Among the most chilling aspects of Hamas’s brutal attack on Israel is the explicit targeting of Israeli citizens for killing. Israelis were shot while driving along the street, pulled out of their homes, and killed. Daniel Henninger reports in the WSJ that 260 people were murdered at the Tribe of Nova music festival.
Targeting Civilians No Longer a Rarity
The reaction of any normal person to these scenes, continues Mr. Henninger, “especially because the images are put on screens by the hour, is horror.” The time has arrived for the world to face up to the reality of the free world: “killing civilians is the new norm.”
President Biden called the Hamas attack “sheer evil.” True. But that suggests an event falling outside our daily experience, a rarity. No longer.
Since his February 2022 invasion of Ukraine, Russia’s Vladimir Putin, a purported friend of Israel, has had little to say, other than blaming US policy in the Middle East. As Henninger notes, why be surprised?
Just last week, a Russian rocket killed more than 50 people attending a funeral in the village of Hroza. The Russian siege of Mariupol last year killed thousands of civilians. Russia has shelled columns of refugees. One of the most infamous atrocities was the massacre of men, women and children by Russian soldiers in Bucha, north of Kyiv.
Mr. Henninger is quick to clarify these civilian deaths, by Hamas in Israel and Russia in Ukraine, “are not collateral damage from urban warfare.”
They are part of the war plan, thought out by calm men sitting around a table, in Moscow or Beirut, looking at maps and civilian targets.
In 2015 and into 2016, Mr. Putin—and Hezbollah—helped Syrian President Bashar al-Assad implement the siege of Aleppo in northern Syria, which also targeted schools and hospitals. Some 75% of the fatalities were civilians. Thousands were children.
What few gains Mr. Putin made in eastern Ukraine were facilitated by Yevgeny Prigozhin’s Wagner Group paramilitaries, including, as The Wall Street Journal reported, the atrocities against civilians in Bucha. The Wagner Group has been linked to hundreds of civilian killings in Mali and the Central African Republic.
Iran’s Own Wagner Group
Henninger calls Hamas and Hezbollah, whatever each group’s ideological underpinnings, Iran’s own Wagner Group.
Killing Israelis is what they do, for money.
Crimes Against Humanity
Once upon a time, there were international rules, especially the Geneva Conference, against the acts described in this grim catalog (to which add China and the Uyghurs). These war crimes or crimes against humanity are increasingly “unenforced parchment paper.”
Crimes against humanity are becoming normalized.
A standard argument against more funding to Ukraine is “there is no plan.” Well, how about this, suggests Mr. Henninger.
Israel has a plan: Defeat Hamas.
How about this plan for Ukraine: Defeat Russia.
Hostage Taking Part of Terrorists Playbook
Hamas is holding more than 100 people hostage, including an uncounted number of Americans. Hamas’s paymaster and planner, Iran, just exchanged five American hostages for $6 billion. Mr. Putin, who has abducted hundreds of Ukrainian children into re-education camps inside Russia, is holding Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich and former Marine Paul Whelan.
Our adversaries—Russia, Iran, China and North Korea—will continue the mass killing of civilians and hostage-taking as a strategic policy until the U.S. decisively counters this awful new normal.
All this means funding a credible U.S. military deterrent and ensuring that the Israelis and Ukrainians have the means to defeat uncivilized enemies, warns Mr. Henninger.
The likely alternative is another lapse into pre-9/11 complacency. The cost of that, this week has proved again, is too high.
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