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August 11, 2014 11:18 am

There is No Israeli Genocide

avatar by Albert Wachtel

Opinion
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas shakes hands with U.S. President Barack Obama, on March 17, 2014. Photo: Screenshot.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas shakes hands with U.S. President Barack Obama, on March 17, 2014. Photo: Screenshot.

Inadvertently, the Obama Administration has acknowledged that Israel’s conduct in the war against Hamas and other terrorists in Gaza is right. But the road to that recognition has been painful.

Instinctively, human sympathy runs on a small scale. We react to what is in front of us: one person, with one face and two eyes at a time, even in the midst of crowds. People naturally see that way, and there is a level at which Judaism supports that view. In the Mishna, the recorded oral law with which the Talmud begins, the saving of one life is considered the saving of a world, more important than the commandments of the Bible – and the loss of one life is the loss of a world. Protecting many lives, obviously, is saving many worlds.

For that reason, Israeli soldiers who fight murderous enemies on the Sabbath or High Holy Days are religiously honorable. The rockets fired at Israel’s cities by Hamas and other Gaza terrorists are intended to kill. They put millions at risk, and each life threatened is crucial. Iron Dome has been wonderfully successful at destroying incoming missiles, but its successes are not guaranteed. The Israel Defense Force’s military response to those rockets was necessary.

Given the perverse terrorist strategy, used by Hezbollah in Lebanon, of firing from civilian areas and hiding behind civilians, civilians have unavoidably been killed in Gaza. The IDF, informed by its confrontation with Hezbollah, used notifications slipped into Arab broadcasts, telephone calls, leaflets, and warning bombs to advise Arab civilians to escape. Hamas countered that by encouraging and even forcing civilians to stay and be killed. But still, mistakes are made in war. Occasionally, Israel’s soldiers are killed by “friendly fire,” and occasionally responses to terrorist launchings hit civilians.

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And here, the issue of seeing small looms large. Unavoidably and accidentally, many civilians in Gaza died or were maimed or injured, including innocent children. The losses are, to use the now standard term first spoken by President Barak Obama, appalling – appalling to Israelis as well as everyone else except Hamas and its fellow terrorists, who exult in Arab civilian deaths because those deaths turn sympathy in the direction of Gaza.

The word “genocide” preceded “appalling,” but the numbers of people lost, even the figures presented by Hamas, tell a story of unfortunate unavoidability. Using the calculations of Al Jazeera, about half of the dead on the Hamas list are young men. That number of fighting age men – in an area overwhelmingly populated by women and children – tells the world that most of those young men were probably Hamas militants. But even ignoring that, simple arithmetic indicates that the Hamas provided number of Palestinians killed is, though painful, relatively small.

Every civilian death and every civilian maiming or injury is terrible. But in a war among a population of almost two million, approximately 1,800 to 1,900 dead, including terrorist fighters, constitutes one tenth of one percent. And the blame for civilian deaths rests with Gaza’s Islamic terrorists.

By whatever means possible, the terrorists of Gaza seek Israel’s destruction, which Arab nations sought at the birth of Israel. But there is a difference now. Militant Muslim fundamentalists are willing to die for their cause, and their leaders are willing to sacrifice civilian Arabs to gain their end.

The eyes of the Obama Administration have at last been opened to that threat by somewhat successful genocidal outrages of ISIS in Iraq, committed against countless women, children, and innocent civilians. In response to that murderous situation, the Obama Administration has begun bombing the Islamic State. Those bombings aim to destroy military equipment and terrorist fighters, but can it be doubted that captive women will be among the victims of the air strikes? Will their deaths be instances of genocide on the part of the Americans? Of course not. And of course genocide is neither the intent nor the result of Israel’s effort to protect its citizens.

America and Israel are allies in this war. It’s time for the Obama Administration to understand that.

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