Michael Jackson

Hostages and Kids     

Everyone is justified in saying that the hostages should be released unconditionally.  Family members, friends, most Israelis, Israeli politicians, American rabbis, the US President, the British Foreign Secretary, the UN Secretary-General, European leaders, etc, all say this.  However, there will be conditions and negotiations.  After six months, it is obvious that the IDF cannot free them by direct military force.  Nearly all freed hostages became free through negotiations.  The emphasis, almost single-mindedness, of many Israelis and Jews in the diaspora to secure freedom for the hostages is admirable and morally justified.  Beyond the necessity of further negotiations, I cannot say more.  Israel and Hamas will have to agree through 3rd-party intermediaries.

I see the moral problem with the attitudes towards the hostages as not one of justification but one of exclusivity. Exclusive focus on the hostages’ suffering.   I have read many articles, and opinion pieces in the Israeli and American Jewish press, listened to Jewish and Israeli podcasts, seen a plethora of lawn sign campaigns in my Jewish neighborhood, and emailed and talked with fellow Jews about Israel. I see a major focus on the hostages and a widespread moral obtuseness towards and even denial of the Gazan civilian deaths from bullets, bombs, disease, and famine.  There is the statistical game: you can’t trust the Gaza death count.  There is the blame game: they all voted for Hamas.  There is a hate game:  they all hate Jews.  There is the IDF moral high ground game:  they were all told to flee.  Ultimately, these excuses dehumanize the Gazans and discount the mass deaths.

For me, this was encapsulated in a BBC interview with an Israeli woman (not a hostage relative).  The reporter asked about the campaign and the hostages.  Then he asked about the massive death toll of Gazans.  The reporter directly asked her this so she could not duck it completely.  She responded, “It is a sad thing, but you must remember our hostages……”

To put the moral problem in perspective:  let’s compare it to the war in Ukraine.  About twice as many Gazan civilians have been killed in about a quarter of the time, i.e. a monthly killing rate eight times as high as Ukraine’s civilian death rate.  Ukraine is roughly 20 times the population of Gaza with fewer than half as many civilians killed.  Thus in terms of civilian deaths, the Gazan civilian death rate per million is almost 40 times that of Ukraine.  Many Ukrainians have fled the country; only Gazans with foreign passports can flee.  Life for most Ukrainians proceeds with adequate food, power, medicine, and water.  These are all severely lacking in Gaza. 

I do not excuse the hypocrisy of governments, the UN, protesters, etc. focusing on the Israel-Gaza issue while, essentially, ignoring massacres and expulsions in Rwanda, Syria, Sudan, and Myanmar.  However, widespread hypocrisy does not excuse largely indiscriminate bombing, collective punishment, and delay and obstruction of essential food and medical supplies into a hungry and diseased population.

We can note that the governments of Iran, Syria, Russia, China and others are worse in most ways than Israel’s.  This may also apply to the peoples of these countries.  But I am not speculating upon a putative Freedom House moral ranking of governments and peoples.  I am a Jew.  The Jewish people are my heartbeat.  Many, if not most, Jews are displaying a remarkable unJewish callousness to the deaths and sufferings of thousands of Gazan kids.

In memory of Gazan Nada Wissam Amin Houssana, alive on October 7th, dead by October 26th.  A 7-year-old girl.

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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