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The lopsided casualty rate in Gaza proves nothing about responsibility for the conflict

The lopsided casualty rate in Gaza proves nothing about responsibility for the conflict

Should more Israelis be dying to satisfy critics and make it a more “fair” fight?

An argument which is being used against Israel and which is quite nonsensical is that the low Israeli casualty rate from over a thousand Hamas rockets somehow makes the higher Palestinian casualty rate a war crime or otherwise indefensible.

It’s true that the casualty rate is lopsided, but that has nothing to do with breach of law or intent to kill.

Hamas, Islamic Jihad and others in Gaza fire rockets from civilian areas, and conceal their weapons and leadership in and under civilian buildings.

The only way for Israel to defend itself is to target the source of the rocket fire and to seek out command and control structures located in civilian areas.

Israel goes to extraordinary and unprecedented lengths not to kill civilians. From warnings via text message and telephone, to public announcements and leaflets, to roof tapping (use of inert warheads to shake a building as warning to get out, usually 15 minutes in advance), to calling off airstrikes. If any other military in the history of humankind has gone to such lengths, please tell me.

As in every single military campaign in the history of modern warfare, sometimes mistakes are made. But to deny Israel’s efforts is to deny reality.

Hamas and the others have no such concerns. Their rockets are fired almost exclusively into heavily populated civilian areas, the one exception being targeting of the Dimona nuclear reactor. So when not trying to kill civilians directly, Hamas tries to create a nuclear leak to kill civilians indirectly.

The low Israeli casualty rate is due to the extraordinary efforts of the Israeli government to protect its civilians — including extensive bomb shelters and safe structures on streets. And of course, the Iron Dome system that shoots down rockets heading for populated areas.

So on the one side we have homicidal Hamas maniacs targeting civilians and using civilians as human shields, and on the other side we have Israel trying to avoid killing Palestinian civilians and protecting its Israeli civilians. The result is an imbalance in civilian casualties in Israel’s favor. But that imbalance is not proof of anything other than which side values civilian life.

Israel’s good behavior, however, does not go unpunished. Islamists and leftists accuse the party trying to avoid civilians casualties (Israel) of being the equivalent of Hitler, as they spew their Jew hatred openly around the world.

But it’s not just street mobs who play this perverse game.

Some Western commentators use Israel’s protection of its civilians as evidence that Israel is acting unjustly or even in violation of international law. Here are three examples:

Eli Clifton, The Nation Mag

Clifton repeatedly has used the lopsided casualty ratio to question whether Israel even needs to be defending itself against Hamas rockets:

Even accuses Israel of “carpet bombing,” apparently having zero clue what the term means and what actually is happening:

You know, because rockets (not “missiles”) are not real weapons, at least not when fired by an “impoverished” population:

Max Fisher,

Fischer takes the Clifton approach, and elevates it to macro historical level, finding a disproportionate historical casualty rate:

So? Would it be more historically fair if more Israelis were killed?

In his post Fisher writes that most of the Palestinian casualties come during times, like now, that Israel fights with Hamas in Gaza. Which, since Israel left Gaza in 2005, has been the result of Hamas firing rockets and kidnapping Gilad Shalit. And the low Israeli death toll, Fisher admits, is from Israel leaving Gaza and building “walls” (actually mostly fences, but no matter).

So Israel disengages, cuts off the suicide bombers, yet is somehow to blame for Hamas and others firing rockets from civilian areas.

Ken Roth, Executive Director, Human Rights Watch

Human Rights Watch is notoriously hostile to Israel, and Roth himself sounded a highly unusual response to the recent kidnapping of there Israel teens.

Roth also has played the numbers game, arguing that the civilian death toll is the result of deliberateness:

And reverses the sequence of events by suggesting that Israel trying to prevent Hamas from getting rockets is a cause of Hamas firing rockets:

Counter-arguments and critiques are dismissed out of hand as “snow” jobs, unlike his apparently absolute truth:

And uses civilian casualties as proof of Israeli war crimes:

Concern for the cause of the problem is an afterthought:


So what is Israel supposed to do in such a situation?

