The Israel Defense Force’s behavior during Operation Protective Edge is in the news again and will remain so for the foreseeable future. Attacked from the podium by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas when he addressed the U.N. General Assembly last month, Israel’s actions in Gaza are facing strong scrutiny. I for one am glad of this. The world’s obsessive examination of Israel may finally come to exculpate my present homeland when juxtaposed with the military malfunctions of the United States, my former homeland, and its allies as it militarily prosecutes ISIS in faraway Syria.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not against the United States, Europe, and numerous Arab nations standing up against ISIS and the forces of evil. In fact I am all for it and believe it to be long overdue. What I am against is the hypocrisy of the U.S. and its allies exonerating themselves when there are civilian casualties, while condemning and ostracizing Israel and throwing her into the docks of the international court of public opinion for far less. If one wishes to argue that Israel was wrong to fire into civilian areas, fine, but apply this standard consistently and without the blush of prejudice.
On the morning of September 23, a Tomahawk missile was fired into the Syrian village of Kafr Daryan, a reputed stronghold of the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front. The strike was made because military officials believed members of the so-called Khorasan group were there. According to Director of National IntelligenceJames Clapper, “in terms of threat to the homeland, Khorasan may pose as much of a danger as the Islamic State (IS).”
At the time of the strike, the group was purportedly plotting attacks against international aircraft. The problem was the strike did not hit any members of the Khorasan group; rather, according to Syrian rebel commanders, as many as a dozen civilians, including women and young children were hauled from the rubble after the errant Tomahawk missile destroyed a home for displaced civilians (think UNRWA compound in Gaza). Images of badly injured children were broadcast throughout the media.
This public relations disaster has inflamed anti-Western sentiment in Syria. But does it make wrong the U.S. and international policy of finally actively taking the battle to ISIS and similar jihadist groups? The answer is an unequivocal no. What is wrong is how the U.S. dealt with the tragedy. Distancing itself from the event, it has doubted the report but insists it will investigate it. In sharp contrast to Israel’s transparent examination of charges and mistakes, the White House has been historically obscure or disingenuous when it comes to investigations. (Case in point: The reason for and history of the attack and murder of the U.S. ambassador and his staff in Benghazi in 2012.)
Last year, in the wake of scores of innocent Afghani and Yemenite civilians being killed by U.S. military drone strikes, President Obama imposed strict standards of implementation of drones and missile strikes. However, the White House has stated that these rules of engagement do not apply to the present military operation in Syria and Iraq. By denying that these rules apply when fighting ISIS or the other jihadist groups in the region, it exculpates the U.S. of any civilian casualties, as in the case of the Syrian village of Kafr Daryan. What’s more, it imposes a far less stringent standard of evaluating attacks than previously. This lesser standard in Syria and Iraq permits on-site commanders of the U.S. Central Command more latitude in selecting strike targets, thereby removing the White House from evaluating real-time decisions.
This point is most ironic when considering the intense oversight the White House imposed upon Israeli military decisions in Gaza during the recently concluded Operation Protective Edge. How can it be considered remotely fair for the U.S. to reduce its standards of engagement when prosecuting a battle thousands of miles from home, a battle that poses it no immediate existential threat, yet condemn Israel for its decisions during a defensive war of self-preservation?
While visiting the U.N. last week, Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu commented on this double standard: “There is no justice in the fact that the standard applied to Israel is different than that applied to other countries. Israel did not direct its attacks against civilians, and the U.N.’s (read U.S. and international) conduct toward Israel is disproportionate.”
A statement released by the prime minister’s office about Netanyahu’s remarks at the U.N. continued that he “pointed out that 200,000 civilians have been slaughtered in Syria.”
U.S. actions in Syria have unintentionally increased this number with such tragedies as the one at Kafr Daryan.
As an American, I am proud that the U.S. realizes it can no longer “lead from behind” and recognizes it must obliterate the evil of ISIS and others of its ilk; but as an American, I am ashamed of my country’s hypocrisy and self-serving double standard when it come to my homeland, Israel.
Meir Solomon is a writer, analyst, and commentator living in Alon Shvut, Israel, with his wife and two children. He can be contacted at