The Batman Rules of Warfare

Batman does not kill.

No matter the provocation, no matter the number of victims the Joker kills, no matter the danger to his own life, Batman will never take a life.

Of course the police can kill in self-defense, but Batman takes on different rules that apply only to him. He is so skilled, so methodical, that he has no need to kill even when his life is threatened.

Batman is a fictional character from a comic-book world. He represents a physical and moral ideal that is impossible in the real world.

But the real world is demanding that Israel play by the rules of a comic book.

The laws of warfare do not declare every civilian death to be a war crime. It is understood that in armed conflict, unfortunately, civilians will die. This has been true for every war. The allies killed hundreds of thousands of Japanese and German civilians during World War Two. Tens of thousands of civilians were killed in Vietnam. Civilians were killed by NATO forces in Kosovo. More recently civilians have been killed by western forces in Iraq, Afghanistan, and even in the intervention in Libya.

These civilian deaths are generally accepted as the regrettable but inevitable result of the conflicts, not war crimes.

Only in Israel’s case is the death of civilians automatically an unacceptable crime, regardless of context. As Colonel Richard Kemp, the former commander of British forces in Afghanistan and an expert on modern asymmetric warfare has pointed out again and again, no army in history has ever done more to prevent civilian casualties, between the numerous warnings through flyers, phone calls, texts, and the ‘knock on roof’ warning shots, to outright aborting many missions because of the presence of civilians.

The total number of dead is a fraction of the number of strikes Israel has carried out. But somehow precision missiles that, even though fired at an area as densely packed as Gaza and at targets that are deliberately placed among civilians, most of the time do not kill anyone, are ‘indiscriminate.’ Somehow, despite already doing more than any other western country to safeguard civilians, Israel is still called on to do more to ensure that no civilians are killed in the crossfire.

Every civilian killed in Gaza is a tragedy. But there is a limit to how much any country can do to protect civilians on the enemy side when defending itself, and the rockets and tunnels prove this is a war of self-defense.

What more can Israel do that it isn’t already doing? Please, tell us, President Obama and other western leaders. You who accidentally kill civilians with drone strikes in countries thousands and thousands of miles away from your borders. How can Israel fight an asymmetrical war against a force that deliberately uses human shields without a single civilian casualty?

And why are all deaths in Gaza considered civilians? Are Hamas combatants also civilians?

Israel is told again and again that it “has the right to defend itself.” But that allowance is inevitably followed by a ‘but’ that seeks to impose the ‘Batman rules of warfare’ on Israel’s acts of defense.

And like the Joker’s repeated escapes from Arkham Asylum, because the threat of Hamas is not crushed utterly, every few years the conflict with the terrorists running Gaza will flare up again and again. And when that happens more people will die.

If the rest of the world really wants to end the bloodshed once and for all, then it should let Israel get rid of those jokers in Hamas once and for all. Then peace will be far more easily achieved.

And until they find a way to avoid killing civilians in their own wars they have no business telling Israel it needs to stop fighting Hamas. We do not live in a comic-book, they are not policemen, and Israel, for all its morals and technological know-how, is not Batman.

About the Author
Gary Willig is a researcher at the Center for Near East Policy Research and a student of communications at Bar Ilan University