Michael Oren says Israel must use power wisely

Historians in the News

Israel’s chaotic history reminds historian Dr. Michael Oren of a line from Irish poet William Butler Yeats: “In dreams begin responsibilities.”

Jews achieved their dream of statehood over 60 years ago. Oren, who specializes in diplomatic and military history at The Shalem Center, a Jerusalem-based research institute, maintains that Israel’s current leaders, much like those before them, must continue to make difficult decisions to protect the country’s hard-earned sovereignty.

Israel wields tremendous power for so tiny a nation, said Oren during a Feb. 26 talk at Cleveland Hillel Foundation on the campus of Case Western Reserve University. With threats facing the country, Oren believes Israel has brandished its strength responsibly, even in light of the worldwide criticism levied during its three-week incursion into Gaza.

“There is nothing this army could have done differently,” contends the New Jersey native who years ago served as a paratrooper with the Israel Defense Forces. Under the circumstances, “Israel acted in a morally exemplary manner.”

Those circumstances included an enemy using a densely populated urban setting as a “shield,” explains Oren. Israel’s assault on Gaza killed more than 1,300 Palestinians. However, the historian notes that the gunman-civilian casualty ratio was the lowest in any urban combat situation since the end of World War II. Palestinian groups have refuted this claim.
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