Columnist Tom Friedman , in the June 27 edition of the New York Times, updates a medieval blood libel against Jews by comparing the tactics of Israel’s defense forces in counter-terrorism operations to Syrian dictator Hafez Assad’s massacre of tens of thousands of civilians in putting down a fundamentalist uprising in the town of Hama in 1982.

The father of today’s Syrian leader indiscriminately and deliberately used the full brutal force of his army — tanks, warplanes, mass executions — to obliterate most of Hama. Fatality estimates range as high as 40,000, of which only about 1,000 were combatants. The massacre is known as the “single deadliest act by any Arab government against its own people.”

Yet, Friedman avers that the IDF used “Hama rules” when it fought against Hezb’allah in southern Lebanon; also in Gaza and the West Bank during the second intifada, and, more recently, in last year’s incursion into Gaza when it sought to halt the firing by Hamas and other terrorist groups of thousands of rockets against civilians in southern Israel.

Which is a vile, despicable lie.

In all the military campaigns cited by Friedman, Israel instead took great risks and went to great lengths to avoid civilian casualties, unlike its enemies who were deeply embedded among civilians and used civilians as human shields. If Israel had followed “Hama rules,” as Friedman charges, it had the means to obliterate terrorist strongholds like Jenin in the West Bank during the second intifada. Instead, to spare civilians, it opted for house-to-house combat — a strategy that cost the lives of dozens of Israeli soldiers..

It’s exactly this deep, civilized commitment to minimize civilian casualties that prompted British Army Colonel Richard Kemp to testify before the UN Human Rights Council about the IDF’s examplary conduct during the Gaza operation: In his words: “Based on my knowledge and experience, I can say this: During Operation Cast Lead, the Israeli Defense Forces did more to safeguard the rights of civilians in a combat zone than any other army in the history of warfare.”

Unlike Friedman, Col. Kemp knew whereof he spoke, having fought in Iraq and Afghanistan in situations where the challenge to his troops also was to take extra precautions not to harm civilians.

In Israel’s recent wars, it never deliberately targeted civilians as Assad pere did in his bloody massacre of Hama. Friedman’s assertion that Israel has been operating under “Hama rules” doesn’t stand up to historical scrutiny. It is a disgusting libel that will only feed the propaganda of Israel’s enemies who seek to delegitimize the Jewish state.