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Friday, January 2, 2009

But what about the body count?

This was asked by a person very dear to me. “But what about the body count? Why have so many Palestinians died and so few Israelis?”

It’s a question born of the sort of media coverage the Middle East has garnered for ages—as if a body count is a moral high ground. So here’s the explanation:

The body count for Palestinians, right now, is approximately 400, only 100 of which are believed to be civilians (NY Times). Israel does two things to lower the civilian casualty rates in situations like these.

First, they bomb selectively—unlike Hamas, which shoots blindly and specifically into civilian neighborhoods.

Second, they warn the civilians to get out of the way. They take the time to suggest evacuation because the Palestinians do not have an early warning system.

That’s one part. But in addition to that, Israel does have early warning and gets its civilians out of the way so fewer die. But in addition, there is the problem of a Hamas-run government.

A Hamas-run government does not have sufficient medical or infrastructural setups to take care of the people living in Gaza when there is no fighting. When there is fighting—again, started by them—they certainly have no resources. So the casualty rate goes up because civilians who could have otherwise been treated for wounds, cannot be treated by a system that does not have the goods on offer. And why not? The UN and many European countries supply the Paletinians with funding.

Much of the funding went up in secondary explosions of Rayan’s home, this week; when the munitions he was storing exploded because of the bomb dropped on his house.

This man is not just a “top leader” of Hamas; Rayan is a man who encouraged and then trained his teenaged son to become a suicide bomber (NY Times). He has also, according to the same Times report, asked Palestinians to stand on the roofs of buildings Israel was targeting (he knew which ones, because Israel lets Palestinians know where not to be!). Meir’s words ring through again.

So, the answer to the body count question is this: Israel works to keep the Israeli & Palestinian body counts low. Hamas works to keep all body counts high, but gets more mileage out of Palestinian bodies than Israeli ones. Bodies are not moral high ground. Bodies cannot remain the “scorecard” or the Palestinians will lose by winning. We must save Palestinian lives and Israeli lives by putting Hamas out of business. That is what Israel is trying to do. And instead of settling for a few more months’ quiet while Hamas buys more weapons and recruits more hungry, poor, tired, uneducated young men and women to become weapons, Israel chooses to fight for a lasting end to the violence.

1 comment:

RabbiHaim said...

One more point needs to be made, Israel has been treating casualties from Gaza in Israel's hospitals. This is offered and accepted without regard to "which side" the casualties are from.