Andrew Vitelli

No, Israel’s response is not akin to Hamas barbarity

Both the Nazis and the British killed civilians during World War II. Both the Nazis and the British killed innocent children during World War II.

Around 600,000 German civilians were killed during the war by Allied strategic airstrikes alone, according to some estimates, including some 75,000 children. That is about nine times as many civilians as the British lost. And more were killed by Allied forces in areas occupied by the Germans. One strike in Denmark targeting a Gestapo headquarters mistakenly hit a school, killing 86 schoolchildren.

But nobody with half a brain sees the two sides as equivalent. It should be obvious that there is no equivalence between targeting children and civilians and targeting military installations where civilians might be nearby and where civilian deaths are likely.

This is a basic concept of international law, but also of common sense and basic morality. One can debate the morality of, for example, the British and American bombing of Dresden in 1945. But if the topic of World War II came up and someone said “Actually, the British were just as bad because they also killed children, and besides more German than British civilians died,” you would immediately recognize them as a complete ignoramus. The Nazis rounded up children in their homes to slaughter them.

But as has become the norm, this exact argument is being made in response to Israel’s war against Hamas. Gazan children have tragically died in Israeli airstrikes, and though the numbers coming from the Hamas-run “Gaza Ministry of Health” should be taken with a grain of salt, there is no question that the number of civilian deaths is high, likely higher than that within Israel on October 7.

This has led some people to draw equivalence between the two sides. Decent, rational people must reject this argument as you would the one above.

Hamas’s barbaric attack avoided confrontation with soldiers in order to maximize civilian casualties. They delighted in the suffering of innocent Israelis, taunting parents as they tortured and murdered their children, sending pictures of dead Israelis to their relatives, posting pictures on the Facebook pages of their victims of their dead bodies. Young women were raped next to the bodies of their friends, then executed. The Hamas attack could have been far more effective in military terms had they focused on striking IDF bases. But that wasn’t their goal. Their goal was dead women and children.

The IDF, on the other hand, goes to extraordinary lengths to avoid civilian casualties, way beyond what they are required to do under international law. Before bombing a military target where civilians might be present, they give warnings, both by calling the residents and by dropping a flare onto the building so people know to evacuate. They have also announced areas they will not strike to allow civilians to safely escape.

In military terms, this can only be described as stupid. When you warn civilians, you are warning the terrorists too. When you tell civilians where you won’t attack, the terrorists know where you will. This will likely mean more dead Israeli soldiers. More Israeli mothers and fathers will lose their sons and daughters because of these practices. But that is how far Israel goes to defend innocent life behind enemy lines.

So why do Palestinian children still die? Because as committed as Israel is to avoiding civilian casualties, Hamas is to ensuring that they occur. They fire rockets from schools, they hide weapons and ammunition in mosques, and when Israel warns civilians to flee, Hamas prevents them from doing so. It was recently revealed, though it has long been known, that Hamas hides their headquarters under the largest hospital in Gaza. They need the propaganda of dead Palestinian children – and they aren’t shy about saying so.

An idealist might say “it’s never okay to kill innocent people.” But in practice that is not feasible. Imagine if an enemy threatened to slaughter every American man, woman, and child in their homes, then came streaming across the border guns in hand with babies strapped to their chest. You would expect our army to do whatever it takes to protect your family. That is what Israel is faced with.

Every person killed in this war is the fault of Hamas, a genocidal terrorist group that beheads babies, burns children alive, and rapes and kills women. Do not let anyone feed into their propaganda by pretending otherwise.

About the Author
Andrew Vitelli is a New York-based journalist. A former Fellow for the Government Press Office in Jerusalem, Vitelli earned his master's degree from Tel Aviv University.
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