Monday, July 14, 2014

Casualty counts

In the conflict in Gaza, casualty figures play a large role especially in the minds of uninvolved observers.  When they hear that no Israelis have been killed by missiles fired from Gaza into Israel, but that 160 Gazans have been killed by Israeli counter-strikes, people tend to sympathize with the side that has the larger body count.  They are considered the "victims," but that is simplistic.
Israel protects its citizens: Notwithstanding the fact that ca. 850 missiles have been fired from Gaza into Israel in the past week, starting the conflict, there have been no deaths in Israel because the majority of the missiles targeted at populated areas have been intercepted by the Iron Dome anti-missile system.  This is a remarkable innovation that has been developed by Israel precisely to protect its civilian population from such repeated attacks.  The Code Red alarm sounds to warn civilians to run for cover.  But, two old people died from heart attacks and several were injured by explosions and shrapnel.
You cannot believe everything you read that comes out of Gaza:  The estimate that 160 civilians have been killed to date in Gaza is an unreliable figure, since this figure comes from Hamas sources (the "Ministry of Health") and is re-quoted by all news media without any kind of verification or analysis.  One reason for this figure is that Hamas terrorist operatives do not wear uniforms, they are irregulars.  Hence it is impossible to distinguish them from actual civilians.  It is beyond credulity that all of those killed by Israeli counter-strikes are actually civilians and that no combatants have been killed, even though Israeli targeting is extremely accurate.  It’s anybody’s guess how many actual combatants and how many civilians have really been killed. One estimate that three quarters of those killed by Israeli strikes are actual civilians is merely guesswork and certainly an exaggeration.  I would put the percentage nearer 10%.  This is specifically because the IDF warns people by SMS message on their mobile phones that a strike will occur on their house or in the vicinity!  What other Army in the world does this, to warn their enemy so as to reduce their civilian casualties.  
"The Palestinian casualty amplification effect."  Can you tell me how many civilians have been killed in the current conflicts in Ukraine, Syria, Iraq or Afghanistan in the past few days.  Admit it, you have no idea, and really you don't care,. yet the casualty count in Gaza is the most prominent number on the news.  Why is this?  It's for two reasons, first exaggerated sympathy for the poor Palestinians, the underdogs, the "victims" of Israel's "brutal disproportionate aggression," and second because the enemies of the Palestinians are the Jews and the Jews are aggressive and deliberately kill people, according to the Western anti-Semitic stereotype.  Note that Palestinians being murdered in Syria by Assad's forces are not even mentioned in the news.  So Palestinian lives are worth more than those of any other group of civilians in the world, as long as they are being killed by Jews.
In wars people die: This is of course all nonsense and even though there are attempts by Israel (and not by the Ukrainians, the Syrians, the Iraqis and the Afghanis) to reduce civilian casualties, there are always going to be some (collateral damage), and in the case of Gaza a very small number given the number of sorties flown by the IAF (now up to ca. 1250).  The news media are touting that several thousand people have been forced to leave their homes, but where was their concern when 5 million Syrians were forced to leave their homes.  In fact, several IAF sorties have been called off if it is seen that there are civilians nearby, including those placed on the roofs of houses as human shields by the terrorists when they want to protect their facilities.  Hamas spokesmen have publicly called for people to stay in their houses when the IDF warns them to leave.  This is a war crime, but Hamas has not been criticized in the media for this.  One Palestinian spokeswoman denied this report on Fox News and said that if true it would be "reprehensible," and then the interviewer played the video showing the Hamas spokesman saying this (see ) and she was crushed. 
The difference is encapsulated in PM Netanyahu's remarks at the start of the weekly Cabinet meeting:  This is the entire difference between us and Hamas – we are using defensive systems against missiles to protect the residents of Israel and they are using the residents of Gaza to protect arsenals of missiles.  Nothing better underscores the difference in this campaign.


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