Is Israel Acting Disproportionately?
It has been nearly two weeks since Israel launched Operation Protective Edge, in a stated effort to quell rocket fire from the Gaza Strip and weaken Hamas’s infrastructure. Now, ten days into this most recent tit-for-tat, as Israel launches its ground invasion, nearly 250 Palestinians and one Israeli have been killed, approximately 1,500 rockets have been fired into Israel, and over 2,000 strikes have been carried out against Hamas. Yet as the more powerful party to the conflict, and the one with significantly less casualties, Israel is once again facing a growing chorus of criticism. This of course begs the question, is Israel acting disproportionately?
Any loss of innocent life is tragic, and any intentional or negligent actions should be investigated and prosecuted. But one would be hard pressed to find another asymmetrical conflict in modern history where so few civilian casualties have occurred, considering how intentionally embedded and hidden fighters and weaponry are within the Palestinian civilian population, and how much Hamas has been encouraging and using human shields. This is not to say Israel is perfect, or that it does not have any bad apples in its midst. But one would be equally hard pressed to find any state that has taken greater care to protect civilian lives of their enemy during combat, even at the expense of meeting its own objectives.
Yet this reality has not stopped the knee jerk reaction of so many who hypocritically claim outrage over Israel’s “indiscriminate,” “heavy-handed” and “intentional” targeting of Palestinians, while remaining mum to far deadlier and clear cut hostilities around the world.
Take Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, for example. He had the following to say just a few days into the military escalation, when less than 100 Palestinians had been reported killed in Gaza: “It’s genocide — the killing of entire families is genocide by Israel against our Palestinian people.” Two weeks earlier, President Abbas had called Syrian President Bashar Assad to congratulate him on his “re-election”. Over 133,000 people have been killed in Syria’s civil war thus far, many by the Assad regime. Eighty-eight percent of those casualties are estimated to have been civilians; 15,148 were children. Assad forces do not warn civilians to evacuate using phone calls and flyers, but they have intentionally bombed civilians with chemical weapons. No accusations of genocide by Abbas against Assad, only words of praise.
As the most senior western official to condemn Israel, Britain’s deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, explained that Israel’s bombardment of the Gaza Strip in retaliation for militant rocket attacks on its territory amounts to a, “deliberately disproportionate form of collective punishment.” Well, if one were to hold the British to the same standard that Clegg is holding Israel, much of Britain’s leadership including current peace envoy and former British prime minister, Tony Blair, would be tried and found guilty of war crimes. According to Iraq Body Count, a database that has meticulously tallied Iraqi casualties since coalition forces invaded in 2003, over 15,000 Iraqi civilian deaths were caused by US and Coalition forces. The British entered that war as a major coalition partner, despite the fact that neither the Iraqi government nor Iraqi-backed terrorists had attacked British subjects or interests prior to the invasion and occupation of Iraq in 2003.
Israel’s detractors have for decades claimed that Palestinian blood is cheap. But when studying the Arab-Israeli conflict and specifically the sheer amount of coverage and attention being paid to the most recent flare up, it would appear that Palestinian blood is far more precious than that of the rest of the world. The fact remains that many more innocent people are intentionally killed around the world on a daily basis, with far less attention and condemnation. When comparing similar conflicts throughout history, the only thing disproportionate about Israel’s most recent foray into Gaza is its measured military response and the volume of international criticism.
Dr. Joshua Gleis is an author, analyst, and security consultant.