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FACT: Israeli military reaction has been one of incomparable restraint. After the brutal lynching of two Israelis in Ramallah, Israel limited its response to bombing one floor of the headquarters of the negligent Ramallah police, the radio station that had been broadcasting incitement to violence, and two targets in Gaza. Israelis gave a 3-hour warning, to allow Palestinians to evacuate; indeed, no one was killed. Similarly, following the recent torching of an ancient synagogue in Jericho, Israel's only response was to bomb a military training school.
On the front lines of this "intifada," Israeli soldiers have orders not to shoot unless they are in direct danger. Israeli soldiers are told never shoot at an ambulance or at women. Unless the Palestinians begin shooting first with live bullets, Israeli soldiers are instructed never to shoot to kill, and then, to aim only at the source of the shooting, never randomly. No other army has such restrained orders.
As the world decries the 100 Palestinian deaths, no one stops to ask how many would be dead if Israeli forces were actually doing what they are accused of -- shooting indiscriminately into crowds with automatic weapons. If that were the case, many thousands of Palestinians would be dead.
But what about Palestinians youth who have been tragically killed in the fighting?
What kind of parent encourages children to go to the front lines to throw stones and firebombs at armed troops?! Palestinians know that Israelis are reluctant to shoot at children; and if a child does wind up getting killed, it makes for excellent anti-Israel propaganda.
Children are taught in school the heroics of dying as a martyr for the Palestinian cause. The Jerusalem Post reported that the Palestinian Authority is encouraging children to participate in clashes by offering their families $300 per injury and $2,000 for anyone killed. How tragic that Palestinians send their children at risk of death and then cynically use this against Israel in the court of world opinion.
But perhaps Israel should not be using force at all to stop the violence?
The BBC recently asked a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council if Arafat truly had the power to stop the mob violence. He replied that it probably could not be done without exerting fatal force on the rioters. Given that reality, how can the world possibly expect Israel to stop the violence without such force?
It is the duty of any government to protect its citizens from violence. Imagine what the response would be if this violence was occurring to any other country. When the British tried to control the last Palestinian intifada, the Arab revolt of 1936-1939, entire villages were burned and more than 3,000 Palestinians were killed.
During "Black September" when Palestinians rioted in Jordan in the 1970s, King Hussein massacred 2,500 Palestinians in 10 days. Likewise, Syrian President Assad slaughtered 20,000 of his own people during civil unrest in Hama, then paved over the dead -- a toll that the Israel intifada would need 100 years to match.