but
the terrorists themselves must be pursued without remorse.
When terrorists attempt to hide amid the civilian population,
we must pursue them without hesitation. They cannot be allowed
a single safe haven.
If they use their neighbors as shields,
it is the terrorists who are to blame should civilians die. If
they attempt to use their families as cover, they will be
responsible for the deaths of their own loved ones. The world
must learn that, when civilians allow terrorists to use them,
the civilians become legitimate military targets.
This is not about diplomatic table manners. It is a fight to
exterminate human monsters.
Earlier this month, the Israelis were attacked for a plan to
deport the families of terrorists from the West Bank to the
Of course, the Europeans and our own tattered left
began comparing the plan to death trains bound for Auschwitz.
While Europe’s incurable nostalgia for the Wannsee Conference
makes their hatred of Israel understandable on some level, the
enthusiasm American leftists show for equating the Holocaust’s
survivors with the Holocaust’s perpetrators is as dishonest as
it is tasteless.
The fact is that the Israelis have begun to make a crucial
link in dealing with terrorists: their families. In the Middle
East, Arab armies fight ineptly because the soldiers feel no
deep loyalty to their states.
In the Arab world and in related
cultures, earthly loyalties are, above all, to family. If left
with no useful alternative, the Israelis – and we Americans
– must be willing to pursue the terrorists through their
Of course, our outdated conventions make this proposition
anathema to us. Thus, when dealing with a culture in which
only faith and family matter to our enemies, we insist on
making war on governments and negotiating with political
organizations that are no more than mobs with diplomatic
representation. We are punching thin air.
Meanwhile, few of Israel’s critics complain when Palestinian
mothers and fathers praise the gruesome suicides of their
children or accept blood money from Riyadh and Baghdad.
If you want a stark indicator of the power of family in the Middle
East, consider that of the many suicide bombers to date, none
has been a close relative of a Hamas leader or of the
leadership of any other Palestinian faction. Suicide bombers
employed to inflict mass murder on Israel are always drawn
from marginal families. The terrorist leaders would no more
send their own sons and daughters out as suicide bombers than
they would go themselves.
If you cannot kill your enemy, threaten what he holds dear.
Force him to come out and confront you in desperation. Today,
we do not have the stomach for this. Tomorrow, we may find it
In the meantime, as the U.S. slowly learns the real meaning of
a war on terror, the Israelis continue to struggle against the
Arab vision of Jewish annihilation. Israel will do what must
be done, as humanely as possible.
And Israel must accept that
no matter what it does or fails to do, no matter how much
success it achieves and how few civilian casualties it
inflicts among its enemies, it will be hated by those who
cheer on the enemies of mankind from the safety of Strasbourg,
Stockholm or Harvard Yard.
Critics persist in claiming that attacks upon terrorists do
not work, since results are not instantaneous. But the war
against terror is a war of attrition and can only be won over
decades. We may not know the real effects of Israel’s current
efforts for several years. But there is no course worse than
cowardice and inaction.
The same critics will tell you that by killing civilians in
their attacks, the Israelis – or the Americans – simply turn
other civilians against them.
This is nonsense. Civilians who
shield the enemies of Israel or the U.S. are already
anti-Israel or anti-American. But if our strikes against the
masters of terror come to seem inevitable, those same
civilians will turn against terrorists who try to use them as
living shields – as villagers in Afghanistan already have done.
Terrorists and their supporters must learn that they will be
allowed no hiding places. Not in their homes, not in churches
or mosques, and not in foreign countries to which they might flee.
This is a war that must be fought without compromise.
It is, above all, a contest of wills.
Every apology is a surrender.