Israel is condemned for a “disproportionate” number of Gazan deaths in its Operation Protective Edge. The accusation relates to the comparative number of people killed on each side in the recent war between Israel and Hamas. It also relates to the number of civilians killed in each IDF operation as compared with the number of enemy combatants that were targeted.
For example, on Sunday, August 3, 2014, Israel aimed at three Hamas terrorists in the Gaza city of Rafah.
At the time of this writing, details about the attack remain unknown.
It appears, however, to have been the direct cause of 10 civilian deaths. For the sake of argument, let’s assume this is what happened.
On the one hand, then, the total number of Palestinians killed in the war are significantly greater than the total number of Israelis. Subject to a final tally, call it 1,867 to 67. On the other hand, in Rafah, 10 civilians died in an operation aimed at three terrorists, a ratio of 3.3 to 1.
In the immediate aftermath of Rafah, the US State Department said its nation was “appalled by [the] disgraceful shelling outside an UNRWA school in Rafah [that sheltered] some 3,000 displaced persons [and] in which at least 10 Palestinian civilians were tragically killed,” and that moreover, “the suspicion that militants [were] operating nearby does not justify strikes that put at risk the lives of so many innocent civilians.”
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon concurred, saying that “the attack was yet another gross violation of international humanitarian law.”
The underlying issue is remarkable.
The entire world agrees that there is a universal absolute, an external moral standard to which all people are accountable. Affirming that some are blameless, nations angrily assert, “Thou shalt not kill innocent people; to do so is wrong,” and the implicit corollary: “Innocent people should be protected.”
This is where it gets interesting.
Both Israel and Hamas claim to agree with the above. But one side has nuance while the other has none.
Israel acknowledges there are innocent people on both sides. But Hamas contends that because all Israelis are occupiers and religious infidels, none are innocent. Hence, all are valid targets for attack both from the air above and the ground below.
Refusing to claim perfection for itself, Israel admits that it makes mistakes, that in pursuit of the imperative to protect innocent people and not deliberately kill them, accidents happen. Sometimes, too, individual members of the Jewish state deliberately violate those imperatives. But for its part, Hamas admits no mistakes, no culpability, insisting instead that all its members are engaged in a holy war, a cause so exalted, so righteous, the blood of its innocents is a noble sacrifice.
And yet the world – the Western world, the United States and the United Nations – while claiming all this Jewish nuance for itself, condemns the Jewish state. What must Israel do? Israel must, and will, make a thorough case for its essential justification in Operation Protective Edge.
It will show that, in clear violation of the worlds’ own international humanitarian law, Hamas callously, willfully and persistently used its own civilians, its own children, women and old men, as sacrificial human shields. It will also argue that, according to the standard of all nations, innocent people were killed in a necessary war of self-defense and that their deaths are tragic.
There will be a lot of bluster about what “proportion” of “collateral damage” is acceptable. But this is smoke without a fire.
The real fire, the roaring conflagration underneath it all, is that there is an independent, existentially separate law to which all men appeal and all men are accountable. Because that law exists apart from humanity, there must be an independent, entirely separate Lawgiver, someone who, accordingly, will judge all men without exception.
Hamas claims this judge is Allah, who mandates and justifies its conduct.
For its part, Israel says little. But its very existence on the world stage bears witness to a different claim, the claim that its God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, is both Lawgiver and Judge, the very One who entrusted to Israel this selfsame mandate on a mountain called Sinai, a standard of conduct to which He holds Israel strictly accountable, without favoritism. Even as He also does for all humanity.
The silent witness of Israel to this God provokes the world to an uproar against the Jewish state, this nation, this people, this human proxy for divine accountability that the Lawgiver Himself has chosen.
In response to all the uproar and for His part, the Lawgiver scoffs: “Now therefore, O kings, show discernment; take warning, O leaders of the earth.” ...In such a time as this.
The author is bureau chief for IRNUSA Radio Network. He is also a regular contributor to The Jerusalem Post Christian Edition. Follow him on Twitter: @BrianSchrauger