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The Most Moral Army in the World

Gaza Rescue
Photo Credit: AP

Israel has always made the claim that it is the “most moral army in the world.” They say that they do everything they can to prevent the killing of civilians. With an official death toll of over 12,000 civilians right now in Gaza, with many more missing, it merits a look into whether this claim has any validity at all.

Morality in Context

In war, morality is judged not only by the individual acts committed during it, but also in the larger context — the cause of the war, who started it and why, etc. In the Israeli case, it must be seen in the context of occupation, with Israel either directly occupying Palestinian land, or keeping it in a state of siege, as they have in Gaza for over 15 years. The occupation itself is decades long, and began with a well-documented crime, the displacement and killing of 750,000 Palestinians in 1948, known by the Palestinians as the Nakba.

So Israel is already on the wrong side of the only official morality code we have, international law. Before Israel takes the first shot, it is already in the wrong, because the occupation itself is illegal. That being said, if a nation does occupy another’s land illegally, they are still responsible for the welfare of the population. Israel fails this morality test as well. Not only is Israel currently bombing the civiilian population, it has cut off power, water and food. This collective punishment equates to genocide and is the height of immorality, an evil of which rivals the Jewish holocaust of World War II.

As for the Palestinians, just because they are defenseless for the most part, does not mean they are not entitled by international law to put up a resistance, if they can. But regardless of what the law says, this has been understood historically as a universal truth, as long as it has happened in the past. Almost no one now would fault black slaves or native Americans, for instance, for the killing of white people during the 19th century, because it would be seen in the context of the larger struggles against slavery and genocide. Does any ask today how many Germans the Jews killed during the Warsaw Ghetto uprisings of World War II?

Civilian Casualties Compared with Ukraine

Since originally downplaying the numbers of Palestinians killed by Israel, the White House is now admitting that the actual death toll is probably higher than the official number released by Palestinian authorities, due to the fact that so many people are missing, most still buried under the rubble. In over 30 days of attacks, the official toll over 12,000, several thousand more certainly have been killed.

By comparison, after 21 months of heavy fighting in Ukraine, with some of it in dense urban areas, the civilian death toll is less than the official number coming out of Palestine, around 10,000. While this number is still absolutely tragic, it is rather small in comparison to estimates of a catastrophic 500,000 or more total combat deaths, Russian and Ukrainian, that have occurred during that period.

On the other hand, in Gaza, it is almost the exact opposite. Israel says that it has lost 300-400 soldiers, while there are no numbers at all on Hamas fighters killed. The number of civilians killed in Gaza dwarf the number of combatants killed. In a conflict where the number of actual fighters killed is under 1,000, as many as 20,000 civilians have been killed.

In terms of actual percentages, using the numbers above, civilian casualties in Ukraine represents about 2% of the death toll there, or about 1 in 50. In Gaza, the civilian death toll is a shocking 2000% that of combatants, meaning that 20 civilians are killed for every 1 combatant!

Each case represents a completely different strategy. For Russia, it is clear that their main objective is to destroy the Ukrainian military, to which they have now done to a great degree. You can judge Russia any way you want otherwise in this conflict, but it is pretty clear after almost 2 years of fighting, Russia has not been about going after civilians. If they had been, the death toll would be catastrophic as they have the firepower to do that.

As for Israel, it claims to be going after Hamas, but has not produced much evidence that it is succeeding. There is no evidence that they have killed any in signficant number of actual fighters. But they are killing Palestinian civilians at a dizzying rate, hundreds a day, sometimes whole families. At a rally in New York recently, demonstrators read off the name of the dead, starting with the youngest. After an hour and half of reading, they were up to the four-year olds. This is depravity beyond measure.

Unless you are in complete denial, or paid handsomely to think otherwise, it is very clear that Israel is not only killing civilians, but that it is targeting them as well.

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