As I’ve said before, governments — all governments — have three absolutely basic and fundamental responsibilities to their citizens. All governments do other things on top of these, of course — many of them things that, in my view, they do badly, and many of them things that, even if they do them well, they shouldn’t do.
But these three things are irreducible. A government that doesn’t do them, or, worse still, deliberately declines to do them, is unworthy of being called a government and should be rejected:
1. Defend against external enemies — the military.
2. Defend against domestic enemies — the police.
3. Provide a mechanism for the peaceful resolution of disputes — the judiciary.
One can certainly debate Israel’s tactics in the current fighting, but the question remains: What would you do? Would you, if you were Israel’s prime minister, simply permit rockets to be fired at your cities and towns without a response? Would you be passive? Would you confine your response to the largely — but not completely — successful defensive “Iron Dome” system, and simply hope that, on the whole, you were able to keep the incoming rockets from killing too many of your citizens? What would be the response of Israelis — or any nation’s population — to a government that refused to go after people who repeatedly fired rockets (hundreds of them) at them?
I do not accept the descriptions of Israeli actions in Gaza that I’ve seen from some, who call them “genocide” and “an Israeli Auschwitz.” Such grotesque hyperbole isn’t only false, it’s tactically foolish: It does an enormous disservice to the legitimate grievances of Palestinians. It makes it difficult for reasonable people to take Palestinian complaints seriously. It makes even rational criticism of Israeli tactics essentially impossible.
A genocidal Israeli attack on Gaza would level it — something well within the capacity of the Israeli military. (Israel could probably obliterate the major population centers of Gaza within an hour, if that were its intent.) An Auschwitz in Gaza would leave very few Gazans alive; the death toll at Auschwitz during its four years of operation (from May 1941 to mid-1945) was 1.1 million. The percentage of inmates who survived was tiny.
The accidental killing of civilians during a war is deeply sad. If it’s a product of careless indifference, it’s ethically damnable and perhaps criminal. But it isn’t genocide. It isn’t Auschwitz. Auschwitz and the “Final Solution” deliberately targeted innocent civilians — men, women, and children whose only offense was that they were Jews. This is, to be blunt, something much more akin to Hamas’s firing of rockets into Israeli urban centers than it is to Israel’s incursion into Gaza.