Why Proportionality is a Bad Idea

Tuesday, December 08, 2015 |  Tsvi Sadan

Never a dull moment with Sweden. Last Friday Swedish foreign minister Margot Wallstrom criticized Israel for "extrajudicial executions" and "disproportionate" response toward Palestinian stabbers and car-rammers. Following Prime Minister Netanyahu's phone call, to Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven, and his harsh words in the Israeli Cabinet said on Sunday, Ynet is quoting Löfven who, in an attempt to improve the murky relations between the two states, has said that knifing Israelis does not meet the definition of terror. "According to what I know," he said, "knifing is not defined as terror." This explains why Wallstrom will not condemn current Palestinian terrorism. At least as far as Sweden is concerned, killing Jews with a knife or a car is just fine.

No less troubling, however, is Sweden's notion of proportionality. According to Wallstrom, her controversial comments were not leveled specifically against Israel. Rather, she insisted, "she had spoken in general terms." Her comments on disproportionality then, must mean that this is how she thinks armed conflicts should be carried out. Disproportionality, illegal according to her, occurs when "the number of people killed on [one] side exceeds the original number of deaths [of the other side] many times over.”

Whatever the "original number" means, translating her idea of proportionality to the Israeli context, she suggests is essentially a literal interpretation of eye for eye and tooth for tooth. If, for example, 10 Israelis are killed by Palestinians, Israel's proportional response should be such that about the same number of Palestinians should be killed. The fact that so far she can count 102 dead terrorists and only 19 dead Israelis deeply disturbs her sensitive conscience. Following her logic therefore, what Israel should do now is to order her soldiers to stop killing terrorists until Sweden will have proof of 83 more dead Israelis. No wonder Netanyahu scoffed this idea of Israelis offering their heads on a platter to satisfy Sweden's sick sense of morality.

What is so disturbing is the fact that Wallstrom represents countless people who actually believe that proportionality is a good idea. Unfortunately they fail to realize that by implementing this idea, the way Sweden wants, they guarantee nothing but perpetual conflicts and endless bloodshed. Sweden's sense of morality promises nothing but more dead people. This is why during armed conflicts normal countries do whatever they can to annihilate the threat. This is why France is not only unconcerned with the number of dead ISIS, she surely is striving to kill as many ISIS as she can, even at cost of considerable collateral damage. America, Great Britain, Egypt and any other country fighting an enemy is doing the same, or they will guarantee nothing but prolonged conflicts that produce more dead people, more destruction destabilizing the region.

Why, in the face of the obvious, Swedish-like governments still insist on the implementation of what is so clearly an immoral principle is a question that should be directed to sociologists and psychologists.

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