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Shooting the Chicago Way, and Why It Isn't for Everyone

July 20, 2006 By:
Mitchell G. Bard
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The need to fight fire with fire: Israeli jets drop missiles in southern Lebanon.

 People often say that the Middle East is too unpredictable. Really?

Consider that the Palestinians have been bombarding Israel on almost a daily basis for the last 10 months since the disengagement from Gaza, and not a single resolution of condemnation was proposed at the United Nations.

The European Union did not express outrage, and the United States did not call for restraint. After the additional provocation of an attack on its sovereign territory -- and the murder and kidnapping of its soldiers -- Israel decided to respond.

The immediate reaction of the world was, predictably, condemnation.

As Israeli actions lead to unintended casualties, you can be sure the media's always there to show the poor, suffering victims.

Israel has been lucky that the rockets fired from Lebanon and Gaza have caused minimal damage and death, but this also means the media has less graphic footage to show and, therefore, will focus its cameras at Israel's targets, where it can get dramatic pictures.

Media watchdogs may lament this "bias," but it is an inescapable feature of the fundamental asymmetry of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

This asymmetry also makes it virtually impossible for Israel to win a war with the terrorists because it's fighting from the moral high ground, and its enemies have no morals whatsoever. The situation reminds me of the scene in David Mamet's film of "The Untouchables," when Eliot Ness -- the honest cop who wants to play by the rules -- becomes frustrated with his inability to stop the despicable Al Capone.

He asks a tough old cop named Malone how to get Capone. "Here's how," Malone explains, "they pull a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue. That's the Chicago way, and that's how you get Capone! Now do you want to do that? Are you ready to do that?"

In the case of Israel, the way to get Hamas and Hezbollah is to play by what New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman called "Hama rules." This refers to how Syria dealt with the problem of Islamic fundamentalists threatening the regime in 1982 -- namely, to wipe out the city and kill as many as 20,000 people.

If Israel carpet-bombed southern Lebanon and the Gaza Strip, and killed 10,000 Palestinians and Lebanese, it could stop the terror. Israel would, of course, be pilloried everywhere, but would the condemnation really be much different if it caused thousands of deaths when it receives the same treatment if it kills 100?

I'm not advocating this policy, and there's no chance that Israel would ever adopt it. Israel operates under a moral code; it blows up empty buildings and launches pinpoint attacks, and sometimes, civilians are killed. Israel could just as easily bomb the same buildings when they are full of people, but Israel's answer to Malone's question to Ness is that it is unwilling to do it the Chicago way.

You might argue that recent events show the unpredictability of the region; after all, the Palestinians seemed on the verge of civil war, and Israel was talking about a significant withdrawal from the West Bank -- events that might have led to the establishment of a Palestinian state. Instead, Hamas kidnapped a soldier, ending chances of an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank any time soon and provoking the temporary reoccupation of Gaza.

On the other hand, it came as no surprise that the Islamists would continue their campaign to destroy Israel and do everything possible to obstruct peace.

Unfortunately, the international appeasement of the provocateurs was just as predictable. The question is whether Israel has the fortitude to ignore international pressure and do what is necessary to protect its citizens, or whether it will be forced to stop its military campaign before the terrorist infrastructure is destroyed and, once again, create conditions for a future conflict.

Mitchell Bard is the director of the Jewish Virtual Library and co-author of 1001 Facts Everyone Should Know About Israel.

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