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By Cathy Sherman
August 7, 2014

It’s become a common saying lately, and even the US Congress voted on it. It seems everyone wants to spread the news that Israel has a right to defend itself. What is with this “right”? Is it sometimes not a right?

In ancient times, the right of self-defense was clearly given to man in the book of Exodus. In regard to collective self-defense on a national level, more rules were provided in Deuteronomy. Per God’s law, Israel always had the right to self-defense. Now it takes the UN and other worldly bodies to encode such rights in civil law. The Biblical law added a little more mercy, however.

We are advised, “When you approach a city to do battle with it you should call to it in peace. And if they respond in peace and they open the city to you, all the people in the city shall pay taxes to you and be subservient. And if they do not make peace with you, you shall wage war with them and you may besiege them.” ~Deuteronomy 20:10-12

In the Bible, Jews were ordered to pursue peace prior to going to war, especially in an offensive war. The Israelites were forbidden to attack if the other nation agreed to peace under Jewish rule.

Where there’s danger of collateral damage to a civilian population, besides pursuing peace, Jews must allow civilians who are not interested in fighting to flee.

In today’s Operation Protective Edge, Israel has fulfilled the Biblical precedents for an offensive war. Since this is a defensive war, they’ve gone above and beyond basic requirements. Joshua also demonstrated the need for notifying the enemy by the sending of letters to warn inhabitants and giving them the ability to flee. He also offered peace, but if peace offers were refused, he suggested they prepare for war. These days, perhaps inspired by Joshua, Israel drops leaflets and sends SMS messages to cell phones.

Throughout the current war between Hamas-PA-Gaza and Israel, the US leadership – and to a lesser extent, EU leadership - has been strident in its repeated affirmation that Israel has the right to defend itself. The exact scenario played out in the 2012 operation Pillar of Cloud in Gaza. The frequent repetition of this status exposes implications and questions that need to be addressed.

The wording that Israel has a right to defend itself first implies that there is a legal basis governing a state’s ability to defend itself. Indeed this is true. The UN Charter delineates the right for self defense in Chapter vii, Article 51, which is entitled “action with respect to threats to the peace, breaches of the peace, and acts of aggression”.

The ruling goes on to state, in part, “Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defense if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security.”

In the case of Hamas vs. Israel, Hamas is not a state nor a member of any international body. It has been deemed a terrorist organization. Even though, since this spring, Hamas unified with the PA, since the PA is not a state, Hamas remains outside the UN. The observer status given the PA does not give it protection, but Hamas and the PA have signed some of the UN protocols, presumably assigning them some responsibility and accountability to the UN body.

According to the Fourth Geneva Convention, Vol. 7, No. 29, January 28, 2008, “International law authorizes Israel to initiate military countermeasures in Gaza. If Gaza is seen as having independent sovereignty, Israel’s use of force is permissible on the grounds of self-defense. If Gaza is seen as lacking any independent sovereignty, Israel’s use of military force is permissible as in other non-international conflicts.”

Either way, Israel has been given the right by these UN agreements to defend itself against the aggression of Hamas-PA-Gaza. In addition, since Abbas agreed to fifteen UN Treaties in his recent attempt to circumvent peace negotiations with Israel, he is obligated to keep them. When Hamas agreed to unify with the PA, it would seem to follow that Hamas also is obligated to follow these protocols. The use of human shields - and the repeated incitement to take over all Israel and eliminate all the Jews - alone constitutes major violations to the UN agreements. Yet the UN is silent and chooses to charge Israel with unproven war crimes.

In addition to the UN Charter, preceding the 2005 Gaza Disengagement, the Israeli government laid out the basis for the disengagement before voting on the plan. The basis was derived from the Oslo Roadmap Decision no. 1996 of 6 June, 2004, which reads in part:

"Gaza will be demilitarized except for those weapons permitted in the agreements reached by both sides. The state of Israel retains the right to self defense, including preventive measures as well as responding with the use of force against threats that may develop from Gaza…"

Clearly, Israel does have the right to defend itself against the attacks by Gaza. There are other questions derived from the perceived need by the US to constantly announce Israel’s right. PM Bibi Netanyahu raised a good point with Fox News when he recently stated, “There are some in the West who tell us, we support Israel’s right to defend itself … as long as you don’t exercise that right. Well what else could we do, what would you do … if 80 percent of your people were in bomb shelters?”

