Letter to the Editor: Feb. 11 2009

I’m not sure if I was more surprised, or dismayed, by the call by Professor David Klein for an end to the support of Israel by the government of the United States, the American people and, the CSUN community.

In his piece Dr. Klein, a professor of mathematics at CSUN, was vitriolic in his condemnation of the most recent war between Hamas in Gaza and Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). His remarks were unvarnished, uncompromising and, decidedly myopic. He left little room for any possibility of reasoned dialogue on the matter.

The view here is both sides engaged in behavior that was, at best, regrettable. To heap all of the culpability on the Israeli side, and to imply that somehow the American media was complicit, seems beyond the pale. Let’s consider a different perspective.

Professor Klein begins by citing Israel’s dropping of white phosphorous on the Gaza Strip in a three-week period beginning on Dec. 27, 2008. The implication here is this attack commenced, unprovoked at that time.’ The fact is, this most recent salvo began with the Dec. 19 breach of a cease-fire by the Hamas side.

Hamas forces launched rocket attacks into southern Israel, an action condemned by, among others, Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas. Riad Malki, Palestinian Foreign Minister, accused Hamas of trying to influence the outcome of the upcoming Israeli elections.’

Yes, the Israeli response has in a number of instances been disproportionate. The magnitude of some of the retaliatory response has been unfortunate. To call for a blanket condemnation of all that Israel has done, though, seems to ignore the facts on the ground and the interests of the U.S.

To attempt to find an origin to this entire conflict is a fool’s errand. To make a sound assessment of the most recent skirmish, one must at least recall the divisions in the Palestinian authority themselves.’ Hamas has long been committed to the destruction of Israel and its population.

In 2006, Hamas won a majority of the popular vote for seats in parliamentary elections for the authority. As tensions within the Palestinian authority mounted, Hamas in 2007 seized control of the Gaza Strip and purged the area of supporters of President Abbas. Mutual recriminations between Israel and Gaza escalated until the recent exchange.

Let us note that since 2005 Hamas has launched over 6,800 rockets and mortars into Israel. Estimates are that Hamas’ arsenal of rockets ranges anywhere from 8-10,000. Its rockets have sufficient range to strike deep into the heart of Israel. Hamas leaders have shown no compunction about their using them for precisely that purpose.

Professor Klein notes that the population of Gaza, numbering 1.5 million, is crowded into a miserably confined area. The suffering of the people of Gaza that has, in part, resulted from the Israeli blockade of the region has escalated the humanitarian crisis to intolerable proportions.

Professor Klein fails to lay any responsibility for this calamity at the feet of the Hamas leadership. It is clear Hamas has no problem with using Palestinian civilians as human shields. Some of the schools, mosques, residences that have been destroyed by’ the IDF have been dual-use repositories of the arsenal of Hamas. They have been launch pads for the aforementioned rocket attacks into Israel.

Israel is engaged in a form of asymmetric warfare that is very difficult to win. The U.S. discovered this in Iraq and, increasingly, in Afghanistan. The side with superior firepower will inevitably destroy targets that might, otherwise, appear off limits. The resulting imagery of the wounded, the dead, and devastation are heart-rending. While many aspects of the Israeli offensive were ill-considered, blanket condemnation is unhelpful.

Professor Klein refers to the ‘mainstream press’ as ‘the public relations arm of Israel.’ It is not quite clear who the mainstream press is and the terms under which they have been enlisted to advance Israeli public relations. A statement of that sort is so unclear and, in any case so wide of the mark, as to call into question the accuracy of everything else.

Professor Klein’s commentary is welcome. It is important that the faculty at CSUN participate in the conversations that we have on this campus and, in the world, regarding matters of this kind. He has certainly awakened this author from his slumber. Hopefully in the future, opinions will at least open the door a bit for reasoned dialogue. I am afraid that this one, while provocative, inflames more than it enlightens.

Dr. James A. Mitchell
Professor of Political Science, CSUN