Nothing, and have its civilian population running to bomb shelters multiple times a day, and hope that Iron Dome doesn’t run out of interceptors? Or fail?

Really, all these commentators should explain how Israel is supposed to defend itself against groups committed to its destruction who fire rockets from civilian areas using civilian human shields while firing into Israeli civilian areas.

UPDATE 7-16-2014: It is not even clear that the “civilian” casualty figures coming out of Gaza are accurate. CAMERA reports that an al Jazeera analysis finds that most of the dead are combat-age males. That doesn’t mean they are not “civilians,” but is casts doubt on the numbers from Hamas officials in Gaza and the obviously-anti-Israel U.N. officials in Gaza:

Shown below is a chart of male fatalities in Gaza resulting from hostilities between Hamas and Israel between July 7 and July 14, derived from a list published by Al Jazeera on July 14. Information provided by Qatar-owned Al Jazeera should not be accepted at face value, as the emirate has close ties to the Hamas-led Gazan government, but nevertheless, the information provided in the list shows that as in past hostilities, the fatalities are disproportionately [compared to the overall population] among young males, which corresponds with the characteristics of combatants. Males over 40 years old are also disproportionately represented. Some of the fatalities in those over 40 years of age likely represent senior members of terrorist organization. Media coverage often parrots the line fed by Gazan authorities that “most of the casualties are civilians” despite the well-established propensity of Gazan authorities to exaggerate the proportion of civilian casualties.

We have seen many instanced, for example Jenin, where non-combatant death rates were grossly exaggerated.

Also see Elder of Ziyon, The REAL statistics of those killed in Gaza.


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Israel builds shelters for its populace and sounds warnings. Gaza builds tunnels to move terror missiles and exhorts/extorts civilians to act as human shields.

Any wonder casualties are disparate?

Israel expends genius and treasure on a defense system to shoot down indiscriminately targeted rockets. Gaza spends its paltry substance and creative talent to build terror rockets it will launch with the intent they will go where they might, including concentrated population centers. When the Israelis attack, they work hard to minimize civil casualties, but they also smoke what they aim at.

Any wonder casualties are disparate?

One culture treasures life. The other vaunts a culture of death.

Any wonder casualties are disparate?

One culture views a dead or dismembered child a great PR gift. The other considers any death a failure of its defense forces.

Any wonder casualties are disparate?

    Spiny Norman in reply to Ragspierre. | July 15, 2014 at 3:19 pm

    On Twitter, that sort of comment labels you “Zio-Nazi scum”.

    Israel’s ability to protect its people, and therefore suffering fewer casualties, from indiscriminate Muslim bombing might have something to do with Jews holding more Nobel prizes in the hard sciences.

    Muslims may have killed fewer Israelis in these short wars than their own KIA. This has come about through Israel smarts and Muslim incompetence. Not from the Muslims’ lack of trying.

Should more Israelis be dying to satisfy critics and make it a more “fair” fight?

Don’t even try.
The “critics” will never be satisfied.
They will only be happy if Israel is wiped from the face of the earth.
I say, give them the finger. Then wipe the terrorists instead.

LukeHandCool | July 15, 2014 at 3:08 pm

The Israelis are no different than the Nazis.

Who can forget the leaflets the Nazis dropped warning Jews to flee and avoid boarding any camp trains?

Who can forget the ringing peals of Berlin’s Great Municipal Glass Bell, warning Jews to replace their storefront windows with shatter-proof plexiglass weeks before Kristallnacht?

Who can forget Hitler’s text messages and phone calls urging potential Holocaust victims not to make him massacre again?

Who can forget Napolean’s axiom:

“If you start to take Vienna, for God’s sake, above all be proportionate and sensitive to hostile international community world opinion.”

