August 10, 2014

Why The "Dead Civilians" Numbers From Gaza Are Hard To Accept

My friend the Bookworm wrote an interesting piece the other day about civilian casualties in Gaza, noting the fundamental conflict between the moral purity of a friend with whom she has debated the issue and the reality on the ground that Israel faces. The friend argues that Israel must avoid any action that has the potential to cause civilian casualties, but the Bookworm notes that the situation on the ground is much different from the abstract debating points laid out by her friend.

In a perfect world, against an equally moral enemy, this moral purity might work. Of course, in that perfect world, the enemy too would have held itself to this high moral standard — never kill a civilian — and wouldn’t have attacked Israel in the first place. Sadly, though, we do not live in a perfect world.

In an imperfect world, which happens to be the world we inhabit, Israel knows that Hamas’s goal is to slaughter every man, woman, and child in Israel. Israel doesn’t have to go down the primrose path of conspiracy theories and paranoia to reach this conclusion about Hamas’s end game. Instead, Hamas has made the death of Israel’s citizens — all of them — the centerpiece of its charter, it preaches this goal from every political and religious pulpit, it acts upon this goal whenever possible, and it has spent millions of dollars in foreign aid, including money from Israel herself, to plan a terrorist attack intended to kill those 10,000 of Jewish civilians.

Despite this stark reality, the man I’m debating insists that Israel still has only one moral choice: she must refrain from fighting back if that fight means that she might kill even one civilian. Only in that way, he says, can he give Israel his support.

Israel, however, has figured out something that this man, either because he’s blinded by the self-righteousness of his own idealism or because he’s as genocidal as Hamas, refuses to grasp: If Israel takes this allegedly moral high ground and surrenders to Hamas, she will effectively have killed all off all of her own civilians. In other words, no matter what choices Israel makes, the nature of her enemy means that Israel will have the blood of innocents on her hands.

As between those two choices — either kill a few hundred Palestinians civilians or watch 6 million of your own people being brutally slaughtered — a non-suicidal nation will always opt to value its own citizens’ lives first. Moreover, a moral nation, such as Israel, even as it recognizes that civilian deaths are inevitable, fundamentally values life and does everything possible to protect both its own and its enemy’s citizens. Still, Israel recognizes that the nature of war, sadly, is death.

Put this way — living in the real world rather than the idealistic fantasy world — it’s clear that the responsibility for civilian deaths lies entirely with Hamas. Israel, by choosing a course of action that minimizes civilian deaths is on the side of the angels.

She concludes her piece with one other observation, one that any rational observer should accept as beyond dispute.

Anyone who subscribes to a moral relativism that says that life is too precious to allow Israel to defend herself when a rabid Islamic force is waging war against her – and to castigate either Israel or me for being callous about death – is unforgivably ignorant about the reality of life in the Muslim world.

* * *

Intelligent empathy demands that, when it comes to the existential war between the Judeo-Christian tradition, on the one hand, and Islamic fundamentalism, on the other hand, one has to look at the big picture, rather than focusing obsessively on the tragedy (and it is tragic) of one dead child. The best way to show ones compassion and empathy for Muslims and Arabs around the world — especially the woman and children trapped in those societies — is to discourage the fanaticism that consigns too many of them to lives of almost unbearable suffering.

Indeed, I've tried to make that point by showing how little value Hamas puts on the lives of Palestinians. After kidnapping Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, Hamas demanded the release of over 1000 Palestinian terrorists as a ransom for their hostage. Hamas therefore declared that they considered one Israeli to be worth 1000 of their own people -- and by using their people as human shields in this war, they guarantee disproportionate casualties on their own side (though nowhere near the 1000 to 1 ration that the Shalit trade would seem to make acceptable based upon Hamas own evil calculus).

But then today I encountered a piece by author Frederick Forsythe that drove home that point and another that I made recently regarding the disproportionate number of males aged 16-50 who were being reported as dead civilians. How many of these "civilians" are really civilians in name only?

Since when has Gaza had an army, navy and air force? They are all civilians.

The problem (or one of them) is that according to well-established research, about 10 per cent of them are dedicated Hamas fighters. That may be a minority but this minority rules Gaza with a rod of iron. And Hamas is a UN-designated terrorist organisation.

That puts it alongside the Provisional IRA, Al Qaeda, AQAP, AQIM, Taliban, Isis, Al Nusrah and Nigeria's Boko Haram. In other words, all terrorists are civilians. They have enlisted in no known armed forces, wear no uniforms and carry no badges of rank. They are deliberately indistinguishable from the 90 per cent who just want to get on with peaceful lives, and among whom they mix.

And that is a reality that needs to be considered. Except for some of the special units that Hamas has created, there are no uniforms for those who engage infighting on behalf of that terrorist organization. It truly is akin to other terrorist organizations in this regard -- after all, Muhammad Atta and his fellow hijackers wore no uniform as they committed an act of war against the United States on 9/11, nor did those responsible for the 7/7 bus attack in London or any of the other al Qaeda attacks here in the West. For that matter, was Osama bin Laden wearing a uniform when he was killed, or was he (if we apply the same standards to the US that are being applied to Israel) a civilian killed as a part of an American war crime?

My point? When a civilized nation deals with terrorists who try to blend in among a civilian populace, there will be unavoidable civilian casualties. Whose fault are they? Provided the civilized nation makes an effort to keep those civilian casualties at a minimum (and Israel has), the fault for every casualty falls on the terrorists -- especially when their tactics are designed to increase the casualties of their own civilians for public relations purposes.

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Comments on Why The "Dead Civilians" Numbers From Gaza Are Hard To Accept

"Israel builds bomb shelters for its kids; Hamas uses kids as bomb shelters."
The Palestinians who fire the rockets into Israel fire them not from a military base then, but from their backyards and rooftops. And schools and from hospitals.
And Hamas itself, executes Palestinians whom they believe are not in lockstep with their goal of a caliphate from Mediterranean to Jordan.

|| Posted by Local Malcontent, August 10, 2014 07:01 PM ||

The problem that Mr. Forsythe observes of Hamas is the problem that ground forces in Iraq will experience. Although Obama has said several times that he will not send ground troops to Iraq, he has also said that his top priority to protect our diplomatic in Erbil and Baghdad. However, no defense of one city will be complete unless there are ground troops. Unless Obama does a Benghazi on these Iraqi missions, we will have troops on the ground and they will live Mr. Forsythe's nightmare.

|| Posted by Mark, August 11, 2014 06:37 AM ||

They (Hamas fighters) are not civilians. They are unlawful combatants under the Laws of War. They are not privileged under the laws of war.

|| Posted by Fox2!, August 13, 2014 11:08 PM ||

Oh, I agree completely with you guys. These "civilians" are not really civilians -- which is the entire point of my piece. And as unlawful combatants, it is legitimate for Israel to target them.

My point, though, is how Hamas is defining civilians -- and how that definition is deceptive in the extreme.

|| Posted by Rhymes With Right, August 14, 2014 08:25 AM ||

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