Michael Jackson

Statistical Verification and Morality

Let us imagine a dialogue:

P:  Over 5,500 Gazan children have been killed since Israel started its bombing campaign in Gaza.

J:  Where did you get that number?

P: From Hamas sources, which have been roughly verified by the UN in the past.

J: How do you know it is not 4,000 or even 3,000?

P: Even if it is 2,000, although I stick to my original 5,500, is it morally justified?

We see in this hypothetical dialogue person J’s move from a morality issue to a statistical verification one.

Returning to morality, how could person J justify it morally?  Here are three possible approaches:

1.All Gazans are complicit.  Note a senior Israeli cabinet minister did say this.  Given that Hamas was elected by 44% of voting Gazans in 2006 and given a voting age of 18, only SOME Gazans over 35 years old could have voted for Hamas.  About 25% of Gazans are over 35 years old (see Gazan population pyramid below).  Ignoring abstainers, that means 25% x 44% or about 11% of living Gazans may have voted for Hamas.  Even if a Gazan did vote for Hamas in 2006 that does not make that person responsible for Hamas’s atrocities in 2023.  All young kids are innocent.

2. The kids were collateral damage.  The phrase “collateral damage” is part of a collection of linguistic sewage sludge emanating from one of the guardians of English linguistic purity, i.e. the Pentagon.  A damaged road may be collateral damage from a bomb on a terrorist building, but humans are not and never can be ”collateral damage”.

3.  The killing of these kids is necessary to destroy Hamas, an organization that pledged to perpetrate more October 7th-style atrocities.  This argument is a plausible one.  It is a narrow, unstable, icy moral bridge across a deep immoral chasm.   We can cross this moral bridge only if the army does everything to prevent civilian casualties and performs absolutely no more bombing than necessary.

Should supporters in principle of Israel’s invasion campaign (including me) feel the moral weight of thousands of Gazan children killed?  Absolutely.  It is a heavy moral weight that we cannot dismiss with a blithe nonchalance towards reported statistics.

Gaza population pyramid (2020):

Age structure: 0-14 years: 42.53% (male 418,751/female 397,013)

15-24 years: 21.67% (male 210,240/female 205,385)

25-54 years: 29.47% (male 275,976/female 289,277)

55-64 years: 3.66% (male 36,409/female 33,731)

65 years and over: 2.68% (male 27,248/female 24,191) (2020 est.)

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.