Israel takes greater care to avoid civilian casualties in Gaza than the United States did in Iraq and Afghanistan, Haaretz military analyst Amos Harel said today.
And so what?
Is Israel facing a barrage of criticism from the Pentagon? If it was, Harel might have a point. But it is not. Indeed, many of those who currently criticize Israel for abusing its own power, have been equally critical of America’s military excesses.
Uriel Heilman, managing editor for the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, attempts to explain the disparity in casualties between Palestinians and Israelis — currently 213:1 — by saying:
[T]he most important element in interpreting the death toll: While Hamas measures its success by how many Israelis it is able to kill, Israel measures its success in part by how few Palestinian civilians it kills.
By this measure, Israel could achieve the greatest success by not bombing Gaza in the first place.
The effectiveness of Iron Dome is well established. Israel, in its position of unassailable dominance, is perfectly capable of de-escalating by refraining from acts of provocation or retaliation.
The current assault on Gaza, like previous ones, has little to do with destroying Hamas or establishing “quietness,” as Benjamin Netanyahu puts it. It is a ritual beating whose purpose is to re-assert the authority of the Palestinians’ military overlord.
In spite of this, or in fact, because of this, many Israelis want to be seen and to see themselves not as brutes crushing their weak opponents. Instead, they prefer the image of restrained and compassionate human beings who only use violence when they “have no choice.”
Thus the ongoing effort to mask the evidence and paint a picture in which one side, Hamas, is lashing out with the use of indiscriminate violence, while the other, Israel, keeps count of the number of missiles it hasn’t fired because it takes so much care to protect innocent life.
Contrary to Heilman’s claim, Hamas measures its success by retaining the ability to mount some form of defense. If they possessed guided weapons systems and had the surveillance capabilities to identify targets, there is little reason to doubt that Hamas would act differently than any other actor in a similar situation: it would maximize the strategic and political value of striking military targets.
On the other side, in spite of Israel’s assertions that it exercises restraint, every day we witness new examples of senseless violence — today with the deaths of Ahed Bakr, aged 10; Zakaria, 10; and two other boys from the Bakr family, both named Mohammad, aged 11 and nine. These children were struck down by an Israeli missile while playing on a beach.
How can Israel which kills “so few” Palestinians, explain why so many are children and babies?
— Mohammad Y. Hasna (@Eng_mhasna) July 16, 2014
— Palestine | פלסטינה (@iPalestinian91) July 16, 2014
— Dima Eleiwa (@DimaEleiwa) July 16, 2014