Should National Defense be Proportional?

by DR. LAINA FARHAT-HOLZMAN December 7, 2012

Media coverage of the Israeli/Hamas conflict has promoted the idea that Israel's response to months-long missile attacks on Israel is "disproportionate" because so few Israelis have died compared with the number of Gazan deaths. This outrage comes from people who should know better, such intellectual elites as Amy Goodman, whose syndicated column appears in the Sentinel; the British Economist magazine, and National Geographics.

Amy Goodman is the darling of the political far left throughout the United States. Her weekly columns are devoted to condemning the United States as a country always in the wrong and in need of correcting. The Economist represents British internationalism, a shared view of educated Europeans devoted to multiculturalism. The Economist is informative, with the exception of their editorial policy of always describing Turkey's Islamist government as "mildly Islamist," although week by week, the country grows more Islamist. The latest government edict is to add a Koran course to military training, unheard of for 75 years!

National Geographic's (December 2012) article on the tunnels of Gaza is not only biased, but also deceptive, oozing with sympathy for the plight of the "innocent" targets of Israel's belligerence and praise for the "freedom fighters" wearing masks and keeping the flow of weapons smuggled in through the tunnels to attack Israel.

The only recognition of Gaza's dark underbelly is to note that "Gaza has been the launching area for kidnappings, suicide bombings, and rocket and mortar assaults on Israel" for decades. They are no longer "occupied" since the Israelis moved out in 2005, even taking their graves with them.

There is a photo (page 66) in the article with a ridiculous caption. A tiny 12-year old in an elaborate fluffy white gown is described as a "flower girl" at a Gazan Bedouin wedding. There are no "flower girls" at such weddings; only brides, one of the more repulsive cultural practices of that part of the world. Little girls similarly dressed appeared in an earlier National Geographic article on Yemen's practice of group weddings providing leering men with frightened little "brides."

In the face of such bias and propaganda, what is "proportional" when a country is attacked? What if Mexico were lobbing missiles at San Diego, how would the United States respond? Would we just lob an equal number of rockets back at them? You can be certain that we would not be proportional, but would definitively stop the attacks with full force.

We have history of this: when Pancho Villa carried out a terror raid in New Mexico in 1916, General John Pershing and the American Army led a 9-month campaign into Mexico to capture him. They only stopped the military action when we became involved in World War I, but Villa never recovered from this caper.

My late father-in-law once instructed his two young sons: "Never start a fight, but if you are in one, be sure to finish it." This appears to be a long-standing American value that has been violated only rarely, such as the second Gulf War that involved us in a preemptive (and mistaken) war in Iraq. We almost never start a fight, but until the late 20th century, we have always finished it, unconditionally and definitively. Our favorite presidents, Lincoln and Roosevelt, opted for "unconditional surrender" of the enemy, knowing that only this could end the carnage. Truces and armistices would not do, even if they could save some lives at the moment.

How can we expect Israel to sit still while their enemy keeps up a barrage of missiles against them? Should their responses be "proportional?" Should Israel lob home-made missiles against Gaza? Israel has sirens and safe rooms throughout the country to protect their citizens, one reason for the relatively low death toll. The Gaza government (Hamas) has shelters only for their party members and are happy to see the carnage so that they can photograph it to enrage the Muslim world (and the western elites). The "truce" only permits Gaza to smuggle in more weapons.

How "proportional" would you be if you lived in a wretched neighborhood that wants to obliterate you?
Contributing Editor Dr. Laina Farhat-Holzman is a historian, lecturer, and author of How Do You Know That? You may contact her at or

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