June 16, 2024
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Does Israel Have the Right to Defend Itself Against Terrorists?

That is the question at the heart of my recent op-ed in the Jewish Link (“Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Israel’s Anti-Terror Strategy,” March 2, 2023), and the letter by Craig Hanoch (“A Misrepresentation of the Law,” March 16, 2023) commenting on it.

Because Israel is situated in the Mideast, not the Midwest, it has no choice but to occasionally resort to self-defense tactics that some outsiders dislike. What’s remarkable is how often the critics of Israel denounce it for tactics that their own countries practice. In the case of civil asset forfeiture, both Israeli and American law permit the seizure of property used by criminals under various circumstances. Obviously the application of the law is not identical on both sides of the Atlantic, since Israel and the U.S. face different problems. But the principle is the same.

Israeli governments, whether right of center or left of center or somewhere in between, have used the tactic of dismantling the homes of terrorists because of what they believe to be its deterrent value. Israel’s left-leaning Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld the practice for the same reason.

Israelis from right to left support dismantling terrorists’ homes, not because Israelis are bloodthirsty barbarians who look for any excuse to oppress innocent Arabs, but because they have concluded, based on their real-life experiences dealing with terrorists. It seems to me that Israel’s elected leaders and highest courts are the ones best suited to determine Israel’s anti-terror strategy — and it says a lot that there is such a broad consensus in Israel on this issue, especially at a time when Israelis are so divided on other issues.

Stephen M. Flatow
Long Branch, New Jersey
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