So the question becomes, “Why do the US and EU state they support Israel’s right to defend itself, then almost immediately nullify that right by demanding Israel to exercise restraint and agree to a ceasefire with Hamas? If there is a right of self defense, is there a cutoff point at which the right becomes null and void? There is nothing in the laws that state this; the only prerequisite is that there is an attack by an aggressor. Clearly Israel proved that it is Hamas that is the aggressor by agreeing to five ceasefires, all of which were quickly broken by Hamas, if not entirely ignored.

It would seem there is something disingenuous on the part of the western states which bestowed and then removed, within a day, Israel’s right to defend its citizens from hundreds of missiles fired from Gaza over many years. Of course, the law is the law and the US and EU have no say over the right of any state to defend itself. But one can almost hear between the lines the nations implying that Israel really doesn’t have the right to exist. The nation does have the right to defend itself, but not the right to use that right, thus nullifying the rights of eight million people to live. That’s about seven million Jews, and another million non-Jews, living in Israel.

From the point of view of Jews living in Israel, this whole discussion by Congress and the repeated statements by US leaders regarding Israel’s right to self-defense, results in a type of psychological warfare. The major psychological weapon is the shock of the loss of Israel’s strongest ally. Israel could always count on the backing of the US. More than monetary funds, the Israelis thought they could count on the Intel of the US, sharing of satellite images and so much more. Weapons possessed only by the US were assumed to be available. But with the Obama ploy of playing allies against enemies, dropping Egypt’s friendship, kissing up to Qatar and so on ad nauseam, there is no counting on the US for backup at all. The US possesses a valuable tool provided by satellite images of sixty tunnels coming into Israel from Hamas-PA territory. This would be invaluable as an aid to the IDF. So far, an agreement to provide these has not been announced on the internet. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t some secret sharing of information, of course.

The result of this US intransigence is psychological warfare against the Israeli people. Many feel the knife in the back, metaphorically, but a physical pain definitely exists between the heart and the stomach.

To top things off, everyone seems to be conveniently ignoring the fact that Hamas doesn’t want a ceasefire. That is, unless they can dictate the terms of such ceasefire. So far, their terms have been ludicrous if not outright laughable. They want all the terrorists freed - whom Israel re-arrested for breaking their agreements not to return to terrorist activity on release; an end to Israel’s blockade of weapons delivery; free electricity - which they already have been given by Israel; food supplies and fuel (which Israel supplies even during this operation, inexplicably); and the disarming of Israel of its weapons. Why did they leave out limousines and penthouses for all Hamas leaders? Oh, that’s right, they already have these, thanks to the US and EU.

Regardless, the loser in a battle seldom gets to dictate the terms of a ceasefire, but Hamas can’t admit defeat or weakness. Muslims don’t do that. They also don’t concede and don’t negotiate. They do lie, as they call themselves the victims in this war, despite the fact that even Arab leaders have acknowledged Hamas’ guilt in committing repeated war crimes during this operation they clearly started. So Israel’s only choice is to totally disarm and crush Hamas to eliminate any question that Hamas is the loser.

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An additional question derived from this scenario is the clear favoring of the other side in the battle. Though Israel has the right to defend itself, according to US and EU autocrats, and Hamas does not, why do such leaders clearly seem to favor the Hamas terrorists? Notwithstanding that the US designates Hamas a terrorist entity which it is forbidden to fund, it just granted it $47 million. The media and the western governments give moral equivalence to the two sides, despite the facts that one is a terror entity and the other is a democratic state with the moral high ground granted to it due to its having the right to defend itself.

The implications are fairly clear, the questions still incompletely answered. It can be seen that Israel possesses the legal and Biblical rights to self defense, and therefore the moral rights as well. Now it remains for the UN and the US to own up to their need to follow their own laws.

� 2014 Cathy Sherman - All Rights Reserved

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Cathy Sherman is a freelance writer with a major interest in natural health. She wrote many articles on healthy living. An interest in the fascinating subject of water inspired her to write her recently published children’s book, Drew Drop and the Water Cycle.

After moving to Israel, she realized the need to clarify some of the incorrect and misunderstood narratives surrounding Israel and its conflict with Arab neighbors.




In ancient times, the right of self-defense was clearly given to man in the book of Exodus. In regard to collective self-defense on a national level, more rules were provided in Deuteronomy. Per God’s law, Israel always had the right to self-defense. Now it takes the UN and other worldly bodies to encode such rights in civil law. The Biblical law added a little more mercy, however.