On Gaza Body Counts and the Numbers Game: A double standard between Israel and Gaza, Israel and the world
Over at the Atlantic, my former benevolent overseer Jeffrey Goldberg responded smartly to an editorial in the Times that, while generally well-argued, made one logical misstep.
Here was the line:
Israel has a vastly more capable military than Hamas, and its air campaign has resulted in a lopsided casualty count: three Israelis have been killed.
And here was JG’s response:
Whenever I read a statement like this, I wonder if the person writing it believes that there is a large moral difference between attempted murder and successfully completed murder. The casualty count is lopsided, but why? A couple of reasons: Hamas rockets are inaccurate; Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system is working well. But the Israeli body count isn’t low because Hamas is trying to minimize Israeli casualties. Quite the opposite: Hamas’s intention is to kill as many Israelis as possible. Without vigilance, and luck, and without active attempts by the Israeli Air Force to destroy rocket launchers before they can be used, the Israeli body count would be much higher. The U.S. judges the threat from al Qaeda based on the group’s intentions and plans, not merely on the number of Americans it has killed over the past 10 years. This is the correct approach to dealing with such a threat.
The importance of Jeffrey’s point here cannot be overstated. In addition, it’s important to note that Hamas has so enmeshed itself and its weaponry in every nook, warren, and by-place of densely populated Gaza that civilian deaths are nearly impossible to avoid. (Hamas’ crude rockets have, on multiple occasions, fallen short and killed or wounded Gazans.) That doesn’t excuse the death of any innocent people in Gaza-they are a stain on Israel, but they are also a stain on Hamas and other terrorist groups.