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Rectifying asymmetrical warfare, a modest proposal

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The other day, my daughter called from college. She’s taking an international human rights course, and had been assigned to read the Executive Summary of the Goldstone Report, as well as criticism and defense of the report, including the attack by Moshe Halbertal in The New Republic. (Jerry Slater has done a masterful job picking apart Halbertal). My daughter was astonished to see that Halbertal had complained about "asymmetric warfare" on behalf of Israel.

Shmuel Sermoneta-Gertel has sone a post here on the asymmetric conflict standard. Phil Weiss too. Both referred to Jeff Halper’s comprehensive analysis of efforts to change international rules of war to protect the powerful. But my daughter’s conversation inspired me to add my two cents.

"Asymmetric warfare" has certainly become one of the primary hasbara talking points. We fight fair, in full uniforms and separated from our civilians, providing easy targets for our enemies, who are too incompetent to kill us. They, on the other hand, mix among civilians, making it so hard for us to distinguish between the eminently killable and the not-so-killable, whose deaths make us feel bad and look worse. At the Lawfare conference I attended the other day, several speakers mentioned the asymmetrical nature of the fighting. Gabriela Shalev, Israel’s UN Ambassador, noted that decades ago, the international rules for warfare were "enacted with symmetry in mind." Apparently, no one foresaw that in a fight between one of the most powerful militaries in the history of the world, and a much smaller group of poorly-armed fighters, the latter would enjoy an unfair and insurmountable advantage. Those pioneer architects of the laws of war did their best, but who knew?
Some of the usual anti-Semites have dismissed Israel’s concerns, but I think present circumstances dictate big changes. To satisfy Israel’s complaints about asymmetry, I propose the following. I think it might take a decade or so to achieve, but here’s how it would work.

All military aid to Israel would be suspended during a catch-up phase, during which tens of billions of dollars in equipment are provided to Israel’s enemies. This largesse would not be without conditions, as the most important component would be uniforms, use of which would be mandatory! Once Hamas, Hezbollah, and perhaps other applicants are outfitted with a full complement of Merkava tanks, Apache helicopters, drones, F-16 fighter jets, and nukes to back up any threat, and most importantly, are fully dressed in appropriate attire, true "symmetry" will have been achieved. "Just set up some bleachers out in the sun" and let ‘em duke it out in the Holy Land’s equivalent of Highway 61.

Or how about this alternative, especially suited for the squeamish or cost-conscious. The international community could send in a multinational force to strip Israel of its vast superiority in weaponry until it is roughly equivalent to its enemies. Not as much fun, perhaps, but it would save a lot of dough that could be lavished on the people who bring about our next economic collapse, or used as compensation for international lawyers who will lose the lucrative opportunity to rewrite international human rights law.
Either of these scenarios would provide the I/P conflict with true "symmetrical warfare," restoring balance and harmony to the battlefield. Perhaps I should next offer symmetric solutions to another asymmetrical outrage, that Palestinians can legally reside in Israel but Israelis cannot legally reside in West Bank settlements.  Such injustices should not go unchallenged!
About David Samel

David Samel is an attorney in New York City.

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