Feb. 24, 2022. Sept 1, 1939. Sept. 11, 2001.

All dates when democracies were attacked by a brutal foe. In some cases, like the September 1939 invasion of Poland by Russia, Germany and Slovakia, or the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States, these morphed into global, epoch-defining conflicts that remade human history. In other cases, like the Feb. 2022 invasion of Ukraine by Russia, the conflict was locally contained but reached global significance.

While we can add the Oct. 7, 2023, attack by Hamas on Israel to this list, we don’t yet know what the effects will be, locally or globally. It shares some characteristics with the other attacks on democracies mentioned above, notably the Sept. 11 attacks. One thing all these attacks have in common is that the aggressors had hopes of wiping their foes completely off the map. Indeed, that’s part of Hamas’ charter: the complete destruction of Israel.

Given that Israel is a close ally of the United States and a modern, Western-oriented democracy, it’s to be expected that we would immediately come to its aid in the face of such a heinous attack. What’s disappointing, though not entirely unexpected, is that while most of Europe has joined us in supporting Israel, the rest of the world hasn’t been so quick to follow suit, nor even to denounce the attacks. We haven’t seen widespread condemnation of the attacks by Arab nations, for example, which we saw after the Sept. 11 attacks. Instead, we’ve seen a decidedly mixed global reaction, from players large and small.

It’s all well and good to pray for peace and the lives of innocent civilians on both sides – that’s just fine. It’s also fine to say nothing at all about the issue; though it seems impossible these days, we don’t all need to opine on every event. It’s even perfectly acceptable to criticize Israel’s response, although hopefully anyone doing so also condemned the attack. What’s not valid is to blame Israel for the attack, or openly sympathize with Hamas, a violent terrorist organization.

Regardless of your views of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, no country deserves to be the victim of terrorism. That should be something that Americans of all political stripes should agree on, no matter the context. Sadly, that apparently is not the case. While it’s understandable that people all over the world have mixed feelings about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a whole, they shouldn’t about this particular war. Hamas launched a brutal assault on unarmed, innocent civilians, kidnapping and killing them. Israel has every right to defend itself. No nation on this planet would simply sit back and do nothing in the face of such barbarism being inflicted on its citizens.


That doesn’t mean Israel gets a free pass. It ought to obey the laws of war, it ought to be held accountable for its actions. However, it’s worth pointing out here not only the nature of its current foe, but that war crimes almost always occur on both sides of any conflict. Much of the attention is rightly focused on the atrocities of the Holocaust, but Allied forces committed war crimes as well. That doesn’t detract from the justness of their cause in fighting Nazi Germany, nor does it minimize the crimes against humanity perpetrated by the Nazis.

It was incumbent upon the Allies, though – as it is on Ukraine and Israel alike – to hold their own forces accountable for their actions and to conduct themselves properly. They won’t always succeed, but if they even try, they’ll be way ahead of their foes. We’ve already seen in this conflict how quickly lies spread. It’s important that all of us do our due diligence and have patience when following breaking news, especially during wartime.

Inevitably, the two sides in a war will be compared to one another, whether that’s fair or not. That’s part of why Allied war crimes during World War II aren’t as well known. Let’s remember, then, that one side began this conflict by killing and kidnapping innocent civilians in a surprise attack. If we are to judge Israel for its actions during this war, let’s do so while keeping in mind the challenges it faces and the nature of its enemy.

Jim Fossel, a conservative activist from Gardiner, worked for Sen. Susan Collins. He can be contacted at:
Twitter: @jimfossel

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