Even before the outcome was known, Operation Protective Edge—Israel’s third campaign against Hamas in less than six years—had lessons to teach. Among them:
* The next Israeli-Hezbollah conflict will be bigger and more destructive than anything witnessed in the Gaza Strip so far. Hezbollah’s missile arsenal is estimated at several times that of Hamas’ even before Protective Edge. Likewise assume that Hezbollah’s underground fortifications surpass the network Hamas constructed beneath Gaza, and its tunnels infiltrate Israel from Lebanon.
There may be a sequel to the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war because:
“The international community” refused to enforce U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701, which helped end the fighting and required Hezbollah to disarm; the West, retarded by the United States, failed to aid anti-regime forces early enough in the Syrian civil war to prevent Iran and its creation, Hezbollah, from successfully propping up Bashar al-Assad and maintaining a Shi’ite axis of terror that reaches Israel’s border; and Hezbollah might fight under a nuclear umbrella granted Iran by feckless Western negotiators.
* Attention verging on obsession with Palestinian civilian casualties by Western politicians and news media is about something else. This is suggested by at least two factors:
One, many times larger numbers of noncombatant fatalities in recent or current conflicts elsewhere—from Sri Lanka to Syria and Iraq—have generated much less interest, let alone mobs attacking Jews in Western Europe. Two, noncombatant deaths among Gazans has not been “disproportionately high,” as U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon insists and U.S. officials imply.
After the first week of fighting, a review by Physicians for Human Rights—a group not well-disposed toward Israel—counted 621 Palestinian deaths. Of these, 517 were males and of them 419 were between 19 and 60.
After the first two weeks, an analysis of reports by the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights by my colleague, Steven Stotsky, extended that pattern. Posted on TIME Magazine’s Web site, it noted that fewer than 10 percent of the 915 Palestinian deaths at that point were adult females, though that group comprises one-quarter of the Strip’s population. But 404 were males between 17 and 30—44 percent of all fatalities from a group constituting approximately 10 percent of the total population and from which combatants typically are drawn.
These figures suggest that, if anything, noncombatant fatalities in Gaza during the first two weeks of Operation Protective Edge were “disproportionately low.”
* But that didn’t matter. Being argued through a misleading vocabulary of humanitarian concern was whether Israel had the same right to self-defense as all other 191 United Nations member states.
Those comfortable with Jews as scapegoats, as an oppressable minority, grow increasingly uncomfortable with self-defense by the Jewish state. This is especially so in the digital video age. Pictures of Israeli-caused destruction and death among Gazans obliterate for the un- or ill-informed the fact that those emotive images show the consequences of Palestinian aggression. Web-enabled “viral narratives” displace the context required of traditional journalism.
* American support for Israel, still strong according to public opinion polls, rests on the demographic equivalent of “old growth timber.” It’s not only a recent Pew survey that indicated declining support for strong U.S.-Israel ties among younger people and minorities, those most thoroughly marinated in politically correct victim culture. A veteran pro-Israel lobbyist reports that in meetings with congressional staffers about other topics, when Israel and its war against Hamas do come up, the aides express much less understanding of the conflict, let alone backing of Israel, than do their bosses.
Conclusions? Perhaps Israel’s excessive—by the standards of most Western militaries in combat—concern with noncombatant casualties sacrifices the element of surprise, increases Israeli casualties and prolongs conflicts. Maybe the next war, God forbid, should be fast, furious and overwhelming from the start.
Perhaps attempting to appear the reasonable party, eager for negotiations and ready for compromise—instead of spotlighting incessant Arab-Islamic rejection and genocidal incitement, with its anti-Western as well as anti-Israeli message—has been a mistake. Maybe it implies, in contrast to the Palestinian Arabs’ “resistance to occupation,” that Israel is the guilty party, the imperialist deservedly under fire and in the dock of international opinion rather than the victim of unjustified aggression. And it could be that assuming America again will have Israel’s back, absent Washington’s re-engagement with the world as it really is, will be risky.
The author is Washington director of CAMERA, the 65,000-member, Boston-based Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America. Any opinions expressed above are solely his own.