Gaza Casualties Speak Volumes

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It’s that tragic time of year again when the Gaza Strip erupts into flames once more, and the usual suspects are quick to paint the tragic and complex issue with the black-and-white brush of their own agenda. And of all those metaphorical brushstrokes, the numbering of casualties on each side is the most revealing. In more ways than intended.

This year the popular propagandistic narrative is that of an evil, genocidal juggernaut of an Israel against a poor, downtrodden Palestinian people, like cattle before the slaughter. According to this fable there are only two sides, two groups, in the conflict. Every act of destruction falls on the conscience of every last person in Israel’s territory, and every dead body on the other end of the border is an innocent child.

Back to reality. There are, in fact, four main groups at play here: the people of Israel, the people of Palestine, the Israeli Defense Forces, and Hamas. The first two groups are simply trying to mind their own lives, and scurry for cover whenever the bombs start to fly. The other two are military groups, ostensibly charged with the safety of their corresponding civilian population. In reality, as in all wars, all this amounts to more death and destruction than protection.

Notice that key word: war. This isn’t a one-sided aggression here; it’s a two-sided armed conflict. Two organized forces are lobbing explosives at each other, with civilians caught in the crossfire. Omit all mention of one of these two sides, and the conflict ceases to make sense. It starts to look like a vicious, genocidal Israeli force is senselessly intent on pounding Gaza into the sand. And while that narrative is very useful for purposes of anti-Israel propaganda, it is not even remotely grounded in reality.

Now about those oft-quoted casualty figures, which show far fewer lives lost on the Israeli side. Using the two-group fantasy scenario, it seems like a brutal massacre of the Palestinian people. Using the four-group reality where you have two armed forces supposedly championing the safety of their respective civilian populations, a different truth comes into focus: the Israeli Defense Forces are much better at protecting their civilians. IDF members are clearly identifiable via uniforms, quickly sweep friendly noncombatants off to safety, and take the fight as far away from those in their care as possible. They even make overtures and attempts to minimize civilian casualties on the other side. Hamas members, on the other side of the equation, are often indistinguishable from civilians, fire into civilian populations, operate out of civilian areas, and make no perceivable effort to reduce the instances of death and injury on the Palestinian side, let alone the Israeli camp. When it comes to protecting its own people, the IDF handily outclasses Hamas.

There are great, complex issues at play that spark hostilities, with plenty of blame to spare on both sides of the border; and a continued effort to address these issues is necessary if we are to even dream of peace. However, when it comes to war, and condemnations thereof, we really have to be equitable in criticisms of both armed forces. Before blasting civilian casualties caused by Israel with any kind of honesty, we must demand Hamas wear clearly recognizable uniforms, target only military installations and personnel, and remove their forces from civilian populations, including sending their organized armed forces across the border to do battle in an area devoid of Palestinian noncombatants. At that point we can actually address grievances on both sides, and work towards true peace.

War is hell, and its agents are demons. We would do well to recognize all members of their ranks, and hold them all equally accountable.

Joël Valenzuela
Joël Valenzuela
Joël Valenzuela is the editor of The Desert Lynx. He is also the founder of the Rights Brigade, a mover for the Free State Project, and a martial art instructor.
  • Mattheus

    “It starts to look like a vicious, genocidal Israeli force is senselessly intent on pounding Gaza into the sand. And while that narrative is very useful for purposes of anti-Israel propaganda, it is not even remotely grounded in reality.”

    This is a very strong statement. Can you REALLY compare this to a “two-sided” war? Israel has been an apartheid State for decades, pushing out native Palestinians and engaging in massive land theft. One side is supported militarily and monetarily by the most aggressive empire in world history – the other side tries to build clunky rockets that get immediately shot down.

    Both the State of Israel and Hamas are criminal organizations, of course. But we can definitely make comments regarding the use of force exercised by the State of Israel (including their use of white phosphorus against Gazans) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_phosphorus#Israeli-Palestinian_conflict_.282009.E2.80.932012.29

    I think you’re being way too even handed. This is not some spar of even combatants. This is a fucking massacre.

    • In terms of an armed conflict between two armed groups, it’s absolutely accurate. Strength of the opposing sides doesn’t factor into the conflict narrative at all.

      All criticisms of Israeli policy in this fall on completely deaf ears without the mention of Hamas, because they completely ignore mention of self-defense. Israeli children do still scurry into bomb shelters to dodge rockets, and young Israeli men and women are drafted into combat and die. Just because they’re on the stronger, better-equipped side doesn’t mean their fear isn’t real.

      The only way the situation can get any better is by addressing the root causes of the conflict. Simply casualty-shaming Israel won’t change anything as long as they’re under attack.

      • Mattheus

        I don’t agree to your premise that Israel is “under attack” the same way Gaza is under attack. People talk about the United States being “under attack” from terrorism and this justifies all numbers of bloody corpses around the world, when it’s more or less clear (to us I should think) that the United States government pushes for insurgents and creates enemies to justify its enormous military state. One doesn’t have to believe in NWO or 9/11 truth to recognize the VERY strong incentive that US military leaders have in exaggerating threats, labelling anti-war protesters as cowards and enemies, etc. etc.

        This is also true of Israel. Israel could stop being “under attack” at any time the political class chooses: They could return Palestinian land, remove their embargoes, pull out every IDF soldier, recognize the Palestinian people as deserving human rights, etc etc. But they aren’t interested in that. They’re interested in blasting this narrative, like the one you are giving, about poor Israel getting hit with makeshift rockets that barely pass the Iron Dome when there is no mention of the percentage of child casualties they have created or property damage they have done.

  • Derp Al Tsabar

    Look, the bigge issue that everyone overlooks is that this is rightfully Roman land…we want t BACK!!