Nicholas Kristof: The New York Times' Apostle of Moral Equivalence

Mr. Kristof knows this, because  he continues to note that Hamas is violent towards its own people as well as Israel, and does not even try to avoid civilian casualties. He also writes that it is more repressive and unpopular at home, to which I would add now it is even more so, since the residents of Gaza know what game Hamas is playing and that their own leaders purposely put them in danger. Kristof even puts in a good barb, noting that “Hamas sometimes seems to have more support on certain college campuses in America or Europe than within Gaza.”

But next, he digs up the old moral-equivalence canard, writing that on both sides, the “hawks are in charge, and they empower each other.” This is simply patent nonsense. Just two days ago, the moderate and peace-minded leader of Israel’s security cabinet, Tzipi Livni, told reporters that Israel would not rule out the possibility, as David Horovitz put it, “of this conflict expanding to the point where Israel seeks to bring down Hamas altogether.” Livni is known in Israel as such a dove that Horovitz noted that at her interview, the TV reporters “almost fell off their chairs.”

So, it is not just hawks who favor a tough response to Hamas. Virtually all Israeli leaders understand that they are fighting against those committed to anything but a solution, unless it is one that allows them to gain their stated ends. Mr. Kristof, however, argues that both sides are the same. He writes as if Prime Minister Netanyahu does not mind if innocent civilians perish, and compares Israel’s response to aggression to those residents of Gaza who are so “suffocating under the Israeli embargo” that they think the only way out is to “fire rockets -- and if some Israeli children die -- that’s too bad.” He then reminds us that 100 times as many Palestinian children are dying. Whose fault is that, Mr. Kristof? We know that the fault lies with Hamas -- which cynically, as Netanyahu put it recently, “uses civilians to protect their rockets, while Israel uses rockets to protect its civilians.”

Hamas will not adopt Mr Kristof’s suggestion that they turn to “Gandhi-style nonviolence resistance campaigns.” Against whom -- their own leadership? Gandhi was fighting in India for the right of independence; Hamas is fighting in Gaza to destroy Israel. How is non-violence going to help them gain their ends, and why would they even contemplate adopting it?

Sitting in his home safe for the time being in our country, Nicholas Kristof writes that if we were being bombarded by rockets, we too “might cheer an invasion of Gaza.” Israelis are supporting their soldiers who are protecting them.  They are not cheering. The citizens of Israel understand that there will be casualties and death on their own side, and what they are doing is offering support to the young men and women who are serving to protect their countrymen.  They hope only that those soldiers fighting to prevent their country’s destruction manage to impede the effort of Hamas and make it further away from doing real damage to Israel. They cheer only the soldiers' bravery, and their willingness to offer all they have to defend the Jewish state.

Yes, we need a “cease fire that includes an end to Hamas rocket attacks and a withdrawal from Gaza by Israel.” But tellingly, Mr. Kristof does not comment on why Hamas rejected the Egyptian proposal, which would have produced exactly that end. It is not, as he maintains, “a conflict between right and right.” Hamas is not fighting for any goal that is right -- and he confuses its aims with those of the relatively few Palestinians who actually believe in a two-state solution. The few who do live in the West Bank, where they precariously rule. They are not in Gaza and are not members of Hamas. And even the Palestinian Authority has acted against those living there who vocally accept the need for real concessions made by their own side.

Finally, Mr. Kristof urges diplomacy. Fine. With whom? When is Hamas willing to engage in diplomacy? We’ve seen how far it has got when Israel talks with Saeb Erekat, the PA negotiator, who pledged never to give up the “right of return,” which he says is non-negotiable.

The symmetry Nicholas Kristof thinks exist is not there. Israel does all it can to move to peace, and is forced by its enemies to resort to war. Hamas rejects any moves to peace, and hopes aggression and the death of civilians will move the international community to condemn Israel. So Mr. Kristof ends saying that no, they are not the same, “and what I see isn’t equivalence.”

After an entire column arguing just that, he contradicts himself because he knows how foolish his previous words are. There are no hard-liners on Israel’s side who have hijacked the leadership, as he believes is the case. As many have recently observed, Benjamin Netanyahu is a centrist, opposed on his right by Naftali Bennett, Avigdor Lieberman and others. The Hamas leadership are all hard-liners, who have not hijacked their power from moderates since none exist in their organization. As for the peace camp, it hardly has any members left in Israel, since so many of its former adherents, such as journalist Ari Shavit, know that its original raison d'etre has been proven wrong. The illusions they had about the Oslo peace process proved to be an empty vessel.

His end conclusion? Mr. Kristof says there is “painful symmetry,” and that “each side vigorously denies that there is any symmetry at all.” On that, both sides are right. Hamas is to blame, and Israel is justly responding to aggression against its very existence.

I guess that in the world that is ganging up on Israel, Nicholas Kristof’s doctrine of moral equivalence, or symmetry, is an improvement on those who openly want Israel’s destruction.