“Israel hits Gaza Homes.” The sub-head said: “Children and women killed.” This headline will be defended by all good journalists as no more than describing what happened in the seemingly endless clash between Arabs and Israelis. They will argue that when Israel its homes in Gaza, it is news. When Hamas rockets rain down on Israeli cities and towns—and homes, schools, and hospitals, it is not news. It happens ever day, so it becomes like a weather report. Thousands of Hamas rockets have been fired at Israeli homes. Thousands. This coverage brings to mind the old French saying: This animal is very wicked; when you attack it, it defends itself.
The late Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick saw all this coming. Her seminal article in the pages of Commentary Magazine in 1989—now twenty-five years old—was prophetic. “How the PLO was Legitimized” showed how Yasser Arafat’s PLO ((Palestine Liberation Organization) used the tools of international diplomacy to “dumb down” international law on the targeting of civilians and the deliberate use of terrorism as a tactic for pushing one’s way to power.
Amb. Kirkpatrick’s article begins: “Some leaders win power through inheritance, some through elections, some through civil war or coup d’état. Yasir Arafat and the PLO are trying something different. They are attempting to come to power through international diplomacy—reinforced by murder. And they have nearly succeeded.”
Reading Kirkpatrick’s article, which shows the long march of the PLO through the institutions of the UN in the 1980s, is like reading that other tortured rationale for homicide, Roe v. Wade (1973). In fact, these might be called parallel paths to the acceptance of mass killing of innocents.
Domestically, the U.S. Supreme Court removed the protections afforded to unborn human beings by classing the child in the womb as a non-person under the law. In international law, the conventions against piracy and terrorism were amended, in effect, to say that if you were engaged in a struggle of “national liberation,” you could legitimately target civilians in airliners, pizza parlors, hotels, beaches, schools, kindergartens. Or hospitals.