Who can forget MacArthur’s axiom on the two words that summed up all tragic conflagrations? Rumored by Zionist disinformation agents to be “Too late” (in recognizing, acknowledging, and attacking a threat), who can forget MacArthur’s actual two words before Zionist manipulation:

“Too disproportionate.”

Who can forget all this history?

Never forget. Never again.

Spiny Norman | July 15, 2014 at 3:17 pm

Idiotic leftists (usually college humanities majors) using Max Fisher’s “logic” have made the same kind of “disproportionate casualties” argument about the Second World War: German vs Russian, British vs German, American vs German, and most especially, American vs Japanese. Whoever suffered the highest loses was the “real victim”.

(Yeah, I know, Germany was both an aggressor and a victim – ain’t the internets grand?)

    And what kind of mentality does this kind of body-count victimhood belay? Russians are quite proud of their tens of millions dead in WW2.

    Ragspierre in reply to Spiny Norman. | July 15, 2014 at 3:54 pm

    I was going to raise that very thought, but as a “naw, that’s just crazy-talk” point.

    Try to imagine the little, tiny pieces “The Greatest Generation” would have reduced these idiots to during WWII.

    Patton had the right idea about American war casualties versus enemy dead, wounded, and captured.

    “Kill THEM.”

I think it is extremely interesting that the Islamists purport to want to kill Jews, and yet their behavior inevitably results in the deaths (sometimes by torture) of so very many more Muslims than Jews. This is true not only of Hamas, but Al-Qaeda, Boko Haram, and ISIS.

Why, why would Hamas tell Palestinians to stay where they are, after the IDF warns them to leave specific locations?

Obviously, the leadership of Hamas has no problem killing their own, for the sake of “larger issues,” like so many evil statists. That is one reason. But I believe there is another. I think Allah has deprived them of the ability to think straight.

The real scholars of Islam acknowledge the Abrahamic roots of their religion, as well as the two core principles of all the Abrahamic religions: First, love God, and Second, Love your neighbor.

Hamas rejects that second core teaching. They know they reject it, and they know they transgress against the teachings of Islam. That is why the Introduction section of the Hamas Covenant states that it is their intent to “sacrifice their souls” “in the path of Allah.”

If Allah is any kind of a God, one would think that a sarcastic document offering disobedience to his greatest Commandments is asking for a curse, not a blessing. And indeed, the lopsided casualty rate may be explained by Allah’s curse, for the Islamists bring nothing but poverty, violence and death, everywhere they gain a shred of influence. They cannot rule themselves, they cannot rule others, and they bring disaster in their wake, the whole world over.

I think my theory fits the statistics better than those of Kenneth Roth, Max Fisher, and Eli Clifton, in part because the phenomenon holds true world-wide, wherever Islamists can be found, and not just one, tiny portion of the the globe.

Thank you Professor.

I only wish that Israel could be more aggressive in removing the Muslim threat. Here is a another commentators perspective, which I think has some validity.

From Daniel Greenfield @ the Sultan Knish (Monday, July 14, 2014):

“Terrorism is a game. The rules are simple. You have three choices. 1. Destroy the terrorists. 2. Live with terrorism. 3. Give in to the terrorists.

There are no other choices.

The first choice comes from the right. The third choice comes from the left. The second choice is what politicians choose when they don’t want to make a decision that will change the status quo.

Despite all the explosions in Gaza, Israel is still stuck on the second choice. The air strikes aren’t meant to destroy Hamas. They are being carried out to degrade its military capabilities which will buy a year or two of relative peace. And that will be followed by more of the same in the summer of 2016 when Hamas will have deadlier Iranian and Syrian weapons that will terrorize more of the country.

That doesn’t sound like much of a deal, but these kinds of wars have bought more peace than the peace process ever did. The peace process led to wars. The wars lead to a temporary peace.”

I’m curious of the “methodology” used to distinguish terrorists from civilians in Gaza. Terrorists don’t wear uniforms, and if a family brings weapons into its home, are they still civilians, or is it a military base? The line can be blurry.

