Thursday, August 07, 2014

The Gaza Casualty Game- Civilian Or Fighter?

By David Gerstman

The New York Times's Jodi Rudoren  has a piece out titled "Civilian or Not? New Fight in Tallying the Dead From the Gaza Conflict" that deals with the war between Israel and Hamas and the conflict over how deaths are counted as civilian casualties or not, as well as the larger issues involved. Some observations about the editorial....

It was easiest to count the losses. More than 1,800 Palestinians, a majority of them noncombatants, and 67 Israelis have been killed. United Nations officials said 408 Palestinian children were killed and 2,502 injured. The physical damage in Gaza is estimated at $6 billion.

Note how Rudoren noted that according to the paper's OWN analysis, women and children were underrepresented among the dead and the Times editorialists ignore that and go for raw numbers. (Rudoren cited the number of under 18 fatalities as 429, not 408. But that number is under 18, and I'm guessing some percentage of those are boys 15-18 who are fighters. (Remember that Hamas has high school -and younger- military training.)

There are important but less tangible costs: the way ordinary Israelis have had to live in fear of rocket attacks; increasingly bitter strains on Israel’s relations with the United States; international criticism of Israel — and the outrage of anti-Semitic protests and violence in Europe. There seems to be little room left in Israeli politics for those who would end the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza and create an independent Palestinian state.

Note that the "outrage of anti-Semitic protests and violence" is a function of Israel's self-defense, not on the misreporting of the violence that largely blamed Israel. (Side note: When the issue is "settlements" we hear all about international law - a specious reading of international law to be sure; but when it comes to terror and human shields, the standard is the number of Arabs killed, not who - according to international law - is culpable.)

Both sides are tallying the blame. In too many cases, Israel launched weapons that hit schools and shelters and failed to adequately protect Palestinian citizens. But Hamas knowingly targeted Israeli civilian centers in violation of any civilized standard and launched weapons from populated areas in what looks like a deliberate effort to draw Israeli fire on innocents.

This paragraph is self contradictory. "Launching weapons from populated areas" means that they were legitimate targets; the "failing to ... protect" is an absurd standard that would make the waging of any war impossible.

Both sides are claiming victory, Israel for wiping out 32 underground tunnels that Hamas intended for attacks on Israel, and Hamas for still being alive. In a mockery of its claim to have a political arm independent of its armed wing, political officials of Hamas were crowing about its determination to regroup and attack again.

The only standard by which Hamas won is if you create an arbitrary standard and say that Hamas achieved that. (David Horovitz shows conclusively that Hamas did not win.) Really this is so contrived I'm tempted to conclude that the Times is rooting for Hamas. But it's interesting that even as it tries to deny Hamas' defeat  the Times recognizes that the distinction between Hamas' political and military wings is fictional.

The bottom line is that neither side has achieved its main goal of destroying the other. Israel is not going away. But neither are the Palestinians, and the extremists among them will always find a place and an audience if there is no hope and no responsible moderate leaders to point the way to a better future.

But Israel wasn't trying to destroy the Palestinians; it was trying to defeat Hamas. The reason there is no hope is because the Palestinians - even the leaders of Fatah - refuse to compromise. But the real issue here that the editorial ignores is that there will be no peace if Hamas is not disarmed.

...That is why it so important that indirect talks between Israelis and Palestinians in Cairo this week, mediated by Egypt, lay the ground for something bigger and more durable than one cease-fire. Certain conditions are clear. Rocket attacks into Israel by Hamas and other extremist groups must stop, along with other terrorist attacks. So does the smuggling of weapons into Gaza and the production of a new supply of rockets. There will need to be an international donors’ conference to rebuild Gaza, but with assurances that Hamas will not divert money for civilian projects into rockets and tunnels. Otherwise, there is little chance that Israel would end the blockade that has kept Gazans confined to the strip, and deprived them of imports, exports and jobs.

Oh sure the smuggling and production of weapons must be stopped. And Hamas' be stripped of its arsenal. If Hamas still has weapons it is still a threat. After UN Security Resolution 1701 failed to disarm Hezbollah, who is going "assure" that Hamas won't divert aid? Please. That's pie in the sky for anyone the least bit conversant with what's happened in the Middle East over the past decade. Hamas cannot be trusted. The existence of the tunnels shows that the blockade was justified. If Hamas imports goods unsupervised it will do the same thing again. Nothing here that the Times advocates can happen unless Hamas is defanged, but that's the one thing that the Times doesn't advocate. Shorter editorial: Terror pays.

Hamas wants Israel to release prisoners. The Palestinian Authority, which recognizes Israel, wants a role in controlling the border crossings between Israel and Gaza. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, has signaled an eagerness to have the authority extend its reach to Gaza. But it cannot just be a policeman. If any agreements come out of Cairo, they must be designed to strengthen the authority and its president, Mahmoud Abbas, by managing whatever funds are donated to Gaza. It may be necessary to have Hamas in Cairo, but the group offers Palestinians nothing except nihilism and endless suffering.

Actually  being Israel's policeman as the Times (channeling Thomas Friedman) derisively puts it is Abbas' responsibility. His failure to do so (and before him Arafat's) shows that he hasn't fulfilled one of the fundamental jobs of statehood. With the Palestinians statehood has been (and encouraged by their cheerleaders like the New York Times) has been one of trappings and privileges with no responsibilities.

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