Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times penned an op-ed yesterday titled “The Gaza Boomerang” in which he excoriates Israel for their incursion into Gaza. He notes that

Since the shelling from Gaza started in 2001, 20 Israeli civilians have been killed by rockets or mortars, according to a tabulation by Israeli human rights groups. That doesn’t justify an all-out ground invasion that has killed more than 660 people (it’s difficult to know how many are militants and how many are civilians)

(Kristof, Nicholas D., “The Gaza Boomerang“, The New York Times, January 8 2009)

Sitting in an office a few thousand miles away Mr. Kristof balances the lives of 20 people on the one hand and 660 people on the other (which is probably more now) and says that the 20 people are not worth the 660 people. He uses this balance to say make the old tired response that Israel’s response is “disproportionate.” Israel, as Mr. Kristof believes, should simply have bombed the tunnels which Hamas is using to smuggle weapons into the Gaza strip or, better yet, eased the blockade of the Gaza strip in the hopes that in would have created “an environment in which Hamas would have extended the cease-fire.”

Whether Hamas would have extended the cease-fire or not we will never know now. I’m betting that they wouldn’t. They would have used the easing of a blockade to arm themselves with probably even more deadlier rockets as well as unleased their legions of suicide bombers on Israel. This sort of thinking originates from the Munich Pact of 1938 in which France, Britain, and Germany met to discuss Hitler’s demands for the Sudetenland (at the time part of the country of Czechoslovakia). Hitler reassured Britain’s prime minister Neville Chamberlain that if Germany was given the Sudetenland than he (Hitler) would make no more claims on the territory of it’s neighbors. Chamberlain went back to Britain with the pact in hand and proclaimed that he had secured “peace for our time.” Not long after, in March of 1939, Hitler’s army invaded the rest of Czechoslovakia and we all know the rest of the story.

Mr. Kristof’s naive assertion that if only Israel had made “nice” with Hamas then Hamas would make “nice” with Israel is completely off. It smacks of Gollum‘s quote in the Lord of the Rings movie, The Two Towers, “We’ll be nice to them, if they’ll be nice to us” — well, we all now how that ended. Gollum betrayed Sam and Frodo, tried to kill them and managed, albeit only briefly, to capture the One Ring for himself. Israel cannot afford to make “nice” with an organization that continually professes that it’s sole aim is the destruction of Israel with the concomittant explusion or mass murder of all Jews from their land. And Mr. Kristof clearly doesn’t understand that – it doesn’t enter into his calculus.

Hamas can easily bring an end to the Gaza tragedy it it would stop raining rockets down on Israel (which, just before the current fighting was around 60 per day), stop sending suicide bombers into Israeli cafes, shops, synagoguges, and malls, and realizes that a two-state solution is the only way to end this festering, open sore of a conflict. Instead, they only wish to continue the cycle of violence (which leads to Israeli retaliation which, in itself also contributes to the cycle).

The 20 Israeli lives that have been lost to the Hamas rain of rockets over the past 8 years (it’s been going on since 2001) are just as meaningful and valid as the Palestinian lives lost over the past two weeks. Those 20 were someone mother, father, child, brother, and sister. This is not a game of numbers that defines how hard Israel is allowed to strike back against an organization that is determined to see its destruction. It’s a question of survival. Israel’s response has to be strong enough that Hamas will think twice in the future of whether they want to keep the count going up to 21, 22 or beyond. It has to be strong enough that Hamas will realize that true peace comes with being willing to live with your neighbors rather than sitting and waiting to cut their throats whenever they let their guard down.