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naomi ragen

This piece by Jerusalem-based writer Naomi Ragen has been making the rounds online. I expect it will show up in my e-mail inbox about a dozen times over the next few days:

Please remember this when you hear about the “atrocity” of the Israeli bomb that killed many civilians in Kafr Qana, a place from which Hezbollah has fired hundreds of rockets at Israel. Unlike previous administrations, Mr. Olmert has my respect when he says: “They were warned to leave. It is the responsibility of Hezbollah for firing rockets amid civilians.”

Terrorists and their supporters have lost the right to complain about civilian casualties, since all they have is one goal: this entire war is to target civilians. Every single one of the more than 2,500 rockets launched into Israel, is launched into populated towns filled with women and children. Just today, another explosive belt meant to kill civilians in Israel was detonated harmlessly by our forces in Nablus.

So don’t cry to me about civilian casualties. Cry to those using babies and wives and mothers; cry to those who store weapons in mosques, ambulances, hospitals and private homes. Cry to those launching deadly rockets from the backyards of kindergartens and schools. Cry to the heartless men who love death, and however many of their troops or civilians die, consider themselves victorious as long as they can keep on firing rockets at our women and children.

Everything Ms. Ragen says is right. But I think she’s wrong.

There are too many people in the world who can’t tell the difference between a legitimate democracy fighting for survival, and a terrorist organization trying to wipe a nation off the map. They draw false moral equivalences. They put on blinders. They say ridiculous things.

I refuse to be one of them.

Yes, it’s true that Israel is better than Hezbollah. Anyone with half a brain can see that. And it should be obvious. It should be a given. There are too many people in the world who don’t get that, but by arguing the point again and again, we’re giving them credence. It shouldn’t even be up for debate.

But here’s the thing: that’s not good enough.

Israel shouldn’t be content to simply be held to a higher standard than Hezbollah. Frankly, that’s not saying much, is it?

When Israel fights a war, I don’t need anyone to convince me that civilian casualties are anything other than a tragic an accident. I take that for granted, because I know Israel and I know the truth about this and any war that she fights. These are wars of survival, fought by people with faults but with the best of intentions: to protect the security of Israel.

I’ve decided there aren’t nearly enough West Wing references on this blog. So here’s a quote from Amy Gardner:

“Jed Bartlet: Not quite as mean-spirited as the other guy.” Doesn’t really send me running to my polling place.

Israel isn’t quite as mean-spirited as Hezbollah. Hezbollah wants to kill Israeli civilians. Israel doesn’t want to kill Lebanese civilians. I get it. But I’m not content to simply make that point. It doesn’t send me running to the polling place either, so to speak.

The point is, all of the above isn’t enough. Being “not quite as mean-spirited as Hezbollah” isn’t enough for Israel. Nobody who loves Israel should say otherwise. We can’t simply be satisfied with the knowledge that we’re on the side of the angels here. When a tragedy happens, like dead children in Qana, the only way to truly show love for Israel is to ask the tough questions and demand the tough answers and the soul-searching that comes along with it. That’s how a country grows: with openness and freedom and a lively exchange of debate. And with a constant striving to do better, to do what’s right, to face up to blunders and wrongdoings and claim not only the relative moral high ground, but the absolute moral high ground too.

And so, I maintain that Naomi Ragen is right about the facts but wrong in her sentiment. I demand more from Israel, because I love and respect it so much and I know we need to judge it by the standard that it deserves.