EUROPEAN OFFICIALS and Western journalists have wondered about the "disproportionate" Israeli response to the abduction of two IDF troops and the killing of another eight. Obviously, the Israeli siege is about much more than the events of recent weeks, but the more important point is that to talk of "proportionality" is a brutal calculus. It assumes that it is acceptable to trade one life for another, so long as no one overdoes it and upsets the balance sheets.
This is the mindset of the vendetta, the blood-debt; it is tribal thinking and it is repugnant to hear the citizens of Western democracies submit to it. Democracies wage wars to show that the cost of taking another human life, any human life, is so high that no one should dare try it. This is why the Europeans are afraid of conflict; they regard the lives of their own dearly even while they seem to reckon the existence of others on a ledger sheet.
Jul 20, 2006