The mainstream media is filled these days with “death toll” counts on both sides: “Palestinian” deaths numbering well over 200 now, and Israeli deaths totaling only one — as if this shows that the Israelis are acting unjustly and the “Palestinian” jihadis are innocent victims. Here are several key reasons why that is not the case. “Five reasons why comparing Israeli and Palestinian death totals is a misleading way to judge the conflict,” by Philip Klein, Washington Examiner, July 16, 2014:
One of the most common and misleading tactics deployed against Israel by its critics is to compare the number of dead Israelis and dead Palestinians, and use the figures to portray Palestinians as victims of Israeli aggression.There is more, and it is all good and important. Read the rest here.
Vox’s Max Fisher, who is on a campaign to convince people that Israel bears primary responsibility for the absence of peace in the region, pushed the argument this week to show that the conflict was “lopsided.” The Legal Insurrection blog has rounded up other examples of liberals and critics of Israel making similar arguments emphasizing comparative death totals.
In a sense, it’s understandable why opponents of Israel seek to make such arguments, because it allows them to flash a simple statistic that could be persuasive those who are uninformed about the actual details of the conflict. But no objective observer should take moral arguments rooted in raw casualty statistics seriously, and below, I’ve given five reasons why.
1. Comparative death totals don’t say much about the morality of the various sides in a conflict
If you want to talk about lopsided death totals, check out this chart of German and American deaths during World War II.
According to the National World War II Museum, the war claimed between 6.6 million and 8.8 million German lives, compared with 418,500 American lives. That translates into a ratio of German to American deaths of at least 16 to 1, and as high as 21 to 1. Yet nobody is going to argue, based on these statistics, that Nazi Germany should be able to claim the moral high ground over the U.S. in the war.
To be clear, I’m not saying that the current conflict and World War II are the same. I make this point at the outset to establish that comparing raw death totals of parties in a conflict, devoid of context, says absolutely nothing about the morality of the various sides involved in a conflict. Nor does it reveal which side was the aggressor.
2. Raw totals don’t differentiate among civilians and terrorists
Another problem with looking at raw death totals is that they don’t say anything about who is being killed — a Palestinian terrorist and an Israeli child each count as one death as far as overall casualty statistics are concerned. A further look at data from B’Tselem, which Fisher and others rely on, found that between September 2000 (when Palestinians launched a campaign of terrorism known as the “Second Intifada”) and May 2014, 2,384 deaths on the Palestinian side were of “Palestinians who took part in the hostilities and were killed by Israeli security forces”; 683 were “Palestinians killed by Palestinians”; another 288 were “Palestinians who were the object of a targeted killing” (in other words, Israel identified terrorist leaders and successfully eliminated them); and 702 were Palestinians killed in cases where it’s unknown whether they were involved in fighting. So, depending on how one wants to look at the numbers, at least 3,067 and perhaps 3,769 of those Palestinians included in the raw total numbers of 7,561 were either combatants or killed by other Palestinians. This isn’t to say that there aren’t Palestinian civilian deaths, but for reasons detailed below, the responsibility for those deaths lies with Palestinian terrorists and their supporters, not with Israel.
3. Israel takes tremendous precautions to protect its own citizens
During the “Second Intifada,” Palestinian terrorists carried out a wave of suicide bombings, killing hundreds of Israelis at nightclubs, cafes, buses, and other locations throughout Israel, such as at a hotel during the Jewish holiday of Passover. Eventually, over the objections of the international community, Israel built a security fence that has proved successful in virtually eliminating the capacity of terrorists to carry out suicide attacks. Being deprived of their ability to massacre Jews through suicide bombings, Palestinians turned toward indiscriminately firing rockets at Israeli civilians.
Terrorists have launched more than 11,000 rockets into Israel since Hamas took over Gaza in 2005, according to Israel Defense Forces. In the current conflict, Hamas has been using longer-range rockets, firing at Israel’s capital city, major population centers, and its international airport, among other targets.
To protect its citizens, the Israeli government has been sending out sirens warning them of approaching rockets so they can get to shelter — the warning time ranges from 15 seconds in the southern parts of Israel closer to Gaza to 90 seconds for most of central Israel. In addition, Israel has developed the “Iron Dome” anti-missile system that has been shooting down rockets heading toward populated areas. Add these precautions to the fact that Israel has a citizenry trained in how to behave calmly during a crisis, and this accounts for the fact that there’s only been one death recorded on the Israeli side during the current conflict.
But somehow, the way the issue is being portrayed by critics, it’s as if Israelis should somehow feel guilty and morally conflicted about the fact that they aren’t at greater risk of being hit by rockets….