    JackRussellTerrierist in reply to edgeofthesandbox. | July 16, 2014 at 12:16 am

    I’ve wondered that a time or two myself.

    Even if all you do is offer yourself or your family up as cannon and propaganda fodder, are you any less guilty than those firing shots? Such acts of facilitation are just another form of the same mission.

David in DC | July 15, 2014 at 3:38 pm

These twitter threads are really odious. The stupidity of Eli Clifton is unbelievable. Restating the obvious, the death toll doesn’t indicate which actions are offensive and which are defensive. And I have to think Ken Roth, as Executive Director of HRW, hurts the reputation and credibility of that organization with public statements like we see above. The sarcastic sniping makes one wonder about the impartiality of their reports.

    JackRussellTerrierist in reply to David in DC. | July 15, 2014 at 6:34 pm

    It provides fodder for anti-Semitic libtards and propaganda for the clueless American Idol fans.

    Milhouse in reply to David in DC. | July 16, 2014 at 12:00 am

    “Human Rights Watch” never had any credibility to start with. As David Bernstein documented a few years ago, it raises money from Saudis by pandering to their Nazi tendencies. Oh, and some mucky-muck at HRW was exposed as an actual Nazi, who collects Nazi regalia and dresses up in them.

LukeHandCool | July 15, 2014 at 3:42 pm

On university campuses the humanities and “soft sciences” are leading the way in shaping minds for the future.

The “hard sciences problem” remains.

What a tragic twist of fate that the brilliant and antiseptically unbiased Messrs. Clifton, Fisher, and Roth chose the already overwhelmingly anti-Israel field of journalism.

Their thirst for the truth and talent with numbers could’ve better served solving the “hard sciences problem.”

Imagine. Bringing the hard sciences into the 21st Century, up to date along the soft sciences.

Out: Differential Calculus.

In: Disproportionate Calculus.

Hamas is good at starting wars, Israel is good at ending them.

The Israelis are highly skilled, trained, well equipped soldiers, Hamas is a bunch of illiterate religious fanatic rabble.

The Israelis are brave warriors, Hamas are little chicken shit thugs who hide behind women and children.

Wanna pick a winner ?

“Even accuses Israel of “carpet bombing,” apparently having zero clue what the term means and what actually is happening:”

They are carpet bombing !

They pick a particular carpet in a particular room of a particular building that is known to be hiding terrorists and/or missiles, etc, and bomb the living piss out of it with GPS guided precision 🙂

“”It’s a game of tit4tat, except 1 side’s the 6th largest arms exporter & the other an imprisoned slum w 70% poverty”

…who spend the other 30 % on missiles to fire at their neighbour’s population centers, in the hopes of killing some random people.

The appropriate casualty ratio.


David in DC | July 15, 2014 at 4:26 pm

This is the methodology, straight from a Human Rights Watch report:

“…An airstrike targeting the home of an alleged member of an armed group in Khan Yunis on July 8 killed seven people, including as many as six children, and injured 25, according to Palestinian news reports and a report by al-Mezan, a Palestinian rights group. Human rights groups and news media reported that victims included other civilian residents of Khan Yunis who had gathered at the building to prevent an Israeli airstrike after Israeli forces had fired a small missile at the building as a warning.

A warning, which can help avoid civilian casualties, does not absolve the attacking party from targeting only military objectives or from the duty to refrain from any attack if anticipated civilian casualties and damage to civilian property in the circumstances of the actual attack are disproportionate to the expected military advantage, Human Rights Watch said…”

Two things from that:

1) The Palestinians are the source for these statistics we see.

2) Some of the “civilian” casualties are people who made the conscious decision to defend a target identified as military (whether or not HRW after the fact disagrees with that designation). To my thinking, that action puts you in the combatant column.

I believe that HRW is correct with the second paragraph above. Where they err, I believe deliberately, is in their definition of who is a “civilian”. They are picking and choosing which laws they want to cite.

From the Geneva Convention, Article 51:

“3. Civilians shall enjoy the protection afforded by this Section, unless and for such time as they take a direct part in hostilities.”

