|French soldier, wearing death mask, in Niono, northern Mali, January 2013: |
The wearing of the mask "is unacceptable behavior” said Col. Thierry
Burkhard. “This image is not representative
of action by France in Mali.”[Image Source]
Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed Israel's support for France's air strikes on Islamist rebels, said to be connected to al-Qaeda, in Mali's north. Addressing French President Francois Hollande, Netanyahu pointed out that
“While there are countries for which the threat of terrorism is thousands of kilometers away from the homes of their citizens, we in Israel are familiar with the threat of global terrorism from up close. For us it is only a few hundred meters away from our homes.”
Netanyahu discreetly said nothing about the proportionality of France's actions, though the temptation must have been great given the bitter criticisms directed at Israeli defensive actions in recent years by France and other states. It's a messy and complicated conflict [see Wikipedia's account] in northern Mali, though hardly more so than what we face here with our Hamas jihadist neighbours in Gaza. Already, certain news sources including Al Jazeera are highlighting massacres and other excesses perpetrated by the French and their associates [here for instance] but the Western media, for the most part, are ignoring such claims or at least minimizing their significance.
But criticism of Israel - as for instance delivered up by Scotland's Minister for External Affairs and International Development, Humza Yousaf, in November 2012 - gets far broader media attention:
"The killing of innocent civilians, be they Palestinian or Israeli, is to be utterly condemned and we urge both sides to exercise restraint. The rocket attacks on Israel are wrong and should stop, as should the Israeli bombardment on Gaza which has been heavily disproportionate in terms of the civilian loss of life, and have been rightly condemned as such by many in the international community." [more]We're standing by for Mr Yousaf's first proportionality assessments of the French invasion of Mali. So far, oddly, there's no sign of them.
Yesterday, Ron Prosor, Israel’s ambassador to the UN, drew a comparison between Israel’s defensive battle against aggressive and focused Islamic terrorism from Gaza, and the French intervention in northern Africa. They are comments worth noting. Speaking at the UN Security Council’s monthly open debate on the Middle East, Prosor said:
“France’s foreign minister said this month that his country was fighting to prevent the creation of an Islamist terrorist enclave ‘at the doorstep of France and Europe.’ If Mali is on France’s doorstep, Gaza is in Israel’s living room... Make no mistake: France’s principled stand should be commended. We only ask that France and all the countries who are supporting its principled stand today, support Israel tomorrow when we fight Islamic terrorism on our borders.” [more]We would have put it a little differently. The Hamas war against Israel's civilian population is only sometimes conducted at the border. Much more often, it is conducted via rockets - many thousands of them - fired into Israel's homeland and heartland, with reckless indifference by the terrorists as to whether they strike military emplacements or school buses. The terrorists don't deny they seek to bring their brand of terrorism into our cities, kindergartens and living rooms. If you ask them they will tell you why their god wants then to do that.
We don't ask them to explain. When you comprehend that it's your children the terrorists want to get, then responsible leaders, parents and politicians, generally know what needs to be done.
Postscript: As food for thought when thinking about who is proportionate and who is being defensive, bear in mind Paris is about 3,300 kilometers from Timbuktoo, Mali. Jerusalem is about 78 kilometers from Gaza. The terrorists under attack in Mali have zero missiles capable of striking France, while the Gazan regime has some tens of thousands of rockets in its vast embedded arsenal that can and do hit Israeli communities. And the Islamic Republic of Iran is shipping still more to them as we write these words.