Diehl is one of those warmongering journalists who turned out to be “wrong on just about every key issue surrounding the Iraq war.” In his most recent column, “Israel’s Gaza Vindication,” he argues that in the end Israel will benefit from Operation Cast Lead.
Yes, sure, there’s the Goldstone Report, which charges Israel with war crimes. But Diehl assures us that this isn’t all that big a deal, that it’s sure to blow over any time now. What we need to focus on is the bright side of things, the silver lining, which he describes as follows:
Between April 2001 and the end of 2008, 4,246 rockets and 4,180 mortar shells were fired into Israel from Gaza, killing 14 Israelis, wounding more than 400 and making life in southern Israel intolerable. During what was supposed to be a cease-fire during the last half of 2008, 362 rockets and shells landed…
Since April there have been just over two dozen rocket and mortar strikes -- or less than on many single days before the war. No one has been seriously injured, and life in the Israeli town of Sderot and the area around it has returned almost to normal.
So, you see, things aren’t so bleak after all. Sure, Israel killed over 1,400 Palestinians, most of them civilians. Sure, Israel committed numerous war crimes. But it was all worthwhile because it forced militants to stop firing rockets into Sderot.
Now in my humble peacenik opinion, it’s always wrong to kill civilians, even when doing so yields some good results. But what I find astounding about Diehl’s column is not that he embraces utilitarianism but that he gets his facts wrong.
According to the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center (ITIC), a right-wing organization closely aligned with the Israeli government, between January 18 (when Operation Cast Lead ended) and September 15, Gazan militants fired [.pdf] 112 rockets and 74 mortar shells into Israel. If my math is right, that’s an average of .775 rockets/mortar shells per day.
Contrast this to the middle of last year when Hamas and Israel had entered into a ceasefire. According to the ITIC, between June 19, 2008 (when the ceasefire commenced) and October 31, Gazan militants fired [.pdf] 20 rockets and 17 mortar shells into Israel, which averages out to .27 rockets/mortar shells per day. (As I’ve previously written, the ceasefire ended on November 4 when Israeli soldiers entered Gaza, purportedly to blow up a tunnel, and ended up killing six Hamas gunmen.)
To repeat, since the end of Operation Cast Lead, Gazan militants have fired an average of .775 rockets/mortar shells into Israel per day, while, during last year’s ceasefire, Gazan militants fired an average of .27 rockets/mortar shells into Israel per day.
Now I don’t know about you, but all this makes me think that maybe Operation Cast Lead wasn’t such a success after all. Forget for a moment about its moral dimensions. Speaking from a strictly pragmatic point of view, I don’t see how anyone could honestly believe that the war in any way restored Israel’s “deterrence capacity.” (Of course, I doubt that Diehl really believes this either. I suspect that, far from caring about the truth, he’s just trying to spread his own neocon agenda. Crazy how I come up with this stuff, I know.)
Violence, it seems, only begets more violence. Operation Cast Lead failed to curtail Palestinian terrorism, just as Operations Summer Rains and Autumn Clouds failed three years earlier. If Israel really wants to protect its citizens from militant attacks then it should stop brutalizing the Palestinian people and finally end the occupation.