    “does not absolve the attacking party from targeting only military objectives ”

    So, if the slimebuckets hide themselves and their portable missile launching trucks in schools, hospitals, etc, they are supposed to be safe ???

      Milhouse in reply to pjm. | July 16, 2014 at 12:13 am

      No, that simply makes the school or hospital a military objective. That’s the point that Hamas and its accomplices such as Clifton, Fisher, and Roth deliberately avoid mentioning. A legitimate military target is any target whose destruction achieves a military objective. A civilian target is one whose destruction does nothing for any military objective.

      Another thing they deliberately avoid mentioning is that an enemy soldier doesn’t become a civilian merely by putting his weapon down, or even by never having held a weapon at all. Combat troops are legitimate targets even when they’re asleep or on the potty, and so are support troops who’ve never fired a shot, but who supply those who do the fighting. Remember that most soldiers in any army are in support roles.

      The people who flock into a building knowing that it’s going to be bombed are soldiers, though what exactly they think they’re doing for the Hamas war effort is bit of a mystery. They seem to think it will stop the IDF from bombing the building, but surely they know by now that this isn’t working. It seems to me that they only thing they’re doing is supplying bodies for the casualty count, which will be used in the propaganda war. OK, so be it. That makes them soldiers.

What’s next….. Israel blamed for destroying Palestinian property when they shoot down a missile? Or, even worse, hurting the self esteem of the missile shooter.

The situation of thousands of would-be-lethal-but-miss missiles launched against Israel, and the reaction of the Amalak-aligned media to thereby ignore the very real lethality of intent in launching them, because BH, they nearly all miss or get destroyed in flight, is not at all without analogy to the situation at the US Southern border.

There at the US border is not a lethal attack, but it is a nation-weakening attack, a very real one. Thousands — hundreds of — humans, among them many children are being launched at the US, an attack carefully planned and staged for months. Yet it too is excused, and the demands that the wave of humans a in very real invasion be stopped are ignored and derided.

That attack may be more effective in nation-destroying capability than the one launched against Israel and Jews all over the world.

A similar attack of individually harmless humans is launched against Israel — it is called the “right of return” where that right is demanded by some to be applied to non-Jews, to those claiming to be somehow displaced “Palestinians”. Israel rejects that attack, and protects its borders. Instead deliberately terroristic nearly-always missing missile attacks are launched against them, to which when Israel responds, the counter-reaction of the evil tongued chatterers fires up the billions of weak-minded against Israel.

One style of the chaos-tactic works against the US: the human wave of innocents prodded by an international conspiracy of America haters to run in a herd over the border into our soft underbelly of caring for fellow humans.

Another style of chaos-tactic works against Israel: the barrage of tens of thousands of feckless-aimed missiles (each one potentially deadly and real) that perhaps induce far more terror. and certainly more misguided sympathy for those launching them. The outcry against Israel for responding, as it must to such attack, and in that reaction taking real lives of those caught in proximity to the evil ones attacking, is ginned up by the same, or highly overlapping international conspiracy.

Our enemies are the same.

Wonder how Ken doll, Maxi and Eli would react if someone was lobbing rockets around their homes at odd hours?

    Spiny Norman in reply to genes. | July 15, 2014 at 9:47 pm

    They’d blame George W Bush.

    No, I am not kidding.

    Milhouse in reply to genes. | July 16, 2014 at 12:16 am

    Forget rockets. How about rocks in their windows, and at their kids on the street?

    Or how about someone taking potshots at black people. They’d be up in arms then, wouldn’t they? And they wouldn’t care how many of the KKKers got shot; they’d say take them all down.

      JackRussellTerrierist in reply to Milhouse. | July 16, 2014 at 12:31 am

      In essence, these opiners are saying that the lives of Israelis are of less value than those of the enemy attacking them. They have been taught by academia that this is the righteous position. Israel is to be criticized no matter what she does.

