Globe & Mail Commentator Claims Israel Seeks War With Iran For Domestic Political Considerations

April 17, 2024

Following the firing of hundreds of drones and missiles towards Israel by the Iranian regime on April 13, there have been a flurry of commentaries purporting to offer insight into the conflict.

In his April 15 opinion column in The Globe and Mail entitled: “The right of self-defence is our best hope for peace in the Middle East,” Michael Byers, the Canada Research Chair in Global Politics and International Law at the University of British Columbia (UBC), weighed in.

Unlike a number of other commentaries recently published, Byers acknowledged the centrality of the Iranian regime in fomenting violence in the region, writing that it “is a state sponsor of terrorism that provides weapons and financial support to Hamas, Hezbollah and the Houthis of northern Yemen,” and that Israel has been combating those terror groups.

However, elsewhere in his column, Byers wrote that in Gaza: “the criteria of necessity and proportionality have not been met” by Israel, saying that the country “has transformed the conflict with Hamas into an all-out war, and the situation is now within the realm, not of self-defence, but of ‘international humanitarian law.’”

While it may be tempting to view the last six months of Israel’s counter-terrorism operations in Gaza as an over-reaction to Hamas’ October 7 massacres, such a perspective glosses over the direct threat that Hamas poses to Israel.

Since 2005, when Israel unilaterally withdrew all its citizens, military and civilian alike, from Gaza, the coastal enclave has become the central base for Hamas and its violence against Israel.

Nearly 20 years ago, Hamas’ rockets barely hit Israeli territory; today, they are advanced, and can strike nearly anywhere within the country.

Underneath Gaza, Hamas has built a subterranean maze extending hundreds of kilometres long, where they have smuggled weapons and where it is estimated that the terrorist group has kept, and continues to keep, the Israeli hostages it kidnapped more than half a year ago.

Hamas is dedicated to Israel’s violent destruction, a point made clear in its founding charter, in its unspeakable acts of rape, torture and murder on October 7, and repeated by its leaders in recent months, who have promised that more massacres will be carried out against Israel.

In past years, Israel limited its efforts against Hamas with a strategy called “cutting the grass,” where it would carry out specific strikes on occasion. But Hamas has shown that its capabilities are far greater than anticipated, and that Israel does not have the luxury of that strategy anymore.

Regrettably, Byers failed to provide this much-needed context to readers about Hamas and why leaving it in power in Gaza is not a feasible option.

Byers later made the outlandish claim that, because of “warmongers in Israel’s governing coalition,” and that “Israeli soldiers are running out of targets in Gaza,” Israel is presumably likely to strike Iran.

In sharp contrast to Byers, Israel has shown extraordinary restraint and focus in Gaza. The country has set a new standard for protection of civilians in densely-populated warzones, particularly as Hamas actively uses its own people as human shields, and the proportion of civilian deaths in Gaza has been lower than in virtually any other modern armed conflict.

Once again, such essential details are entirely left out of Byer’s column, which instead left readers with the fantastically false impression that Israel will wage war on Iran for no reason other than that it is desperate for more “targets.”

Michael Byers’ opinion column in The Globe and Mail, while giving a fulsome picture of Iran’s dangerous tentacles in the Middle East supporting its fanatical terrorism, falsely depicts Israel as wanting to escalate tensions with Iran for domestic political considerations, and not as a result of Iran’s malign influence.

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