Omer Bar Tov may be considered an expert on genocide. But even though he’s an Israeli Jew (living in the US), he seems to know nothing about how the Israel Defense Forces and our society approach military operations. His writing also reflects little understanding of politics (Israeli or otherwise) or international relations… and no common sense. And his Nov. 10th NYT article accusing Israel of approaching genocide seems to have none of the moral clarity this author called for from the West regarding this current stage of the struggle by the free world against the Islamist totalitarian ideology of Hamas and their sponsors and supporters (including Iran, Qatar, Turkey and their fellow travelers in Europe and America).
Bar Tov’s entire argument is based on a combination of conjecture, numbers of casualties provided by the Hamas “health ministry”, and an argument that “if Israel were to do x… it WOULD BE genocide”. This sort of reasoning would of course be relevant to any world actor engaged in military operations – so one wonders why this scholar from Brown University, and why America’s supposedly leading newspaper, would single out Israel, the one nation that has in fact been recently the VICTIM of a genocidal attack?
At base, Bar Tov not only doesn’t prove his contention (that Israel/the IDF are beginning to carry out a genocide) but rather the opposite. There is no indication EITHER of intent OR of action – his two well-defined elements, BOTH of which must be present to incur the charge of genocide according to international law.
Bar Tov’s cherry-picked quotes and lack of context demonstrate his anti-Bibi agenda, let alone his virtually anti-Israel/anti-Zionist attitude. (A review of his previous writings demonstrates this further.) Yes, some Israeli leaders have said things like “reducing Gaza to rubble” or “we’ll wipe them out”; within the context of (1) needing to demonstrate commitment to the people (electorate) of Israel and (2) wanting to demonstrate fierce resolve to Hamas (and Hezbollah), such statements are not only understandable, they are standard fare in wartime, including by American or British or other leaders fighting ISIS or the Taliban (or the Nazis).
Moreover, almost all the quotes he provides, and others discovered in a recent extensive review of Israeli government spokespeople and political leaders, including IDF brass, are explicitly or implicitly directed at or focused on Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah or Islamist terrorist murderers in general… NOT the “Palestinian” Arab people as an ethnic group.
Finally, even a cursory understanding of Israeli society, including the leaders of this current government, proves that most Israelis are comfortable with the concept of a “Palestinian” Arab identity (some more grudgingly than others, it is true), and no segment or our society – and virtually no leader either – has ever advocated or carried out actions even remotely connected to a genocidal concept.
The opposite is in fact true; even our right-wing governments – including Netanyahu’s previous administrations – have both stated their acceptance of our neighbors and acted to demonstrate that acceptance, whether in peace negotiations, economic assistance or diplomatic moves. And when a fringe coalition member makes an extreme statement, he or she is roundly condemned by virtually the entire spectrum of political and cultural leadership across Israel – as demonstrated by the recent brouhaha after the clearly facetious comment regarding sending a nuclear weapon into Gaza, which was rejected by the government and all other leaders in the country.
So much for genocidal intent.
As for the action dimension, here too the opposite is true, by any objective analysis. If Israel and the IDF desired to wipe out the population, there are many ways we could – we’ve proven to be pretty adept at carrying out our defensive military operations over the years (we’ve been forced to become expert) – and it would not be difficult. Were we to decide to carry out mass killings (an inconceivable notion, but we’ll relate here to it for argument’s sake) it wouldn’t take four weeks or even four days to do so.
In fact, let’s take a look at Israel’s actions – over the years, and over the past four weeks following the devastating attack and carnage in the South perpetrated by the Islamist murderers of Hamas. Over the years, and well into this period even as we fought the terrorists, we have provided water and electricity to Gaza – even though (1) their rulers default consistently on their (agreed upon) payments, and (2) Hamas uses some of the electricity to manufacture the rockets they fire at our civilians daily. We also allowed funds – massive amounts of “aid” – from Qatar and Iran and Turkey (and the West as well) to be transferred in, as well as materiel, knowing that these funds and goods are used also by Hamas to dig tunnels, train terrorists, manufacture rockets etc.
Israel does these things because we value human life as a core part of our social fabric, our religion, and our culture. The Talmud says “He who saves a single life preserves an entire world” – which is why we use precision missiles to take out a terrorist in his apartment while leaving his children unharmed in the next room. We’ve been accused of being stupid – why do we allow funds and materiel, electricity etc. into Gaza just to arm those who are committed to kill us? – but we are proud of our heritage which commands us to protect the life and dignity of the human being created in the image of God.
More important still, Israel’s military actions not only are explicitly designed to minimize civilian casualties; the actual results and numbers prove this beyond any doubt. As Yaakov Katz (former military correspondent and editor of The Jerusalem Post) noted recently, the IDF has dropped around 25,000 bombs in the past four weeks as part of our goal to destroy Hamas… and ‘only’ 10,000 people have died (though there is no reason to grant that number any validity, see below…). Katz writes:
That much firepower, in such a densely populated area would have resulted in far more deaths than what has been claimed if Israel was not making a significant effort to minimize civilian casualties. … If we accept the Hamas numbers – there is little reason to do that since terrorists lie but let’s go with it – then there are approximately 10,000 people killed in Gaza. According to the IDF, thousands of those dead are Hamas or Islamic Jihad terrorists. Every civilian life lost is a tragedy. But think about this: over 12,000 targets, more than 23,000 munitions and the terrorist-civilian death ratio is about 1:1 or 1:1.5 (for every terrorist killed there is one-to-one-and-a-half civilians).
