Michael Jackson

Deaths and Morality    

This will be tough.  Tough for me and possibly tough for you, dear reader.

Let’s start. Hamas committed an atrocity on October 7th involving murder, rape, torture, hostage taking, execution of kids, pillage, and some gleeful celebration of such planned violence. There are explanations; but no justification. There are reasons; but no excuses. There is a history; but no future path to peace.

Recently, the Ukrainian government stated that about 31,000 Ukrainian soldiers have been killed. Most Western analysts think the stated military losses are too low. Fewer than 11,000 Ukrainian civilians have been killed (including fewer than 600 children). But taking this estimate gives a ratio of civilian-to-soldier of roughly 1 to 3. Fewer than 600 Russian civilians have been killed while over 60,000 Russian soldiers have been killed, yielding a ratio of civilians to soldiers of 1 to 100.

The Gazan Palestinian Ministry of Health does not differentiate between civilian and military deaths, but gives a total of about 30,000 (at the time of writing). The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) estimates about 12,000 terrorists (combatants, militants, fighters) have been killed.  It also has stated a 2 to 1 ratio (slightly less) of civilians to terrorists killed, i.e., about 18,000 civilians.  The IDF total is thus about 30,000 killed (12,000 plus 18,000), remarkably close to the Gazan number.  I leave aside the absurd Netanyahu comment of a 1 to 1 ratio. The Gazan ratio of civilians to soldiers is thus 2 to 1 (a reversal of the direction of the Russian and Ukrainian numbers). The number of Israeli civilians killed (including dead hostages and missile deaths) is about 1,300. Combining this with the under 300 Israeli soldiers killed in Gaza yields a civilian-to-soldier ratio of about 4 to 1 for Israeli deaths.

These statistics indicate that the Gaza war has been worse than the Ukrainian war in terms of civilians to soldiers/fighters killed. Military experts would point to the huge differences between mainly rural and village fighting and fighting in densely populated urban areas.  Civilian deaths in the latter environment will be much higher than in the former. However, this is purely a military perspective. It says nothing about morality.  A killed Gazan kid is a moral monstrosity, as is a killed Ukrainian kid, as is a killed Israeli kid.

In the 9/11 attack on the US, roughly 1 in 100,000 American civilians were killed; in the October 7th attack, roughly 1 in 8,000 Israelis were killed; in the Ukraine war roughly 1 in 4,000 Ukrainian civilians were killed; in Gaza, roughly 1 in 100 civilians were killed.  Ukrainians have electricity; Gazans do not. Ukrainians have running water; Gazans do not.  Ukrainians have sufficient food; Gazans do not. Ukrainians have decent medical facilities; Gazans do not.  Ukrainians can flee the battle zone; Gazans cannot. Most homes, apartment buildings, schools, and offices in Ukraine still stand; in Gaza, they do not.

A committed Zionist friend of mine recently sent me an email saying Israel has lost the PR war. I agreed. My short response to him was a summary of the above arguments.

I think that Israel has every right to eliminate Hamas. However, the best it can do is degrade, weaken, and destroy Hamas’s infrastructure and military personnel. Many Western military experts have suggested ways that Israel could have fought this war with fewer civilians killed. The potential invasion of Rafah will skyrocket the number of dead civilians. Famine, disease, and lack of medical facilities may eventually kill more than bombs and bullets.

Israelis correctly believe that the world in general, and the UN in particular, show a consistent bias against Israel. That is true. Where are the mass protests for Tibetans, Uighurs, Rohingyas, Darfurians, etc? Most of the world is hypocritical in this regard. However, that does not write Israel a moral blank check.

Many Israelis feel that they have a complete justification for their Gaza campaign. They consider all Gazans complicit in the October 7th atrocity.  The Israelis consider that they have morality on their side. The rest of the world overwhelmingly disagrees.

About the Author
Born in London in 1949. Studied Maths at Warwick University. Came to Israel (WUJS program at Arad) in 1971. I became a citizen and served in the army in 1973. Returned to the UK in 1974. Worked in Information Systems. Married an American Orthodox woman in 1977 and moved to America. For a few years I have led a retiree philosophy class.
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