Amid the recent troubles between Israel and the Palestinians, many Americans and media commentators are drawing disturbing lines of parallelism between the two societies, asserting a false moral equivalency to the actions of each.
In essence, the claim goes like this: “Both sides are fighting each other with similar degrees of violence; both treat each other equally badly; each side is equally to blame for the violence and they just can’t come together.”
That notion that there is a moral equivalency between the defensive and targeted actions that the rule-of-law-based Israel is compelled to take, and the proactive and indiscriminate actions that hate-based organizations like Hamas takes, is completely unfair, unfounded and infuriating to supporters of Israel — with good reason.
In fact, there is no moral equivalence between the actions and reactions of Israel and Hamas and the Palestinian community to the violence that has occurred.
Two glaring examples stand out. The first revolves around the difference between Israel and the Palestinian community’s reactions to the horrible kidnapping and cold-blooded murder of four boys, three Israeli and one Palestinian.
No doubt the loss of these children is one beyond words. Both incidents were abhorrent.
But the reaction on both sides was not the same. How did Hamas and too many diverse parts of the mainstream Palestinian community respond to the kidnap and murder of three young Israelis? They cheered.
The official Hamas spokesman called the kidnappers “heroes.” The mother of one of the suspected kidnappers, Abu Aysha, said, “If he [my son] truly did it — I’ll be proud of him till my final day.”
And it is no wonder, given the vitriolic hatred of Israel that has been preached in textbooks and schools to two generations of Palestinian children. Such propaganda has been propagated by not only Hamas, but by the Palestinian Authority, and has created a perverse mythology throughout Palestinian society that calls suicide bombers “martyrs” and extols kidnappers and murderers as heroes.
Those who killed the Israeli boys have not been found, and the cooperation of Palestinian authorities in the hunt for them has been lukewarm at best.
Compare that to the reaction of the Israeli people to the murder of the Palestinian teenager. Israelis were aghast. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu immediately called the murderers “terrorists” who committed deeds equal to the terrorism on the other side and said that Israel must find “who is behind this despicable murder.”
The Israeli government has made every effort to bring those responsible to justice, and there are now six arrests.
While each side has its fanatics, it’s how the societies deal with those fanatics that counts.
A second example is the difference between how Israel and Hamas have conducted themselves in the last weeks, as violence has soared.
Most headlines and news reports suggest that there is fighting on both sides, air raids on both sides and say or imply that each side is equally at fault. They ignore the stark difference between the two sides.
Hamas, which has won elections with the support of the population of Gaza, is a terrorist group that remains bent on the destruction of Israel and its citizens. Without provocation, the Hamas governing authority flings rockets over the border, all over Israel, without regard to civilian lives or public safety. In fact, the terrorists frequently target civilians. Their intent is to terrorize and inflict as much pain as possible.
When Israel reacts, it does so defensively, to prevent rockets from hurting its people. It targets military capabilities or terrorist leaders. What other society gives advanced warnings to those shelling it, by dropping leaflets and making cellphone calls to warn the inhabitants of impending defensive strikes, to minimize the loss of innocent lives?
These proportional steps clearly make it harder to eliminate the terrorists and rockets, and Israel is almost unique in taking them.
Again, to say that both sides are equally to blame in this recent round of violence simply lets Hamas and its leaders off the hook and naturally encourages them to continue the violence, because the condemnation of the world falls equally on Israel’s and Hamas’ shoulders — a condition they seek as effectively giving permission for future violence.
Netanyahu has asked: What would the United States do if this kind of violence was happening in Houston, or Chicago, or New York? What would Germany do if it were happening to Frankfurt — or France, if Paris was under attack?
Would those countries just shrug their shoulders? Would they listen to admonitions of the world to let the rockets continue, and just try to talk? No, they would defend their citizens as Israel is defending its citizens.
We can’t have a double standard which fails to grant Israel the same understanding as any other country that finds itself under attack.
Charles Schumer is New York’s senior U.S. senator.