The death of civilians in Gaza is immoral and hurts Jews everywhere

Fighting terrorism is something most people have no problem with; especially since Israel has lost over 2,495 citizens to terror attacks. Yes, Hamas is a terror organization and its charter reads, “Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it.” The reality, however, is that Hamas is a terror group that resorts to suicide bombings and Israel is the most powerful military in the Middle East. Like Al-Qaeda with the U.S., the terrorist can’t destroy a great nation, it’s the great nation’s reaction to terror (most Americans now greatly regret two decade-long counterinsurgency wars) that can prove costly in many respects.  Thus, there should be a line that isn’t crossed by democracies and countries that claim a moral high ground over suicide bombers and religious fanatics. One can’t simultaneously claim moral superiority over terrorists (who have no possible way of eradicating a powerful country with nuclear weapons) while bombing hospitals, schools, and apartment buildings. When destroying innocent life to prevent others from destroying innocent life, the moral equation should be scrutinized by rational people; not simply cheered blindly as if watching your favorite football team in a rivalry match. Even if rockets are hidden underneath a school, the civilians within that school and location aren’t culpable, and don’t deserve a death sentence because fanatical terrorists placed weapons in that location. Furthermore, the smoking gun scenario justifying such attacks don’t work when people are sleeping at night and get blown up by an airstrike. Most, if not all, of these strikes aren’t preceded by rockets leaving a location. As for the issue of rockets and weapons, everyone knows Hamas will simply purchase new ones. When this happens, all the civilian deaths in Gaza that were deemed to be a sad, but eventual outcome of Hamas’s use of human shields will instead be a tragic waste of life and a serious moral burden upon Israel. Yes, human shields are used by Hamas and Amnesty International has already stated it stores and fires weapons from residential areas. There’s also the issue of over 2600 rockets launched from Gaza into Israel, as well as the potential that Israeli citizens could be endangered from such attacks in the future. Israel has every right to defend itself, just like any other nation. All these facts provide a certain amount of legitimacy for Operation Protective Edge.

Morality, however, should also play a role in the planning of any military endeavor. The Iron Dome is effective and protects lives; Hamas rockets haven’t been anywhere near as deadly as the airstrikes upon Gaza. Of course Hamas is still launching rockets and its existence poses a threat to Israel, but the word “terror” will not be removed from the minds of human beings with this recent war. If anything, the death of over 1,814 (72%-82% civilian) Palestinians isn’t just a matter of collateral damage, or a sad reality of warfare. You don’t have to be a liberal, left-wing political activist to realize that prolonged air strikes upon civilian and residential areas (even with forewarning and even with knowledge of stored rockets) inflict tremendous suffering on women and children. In one month, over 229 Palestinian children have been killed, roughly the amount of soldiers the IDF has lost in military operations since 2006, including this one. When the enemy’s children are dying at the same rate as soldiers of a nation, the nature of such military operations should be scrutinized. Sadly, this asymmetric death toll also casts a shadow upon the moral legitimacy of supporting Israel’s latest military operation, and American media and news publications are for the first time openly questioning the latest Gaza incursion. Sorry, but Palestinian children aren’t terrorists, and even if Hamas uses them as shields, their little bodies don’t deserve to be blown up by bombs. The rockets Hamas launches will be purchased again in the near future, but those children’s lives are gone forever, and their civilian parents will understandably have a hatred of Israel and Jews that can’t be described in words (as would we all in their position). As disgusting as the phrase may sound in relation to the loss of human beings in Gaza, “shooting fish in a barrel” isn’t war. As a Jewish American, I support and love Israel, but I can’t simply justify every school that’s bombed or apartment building blown to bits. When the aerial bombardment of a house in Gaza kills all 25 members of a family, including 19 children, as well 18 members of another household during another attack, the carnage gives anyone a moment of pause. On July 30, 15 Palestinian civilians died in an attack on a UN school. When did the lines of war become so blurred that we condemn the suicide bomber who murders people in a café, but cheer military operations that destroy civilian lives? Again, I understand the reality of a conflict where Hamas uses human shields and benefits in terms of media attention when people are killed in their homes. The hundreds of rockets, if not neutralized, could endanger a great many Israeli citizens even with the Iron Dome. Israel, however, should remember that it could be playing into the hands of Iran, Hamas, and extremists everywhere. If Hamas actually wants the IDF to be seen as immoral, or Israel to lose the support of the U.S. or other countries, then this reality should also be a consideration. U.S. support, even though many are jaded to believe it will last forever, might not always be the same with future endeavors like the recent Gaza war. Furthermore, the chances of new tunnels being built and new ways for terrorists to smuggle weapons into Gaza will always exist, even with current and future military operations.

Most importantly, aside from the military objectives, Israel should for a moment think of the Jewish communities everywhere in the world. It’s difficult to ignore the daily news of hospitals and schools being blown up; even if Hamas stores rockets in those locations. Morality doesn’t bend to every Israeli military operation, even if provoked by Hamas, and the death of women and children in Gaza should never be justified by, “They started it” or “Hamas made us do it.” These are human beings, not terrorists, and war should involve two opposing military forces; not refugees cramped in a shooting gallery.

Whether its riots in France or repulsive internet comments by the hundreds after articles (in respected publications) describing Gaza’s death toll, the current backlash from this latest war isn’t simply the normal reaction by people who haven’t experienced terror attacks. When a father in Gaza is quoted as saying, “I found body parts and heads cut off, no arms, no legs” in relation to his own children, it reminds me of the suicide bombers who blow up cafes. Jews everywhere are inherently (and unfairly) linked to the carnage in Gaza, and my hope is that Israel’s leaders see the utility of restraint in future clashed with Hamas, as well the morality in preventing the future death of schoolchildren and women. I know people who would feel more guilt and sadness eating a cheeseburger or driving on Shabbat than the elimination of over 220 children who died in Gaza from airstrikes, and sadly, this reality sums up the moral blind spot of so many people regarding this war. Yes, Hamas is evil, but where do you draw the line when combating evil? 200 children? 1000 children? 20,000 civilians if Hamas launches better rockets the Iron Dome doesn’t get? Committing evil to combat evil almost always has dire consequences for all parties involved, and Israel is founded upon just ideals, not comparisons with Assad or other butchers.   Gaza will be a war every three years if real peace talks and real discussion and concessions regarding a two state solution don’t become a top priority for everyone.

About the Author
H. A. Goodman is an author and columnist published in numerous publications and websites.
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