Israel: Call to cut ties is absurd

2012-11-24 11:23

Should Israel’s ambassador to South Africa be expelled in the wake of Israel’s recently ­concluded war with Gaza?

The question has two components. One is whether serious human rights ­violations by a foreign state are sufficient cause for breaking off ties. The other is whether Israel’s conduct in the war was sufficiently iniquitous to justify such ­action by South Africa.

Regarding the first question, if the ­answer is that severing ties is called for under such circumstances, then why has South Africa not done so in the case of Syria, where 40 000 people have been massacred by their government, or the Democratic Republic of Congo, where the killing of civilians has reached genocidal proportions?

To maintain relations with those countries while breaking them off with Israel over a conflict where deaths were well under 200 is absurd.

The answer to the second question is “obviously, not”. It is palpably untrue that in its military ­response to multiple missile attacks by Hamas from Gaza that Israel deployed “excessive force” that ­resulted in the ­unnecessary deaths of Palestinian civilians.

The exact opposite was the case. The Israel Defence Forces was successful in recording a low ratio of civilian-to-combatant fatalities.

This it achieved through, among other things, making thousands of phone calls to Gaza residents warning them of Israel Defence Forces strikes, dropping leaflets warning civilians to avoid the ­vicinity of Hamas ­operatives, diverting missiles in mid-flight due to civilians being present at the ­target site and, whenever possible, ­singling out targets in a way that ­endangered few or no bystanders.

By contrast, did Hamas issue similar warnings to the Israeli civilians it ­bombarded?

Of course not, since harming Israeli non-combatants is part and parcel of the Hamas strategy and always has been. By the conclusion of this conflict, there had been about 150 Palestinian deaths, divided roughly evenly ­between combatants and non-combatants. This is a remarkably low ratio.

Expelling the Israeli ambassador would only play into the hands of such extremists and South Africa would only undermine its own international stature.

» Saks is associate director of the SA Jewish Board of Deputies 

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