      If Bibi would simply annihilate the other side, then these bozos would be disabled from doing anything except lament, wring their hands, criticize Israel some more while everybody else, including the Israelis, moves on. It will shortly become history and they, too, will move on.

      Bibi, just get it over with.

        ” In essence, these opiners are saying that the lives of Israelis are of less value than those of the enemy attacking them. ”

        Worse than that if one looks back over time at the actions of those funding the Arab grinding machine; Israeli lives are not worth anything.
        Just as that buzz phrase “human rights” does not apply to Israelis going by the media and many western countries’ rhetoric.
        Which human, What rights, When seems to depend on which way the wind is blowing.

        I’ve wondered, from time to time, why Israel hasn’t just lined up bulldozers, blade to blade, and pushed the whole strip off into the Med.

Doug Wright Old Grouchy | July 15, 2014 at 6:16 pm

Perhaps Israel should follow the example of Rome in the Third Carthaginian War and remove that problem once and for all.

Of course, another alternative would be for the Palestinians to accept that Israel has the right to exist as free and sovereign state. If Palestinians decide not to accept that existence, then Israel should let it be known that the Carthage style solution is on the table.

    Hamas will never accept the existence of Israel. They have said so themselves, and reiterated it again yesterday.

    If Palestinians decide not to accept that existence, then Israel should let it be known that the Carthage style solution is on the table.

    No stone left atop another, and salt the earth?

    Works for me. Make it a permanent unoccupied DMZ.

    Gaza delenda est.

JackRussellTerrierist | July 15, 2014 at 6:32 pm

I think the Israelis are making a big mistake by using these warning shake missiles to the buildings. Since they are, as always, being condemned for defending themselves, the best thing they can do is to destroy the buildings and the civilians so the civilians can’t be moved to yet other buildings to serve the same purpose over and over again.

If the Israelis would just wipe them all out, it’d be over and done.

Israel’s concern for bad press and/or “humanity” isn’t getting them anywhere. They are damned if they do and damned if they don’t, so they may as well “do” and save themselves. There is no upside to “don’t”. “Don’t” simply prolongs the war and attacks on Israel, gives the enemy an opportunity to regroup, depletes the Israeli arsenal, and prolongs the misery for the Israeli people.

Just kill the bastards already.

It was Hamas who set the exchange rate at 1027 to 1 (Gilad Schalit) The bastards are getting off easy.

I wonder how the same people will react next time the FBI has a shootout with some racist militia that’s been lynching black people, and they kill 20 or 30 militia versus 0 or 1 FBI casualties.

So the UN says 77% of Arab casualties are civilians. But then he says “half” are. So which is it? And how does the UN or Roth know? How does anyone know? Why attach any significance to a number pulled out of someone’s bottom? If I tell you that only 23% of the casualties are civilians, do you have any evidence to contradict me?

I note in passing how absolutely pathetic Hamas’ showing has been here. They finally had one Israeli die from a stray missile falling. One. Which is still a pity, but Hamas has very little to show for all this.

    JackRussellTerrierist in reply to JBourque. | July 16, 2014 at 12:42 am

    Well, they got the American libtard journo-lists stirred up. That counts for something in their view.


    I doubt that outside academia and the media anybody gives a damn if the Israelis bomb Hamas into oblivion. There’s a reason why Americans support the Second Amendment: You shoot at me, I’m shooting back……and I’m a better shot and have a bigger gun than you do. So….BLAM! Take that and pound sand, m+^$^#f)@#^r!

    Vascaino in reply to JBourque. | July 16, 2014 at 1:22 pm

    The person who was killed by a mortar attack on the Israeli/Gaza border when he went to take food parcels to the soldiers there.
    No rocket in this case.

Ah, but it does prove something. It proves the Israelis are far better fighters than ISIL. You’d think Muslims would figure it out. They’ve been losing to Israel for years.

[…] For more commentary/analysis, see William Jacobson (Gaza casualty rate proves nothing about responsibility for conflict), Khaled Abu Toameh (Why Hamas […]