Op-Ed: Secretary Powell, Don’t Prevent Israeli Self-Defense by Morton A. Klein, National President of the ZOA
March 7, 2002

Secretary of State Colin Powell’s outrageous accusation that Israel’s policy is to “see how many Palestinians can be killed” was no off-the-cuff remark. It was included in a prepared statement, and it was part of the State Department’s strategy of trying to appease the Arab world by pressuring Israel to refrain from fighting back forcefully against Palestinian Arab terrorism. Incredibly, despite Arafat’s eighteen month-long terrorist war against Israel, the State Department still sees him as a partner for peace.

Secretary Powell said in Congressional testimony on March 6, 2002: “Prime Minister Sharon has to take a hard look at his policies to see whether they will work. If you declare war against the Palestinians thinking that you can solve the problem by seeing how many Palestinians can be killed, I don’t think that leads us anywhere.” (New York Times, March 7, 2002)

This slur is so preposterous and slanderous that it is on the verge of being a blood libel. Then-Prime Minister Menachem Begin had good reason to say, in 1982, that accusations that Israel was massacring Palestinian Arabs in Lebanon in 1982 were ‘a blood libel’—such allegations bring back memories of ugly accusations from centuries gone by, when the Jewish people were falsely accused of trying to slaughter non-Jews en masse.

If anything, Israel has been acting with a level of restraint that defies military logic, by frequently bombing empty buildings, parking lots, or runways, rather than striking more important targets that might result in casualties. Israel is undermining its own defense by doing whatever it can to avoid killing Palestinian Arabs, while the Palestinian Arabs are doing everything they can to murder as many innocent Jews as possible. For Secretary of State Powell to say that Israel’s policies are an attempt by Israel to kill as many Palestinian Arabs as possible is an outrageous slur.

During the past year, the State Department called Israel’s use of fighter planes to strike Palestinian Arab terrorist targets is a “dangerous escalation.” It publicly condemned Israel for using helicopter gunships to hit terrorist bases; for targeting individual terrorist leaders; and for withholding funds that would be used to finance terrorism. And when Israel sent troops into areas used as terror launching pads, Secretary of State Powell condemned that as “excessive and disproportionate.”

If terrorists based in Canada were shelling Detroit, or if Mexico was sending suicide bombers into Buffalo, the U.S. would unquestionably utilize all means at its disposal to prevent the murder of its citizens.

Indeed, America itself has repeatedly used massive force against its enemies (sometimes under the direct command of Powell himself, a former head of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff) even when those enemies are thousands of miles from America’s shores—unlike Israel, which faces enemies who strike in the heart of Israel’s major cities, murdering innocent Jews.

Here is how Powell has described his philosophy of how the United States should respond to its enemies:

* “‘The biggest s.o.b. on the block’ rule. America should enter fights with every bit of force available or not at all.” (Time, April 19, 2001).

* “Go in full force from the beginning rather than escalate yourself into a quagmire. Or don’t go in at all.” (Slate Magazine,March 27, 1999).

* “Overwhelming U.S. force assures success at minimum risk to Americans in uniform.” (Boston Globe, Jan. 19, 2001).

Israel has not used “full force” or “overwhelming force” —to quote Powell’s description of his recommended methods— even though the murders, injuries, and fears which its citizens have endured from the Palestinian Arabs is far worse than anything Americans have faced. Nearly 300 Israelis have been murdered in the past 18 months, and thousands more have been wounded; there are daily shooting and bombing attacks in both Judea-Samaria-Gaza as well as Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and Netanya, to the point where many Israelis are afraid to ride buses, shop in outdoor marketplaces, or enjoy other aspects of ordinary daily life.

Furthermore, the Palestinian Authority terrorist forces are located just a few hundred yards from major Israeli cities, including Jerusalem. By contrast, the U.S. used overwhelming force in response to incidents that took place thousands of miles from America’s shores—unlike Israel, which is responding to attacks in the heart of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and other major cities.

In the Gulf War of 1991, Powell led a force of 540,000 U.S. troops (34% of the Army’s total manpower) —including 4,000 tanks, 1800 planes, and 1700 helicopters— against Iraq because of the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait. Powell also brought in nearly 100,000 additional troops from America’s allies to join the fighting.

Powell also oversaw the December 1989 invasion of Panama, in which 25,000 troops were sent to capture a minor dictator suspected of drug trafficking. The action cost the lives of 23 American soldiers, as well as 315 Panamanian soldiers and hundreds of Panamanian civilians. In addition, thousands of civilians were injured and 10,000 were made refugees. In his autobiography, Powell said the operation conformed to his doctrine of “Use all the force necessary, and do not apologize for going-in big if that’s what it takes.”

The U.S. has also used massive force in other military operations in recent years, such as its bombings of Libya in 1986, killing dozens of Libyan civilians and damaging foreign embassies (in retaliation for a Libya-sponsored terrorist attack in Europe in which Americans were killed) and its 1983 invasion of Grenada, based on a perceived threat to a hundred American medical students there.

Whether bombing terrorist bases, targeting terror leaders, sending troops into Arafat-controlled areas to root out terrorists, or withholding funds that would be used to finance terrorism—these are legitimate and necessary aspects of a country’s self-defense against the daily murder of its citizens.

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