When looking at the way wars have been fought in recent years – Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Syria – this is a ratio that is not really seen except in one military in the world – the IDF. More importantly, what this shows is that the claims of indiscriminate attacks are simply false.
To put it more succinctly: 25,000 bombs would ordinarily – in Ukraine by Russia, in Germany by the Allies, in Iraq and Afghanistan – lead to at least 50-100,000 casualties. Not even the bloated Hamas’ “health ministry” numbers come close to this. The same can be calculated, as it has been in previous wars and military operations against Hamas, to demonstrate with numbers how the claim of indiscriminate killing – and certainly not “genocide” – has no basis in fact, as the percentage of women and children casualties are far less than would be expected if the military operations did not distinguish between civilians and combatants. And just for comparison, estimates are that over 300,000 civilians were killed in Iraq by the US and UK and allies in the fight against ISIS, up to 40,000 in the battle for Mosul alone; over 75,000 in Afghanistan.
Beyond the military operations calculations, the fact that Israel and the IDF are not only encouraging civilians to leave the areas of most intense conflict (northern Gaza and Gaza City) but are actually facilitating these movements (by guidance through media and cellphones, megaphones and mosques; by physically aiding those civilians in need; by providing a four-hour respite in fighting/aerial attacks on Hamas to enable civilians to move on the streets) should put paid to the accusations of a supposed ‘genocide’. And Israel does these things in spite of the fact that Hamas both acts to prevent civilians from leaving and uses these pauses to re-group, re-arm etc. – and uses these population movements to move its own civilian-clothed terrorists around.
So much for genocidal action.
Lastly, let’s address those Hamas numbers, shall we? There are simple realities which call into question any numbers of casualties, and their identities, presented by Hamas – something which too many media outlets, pundits, and politicians ignore when they parrot claims of “massive casualties”, “disproportionate force”, “thousands of children” and the like, let alone the ‘genocide’ canard. These realities include:
- Immediate numbers are literally impossible to collect as fast as Hamas claims. (Four weeks after the original massacres, Israel is still identifying – and tallying – our victims. 4 minutes after the rocket fell near the hospital, Hamas’ lies were published.)
- Hamas counts terrorists as civilians rather than combatants.
- Hamas counts natural deaths as if resulting from Israel’s military operations.
- Hamas counts “children” as under 18 rather than using the UN norm of 14.
- Hamas counts as “children” actual combatants under 18 carrying weapons or otherwise trained and used by Hamas as fighters.
- Hamas claims those murdered by themselves or other Jihadist groups as victims of Israel.
Two of the most egregious demonstrations of Hamas’ and other Islamist terrorists’ lies are and the recent Al-Ahli hospital attack attributed falsely to Israel just a few weeks ago.
Lying about numbers of casualties is nothing new. Examples abound. In the “Jenin massacre” of 2002, Palestinian spokespeople claimed 500 civilian casualties, which became 5000 soon after; independent investigations published a few weeks later vindicated Israel’s contention that there were 52 Arab casualties – all of whom were combatants.
In Gaza just a few weeks ago, Hamas falsely claimed that Israeli rockets had attacked Al-Ahli Baptist hospital, with “at least 500 civilians dead” as reported by AP. In reality – as proven by aerial footage as well as testimony from the site, independently corroborated – a defective missile fired by the Islamic Jihad terrorist group hit the hospital parking lot, and there were few casualties. But this mattered little to far too many in the world, media and politicians, pundits and celebrities who – like Bar Tov in his article and like the immediate international condemnation of the alleged Jenin “massacre” – simply parroted the lies of Hamas and their claims of “war crimes” and “genocide”.
As the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs put it in a report on November 12: “[T]he Palestinian Ministry of Health reported 30,000 Palestinians wounded when the total number of hospital beds in all medical facilities in Gaza, including UNRWA clinics, did not exceed 3,000. So, where exactly are all the 30,000 wounded? According to PMH reports, there are already more than 13,000 Palestinians dead. If that casualty number is accurate, where were they buried?”.
Of course these same “leaders”, like Bar Tov, don’t usually condemn Hamas for their actual genocidal intentions and actions, let alone their ‘double war crimes’ of targeting Israeli civilians while hiding behind their own civilians. In an aside in his article, Bar Tov acknowledged that the Oct. 7 attack indeed constituted a war crime. But he did not call it “genocide” – nor write an article accusing Hamas. One would expect a true expert on the issues of genocide, as articulate as Bar Tov is, from an objective standpoint, would be writing articles in the New York Times about Hamas’ actual genocidal intentions and actions.
They’ve been clear about their intentions – including in their recent public statements and in their Covenant – and their actions clearly fall within the legal definition of genocide. They declare their intent to repeat their genocidal massacres until they kill all Jews (and other “infidels”) and destroy Israel. And as journalist Douglas Murray pointed out recently, they celebrate their genocidal actions and intent – calling their mothers to exult over “killing 10 Jews with bare hands” – which distinguishes them from most Nazis including the SS at the time, who had a (twisted) morality prompting them to at least hide or disguise their actions and intent.
Were Bar Tov to write that article, perhaps then those “leaders” in the media and politicians and celebrities who roundly condemn Israel and parrot the “massive civilian casualties” and “genocide” canard would be prompted to follow suit and recognize with moral clarity the demonstrably genocidal intent and actions of Hamas, like Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah, ISIS, Al Qaida and all the other tyrannical, fanatic Islamist terrorist groups – and their sponsors Iran, Qatar, Turkey and the rest. Don’t hold your breath.